Senate State Agencies a.m.
October 5, 2021
Rapert [00:00:04] Members, thank you for being here. Without objection, can I, without objection from any members, I’d like to ask for Senator Hester at least be allowed to listen on speaker over the phone. Is that all right with everyone? No objection to that? Let me see if I can get him at this point.
Hester [00:00:30] Hello.
Rapert [00:00:31] Senator Hester, the Committee without objection has allowed for you to join us by phone.
Hester [00:00:37] Thank you.
Rapert [00:00:37] So you’re now part of the meeting and obviously I’m going to keep this nearby and we’ll make sure that people can hear you if you would like to speak, sir.
Hester [00:00:44] Thank you.
Rapert [00:00:45] All right. Thank you. It’s already been handled. I’ve cleared that with staff as well. Thank you, Mr. Vice Chair. OK, members, first on our agenda here today is actually Senate Bill 743 from Senator Jane English. Members, it should be in your packet. I believe mine was positioned at the very bottom, so take a look.
English [00:01:20] Morning, I am Senator Jane English from North Little Rock, District 34. And I have here today Senate Bill 743, which is a redistricting map. It’s basically, if you take a look at it, you can see what we have redrawn and inside is the individual map for each of the districts. But one of the things I think we all are aware is when the census took place, we had the 1st Congressional District that lost people. We had the 4th Congressional District that lost people. The 3rd Congressional Congressional District gained people. The 2nd Congressional District gained people. So what we have to do is to figure out how we make this equal and across the board with a ideal population of 752,881 persons, voters in each of the districts. So this represents what we have come up with as a map that makes that happen. Now is everybody going to be happy with this map? No, they aren’t. I’m not particularly happy with everything myself, but it is the best that we have been able to come up with. And the House is working on a similar map that they’ll be having in their State Agencies committee this morning. So.
Rapert [00:02:47] OK, Senator English, I’m just going to take a look at this because I know everybody has been working hard on this. And as far as the deviations which has been brought up–
English [00:02:59] Right.
Rapert [00:03:01] –and to make sure that I’ve got this correct. And members, this is on each page of your maps with the districts outlined 1, 2, 3 and 4. What I’m noting is that all deviations on the map for each district are less than 0.4 percent. In fact, the highest is 0.39 gain and on the other direction would be a negative 0.37. So I wanted to make sure– I know that’s been a big discussion. And I’ll also say on that is that, that from what I’ve been seeing and Senator Davis can attest to this because I think frankly, members, outside of the staff, I believe that Senator Davis on our committee is drawing a significant number of maps and tried to work with this. And what happens, Senator English, if I’m not mistaken, is that one of the problems becomes when you’re working in a particular area where you’re trying to find a population, is that when you go to grab another precinct, if that precinct adjacent is 5,000 and you’re only trying to find 1,000 or 2,000, that becomes the problem of, what do you find? You might reach somewhere else in that district and find a small area, but it’s not contiguous to the, to the others. And so the idea is we’re obviously not splitting precincts because that’s the lowest level by which the committee has to work with. Is that correct?
English [00:04:25] That is correct.
Rapert [00:04:26] OK. Members, is there any questions for Senator English on the– OK. I’ve got Senator Ballinger, then Senator Tucker.
Ballinger [00:04:37] Thank you, Mr. Chair. You know, one of the things that, that there has been a whole lot of people who did a whole lot of work on this. And I feel like, you know, from my standpoint, I feel like we got a map that I can, I can be, can be satisfied with it except– so, if we’re getting in and we’re splitting some counties in order to try to make the margins right– like we– I sat down with Representative Dotson over the last 20 minutes and messed with this and we got the same map. But by, by playing with some of the precincts, we got it so that the highest margin was somewhere around 300 people off, so well under 1 percent. And I’m just, I’m just wondering is, like, taking what you all have come up with here– and by the way, that, that made it were Sherwood and Jacksonville were whole, were kept whole, like we’re able to put the full city limits in. And what I’m wondering is, like, you know, I don’t think that this is wrong, but I think that if we tweaked you, we could actually get those margins down within 300 people and, and still do exactly what you’re wanting to do. And I don’t know if you’d be interested in doing that. I agree that we need to get something done, but I think we could still have something done today. Like I said, in 20 minutes, we sat in there with Dave’s and got, got it that much closer while keeping it still basically intact.
English [00:05:55] So I guess my question would be is if we’re looking here on what the Bureau has come up with and the software that they’ve been using, and it shows that in the 2nd Congressional District had 2,000 people less than the 752,000, where, where are you coming up with, we need to have 350 less. I don’t understand that.
Ballinger [00:06:22] So I am, I am not claiming to even have any specific knowledge other than the fact I looked at–
English [00:06:27] I mean, how would we do that? If, if, if this is what this says, what– where, where are you looking at making any different?
Ballinger [00:06:34] I mean, what it, what it took was, was rearranging some of the precincts that were taken is what it took. And, and so that, that is– I mean, I, I would have to get you a copy of the, of the map to look at it. But I mean, I agree. Like, like, I think that I was hoping that we could come to some sort of consensus that we could also share with the House and that we can get done with this. I’m 100 percent on board with that and I feel like maybe we’ve got there. It’s just that if it is passed would get those margins tighter, it’s going to make it where we have a better map and we have, you know, we’re a lot closer to one person, one vote like we, we need to be. And I think we can do it with what you guys have developed.
