Louisiana to lose one seat in Congress

Published 11:49 pm Tuesday, December 21, 2010

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Louisiana is losing one of its congressional seats because the state’s anemic population growth has been outpaced by other southern and western states, according to 2010 census data released Tuesday.

Six U.S. House members will represent Louisiana after the 2012 elections, down from seven.

The state was one of the five slowest-growing in the last decade, continuing a trend of out-migration only worsened after Hurricane Katrina devastated the New Orleans region. Louisiana has 4.5 million people and grew by 1.4 percent since 2000, compared to a national growth rate of 9.7 percent, according to the 2010 census.

Email newsletter signup

The figures from the U.S. Census Bureau’s once-a-decade government count are used to decide how to divvy up the 435 House seats among the 50 states. Louisiana is one of 10 states to lose at least one congressional seat, while eight states — including Georgia, Texas and South Carolina — will gain seats.

The news that Louisiana will lose a congressional seat wasn’t a surprise to state leaders, who have heard the prediction for years and already were planning for it. Louisiana also lost a House seat after the 1990 census, slipping from eight to seven.

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal said he’s asked the state’s congressional delegation, which includes six Republicans and one Democrat, to see if they can come up with a plan themselves on how they would suggest redesigning the congressional maps and account for the lost seat.

“I think that would be preferable than others drawing the lines for them. They deserve the courtesy of making a first attempt to see if they can come to a consensus among members,” Jindal said.

State lawmakers will decide how to redraw the congressional maps — along with other election districts — in a special legislative session that begins March 20.

The session is expected to be contentious because of the loss of the congressional seat and because post-Katrina population shifts will force significant changes in political districts.

“Obviously it’s a very personal issue. It’s a very intense process. This year I think will probably be even more so,” Jindal said.

Behind-the-scenes debates already have begun about how to redesign the maps, particularly looking at which two incumbent congressmen’s districts should merge.

“At least two congressmen will be in one district, we know that,” said Rep. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, chairman of the House committee that leads redistricting efforts.

Gallot said the state will have to maintain a majority black congressional district to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. Currently, that is the 2nd District based in New Orleans to which Democrat Cedric Richmond was elected last month.

The 2nd District is expected to have to expand from its current boundaries because of post-Katrina population shifts. Gallot said a “reasonable footprint” for redrawing the district could involve looking at one of the state’s Public Service Commission districts, which includes New Orleans and moves up the Mississippi River to include part of Baton Rouge.

That leaves the state’s six Republican members of Congress haggling with state lawmakers over whose districts might be combined and how they could be redesigned.

Gallot said some coastal legislators are proposing a coastal congressional district that would stretch across the bottom of the state, arguing the parishes have similar concerns about hurricanes and erosion. Currently, two congressional districts, the 3rd and 7th districts, contain coastal parishes.

Other lawmakers are arguing to merge north Louisiana parishes — which are split between the 4th and 5th congressional districts — into one district that contains both Monroe and Shreveport. The chairman of the Senate redistricting committee, Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, has said he objects to such a plan, however.