LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Legislators and concerned lake area residents gathered at the Lake Charles Civic Center on Tuesday to discuss redistricting ideas for the state of Louisiana.
Federal law requires all electoral districts be redrawn to reflect changes in population following each decennial census. The state of Louisiana grew by only 1.4 % according to the 2010 census report. This is considerably below the national growth of 9.7 %.
The lag in the 2010 population is forcing the state to go from seven to six congressional districts.
The House and Governmental Affairs Committee is searching for input from residents throughout the state. Tuesday's meeting is one of nine public hearings the committee has held in different areas of Louisiana.
"Public input is very important in this process," said Rep. Rick Gallot, Chairman for House and Governmental Affairs. "People's voices do matter in this process."
The main concern heard by the committee was residents not wanting to be part of the northwest district.
"We don't have anything in common with people from Shreveport," said Tore Calberg, a lifelong resident of Lake Charles.
Calberg said he could not imagine Lake Charles being torn from the congressional district in Lafayette.
"We speak the same language, we're mostly Cajun French," said Calberg. "We're sister cities, and like other families you should not divide the sisters."
The committee has not made any redistricting proposals as of yet, however.
"There are a number of different ideas that have been tossed around this committee," said Rep. Gallot. "We wanted to go out and see the people first before we started making proposals because we need to know what's important to the residents."
The committee will continue making their statewide rounds through March 1st. A proposed extraordinary session to establish new congressional districts is expected to start March 20th.
The House and Government Affairs Committee will continue searching for redistricting input from Louisiana residents through March 20th. All redistricting ideas can be mailed to House and Governmental Affairs, P. O. Box 44486, Baton Rouge, LA, 70804. The committee's legislative line is 1-800-256-3793.