Rapert [00:07:14] I think, and I have just had this discussion and Senator Hickey stated to me and Senator English that he was happy for me to state this. We’re in a position now where we’re– I discussed this with Senator Hickey about the fact that is there a way to find that, find those numbers to tighten the numbers even more. I think you all know, with the past week and a half that we’ve been here with all of this, there’s a lot of pressure now to get something going. The pressure is to the point where I don’t think it’s outside of the knowledge of anybody on the committee that we’re talking about, that the Senate body is considering extracting a bill from this Committee if a Bill doesn’t move forward. So what I was told just a few moments ago, Senator Ballinger, is that obviously at the discretion of Senator English if she wants to make a motion or not– but that Senator Hickey’s agree that if we at least– if this is, if this is the bill that this committee wants to put forward, if you put it out there on the floor, we won’t vote this and make an attempt to tighten it up even more so there could be an amendment. Now that’s, that’s what was stated to me. OK, and the idea was there, and I know what, what the idea is to start getting the bodies to move forward. That was a pledge, and he said he’d be glad to come down and make the statement here if he needed to do that. And then obviously Senator English is in control of that with the bill. She doesn’t have to run it. But the idea is that we’re getting a tremendous amount of pressure, as you know, to put something out of this committee because we’ve now been here at this point. We’re getting close to the end. And so I was just given that information before I came in here. But I’m, I’m with you. The thing is, it would have been nice to have had this done before we came in here. And I will say just my part on the committee, when I saw what was taking place, we’ve had the situation where we get to an agreement, right, and then two hours after that agreement, the map changes again. And I wasn’t there for the final amen on, on anything that happened with this particular map. And so I just want to be very transparent with that on the process. Everybody’s working. But here’s the situation is that we have a tremendous amount of pressure to move. So I’m OK if, if the committee wants to do this or any particular map that you want to put forward that they will hold and that will help bring pressure that people stop, you know, playing with too many different pieces of the map and truly trying to dial it down. Because what happens is we say we’re truly trying to just dial it down and the next thing you know, suddenly we’re in a different area with a different fire. So I’m just being open with the committee to let you know that that’s, that’s the information flowing to me. And with that said, you know where we stand and know what, what I’ve been advised, and so I will stop at that point. Senator English.
English [00:10:14] I think Senator Davis had a question.
Rapert [00:10:15] Senator Tucker, you’ve got a question.
Tucker [00:10:19] Thank you, Mr. Chair. Senator, I have the same question for you that I asked Senator Davis last week, although it’s multi-part because it appears to me the Pulaski County is split into the 2nd, the 1st, and the 4th. Is that correct? So my questions are, what’s the population of Pulaski County that’s in the 4th? And what’s the population of Pulaski County that’s in the 1st? [
English [00:10:45] I [00:10:45]don’t have those numbers, but we can get those for you.
Tucker [00:10:48] OK. I would really like to get those numbers. You know, just a follow up question is, you know, you mentioned that, that the 1st as a congressional district that lost population and the 2nd as a congressional district that gained population, yet we’re taking a county, Cleburne County, from the district that lost population, the 1st, and putting it in the district that gained population, the 2nd. And I was curious for how that came to be.
English [00:11:15] I think that you get to a place where there are some smaller counties that you can have in there that with less population. This is moving maps and moving things around. I was trying to get those precise populations from those different counties into these districts.
Tucker [00:11:33] OK. And is that the same rationale for splitting Pulaski into three districts?
English [00:11:37] I think so.
Tucker [00:11:39] OK, my last question is, in Pulaski County, are there any municipalities that are split in different congressional districts?
English [00:11:49] Cities?
Tucker [00:11:50] Yes. Cities, towns.
English [00:11:51] In the 2nd Congressional District?
Tucker [00:11:53] [Split between congressional districts.
English [00:11:56] I don’t think so.
Tucker [00:11:58] OK.
English [00:11:59] I don’t think so.
Tucker [00:12:00] Are you– but you’re not 100 percent sure?
English [00:12:02] No, I can’t think of one. Little Rock isn’t. North Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville, they’re not.
Tucker [00:12:07] OK. Thank you.
Rapert [00:12:08] Senator Tucker, just as a way of information, because that’s obviously a concern discussion. I can tell you that the previous maps split Alma right down the middle. It’s a pretty small city for the state of Arkansas, and for whatever reason, that was the decision of the previous body. They split it literally right down the middle. They didn’t even make an attempt to go outside the line. So I have– I will tell you, there’s been a lot of discussion on trying not to do that. That has been stated. We’ve had maps that have flowed all over around, and I can tell you that even when, when asked of the bureau, what can you do to try to keep counties whole the best you can? And if it can’t be done, where would you go? I remember one of those maps that they brought back was splitting Pulaski County three ways, and it’s only because it’s nearly 400,000 in population. It’s the largest county in the entire state. And so if you’re trying to not split counties as much as possible, it’s very easy then that you can assimilate that population. I’ll also point out to you a very interesting point. Happened to be from a Democrat friend of mine, as a matter of fact. And said if you did split those– split Pulaski County, for instance, you would end up with the third and fourth highest population county in the state, just from Pulaski County. So I see that– you know how it is. I see the rationale on where you’re trying to to get that population to square up, if that helps any.
