State lawmakers have convened themselves into a special session set to begin March 20 to take up the sticky political wicket of redistricting. The interesting angle to this story is the fact that the session was called by lawmakers themselves, not by the governor — for the first time in state history.
The significance of lawmakers convening themselves into special session is the fact that it takes Gov. Bobby Jindal out of the political equation at the outset. Under Louisiana law, when a governor calls lawmakers into special session, he or she gets to set the agenda by listing the specific items that can be considered in that session. No other items can be considered. In the past, governors have used that authority to line up votes for their proposals in advance of special sessions by including items important to key lawmakers — and excluding items they don’t want considered.
By convening themselves, lawmakers cut Jindal out of the agenda-setting process. For his part, Jindal has said he plans to take a hands-off approach to redistricting anyway — unless he’s asked to intervene.
According to the proclamation calling lawmakers into the special session, the topics to be considered include new district lines for the state House and Senate, Congress, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the state Supreme Court and state appellate courts. Lawmakers will also consider revising statutes keyed to population figures based on earlier Census data. The session must end by April 13.