The special five-member Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission on Monday recommended that the Legislature and Gov. Terry Branstad approve the proposed maps charting new congressional and legislative boundaries for the next decade.
“It was clearly unanimous,” said commission member Matt Paul. “I think the process in Iowa has integrity and is fair not only to Iowa but as sort of a model for the nation. This is a system that Iowans can be proud of.”
Lawmakers will decide as early as Thursday whether to accept the first set of reapportionment maps drawn by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency that were issued on March 31.
The commission issued its favorable opinion of the LSA plan after holding public hearings in Council Bluffs, Bettendorf, Cedar Rapids and Des Moines last week.
Legislative leaders from both political parties in the House and Senate said they believe the redistricting plan is favor because it creates opportunities and challenges for Republicans and Democrats.
Slow population growth the past decade resulted in Iowa losing one congressional seat. The LSA’s redistricting plan reshapes Iowa’s current five congressional districts into four for the 2012 election and reconfigures legislative districts in a way that would throw about a third of the current House and Senate incumbents together under the new proposed boundaries.
The new congressional configuration would throw current GOP incumbent Congressmen Steve King of Kiron and Tom Latham of Ames together in a new 4th congressional district in northwest and north-central Iowa, and Democratic incumbent Congressmen Bruce Braley of Waterloo and Dave Loebsack of Mount Vernon both reside in the newly proposed 1st District in northeast and east-central Iowa.
U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Des Moines, would be the incumbent in the new 3rd district stretching more Des Moines to Council Bluffs, while the newly proposed 2nd District is an open seat for now in southeast and southern Iowa.
Either the House, which currently is controlled by Republicans 60-40, or the Senate, where Democrats hold a 26-24 majority, or Gov. Terry Branstad can reject the initial Legislative Services Agency proposal.
If it’s rejected, the agency has 35 days to produce a second map, which, like the first, cannot be altered. If that’s rejected, LSA has 35 days to prepare a third map. That can be amended.
If the Legislature does not approve a map by Sept. 1, the Iowa Supreme Court will step in.
During its public hearings, the commission received generally favorable comments, although Republicans in southwest Iowa did not like that they would be losing King as their U.S. representative, having Council Bluffs placed in the same district as Polk County or that Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal’s home Senate district remained mostly in tact for the incumbent Democrat.