New state Senate seat added in Indy under GOP proposal

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Indianapolis would gain a new state Senate district under a redistricting plan released Tuesday by Indiana Senate Republicans.

Senate District 46 would move to central Marion County in the downtown Indianapolis area under the proposed maps. It would include the center of downtown, along with Fountain Square and Irvington.

While the district’s move likely would allow Democrats to pick up a Senate seat, the redistricting plan appears otherwise unlikely to have any significant impact on Senate Republicans’ 39-11 supermajority.

With the Senate Republican plan in hand, the GOP-controlled Legislature is expected to approve new maps for all Indiana congressional and state legislative districts by the end of next week.

The new Indiana Senate District 46 would shift to central Marion County from where it currently sits in southern Indiana and is represented by Republican Sen. Ron Grooms of Jeffersonville.

Grooms plans to retire at the end of his term next year, so he would not be affected by the change.

With Indiana’s population growing more in urban areas, and shrinking in many rural areas, putting a new Senate district in Indianapolis was the best way to meet the population growth, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said Tuesday.

“This was an idea to follow the population of the city,” Bray said. “District 46, I believe, put some communities of interest together.”

Senate District 46 would sit in a cluster with two typically solid Democrat-held districts, 33 and 34, in downtown Indianapolis, meaning Democrats could gain a seat in the Senate with the proposed maps.

This district would be one of four open seats under the proposed Senate maps. The other districts would be 1, 23 and 26.

Senate Republican leadership said Tuesday that the proposed map meets all state and federal guidelines while also taking public comment into account by keeping many communities of interest together.

Whole counties contained in one Senate district increased from 49 to 65. About 96% of all townships were kept whole and 92% of all cities and towns were kept whole, GOP leaders said.

A concern brought up at the public hearings across the state last month was the number of Senate districts that jut from Marion County into surrounding counties.

Senate District 28 in Hancock County particularly was criticized at the public meetings for having a “finger” sticking into Warren Township in Marion County. The district in the new map drafts still pulls into Warren Township, but not as far.

“We tried to get that back up into Hancock County. The area is a little difficult, given the numbers,” Bray said.

Former Republican Sen. Beverly Gard, who used to represent District 28, told the Indianapolis Business Journal in July the district was changed in 2011 to dilute Democrat votes from Warren Township.

Two Republican-controlled districts that straddled Johnson and Marion counties would be made more compact.

District 36, held by Sen. Jack Sandlin, R-Indianapolis, lost some of Indianapolis to District 46. District 32, held by Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, moved into northern Johnson County and stretched slightly north into Marion County, taking some of the area in District 28 that jutted into Warren Township.

Greenwood was split into four different districts under the new map drafts.

Johnson County likely became a “seam” where multiple districts come together due to its geographic location just south of Indianapolis and the increased population in the area, said Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, who took part in the map-drawing.

In Hamilton County, Senate District 30 was pulled entirely into Marion County, potentially securing a stronger hold for freshman Democrat Sen. Fady Qaddoura of Indianapolis. Qaddoura won the seat last fall against Republican incumbent Sen. John Ruckelshaus.

Eight incumbents were drawn into the same districts in the proposed Senate maps, including a Democrat and Republican senator. They are Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, and Sen. Mike Gaskill, R-Pendleton; Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, and Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond; Sen. Brian Buchanan, R-Lebanon, and Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville; and Sen. Chris Garten, R-Charlestown, and Grooms, who announced his retirement.

A few incumbents drawn into one district is common in redistricting because of population shifts. Bray said other than Grooms, no other senators have announced their retirements.

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