Tucker [00:13:42] May I just make one quick, quick comment?
Rapert [00:13:44] Of course, yes.
Tucker [00:13:46] I just I’ve seen other maps proposed by both Democrats and Republicans, where all 75 counties in are whole. I understand the point that you’re making with a large population of Pulaski County. But where every, every county is whole and the deviations are still smaller than they are with this map. So, and I do appreciate the effort to not split municipalities. I think you’re absolutely right about that. And I understand there’s only two counties split on this map, which is just better than it is now. So that’s just some of my thoughts on it.
Rapert [00:14:16] I totally understand. And you know, as you know, we’ve had people present before the committee, it begins to be, you know, historical geographic interests and common interest. When you start getting all that, that’s where the push and the pull comes. Thank you. Senator Davis. And by the way, Committee, Senate President Jimmy Hickey is here, would like to make a statement to the committee in just a moment.
Davis [00:14:41] Thank you, Mr. Chair. In looking in this map, it does split Sherwood and Jacksonville. And if we could take a short amount of time and correct the map here in committee, I’m not sure why we would pass something out that’s not fixed and correct. We can take a little bit of time and reconvene and pass a map that has tighter deviations, puts Sherwood back together and Jacksonville back together, so it’s not split at all. That’s what we worked on to get the deviations tighter, was making those cities whole, because they are split in this map. And I know that something you were very much against last week. And then I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t come back in here today and pass this map out with those deviations being tighter and those cities made whole.
Rapert [00:15:33] OK. Anything else on that, Senator English?
English [00:15:36] No, I’m agreeable to that.
Rapert [00:15:39] OK. Members, if it’s OK, Senate President Hickey is here. I’d like to recognize him.
English [00:15:45] But what kind of a time frame are we talking about? An hour? Oh, that’s right, I can’t do that because we’ve got the bill in the House.
Rapert [00:16:01] Senator Hickey, you’re recognized.
Hickey [00:16:02] Members, and I know all of you have worked on this map. Senator Davis, I know you’ve been down here with the speaker at 1:00 at night. I mean, that goes without saying that all of you have been involved in this. And as you all know, every time you do something, it’s a domino effect. So what I am asking, and Senator Rapert has alluded to this, is that you all pass this bill as is out of Senate State Agencies today. It will go on our calendar, but I’m going to commit– of course, I need y’all’s help and I will do any and everything possible with all the other members that we will not hear this map until Friday. Now, I know from the House side that that is also the attempt is to get it out of their House State Agencies. So at that point– and I’m going to tell you why I’m doing it, because everybody here knows how hard it is, because I hear what you’re saying. But then as you know, whenever that you move that, it either causes another issue or 16 issues. So that way, we’re going to have a map that we’re going to vote Friday. But if there is not something that can be developed and devised on both ends, then we will vote this map, this map come Friday. But we won’t do it before then. Because at this point right here, we, we know we had these preliminary meetings before we went into session. We’re down here. This is already going to put us into next week for something that, you know, we were hopeful that was going to be three days. Maybe that was overly optimistic, but you got to have a go. So what I’m going to do is I would ask that you all do this and I publicly stated, you know, what the plan is. Again, if 18 of you all decided you didn’t want to do it that way, of course, they could overrule me. But from my standpoint, I think that that will not happen. So that’s what I’d like to see us do.
Rapert [00:18:06] Senator Ballinger.
Ballinger [00:18:07] Yeah. And look, I’m agreeable to voting this out today and I’m agreeable to, to picking up before Friday if we want to pick it up before Friday. The thing that I’m, I’m really hesitant about agreeing to is, I mean, truly, a lot of people have put a whole lot of work into this. One of the things I think that didn’t happen last night is maybe some of the fine tuning that, that could have, if Representative Dotson had been involved and frankly, if Senator Davis have been involved, who also put a whole lot of work into it. I honestly think you came up with a compromise. I mean, I like it and I think that, I think a lot of other people do too. I think, I think it’s very possible that this gets done. But the fine tuning that, that was done, I don’t know that that– like, like nobody knows what the, the parameters that people set probably better than, than Senator Davis has been involved and Representative Dotson. I think that the fine tuning didn’t violate any of those and it made it where it is tighter parameters and, and literally like we could be back here in two hours and get this out.
Hickey [00:19:12] And that’ll be, that’ll be good, because that will be an amendment. What I’m saying is is that we pass this map out. We have– we pass this map out as a place setter for Friday. So if you all work with the House, because as we all know, there’s been a lot of people say these are just like constitutional amendments. They’re nothing like constitutional amendments. Because at least with a constitutional amendment, the House has one, at least one, the Senate has at least one, and we know how that works. But with this, we’ve all got to work together. So what I’m saying is is if there’s another map or an amendment to this map that happens on both ends before Friday, we will never even pick this map up. But if that does not happen between then and there, we will vote this map. So it’s exactly, Senator Ballinger, I believe, as you’re saying, if there, if there truly are some ways to tighten it up, make the map better that’s agreeable on both ends, that’s not going to cause a domino effect to cause that map to not be passed, then that’s, that’ll be excellent. And be honest with you, that’s the exact reason I’m doing it is so that we will have this there to vote on. So if that doesn’t work, we’re going to have something to go forward with because we’re getting late in the year with this redistricting.
