Kansas lawmakers may have worked through the weekend with no nap breaks, but the state remains the only one in the nation without a redistricting plan for Congress or the state legislature, and now must leave the decision to a federal court.
Lawmakers left Topeka Sunday night -- nine days after the scheduled end of session -- failing to pass the new maps required every decade after the Census. The redistricting plan fell victim to a bitter civil war between conservative Republicans and moderate Republicans for control of the state Senate.
"It is pretty weird that when one party controls 75 percent of the Legislature and the governor's office ... they can't live up to a constitutional obligation," Rep. Sean Gatewood (D-Topeka) told HuffPost. "They went into overtime and still failed."
A federal court will start hearing a case next week regarding the fate of the redistricting map, making Kansas the second state in the nation -- after New York -- to have a new congressional map drawn by the judiciary. In Kansas, courts have never taken over the redistricting process. The lawsuit was filed to force the state to complete the redistricting on behalf of a private citizen.
The conservative Gov. Sam Brownback and House, and moderate GOP Senate have battled since 2011 over the new districts. House members vetoed a Senate-drawn map and drew their own, an unprecedented step in the state. The House map would benefit conservative challengers. It passed a redistricting plan this month designed to protect GOP incumbents, which spurred battles within the GOP over placing urban areas in the state's largely rural 1st District.
While maps were not completed, Brownback is cheering the session, issuing a statement praising passage of a new state tax code, pension rules, Medicaid reform and water laws, along with discussions on a new state education formula. Brownback signed the new tax code this week, a move panned by Democrats who said the plan will cost the state $3.7 billion over five years. Rep. Brett Hildabrand (R-Merriam) told HuffPost earlier this month that the tax plan will grow state revenues and jobs.
"The 2012 Legislative session came down to a simple question: Do we want to grow the government or grow the economy? The resounding answer: We're going to grow the economy," Brownback said.
The chambers worked on the other issues at sessions that lasted until midnight Saturday and started up again at 10 a.m. Sunday. "They kept us there doing no legislation," Gatewood said. "They did not give us a break to leave or take a nap."
Legislators approved at least one piece of legislation in addition to the budget Sunday: a bill to change the process for owners of storage companies to sell items left in unpaid storage lockers.
"I have no idea how that came up, I couldn't believe it," Gatewood said. "We were talking about storage units when we failed our constitutional obligations. We can't draw maps, but we worry about storage units on the 99th day. It was to keep us occupied while they worked on a budget."
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