Legislative panel OKs Senate redistricting plan

September 20, 2011 • State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Senate committee approved a Democratic-backed plan for revamping state Senate districts that will pit two Republican incumbents against each other in the southeastern corner of the state.

The Rules Committee endorsed the plan on a party-line vote Monday night, with Democrats backing it and Republicans opposed.

The measure goes to another committee for consideration, but Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said he hoped the full Senate will be able to debate the proposal Tuesday.

Under the proposal, Republican Sens. Rod Adair of Roswell and William Burt of Alamogordo would end up in the same district.

In Albuquerque’s north [auth] valley, Republican Sen. John Ryan would be in the same district as Democratic Sen. Dede Feldman.

The districts of two Albuquerque-area Democrats — Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Eric Griego — also will be combined but Griego doesn’t plan to run for re-election in 2012.

The task for lawmakers is to draw new district boundaries to adjust for population changes in the past decade. The goal is to equalize district populations as much as possible to meet the legal requirements of one person, one vote.

Areas in Albuquerque west of the Rio Grande have grown dramatically, forcing the Legislature to add new districts there. Lawmakers must consolidate districts in other portions of the state to accommodate the west side Albuquerque growth.

Redistricting does not change the number of Senate districts. There are 42 seats, with Democrats holding 27 and 15 for Republicans.

Burt told the committee that it was unfair to merge his district with Adair’s district.

“I don’t think this is a healthy redistricting plan for the southeast part of the state,” Burt said.

Brian Sanderoff, a redistricting consultant for the Legislature, said the committee-approved bill will create two districts on Albuquerque’s west side that will favor Republicans.

Democrats moved ahead with the redistricting plan after negotiations by a four-member subcommittee — two Democrats and two Republicans — failed to reach a compromise.

Sen. Kent Cravens, an Albuquerque Republican, said the Democratic-backed plan likely will run into trouble with GOP Gov. Susana Martinez if it’s passed by the Legislature without changes.

“I don’t think this is something the governor will be comfortable with,” Cravens said in an interview.

The governor has the power to veto redistricting plans, which could force the Legislature to start over or the dispute could end up in court with a judge deciding the boundaries of new districts.

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