Politics

West Virginia lawmakers set to start redistricting session | WV News

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s special legislative session on redistricting starts Monday as lawmakers deal with one less congressional seat and make wholesale changes in the House of Delegates.

Lawmakers will meet in special session as part of previously scheduled interim meetings that are expected to last through Tuesday.

Senate redistricting committee chairman Charles Trump said Senate President Craig Blair and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw plan to discuss which chamber will take the lead on the redrawn congressional districts.

“We may have a bill originate in each house,” Trump said during a committee meeting Friday. “Sometimes it’s good to do that in case something goes awry. If we send a bill across first or whether the House does, I expect we’ll know that on Monday.”

West Virginia lost one of its three U.S. House seats after the 2020 Census. The two congressional districts must be drawn as close to 896,858 residents in each as possible. Ten proposed congressional maps originated in the House of Delegates. Two dozen originated in the Senate.

Making the congressional districts as compact as possible has been a challenge considering the diversity and distance between some regions, among them the growing Eastern Panhandle, the Northern Panhandle and many southern counties that have lost coal jobs and population. There’s also the question of where to put another faster-growing area — Monongalia County — as well as the most populous, Kanawha.

Republicans hold a supermajority in both the state Senate and the House of Delegates. In the 2014 election the GOP gained control of both the House of Delegates and state Senate for the first time in 80 years.

Nine senators, including three Democrats, from the 34-member chamber sat on the panel that will propose that body’s redistricting plan during the special session. The House redistricting committee, led by Mineral County Republican Gary Howell, features 24 delegates, including six Democrats.

House seats are being apportioned into 100 single-member districts following passage of a 2018 bill. Currently, there are 67 districts and more than half of the House is elected from multiple-member districts.

The 2020 Census figures show that each of the 17 Senate districts, with two senators in each, should ideally contain 105,513 people and that each delegate should represent 17,937 people.

More than a dozen public hearings were held across the state over the past few months to discuss the redistricting process.

According to Gov. Jim Justice’s agenda, lawmakers also will consider federal pandemic appropriations starting Monday.

“It’s going to be a busy special session, I expect, on top of redistricting,” said Sen. Eric Tarr, a Putnam County Republican who is chairman of the Senate finance committee and a member of the Senate redistricting committee.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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