Falling population threaten position in House

Published 11:10 pm Friday, January 2, 2009

MONROE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s shrinking population may cost the state one of its seven congressional seats in 2012 and lawmakers in northeastern Louisiana are worried their hard-hit region may lose clout in Congress.

Preliminary 2010 U.S. Census figures released this month show Louisiana’s population fell by 1.3 percent from 2000 to 2008, leading the nation in population loss.

Louisiana’s Legislature will draw a new congressional district map after the 2010 Census and the state’s dwindling population may mean Louisiana loses a House seat.

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Northeastern parishes have had economic troubles and remain some of the poorest in Louisiana. In particular, those along the Mississippi River — for example, East and West Carroll, Tensas and Madison parishes — have seen their populations dwindle since the 2000 Census, the Census Bureau estimates.

The northeastern region once was lumped into a congressional district that included Shreveport — and Ouachita Parish voters rarely saw retiring U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport.

The area now falls under the 5th Congressional District, which runs predominantly north-south and includes Alexandria, Monroe, Bastrop and areas along the Mississippi just north of Baton Rouge.

‘‘We don’t want to be in a combined district with Shreveport, because we’ll always be behind Shreveport in priority,’’ said state Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe.

State Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Grambling, said it would not be easy keeping a northeastern Louisiana-based congressional district intact.

‘‘There’s certainly a chance that the districts could look more like the (Public Service Commission) with a district that runs horizontally and includes all of Northern Louisiana,’’ Gallot said. ‘‘It’s all numbers driven, so it’s kind of early to say because we don’t know exactly how the Census will come back.’’

U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said he thinks any new congressional map for Louisiana will include a district similar to the one he currently represents, the 5th.

‘‘There’s no reason to believe that Northern Louisiana would be better served with one member of Congress than two,’’ he said. ‘‘I think the chances are good that we’ll retain both seats.’’

He said there is a chance Census figures will show the 5th District has gained population because of hurricanes causing people to move from coastal areas, so it wouldn’t make sense to dismantle the district.


Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com