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Burton hopes for quick, efficient redistricting

Third District Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Pearl, took the podium for two minutes or so this morning at the monthly lunch meeting of the Stennis Capitol Press Corps in Jackson.

He wasted no time in chiding his colleagues for leaving Washington and hitting the campaign trail without passing a budget.

“You have to wonder about the leadership abilities in place right now,” Harper said, noting that this is the first time since 1974 the House has not passed a budget before the start of the fiscal year. Harper also all but guaranteed that Republicans will reach a majority in the House with this year’s elections.

When Harper finished, State Sen. Terry Burton, R-Newton, chairman of the joint committee that will grapple with reapportionment and redistricting next year, spent about 15 minutes providing an update on where that stands.

Burton and other officials just wrapped up a series of 12 meetings across the state to gather public input on the redistricting process. They’ll take that and some Census estimates and begin the process of drawing Mississippi’s state and congressional districts.

Burton is optimistic that the process can and will be done on time, and will avoid some of the legal and political wrangling past efforts have encountered.

“We believe we need to get this done so we can avoid the conflict of running (in consecutive years),” Burton said. “Some of us have been through that and it’s not a very pleasant thing to go throught.” Burton was referring to the redistricting in 1991 and 1992, when the districts had to be redrawn in both of those years, forcing lawmakers to run for office twice.

Burton made it a point to say that he and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, enjoyed a good relationship and shared a desire to get the redistricting done as quickly as possible.

Considering all the requirements each of the districts has to meet, and all the special interest groups who are sure to take an interest in and try to influence the process, that may be wishful thinking.

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