Ballinger [00:20:34] And I guess really probably my question will be more for the bill sponsor. But I mean, I, I totally get where you’re, where you’re going. And I guess, like, one of the reasons why we selected State Agencies is to be involved and to engage in this process. And, and I know that we have and I know a lot of times we’ve been just missing each other. Like finally, it looks like we’re not. But, but I would guess even the bill’s sponsor doesn’t want to pass a bill that splits Sherwood and Jacksonville if there is a really good alternative to doing that. And so I mean, like, I guess my question really is for the bill sponsor– is Senator English, would you prefer to, to pass it out and have it held or would you prefer to come back in, in a couple– I don’t know if the chair would be willing to meet in a couple of hours–
English [00:21:17] So–
Ballinger [00:21:17] but come back and–
English [00:21:18] I–
Ballinger [00:21:18] — fix it.
English [00:21:18] I agree with what Senator Hickey has said. So if we can pass this out, if we can do that amendment thing and the House is agreeable on the other end. I don’t want us to do something that’s just going to throw everything because that’s what we’ve done for almost two weeks.
Ballinger [00:21:32] Sure.
English [00:21:32] So if we can do something in the next couple of hours and make those changes and get that amendment and they’re agreeable with it– I think they’re meeting right now as well on this same map. If that passes out and they are agreeable, then I’m fine. Otherwise– I just, I just, I, I can see what happens. Every time we turn around, we just, we keep changing.
Rapert [00:21:54] Members, we’re within a minute of session starting at 11:00.
Hickey [00:21:59] But if– so–
Ballinger [00:22:02] [00:22:02]I would just say, like, I agree like, like we’ve seen a lot of herding cats and it’s not been very successful.
Rapert [00:22:08] And I’m sorry, I’m interjecting. Because we got a minute and it starts running into a problem that we can’t even be doing anything if the session is going. I’ve just been advised the House didn’t vote the map, senator. Here’s, with your– I’m sorry?
Hickey [00:22:24] It’s my understanding they’re coming back to, to do that.
Rapert [00:22:26] Okay. I’ll tell you what. Without objection, Senator Hickey, given where we’re at. We got to go in session. Why don’t this committee come back? Between now and this committee coming back this afternoon, they get– try to, try to see if there’s an adjustment? Is that OK with the Senator?
Hickey [00:22:41] If it’s OK with you, what we’re going to do is I’m going to go immediately to ask Lt. Governor Mr. Griffin if we will move the session till 11 o’clock to give this–
Rapert [00:22:51] It’s 11 right now.
Hickey [00:22:52] Excuse me.
Rapert [00:22:53] 11:30?
Hickey [00:22:54] To 11:30. That we move the session to 11:30. I believe that I can do that. Mr. Cook’s here. So I’m going to ask for that to be done so that we can continue in this committee.
Rapert [00:23:04] OK, then we’ll continue based upon your feedback. And I’m sorry to interrupt that, but we were getting a lot of pressure here from the situation with that. What I, what I would say– Senator Ballinger, I want to, I want to make sure to make this statement to you. And this is for all concerned. This is a situation where there’s a whole lot of cooks in the kitchen. And so I’ve seen almost nearly all these maps that have come through here. So people having meetings and different things, there’s been meetings called that the chairs the committees haven’t called that are outside people working on maps. I’ve got people frustrated that they weren’t invited to a meeting. Well, heck, I was just drug into the meeting 5 minutes of notice. You know, that sort of thing. So there’s a whole lot of cooks in the kitchen here. And I will tell you, and I think Senator English can tell you, when I left yesterday, it was tighter. And, and then they changed. So what happens is that it’s almost like the last one who walks out of the room, suddenly there’s another little slight change. So I think that where we’re headed to here is to hopefully tighten up even further. But based on what Senator Hickey response here on the session, we’ll see if we can proceed or we need to pause.
Hickey [00:24:22] 11:30.
Rapert [00:24:23] 11:30. All right, we’ll proceed then. Senator Davis, you’re, you’re back to regular order here. Senator Davis, you’re recognized.
Davis [00:24:32] Thank you. I would like us to go ahead and amend the map. The problem is that I’m not for the map as is. The deviations are too high and it splits cities. And that’s one thing that throughout this process, I’ve been committed to. And I think that we can do better because we’ve seen a lot of maps that do that. And I know Senator English does not want Jacksonville or Sherwood split. That’s one reason she was–
Rapert [00:24:55] Senator Davis–
Davis [00:24:55] — against some of the other maps, so.
Rapert [00:24:55] I’m looking at the map. I want to make sure we use proper terminology.
Davis [00:24:59] Yes, sir.
Rapert [00:25:01] It’s coming into the edge of the city limits. It’s not splitting it, much like it did Alma. Is that correct?
Davis [00:25:07] Yeah, it’s splitting into it. I mean–
Rapert [00:25:09] Yeah, it’s not–
Davis [00:25:09] Yeah, it’s not in half, but it is–
Rapert [00:25:10] I just want to make sure the public is listening. It didn’t split them in half or anything. So but it’s edging in the city limits. Is that correct?
