By Jim Misunas
HUTCHINSON — A letter from Pawnee County commission chairperson Kathy Bowman requested a special legislative committee place Pawnee County into one Kansas House district rather than split the county down the middle.
Pawnee County is represented by Mitch Holmes, R-St. John; and Larry Powell, R-Garden City, because the county is split at U.S. 183. Holmes represents Pawnee, Pratt, Stafford, Edwards counties and one township in Reno County. Powell represents Hodgeman, Edwards, Finney, Ness and Pawnee counties.
Larned’s Kim Barnes read a letter signed by Bowman Tuesday during a public meeting for a committee responsible for redrawing the Kansas House, Senate and congressional maps. Public meetings were held at Hutchinson and Wichita.
Bowman’s letter acknowledged the fact that Pawnee County, as well as most other rural Kansas communities, have faced declining population.
“We are here today, representing the citizens of Pawnee County to formally request that the Kansas Legislature unite all Pawnee County citizens in one Kansas House District and allow our citizens to continue to be represented by one Senate District,” the letter read. “Having all of Pawnee County citizens represented by one Kansas House District and one Kansas Senate District will provide for fairer and more effective representation for all citizens of Pawnee County.”
Pawnee County has been split into two house districts since 2003. Barnes has visited with several state legislators over the issue.
“We’d like to unify the county in one House district. This has been a strategic goal by the Pawnee County Economic Development Commission,” Barnes said. “When this opportunity presented itself again, we wanted to make sure this was a goal and a priority.”
The suggested population total for each of 125 House districts is 22,716. Pawnee, Pratt, Edwards and Stafford counties have a population over 24,000.
Barnes is a Larned city council member who was representing Pawnee County on the legislative issue. He serves on the board for Pawnee County Area Development Inc., a funding entity. He’s previously served on the Pawnee County Economic Development board. He’s represented the legislative committee of the Kansas Co-op Council for 30 years and served on the Kansas Grain and Feed Association.
Rita Kurtz, a member of the Pawnee County Economic Development Commission, also attended the meeting.
Legislators will draw new boundaries for the state’s 125 House seats, 40 Senate seats and four U.S. House districts in 2012. The districts are being redrawn to reflect population changes based on the 2010 Census.
Legislators will draw the new maps during the 2012 legislative session. The new districts will be used in the 2012 primary and general elections.
Public meetings will be held Oct. 19 in Dodge City and Garden City and Oct. 20 in Hays and Colby.