PLAQUEMINE — The Iberville Parish School Board was told Monday night it could ignore a 2010 Louisiana law requiring a reduction in membership from 15 to nine because the special mandate had not received pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice.
However, Glenn Koepp, of Redistricting LLC, said the School Board could still submit a redistricting plan mapping out a nine-district setup if it chose to convert to the new model anyway.
“You all are free to do as you choose to,” he said. “State law says you can decide your number of districts from not more than 15 and no less than five.”
Koepp said Act 650 of Senate Bill 420, authored by former Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Grosse Tete, was not pre-cleared by the Justice Department because it did not detail how the new districts would be implemented and take effect by the next School Board elections in 2014.
The bill states the Iberville Parish School Board would be composed of eight members, elected from single-member districts, and one elected at-large board member.
“The federal law says until a state law is pre-cleared, it cannot be implemented,” Koepp said.
“If the Legislature would have really wanted to pin you down, what the legislative act should have done is not only mandate you go to eight (members), but it would have created its own plan,” he said. The idea of reducing the number of board members seemed intriguing to some board members.
Board member Darlene Ourso asked Koepp what the board needed to do if indeed it wanted to follow the stipulations of Marionneaux’s law.
“I think it’s a good idea,” she said.
The School Board would have to approve a nine-member redistricting plan and submit it to the Justice Department for pre-clearance, Koepp said.
The board is required to adopt a redistricting resolution by Dec. 31, following the release of population data from the 2010 census.
Koepp said the School Board can draft and adopt plans with a varying number of members as long as the parish’s 30,000 people are equally divided into districts that comply with state law and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Board members, a majority of whom expressed interest in hiring Koepp to draft a new redistricting plan, decided to hold a special meeting later this month to determine its next step and give the public a chance to comment.