Davis [00:25:15] It’s into the city limits. It takes part– so it’s splitting the city, so to speak, because there are different parts of city limits in each congressional district. And so if we do that, and we did do it, tighten it up, made the deviations much lower and put whole cities back together. It did not create any new fires. As we all know, we’ve been–
Rapert [00:25:37] I want–
Davis [00:25:37] eyeball deep in this–
Rapert [00:25:38] I want to suggest to you just to say here, I wouldn’t make a commitment that you can’t get into any city limit because that may be a factor, but I think we should do it as best we can. But look, there may be an opportunity where you cannot do it without doing that. I’m just stating that because I’ve watched all these moving parts.
Davis [00:25:56] Well, we just looked at the map that did that and it didn’t split any cities. So I feel confident that that can be done without changing, drastically changing this map. And I know, Senator Hickey, you’re committed to details and doing things right the first time and not passing things out unless they’re right. And that’s what we’re committed to here in this committee. And so and I would like us to– like, if I was good with this map as is, I’d be fine with voting it out with the promise of an amendment. But I’m not good with this map as is because legally the deviations are too far apart and it split cities. And so if we can get it amended to fix those two things, which I know that we can because we just did it, then I’m happy to come back in here immediately after we adjourn session and vote an, an amended bill out of here. I’m happy to do that.
English [00:26:46] Where are the deviations?
Davis [00:26:48] Of the– of what we worked on?
English [00:26:50] Yeah, where do you see the deviations?
Davis [00:26:53] Right here. They’re on– it shows at the bottom of each page where it shows you just the congressional district.
English [00:26:59] Right.
Davis [00:27:00] It shows the percentage and you can see the ideal population versus what the total population is.
English [00:27:06] Right.
Davis [00:27:06] And so all of the districts are thousands off. And what we just worked on has them all well under 300, some of them like 150.
English [00:27:16] Is this BLR software?
Davis [00:27:17] It’s, it’s Dave’s Redistricting that we worked off of, but it keeps precincts whole, which is what BLR software does.
English [00:27:23] Because that’s what we have to be working on.
Davis [00:27:26] Umm Hmm.
Rapert [00:27:28] Excuse me. Senator Garner, you’re recognized.
Garner [00:27:31] Thank you. So I’ve probably seen 100 maps at this point. Honestly, we’ve done had this discussion for weeks now, and it’s just like anything else. You change one thing on the margins and the whole damn thing changes around the edges of it. It has happened a hundred times in the last two or three weeks, honestly. We talk about deviations. These deviations are less than we did 10 years ago. I remember the initial, the study. They’re well below the 1 percent threshold. I am fine with trying to fine tune a map, but every time that we move a lever, two more or three more things move on the other side, especially when working in the House. So I am to the point that we need to move forward and make something tangible here because I guarantee you in the next two or three hours whenever you change something, I’m probably going to hear from the same people I’ve heard from the last few weeks when I said, Wait, we’ll have a final map, we’ll have something. I’ve run the traps with those people. The people I think or I should discuss this with across the board are fine with this map. Once we change it, it’s going to be the same conversation again. You can argue that, well, those people don’t matter. But you’re going to give them a two hour window before this thing is going to be passed out. So I’m good with moving forward at the proper time. If you all want to change it after the fact, that is fine. But I’m ready to get this done. I think this is a good map. I think we need to go.
Rapert [00:28:47] Senator Ballinger, you’re recognized.
Ballinger [00:28:50] Frankly, I’m OK with– I mean, seriously, I think we can come up with, with agreement just by sitting in front of a computer and looking at how the precincts change. I, I think we could probably do that before session. And I’m, I’m agreeable to do that. I, I agree with Senator Garner, like nobody here is, is happy about continuing fighting over maps. I wouldn’t be making this argument if it wasn’t for the fact that we feel like you’ve gotten a really good map that needs to be fine tuned in small areas. And I’m confident that it can be done in a very short amount of time because we were in there and none of the changes triggered anybody else’s concerns. And so I, I really do believe that it’s something that, that can be done and we can get it out today. I mean, the work these guys did last night to come up with something is great. I just don’t feel like it’s, it is, it is fine tuned as it can be. And we can keep the same thing without, without creating any new fires and that we can get it out today. But it’s just going to take those changes. And otherwise I will feel like it’s just a matter of the committee process getting, getting rolled over and pushed over and, and frankly, not, things not really deliberated in the open the way it’s supposed to be. This map was drawn– people who’ve worked real hard in this committee on maps for a long time saw this map last night when we got in the email at 9:30, right? And then, then as soon as we could, we got together and tried to work on, on making ways to make improvement as part of, you know, as our job in the committee. And, and we found it. I feel like, I felt like Eureka, it’s here. We just have to have the opportunity to, to make those, those changes around the margin and we can do it. It just is going to require, you know, another hour or so to make that happen.
Rapert [00:30:40] Senator Hickey.
