For as long as America has existed, politicians have engaged in partisan gerrymandering, redrawing political boundaries to favor their side. The tradition actually predates gerrymandering’s namesake, Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry: Patrick Henry, then the leader of Virginia’s House of Delegates, sought to craft a congressional district that would favor his chosen candidate, James Monroe, over his arch-rival, James Madison.
(Madison won the election in 1789 anyway, in the only congressional race in American history that featured two future presidents.)
But fights over redistricting are happening more frequently these days, as Democrats and Republicans challenge each other’s maps long after the decennial Census that begins the redistricting process.
Just this week:
— A New York court ordered the state’s redistricting commission to draw new congressional district lines, a decision likely to favor Democrats in as many as six Republican-held districts.
— New Mexico Republicans dropped their challenge to maps that gave Democrats an edge in all three of the state’s congressional districts.
— Kentucky Republicans scored a win after the state Supreme Court threw out a Democratic challenge to the state’s legislative and congressional district lines.
— And U.S. Rep. Wiley Nickel (D) said he would not seek a second term, the third Democrat — along with Reps. Kathy Manning (D) and Jeff Jackson (D) — to retire rather than run under new Republican-drawn maps that will give the GOP an advantage.
Next month, Louisiana lawmakers will meet to consider new map lines after a federal judge ordered the state to create a second Black-majority district. And cases are ongoing in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and elsewhere.
With such a narrowly divided Congress, the outcome of redistricting litigation is likely to have as much impact over who controls the gavel in the next House of Representatives as anything voters might decide.
Here are seven things you might have missed this week:
ENERGY: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has signed legislation lifting a moratorium on new nuclear energy projects. The bill will require state safety agencies to develop rules for regulating small modular reactors, new technology that generate about a third of the power of a traditional reactor. (Pluribus News)
HEALTH CARE: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has signed legislation prohibiting the state from entering into contracts with Medicaid managed care organizations that rely on pharmacy benefit managers, with exceptions. The law is the latest step Michigan has taken to restrict pharmacy benefit managers, after bills in 2022 that imposed licensing and transparency requirements. (Pluribus News)
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has signed legislation barring hospitals, health care professionals and ambulance firms from reporting medical debt to credit agencies. New York is the second state, after Colorado, to adopt a law seeking to stop medical debt from harming someone’s credit. (Pluribus News)
Florida’s Senate Health Policy Committee will introduce a pair of bills pumping $874 million into the state’s health care workforce. The measure includes $571 million for Medicaid rate increases to help home and community-based providers, maternal care and statutory teaching hospitals. One bill would spend $75 million to offer low-interest loans to licensed health care providers. (Florida Politics)
TECHNOLOGY: A San Francisco jury has ruled unanimously that Google violated California and federal antitrust laws by limiting payment and download options through its Play mobile app store. Google said it plans to appeal. Epic Games, the makers of Fortnite, sued to force Google to allow users to download and pay for its products by other means. (Wired, Associated Press)
Why this matters to state legislators: Epic Games has started introducing legislation to force Apple and Google to open their app stores to alternate payment methods. Massive lobbying battles have ensued, as we wrote last year.
LGBTQ RIGHTS: The Ohio House gave final approval to a measure that would bar gender-affirming care for transgender minors and block transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams in high school and college. The bill, which heads to Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) desk, allows those already receiving care to continue treatment. (Columbus Dispatch)
Missouri lawmakers have pre-filed more than 20 bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ people. Bills seek to expand a ban on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, enact a ban on discussions of gender identity or sexual orientation through third grade, and ban school employees from using a student’s preferred pronouns without written permission from the student’s parent. (Kansas City Star)
CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) signed legislation sealing criminal records if those convicted of crimes go ten years without committing a new offense. Another bill Shapiro signed creates clearer parameters for parole hearings into minor probation violations. (Harrisburg Patriot-News) Shapiro also signed a bill creating a new criminal offense targeting home delivery package thieves, or “porch pirates.” (Harrisburg Patriot-News)
GUN POLITICS: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to block an Illinois law that would ban high-power semiautomatic weapons, set to take effect Jan. 1. A three-judge panel of the 7th District Court of Appeals voted 2-1 in favor of the law last month. The law also bans high-capacity magazines for rifles and handguns. (Associated Press)
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a provision in New York’s gun laws that requires concealed carry permit applicants to disclose their social media accounts. Provisions requiring applicants to “demonstrate good moral character” remain in effect. (State of Politics)
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) says she will push legislators to consider statewide restrictions on assault-style weapons. Grisham is using a federal bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) as a template: Heinrich’s bill would require assault-style weapons to have permanently fixed magazines limited to ten rounds. (Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press)
POLITICS: Texas Sen. John Whitmire (D) won election Saturday to become Houston’s next mayor, taking 64% of the vote over U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D). Whitmire has represented Houston in the legislature for half a century. (Houston Chronicle) Jackson Lee said she will decide in the coming weeks whether to seek another term in Congress. (Associated Press)
The Michigan Court of Appeals said it would not block former President Donald Trump from gaining access to the primary ballot on 14th Amendment grounds. In a ruling similar to one issued in Minnesota, judges said political parties are responsible for determining who qualifies for a ballot spot. (Detroit News, Associated Press)