Delay in census data could result in legislative special session

Indiana’s legislative session is less than a month old, and leaders are already resigned to coming back this summer.

The Census Bureau announced this week it won’t complete the population data states need to redraw congressional maps until April 30, a day after the General Assembly is required by law to adjourn. And it’ll be July before it delivers the more detailed data needed to draw state legislative maps. House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) say legislators will have to come back to write the new districts, probably in late summer.

Huston and Bray both say they’re disappointed but not surprised the census will miss its deadline — Huston says he got the news Wednesday, and “did not do cartwheels.”

State law says if the congressional maps aren’t done by the time the legislature adjourns, the job goes to a commission made up of Huston, Bray, House Elections Chairman Tim Wesco (R-Osceola), his Senate counterpart Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute), and a fifth member appointed by Governor Holcomb. That would give Republicans exclusive control over drawing the maps. That process was used in two of the last three redistrictings, when Democrats controlled the House and Republicans held the Senate.

Both Bray and Huston say they don’t want to use that escape hatch. They say the full House and Senate should be involved in drawing the maps. And there’s no similar escape hatch for drawing the state legislative districts.

Bray says he’s still looking at whether to amend the law requiring the commission, or to pass a law changing the adjournment date. If the adjournment date isn’t pushed back, Holcomb would have to call a special session.

House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) says legislators should use the opportunity to create an independent redistricting commission instead.

Districts must be redrawn every 10 years to adjust for population shifts and give each district nearly equal numbers of people. The data also determine how many U-S House members each state gets. Indiana’s allocation of nine representatives isn’t expected to change.

The 100 seats in the Indiana House and 50 in the Indiana Senate are fixed by law.

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