Hickey [00:30:41] Just, just one thing. And I heard you mentioned Dave’s redistricting. We dealt with this yesterday or last night. Wait. The Bureau has to use the software that they’re using, and I don’t think Dave’s Redistricting is it. For what, for whatever reason, for whatever reason, and they may have to explain it to you a little closer, but the way the precinct lines are, that’s where those discrepancies are coming in. Because whenever you’re using Dave’s Redistricting, whenever you’re just trying to figure out what you’re doing compared to what the Bureau is, some way– and again, they can explain it to you where those precinct lines are– that’s where those small discrepancies are coming into play. So again, I would ask that we use this as a place setter. We do what you all say, but we have this out there because– but you’re going to have to work directly with the Bureau, directly with the Bureau whenever you’re trying to do that or we’re going to be back and forth forever with this stuff.
Ballinger [00:31:46] I would say this can’t be fine tuned if it’s because of the communication. Like, if Dave’s not, not working off from the same, same data and, and for the most part what we’ve seen is it’s been pretty close. But if that happens, I’m– I will vote for this rather than, rather than, you know, hold off and wait for something that’s more, more perfect. I don’t– like this is not bad. It just can be fine tuned. And we just did it. And if, if we can’t– if we find that the Bureau won’t do it, then that’s fine, but I don’t want to– I really don’t want to get past the committee process. Like, that’s why you take State Agencies, one of the reasons is so you can help draft maps.
English [00:32:24] Well, I don’t think it’s a matter of the Bureau not doing it. It’s a matter of can, can that match up? And I think that’s sort of been the problem all along is looking at things in blocks and in different software. But I think the Bureau is pretty willing to do just about anything.
Ballinger [00:32:42] Yeah, and that’s– and if it doesn’t, if it doesn’t work– I know the Bureau is, but if it doesn’t– like, if there– because of the, the differences, if, if they can’t do what we did with, with Dave’s like because of the the difference in the technology I’m, I’m get– I will, I will vote for this even with the margins the way they are. But if we can get the margins closer, so it’s closer to one person, one vote within, you know, a couple hundred, then to me, I’d rather do that, than, than, than pass something out and, you know, hope that we get it fixed and get it amended and then we’ve just completely passed over State Agencies. And I just would rather do it in State Agencies than pass it out. And I, you know, I think you have the votes to get it out with, with it amended. I don’t think you have the votes to get it out without it being amended. So then the question is, are– is going to be yanked from committee. And you know, from my standpoint, that’s– I mean, it, it is– it seems crazy to get– to be working all the way through this process and finally get to something that I feel like we got some pretty broad agreement on, and then at that point to say, OK, fine, we give up and yank the rug. So anyway, that’s just what I’m thinking, and I, I, I’m– at this point, I’m committed to not voting for this until it’s, until it’s either fixed or I’m convinced that, that it can’t be fixed anymore and without problems. And, you know, I, like, love for that to happen within the next couple of hours. But at the same time, I’m not–
English [00:34:03] So, is this two precincts?
Ballinger [00:34:06] So, he– I don’t remember. Like, you know, I’m sitting there watching, watching Dotson do it, you know, work his magic. And so, I’m not sure exactly what all of that, that he did. But the map looks really close to this in the end. It’s just, when you get, when you get zoom in, it’s losing a bigger precinct, picking up a smaller precinct here and there and making it into something that’s within the largest margins, like 300 people.
Rapert [00:34:35] Senator Hickey.
Hickey [00:34:36] Respectfully, members, I, I really want us to go ahead and pass this because here’s– and Senator Ballinger, I know exactly what you’re saying. But kind of the, the flaw, I guess, within within that– and I’m not being disrespectful with that– the flaw within that is that it’s not just about in here with this particular map. It had– we would have to be working that same way with the whole House State Agencies Committee. And whenever, if we don’t pass this out of here, whenever you go do that, then I know for a fact with all of this stuff that’s going on, we’re going to be talking about Pulaski. We’re going to be talking about Cleburne. We’re going to be talking about Sebastian. All of those conversations are going to, are going to resume immediately again, and that’s fine. That’s– I understand that. But what we need is we have to get something that gets this body focused that this map will be, will be voted on Friday unless those changes are made that they can be done. I just don’t think that that’s too big of an ask. Thank you.
Rapert [00:35:50] All right. I’ve got three people in queue here. Senator Bledsoe.
Bledsoe [00:35:57] I don’t usually go against the president pro tem of the Senate, but I do have concerns about passing something out that several of us don’t want. And I would ask that maybe you allot 30 minutes, an hour after session for us to come back and work on this a little bit more. Thank you.
Rapert [00:36:21] All right, Senator Bledsoe, thank you. And I will tell you that the map that has been referred to, that map exists. So that map actually could already be drawn by Bureau. Has anybody put that map over there to be drawn?
Ballinger [00:36:34] I texted Dotson, but there hasn’t been a response so.
Rapert [00:36:37] Well, I think that, I think that should be asked for immediately then. Because it really doesn’t take that long for them to produce that. They could have actually had it done in the time we’re debating the discussion and had it presented to us. So we’re just delaying everything. You know, I would say in haste, do that. Senator Davis, I think unless you have changed your mind, you’ve got to–
Davis [00:36:57] Well, I was just going to say in response to Dave’s Redistricting versus the software BLR is using is I’ve drawn many maps with them using Dave’s versus their software and have gone into precincts into Pulaski County and Sebastian County and other counties, and it’s matched perfectly every time. So I am very aware of their software, how it works versus what it looks like with Dave’s Redistricting. And we’ve had a 100 percent success matching numbers so far in the maps that I’ve done with them, which has been several over the last several weeks. So I feel confident that we can get those numbers to be very tight very quickly.
