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Louisiana Legislature leaders won’t answer questions on redistricting law firm deal

Republican leaders in the Louisiana Legislature finished the political redistricting session previous week refusing to disclose far more information and facts about a govt agreement with a law firm employed to suggest lawmakers drawing new controversial political maps.

The Legislature turned around its deal with BakerHostetler regulation firm in response to a general public documents ask for, but it hasn’t disclosed data about a subcontractor hired by the legislation firm to operate on redistricting. Journalists have confirmed at minimum a person polling specialist was hired to function with lawmakers on redistricting. 

Legislative leaders have also refused to answer concerns about other legislation companies viewed as for the deal and how a great deal Baker Hostetler’s perform has cost the state.

“I do not want to go over that any longer,” Senate President Site Cortez, R-Lafayette, responded when requested about the regulation company Friday.

Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-French Settlement, mentioned the firm will stand for Louisiana in court if the point out is sued more than the maps lawmakers authorized very last 7 days. Lawsuits are probable because civil rights corporations have presently threatened to go to courtroom above the redistricting ideas. 

Only four legislators – Cortez, Schexnayder, Sen. Sharon Hewitt and Rep. John Stefanski – experienced accessibility to the firm’s lawyers. Other lawmakers weren’t conscious Baker Hostetler experienced been retained until media reports surfaced about its deal. 

Cortez and other legislative leaders have not been inclined to answer the subsequent concerns about the contract for a lot more than a 7 days, although taxpayer pounds are anticipated to include the expenditures.

What other gurus ended up hired?

Cortez and Hewitt explained BakerHostetler subcontracted with a human being or individuals to carry out a racially polarized voting examination of Louisiana, but they refused to say who was hired to do this operate.

Hewitt, R-Slidell, oversaw the redistricting method in the Senate. Less than public questioning from Democrats, she mentioned the person the law business hired for voting examination was “somebody from Stanford University,” but she has declined to respond to other inquiries about the arrangement. 

Cortez also wouldn’t present the identify of the subcontractor. Stefanski, R-Crowley, who oversaw redistricting in the Home, stated he hardly ever spoke to any person at BakerHostetler about the voting analysis and didn’t know the name of the individual executing the examine. 

A single of BakerHostetler’s attorneys, Kate McKnight, suggested legislators from all over the place previous summer months to carry out racially polarized voting analyses of their states’ voting styles. The analyze can support lawmakers decide how several vast majority-minority political districts are wanted to meet lawful needs. It’s also helpful when fending off a lawsuit, she stated publicly

“[I]t’s a very crucial piece of analysis,” McKnight mentioned at an function the Countrywide Convention on Point out Legislatures held final yr. “You have to have to have an knowing of minority voting patterns in advance of you can figure out what district needs to be drawn.”

Still Hewitt reported, in Louisiana’s case, a polarized voting evaluation couldn’t be completed due to the fact of “scatter” in the state’s voting details. She also mentioned she couldn’t give documentation about the tried analysis simply because “I don’t have just about anything in producing.”

There have also been queries about whether Cortez and Schexnayder employed yet another political guide to work on the political maps. 

In December, Louisiana political expert John Couvillon advised the Illuminator that Cortez and Schexnayder experienced employed him to support with redistricting. Couvillion is a polling specialist who has labored on quite a few legislative strategies.

Previously this thirty day period, Schexnayder told reporters the Legislature did not hire Couvillon for redistricting. Cortez declined to reply queries about no matter if Couvillion was doing work for the management crew. 

Couvillion also stopped answering questions a few of months ago about any redistricting work he could be accomplishing.

“I can’t and do not remark on get the job done I do or do not do,” he reported in a phone job interview when asked no matter whether he was performing on the state’s redistricting ideas. 

What other regulation corporations were regarded? 

Democrats have been worried about the BakerHostetler agreement. A person of the firm’s attorneys, Mark Braden, has a historical past of defending Republicans accused of gerrymandering political districts to dilute minority voting electricity. Braden is also the former general counsel for the Republican Countrywide Committee. 

Schexnayder and Stefanski stated the legislative management interviewed a several law firms in advance of picking BakerHostetler, but they have not been willing to discover them. In an interview, Stefanski claimed he could not keep in mind the names of the other law firms deemed.

A individual close to Legislative management, who spoke on the situation of anonymity, stated Charles Spies was also up for the redistricting agreement. Spies has a very similar qualifications to Braden’s. He labored for the Republican National Committee and formerly served as basic counsel and main monetary officer for the Republican Governors Affiliation. 

Spies also has Louisiana connections. He works on the Conservative Louisiana PAC that supports U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and assisted previous U.S. Sen. David Vitter overturn a Louisiana regulation that limited PAC marketing campaign contributions to $100,000

Spies performs for Dickinson Wright legislation business and could not be attained for remark Tuesday.

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How considerably will the regulation organization cost taxpayers?

The BakerHostetler deal was introduced in reaction to a general public records ask for earlier this month, but it does not drop significantly light on how significantly the legislation firm’s work may possibly inevitably expense.

The firm’s deal does not involve a tough cap on bills. BakerHostetler estimated it would bill Louisiana $10,000 for every thirty day period for “redistricting assistance,” but the agreement will allow the law agency to “true up” at the close of 90 times, this means it can retroactively demand the condition higher than and outside of that amount. The $10,000 month to month fee also doesn’t address ancillary bills, such as the use of legal databases and specialist witnesses.

In its deal, the regulation firm mentioned it expected to charge Louisiana monthly for its work, but the Legislature has not obtained an invoice or invoice from the agency still, according to community records responses from the Dwelling and Senate staff members.