Senator Al Davis: Rural Nebraska losing residents
December 30, 2016
The New Year is upon us, full of resolutions to better ourselves, and an opportunity to look back on the past year—something I've done extensively in the past six weeks. This will be the last column I write as your senator, although I may continue to offer occasional editorial columns on issues which I believe are important to District 43.
The Legislative Planning Committee recently completed Interim work. The Planning Committee was the brainchild of Senator Harms who recognized the need for long-term plans in light of the term-limited nature of the Legislature today. It has produced some excellent work over the past few years.
Of most interest to me were the population projections for Nebraska's legislative districts. Surprisingly, of all the rural districts in Nebraska, District 43 was the only district to see an increase in population, albeit a very moderate gain of 19 residents between 2011 and 2015. Contrast that with Senator McCoy's district which added 7637 additional residents. The top five gainers were all Omaha districts, adding almost 20,000 residents.
Fifteen districts lost population—two in Douglas County, and the rest in rural Nebraska. Senator Schilz' district, which includes portions of Box Butte County, lost 634 residents during the past four years. The Scottsbluff county district declined by 151 residents, Custer and Dawson counties declined by 211 residents, Lincoln County lost 326 residents, and Senator Larson's north-central district dropped 485 residents, as did central Nebraska's district centered near Ord which lost 447 inhabitants.
In the meantime, the overall increase in population in the state added over 800 residents to each district. If the next five years are equal to the last five, each district must add an additional 1600 residents. And assuming the losses continue forward for rural Nebraska, that means each of the losing districts will also need to make up for their losses, so the Sidney-Ogallala district of Senator Schilz will need to add those 634 residents back.
Obviously this is not going to happen. That simply means much less representation for rural Nebraska beginning with the 2021 redistricting. We are certain to lose one seat, but most likely will lose two or perhaps even three seats. Even if District 43 maintains a positive population increase, it will still need to add almost 1600 residents.
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Headwinds for rural Nebraska. It will be imperative that Nebraska's rural residents develop good communication with our urban brothers who will run the show without impunity after 2021. The fate of rural schools, rural counties, and agriculture will be firmly in their hands at that time.
Here's wishing you a wonderful New Year. Thank you for four great years.