Rapert [00:37:35] Just out of disclosure, I will tell you there’s been a time or two that the staff has told me that there are slight differences. So maybe not with you, but I’m just going to make sure that that’s clear because it has been stated. Senator Tucker.
Tucker [00:37:50] Thank you, Mr. Chair. I don’t know what’s going to happen, whether this is going to be voted out or amended. But either way– and I see we have the BLR All-Star team in here with Mr. Garrity, Mr. Miller and Mr. Davenport over here. But regardless, it’s very important for me, and I assume the same for Senator Pitsch, who I, I see sitting in the room is not only do I want to know the population numbers of Pulaski County that are in the the 1st, the 2nd and the 4th, but also demographics and, particularly, racial demographics. Because I’ve been told that the part of Pulaski County that’s been cut out resembles judicial subdistrict 6.1, which is a circuit that was created to promote diversity on the Circuit Court bench in Pulaski County, which obviously means it’s a predominantly African-American part of the county. Whether it’s judicial subdistrict 6.1 or not, I know by looking at the map, that’s Rose City, that’s southeast Pulaski County. I know that’s a predominantly African-American part of Pulaski County, and that’s why I’m really interested to know for certain those numbers. Because I understand if it’s amended, it will probably just be a tweak here or there. But for me, the Legislature is inviting trouble if we’re chopping a predominantly African American part of Pulaski County into three congressional districts.
Rapert [00:39:11] I’ll state it for the record that I’ve not had anybody discussing any maps that have targeted any minority districts whatsoever. U.S. Supreme Court says this is a political process and you’ve got a majority of Republicans in this state, and it just so happens to be that you don’t have that in Pulaski County. And so the voices that have been at play here have been voices representing the majority of the state, senator Tucker. I get your point. And if I saw that that was something that was being done, I would make the statement in the objection myself. The fact is, they’re trying to find population where they can. I’m sorry? OK. We do have someone set up to speak against the bill. Senator Hickey, do you have anything else at this particular moment?
Hickey [00:39:57] No, sir. Mr. Chair, I appreciate y’all letting me speak on it. Thank you.
Rapert [00:40:00] All right. Thank you, Senator. Members, we’ve got 15 minutes. So and actually 14 minutes. So with no other questions for Senator English, Senator English, do you have any direction on what you would like to do at this time? Do you want to proceed? OK. At this time, then, we need to take those that are in opposition and I only have one signed up to speak for or against. And so, Senator Pitsch, if you’d like to come. You’re recognized, sir. If you’d just state your name, I guess, for the record.
Pitsch [00:40:48] Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Senator Matt Pitsch. Being a gentleman precludes me from using the language that was used by members back home with this map in front of me. This map got filed at 8:50 last night. It’s tough to get a busload of people here by 11:00 the next morning, but they are unhappy back home. They see this map and many maps this week as basically what keeps happening to us. I’m not going to take all your time, I’ve already explained that we’re the only county that did 10 years last time being divided. And these maps that somehow, as you said, everybody’s involved? Except I’m the one that has mentioned, I keep missing the after hours meeting. Because I get phone calls from people late at night, Oh, we carved up your county again. It’s not there. My folks back home are just totally intrigued that another county– and it comes to Senator Ballinger advocating for his folks. He and I have talked. We worked this, a solution we thought that got rejected. But it literally comes down, how do you take a county not in a district that’s overpopulated by 110,000 people and you put it in and you continue to divide our county in thirds? Now maybe you folks are hearing a lot more from citizens, but we’re a long way away from this Capitol when you’re in Sebastian County. And we’ve had county judges, two mayors and 24 CEOs request this committee to consider them in a fair and equitable manner. And they don’t think that’s being done, and they couldn’t get here. That’s why I didn’t want to come testify again. To Senator Tucker, I get it. This has kind of just become a, let’s get after the big counties, deal. We’re putting little counties into districts, and we’re carving up the big counties. And that’s what the result of that map is. Somehow, you took 16,000 people from a small county and put them into the 3rd District and you took 11,000 citizens, roughly, out of my county of 127,000 people. And I think I’m the only one in the room who can raise his hand and say we were divided for the last 10 years. That is not a pleasant place to be when you’re a mayor, a county judge, et cetera. It just isn’t. And we’re begging you to hear us tell you that. And we’re really begging you to not make us do that for 20 years. I appreciate Senator Hickey, Speaker Shepherd trying to move this process along. But I’ve gone to bed four nights in a row in Little Rock, not counting this weekend, thinking we were going to be a 3rd District whole on a map that ended my day at about anywhere from 6:00 to 7:00. But as I’ve repeatedly shared with the chairman, I don’t know where the meetings are to go talk to people, because the next morning or late that night, I get a phone call, Your county’s divided. I don’t know how to play that process. It’s not one I’m familiar with. I’ve been in front of the committee that’s publicized and where our speeches are on video and said, Please hear us. We do not like being divided for 20 straight years. You know, our folks literally think that’s a very partisan map that was drawn 10 years ago. As one of the most congregated Republican populations in any county, we felt like that was a partisan attempt 10 years ago. And we’re shocked now that we’re in the super majority 10 shortly years later, they’re doing it to us again. And Mr. Chairman, I’m open for any questions. This committee has heard me. I’ve tried to work in a statesman manner with Senator Ballinger. I’ve worked repeatedly with Senator Davis. I think she’s done a ton of work. Senator English a week ago and I were talking about 3rd District Sebastian County whole. And somehow here comes a map that shows us divided. Representative Nelda Speaks is a sponsor on this. She’s fought to keep Sebastian County whole in the 3rd District all week. But somebody’s convinced her we aren’t going to get that passed somehow some way. And we aren’t taking votes on Sebastian County whole in the 3rd. And I don’t know why. I don’t have an answer. So I’ll close with that. You know, my way is not to peel the paint. Present company excluded, you and I had one phone call a week ago. But that’s not our manner. We’re not going to peel the paint, but I got a sneaky suspicion other people are peeling the paint in this process. And we keep modifying Sebastian County being carved up. And I don’t know. If that’s the process, that maybe I failed Sebastian County. I don’t know what else to say. But they are very, very disappointed in this process. They’re disappointed in the 8:50 last night filing of a bill. And here we are, proposedly voting on it at 11:00 the next morning. That’s pretty tough for citizens that are three hours, two and a half hours away. So comments that I feel like needed stated. I wish I didn’t have to say them. They just couldn’t get here to say it themselves.
