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Legislature moves toward possible redistricting compromise

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Special session, 9.13

Sen. Adam Morfeld (left) talks with Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers during the first day of the special session on redistricting Sept. 13 at the Nebraska State Capitol.

Take a look at the key differences in redistricting proposals for metro Omaha congressional districts.

The Legislature appeared headed Wednesday toward potential agreement on compromise legislative and congressional redistricting plans after an initial impasse threatened to abruptly end its special session with a failure to act.

Speaker Mike Hilgers of Lincoln expressed optimism that the Redistricting Committee will be able to reach some kind of consensus on compromise proposals in time for debate to begin on a congressional redistricting plan on Friday.

"I am very confident that we can get this across the finish line," he said. 

Hilgers said he hopes to see consensus agreement on revised legislative and congressional plans by late Thursday. The speaker would like to schedule initial floor debate on a congressional plan on Friday.

Although members of the Legislature are elected on a nonpartisan ballot, they gravitate into Republican and Democratic camps when redistricting appears on the agenda every 10 years.

The original proposals submitted by the Republican majority of the committee have been trapped by filibusters after daylong floor debates, with the resulting deadlock prompting Hilgers to warn his colleagues that the Legislature might need to adjourn its special session without agreement and wait to tackle redistricting at its regular session beginning in January.

Hilgers huddled with members of the Redistricting Committee in the speaker's office after conclusion of Wednesday's morning session and emerged with a positive impression that negotiations are making progress.

Describing the meeting as "very collegial and focused," he said "everyone wants to get this done" while also recognizing that "nothing is easy in this process."

Earlier, two key senators engaged in the negotiations confirmed that progress is being made, but declined to be quoted or identified, recognizing the sensitivity of discussions that are still underway.

Hilgers said some senators "worked into the night" on Tuesday, adjusting boundaries of proposed legislative and congressional districts that had been contained in separate proposals previously offered by the five Republican and four Democratic members of the committee.

"I know they're making progress," Hilgers said, "but there's not agreement yet."

However, he said, "there is a spirit of negotiation and compromise."

Senators recognize "the repercussions of not getting it done" during the special session, Hilgers said. 

Waiting until the regular legislative session that begins in January would disrupt the 2022 election year, probably delaying the primary election that is scheduled in May. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSdon

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