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Wyoming's redistricting saga continues

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Wyoming State Legislature

After another long day of debate last week, a legislative committee working out the state's redistricting issues is trying to move forward with a statewide plan that has minimal support. In recent weeks lots of debate has centered around growth in urban areas and loss of population in rural areas. Rural lawmakers don't want to lose seats due to decreased population and larger areas like Gillette and Cheyenne believe they are entitled to an additional seat because of population gains.

The Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee is getting pushback from legislators, members of the public and others who don't want their areas of the state impacted. Cheyenne Sen. Tara Nethercott implored the committee to ignore outside noise.

"An unacceptable amount of criticism [is] accusing us of misconduct, of ethical violations, of gerrymandering and other types of things," said Nethercott. "And it is time for this committee to come together and fully recognize who is on the committee and who is not and start taking control of that as we enter the final hours."

Previously the debate was over districts in western Wyoming, but following an amendment, the issues that remain have shifted to eastern Wyoming and what happens to legislative districts in Albany, Laramie, Weston and Campbell Counties. Making sure population numbers are suitable for legislative districts in the Big Horn Basin also continues to be a concern.

Worland Rep. Michael Greear said the committee has probably gotten bogged down in making certain areas of the state happy. He urged the committee to vote on a statewide map that can be a starting point for debate by the Wyoming House and Senate.

"We've got enough input, we've got enough comment, we know from those vocal parties who are most interested in what the issues are before us. We need a statewide plan and then we need to sit down and work out the small details on it," said Greear.

The committee did barely pass a statewide plan, with Senate Majority Leader Ogden Driskill saying that he plans to fight to protect areas of northeast Wyoming, such as keeping Weston County from being split up. Driskill said he's prepared to take that battle to the Senate floor. The committee will meet again next week.

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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