Rapert [00:46:12] Yeah, I understand that. And I will tell you and look, I know members are– got pressures and you’ve got local interests. But I take objection to anything related to the fact that there’s been any kind of back handedness in anything. There are meetings being called by people outside of this process the whole time. Chairman Tosh and myself have done our best when we get invited to be present to listen to those meetings. But the chairs have not called meetings with specific intent whatsoever to not have somebody in the room. And I have always taken your calls and I’ve taken calls of members on this committee. And so I’m going to stand up for the integrity of the process. Do I like it that there is condensed times? Do I always like it that the bill gets filed and read across and that sort of thing? It happens here. This is why I took the position last night, and these members can tell you, I actually texted members in addition to let them know that there is an email that just came in that’s got a map and you need to be aware that we’ve got, we’ve got to look at this. So and I state that. You’ve been a tremendous advocate for your side, and you and I have been friends a long time and continue to be friends. And I could tell you that even with friendship, you’re advocating very hard for your people. And that’s what I expect you to do and expect Senator Ballinger to do, expect Senator Davis to do, everybody to do. And we’re trying to get to a point where we need a map, and I’m, I am agreement in principle that I like the fact that we could tighten it up. That’s just me. I also respect the fact that Senator Hickey wants us to get something moved and I have to take him for his word. And he said he would work with people to try to get it done. But this committee makes the decision, OK. So my part is is I can understand the story in the Bible with Solomon and having the two mothers to split the baby, because it’s tough when you get to this point. And so I totally respect what you’re saying, but I want to make sure you understand that not every meeting that has been called where people have been drawing maps has been at the behest of the committee chair at all.
Pitsch [00:48:27] Understand. I used as an example yesterday with Senator Davis and myself, and I saw you reference Senator Ballinger and Senator Hester. You brought us a map. And that map had my county whole. I didn’t pay a whole lot of the other–
Rapert [00:48:41] [00:48:41]I brought you a map on what?
Pitsch [00:48:41] [00:48:41]You came to my desk. And Senator Davis and I looked, and you said, this is the bill we’re going to run. We’ve got to move.
Rapert [00:48:48] [00:48:48]Yeah.
Pitsch [00:48:49] [00:48:49]That’s a pretty solid indication my county’s being OK. And that was Monday morning.
Rapert [00:48:54] [00:48:54]Yeah.
Pitsch [00:48:54] [00:48:54]And I told my folks back home. My chairman tells me, this is going to be a solid county. At 10:30 last night somewhere, somehow this didn’t happen. And I know this committee didn’t meet. And that’s–
Rapert [00:49:06] [00:49:06]Senator, and what you’re, what you’re articulating there is the process. I have walked out of meetings where they thought they had agreement and then it’s a different map when I see it again. It’s unfortunately a part of this process. Is it wonderful? No, sir. But that’s what’s happening to all concerned.
Garner [00:49:23] Senator Rapert, may I make a motion? We’re running really close to the time, and if–
Rapert [00:49:27] We get five minutes.
Garner [00:49:28] If we don’t limit debate, then I think we’ll have a problem.
Rapert [00:49:30] You got five minutes. I don’t have anybody else signed up to speak for or against the bill. Senator English, you’re recognized if you got any closing comments.
English [00:49:37] No, I’m closed for the bill.
Rapert [00:49:40] All right. What’s the pleasure of the committee?
Garner [00:49:45] Motion do pass.
Rapert [00:49:47] I have a motion do pass. Is there a second?
English [00:49:48] Second.
Rapert [00:49:48] I have a second from Senator English. All those in favor say aye. All those opposed say no. The motion fails. We can take it again, members. I will tell you that the committee is at the call of the chair. I would ask that any, any maps that can tighten up be immediately done. Please communicate with me about this and we’ll be prepared immediately upon the adjournment or recess of the session that we could come back in to handle the map. Thank you, Senator English.