NASHVILLE - The Republican-controlled House has passed a GOP-drawn redistricting bill.
The measure passed on a 68-25 vote with four lawmakers not voting. Republicans said the bill is "very fair and legal," but Democrats said it was crafted in secret for months and only sprung on them last week.
House Republicans later passed a congressional redistricting map that splits Bradley County between the 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts.
Republicans easily batted down a series of Democratic amendments, most of them launched by Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, who is black. Hardaway argued the Republican plan does not comply with federal Voting Act mandates that he said requires lawmakers to create black-majority districts where possible.
He said the plan, which maintains 13 black-majority districts, would rise to 14 in his plans, which were voted down in various amendments.
The bill merges most of the 29th Legislative District, held by Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, into that of the 28th District, represented by Rep. Tommie Brown, D-Chattanooga. Both lawmakers are black, but only Brown's district is a black-majority district.
Brown and Favors said the Hamilton County portion of the plan is fair because the black population in Brown's district needs to be increased. But they have been critical of the statewide plan.
Republicans hope the new map, drawn according to population growth and shifts as reflected in the 2010 U.S. Census, will increase their current 64-34-1 majority.
The bill now goes to the Republican-led Senate, which considers their state House, state Senate and congressional redistricting maps on Friday.