OPINION

Legislative Update with Senator Julie Slama

Syracuse Journal-Democrat

Monday was the start of the Legislature’s First Special Session to address redistricting. It is stacked up to be a lively session, with many contentious debates. This week’s column will discuss the two proposed congressional maps. One was introduced by Senator Linehan, (LB 1) and the other by Senator Wayne (LB 2). Simply put, LB 1 is a better map for our district, since it keeps Otoe County whole, while LB 2 divides Otoe County between two different congressional districts.

Many opponents to LB 1 say that it is unacceptable to split Douglas County between two congressional districts because it would split the City of Omaha. However, Douglas County is not a sacrosanct entity that can’t be divided, while rural counties have to pay the price. Otoe County has never been split between congressional districts in the entire history of Nebraska being a state. Historically, when Otoe County moved to a different congressional district, it moved as a whole, not in pieces. This gives it just as much right as Douglas County to claim that it cannot be split because of historical precedent.

Another significant part of redistricting is keeping together communities of interest, which means keeping people together who share common goals and passions. Unlike Douglas County, Otoe County is a distinct community of interest. It is primarily an agricultural community, and it has agricultural interests that are unique from the rest of the state. From the highest number of vineyards and wineries per capita to apple orchards and sawmills, and with similar socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, Otoe County’s unique cohesiveness means it should be in one congressional district as a whole under the redistricting guidelines the Legislature passed earlier this year in Legislative Resolution 134.

This is in stark contrast to Douglas County. Douglas County has a large population with many distinct communities of interest within the county. Past legislatures have recognized this in their maps. Our current Public Service Commission maps have Douglas county divided, while Otoe and the rest of our district are not. The same is true for the current State Board of Education maps. These maps are in use right now, and there have not been any complaints about them.

If we want to draw a map that keeps communities of interest intact, it makes the most sense to split Douglas County, not cohesive, rural counties that make up whole communities of interest like Otoe County. That is why I prefer Senator Linehan’s LB 1 map to Senator Wayne’s LB 2 map. I look forward to continuing to fight for the voices in our district, and make sure that everyone here and across the state is fairly and accurately represented. Debate this week will cover all proposed redistricting maps. It promises to be a fiery debate, and I’ll keep you updated along the way.

As always, I welcome your input on issues important to you. Follow along on my Facebook and Twitter pages, both entitled “Senator Julie Slama” for more updates, or contact me directly at Senator Julie Slama, District 1 State Capitol, PO Box 94604, Lincoln NE 68509-4604; telephone: 402-471-2733; email: jslama@leg.ne.gov.

Nebraska State Senator Julie Slama