SALT LAKE CITY — The controversial congressional map that drew more than 100 protesters to the Capitol on Monday is likely history.
House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said GOP House members made it clear they didn't like it, either, during their closed caucus meetings on the first day of a special legislative session dealing with redistricting.
So a public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday on a new map that was expected to be made public online late Monday, at redistrictutah.com.
The map, drawn by Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, still splits the state's urban core, but into even more rural districts.
The map also appears more favorable to the state's lone Democrat in Congress, Rep. Jim Matheson, leaving his 2nd District seat that stretches from Salt Lake to southern Utah largely intact rather than shifting his district from eastern to western Utah.
Gov. Gary Herbert had reportedly been pressuring lawmakers to make sure Matheson was satisfied with his new district boundaries so that he wouldn't get into the governor's race. Matheson has said he is considering challenging Herbert or incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
The map creates the state's new fourth seat in Congress mostly from the current 3rd District, represented by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. The new 4th District would include western Salt Lake and Utah counties and much of western Utah.
Lockhart, who pushed for the now-rejected map that was approved by the Legislature's Redistricting Committee last week, said the new proposal "is probably the direction we're headed."
The new map, she said, incorporated concerns raised since the committee's action, including the changes her proposal would have made to the 2nd District and not having enough rural voters in the 4th District.
"My ego's not so big that I have some" — she slaps her hands together — "that I'm going to dictate," Lockhart said, noting that the Senate raised concerns about her map even though the Senate passed it earlier in the day, 18-9.
Two Senate Republicans joined the Democrats in dissent.
"It's kind of a compromise map," said Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe. Though he conceded it emerged late in the process and there might be "better maps out there," he said the redistricting committee fully vetted it. "I don't believe that it was any last ditch effort."
Democrats complained that the map carves Salt Lake County into three districts. Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, called it "very irresponsible" because it would force some local community leaders to have to work with three different congressmen.
Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero, D-Salt Lake, said the map fails to recognize community boundaries. "We don't need rural representation in all districts in this state," he said.
Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, told reporters after the vote there are still several maps being discussed, including one by Senate Minority Caucus Manager Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake.
Adopting a version of that map, Waddoups said, would make it difficult for the Democrats to sue over redistricting.
The Utah Democratic Party officially put lawmakers on notice earlier in the day that there may be a lawsuit over redistricting.
In a letter delivered by courier, the minority party warned that because of potential litigation, all documents related to drawing new congressional, legislative and State School Board boundaries must be retained.
"This was just basically a reminder of what already is the law, that those things need to be kept," state Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said. "We're just trying to defend the poor people of Utah who, if this map stays, are being emasculated by Republican gerrymandering."
Lockhart said she was "disappointed, but not surprised" by the letter. "They've been talking about suing since before the process began."
Lockhart said the letter could stifle debate and "that's not good."
Earlier, more than 100 Utahns rallied in the Capitol rotunda to protest dividing the state's urban core into four largely rural congressional districts.
While the crowd waved signs and listened to Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon and others slam the proposal, the GOP majority at the Legislature was meeting in closed caucuses.
Corroon, a Democrat who lost his bid for governor last year, told the protesters the congressional map approved by the Redistricting Committee last week "is simply un-American."
Corroon said the map, the work of Lockhart, has been described by Republicans as "bulletproof" to political and legal challenges.
"This map is a lawsuit waiting to happen," Corroon said, telling the crowd that they "can kiss the first Tuesday in November goodbye" if the map is adopted because their votes will no longer matter.
The crowd carried signs as well as a box of doughnut holes and a pizza, representing the two approaches to drawing the congressional boundaries.
Republicans favor the so-called "pizza slice" approach that splits the state into districts that are a mix of urban and rural areas. Democrats want a "doughnut hole" map that keeps their Salt Lake area-stronghold intact and puts rural Utahns in a surrounding district.
Although all the attention seemed to be focused on the congressional map at the special session — expected to continue several days — lawmakers must also come up with new legislative and State School Board boundaries, based on the 2010 Census results.39 comments on this story
Also passed was a bill allowing presidential candidates to appear on the June 2012 primary election ballot. Some Utahns have pushed for an earlier presidential primary, but that would carry a $3 million price tag.