Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A summary of what happened in the Senate redistricting skirmish today, and what it may mean

This morning, Sen. Hob Bryan (D - Amory) offered a new resolution containing the Burton Senate map, and moved that the Senate consider the resolution as a "committee of the whole."  By acting as a committee of the whole, the resolution would not be sent to committee, where the Burton map had been unsuccessful before.  It takes a 2/3rd's vote to go into a committee of the whole.

Sen. Billy Hewes (R-Biloxi) made an effort to prevent such a vote, and the Senate was hastily adjourned for a brief period, during which Republican senators met in Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant's office to figure out how to proceed. Sen. Bryan's maneuver apparently caught GOP senators and Lt. Gov. Bryant by surprise, and they needed to caucus to figure out their plan.

Upon returning, Sen. Bryan resumed his speech in favor of going into a committee of the whole by affirming the need to keep the Burton plan out of the hands of Lt. Gov. Bryant, who double-referred the Burton plan earlier in an effort to kill it.  Sen. Bryan said that never before in our state's history had a redistricting plan been double-referred.

Next, Sen. Bryan spoke of the Legislature's duty to complete redistricting, and he cited what an unnamed GOP senator had said.  Referring to the House's refusal to go to conference on the matter, this unnamed GOP senator allegedly said that the public would now blame the House, and that the Senate could "wash its hands of it."  Bryan reminded the floor of the origin of that phrase, and how history has treated that person.  (He was speaking of course, of Pontius Pilate.)

After the speech, the vote was held, and the motion to enter the committee of the whole failed, with 25 nays and 23 yeas.  Sens. Briggs Hopson (R-Vicksburg) and Terry Burton (R-Newton) voted in favor of entering the committee of the whole.

So here's what all of this may mean:

First, the Senate Republicans had the opportunity to send a plan back over to the full House, which would give their Republican brethren in the House the opportunity to address their concerns over the House map on the floor.  In effect, this would have restarted the legislative process that has died.  That means the Senate GOP can no longer "wash their hands" of the redistricting process.

Second, Sen. Bryan either knew of some possibility for compromise on the House side or wanted to at least leave the door open for some.  Hewes and Bryant slammed that door.

Third, the number of nay votes was interesting, and that's all I'll say about that.

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