LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska lawmakers remained at a stalemate Wednesday over how to draw new congressional and legislative maps despite a looming deadline that could force them to postpone the decision until next year and delay the May primary election.
Lawmakers have until Saturday to advance both measures, or else Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers has promised to end their special session, forcing them to resume the debate during their next regular session in January. Delaying the new maps until next year would force state officials to reschedule the primary and create major hassles for county election officials and candidates.
At issue with the maps are accusations that Republicans and Democrats are trying to draw political boundaries in ways that benefit their party. Republicans enjoy a majority in the officially nonpartisan, one-house Legislature, but they don't have enough votes to overcome a filibuster led by Democrats and some moderate Republicans, preventing them from forcing through their preferred map.
Hilgers said lawmakers have made good progress toward an agreement, but he didn't want to guess the likelihood that they'll succeed before his imposed deadline. On Wednesday, he asked members of the Legislature's Redistricting Committee to meet with other lawmakers and discuss what everyone wants and needs in the maps.
“I wouldn't put odds on it one way or the other," Hilgers said after the meeting. “I said yesterday that if we couldn't do it, I'd have adjourned. But the response from yesterday to today has been tremendous. The energy's there. They understand the repercussions of not getting it done, and everybody takes that incredibly seriously."
Hilgers said he hoped to pin down specific concerns about the maps to try to reach a compromise, so that lawmakers aren't “just talking past each other.”
Lawmakers also gave initial approval Wednesday to a funding bill to pay for the special session. The exact cost isn't yet known, but Sen. Dan Hughes, chairman of the Legislature's Executive Board, said the special session costs the state roughly $9,300 a day. The spending bill advanced, 41-0, through the first of three required votes.
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