Rose Institute Fellow and redistricting reform expert Doug Johnson weighs in on the substantive side of the reform proposal unveiled today (speaking for himself, on substance, and not on behalf of the Rose). I’ll admit, though I linked to the bill’s history, I didn’t fine-tooth the latest amendments. That’s my bad. Fortunately, I have attentive, expert readers.
It’s worth noting, as well, that if – as Doug says below – the latest version of the bill is redlined to the Constitution and not to previous versions of the bill, it would be a very unorthodox method of drafting (at least in my meager experience). It seems, however, that due to the fundamental difference of what’s going on in this latest version, it is redlined in the usual manner, it just gets a bit confusing with all that’s going on. (Use very user-friendly tabbed screen of the bill versions to compare for yourself):
Sen. Perata held a press conference today to announce the Leadership's hijacking of Senator Lowenthal's redistricting reform bill, SCA 3. (See the June 27th amendments, but note that at least one cosponsor [Ashburn (R-Bakersfield] is withdrawing, upset that Lowenthal did not check before resubmitting with his name on it.)Ah – well, this analysis would explain Perata’s sudden change of heart (and why Lowenthal’s name wasn’t as played up in the article as “Senate Dems”). We’ll see if we can get some reax from Principal Co-author Joe Simitian, too.
There is nothing "independent" about this proposed commission. While anything is better than the legislators drawing their own districts, even monkeys throwing darts at a map, I think the monkeys would be better for Californians than this proposal.
Perata has stripped out all of the criteria for how districts are to be drawn, leaving only population equality. The bill also mentions city and county borders -- using the same language currently in the Constitution and we've seen how well that works -- and communities of interest, but it makes total population equality the be-all and end-all requirement.
The bill is so completely hijacked that the strikeouts and additions shown in the latest version are comparisons to the Constitution, not to the previous version of the bill. [Ed’s note: see above comments]
The bill removes any claim of "independent" from the Commission. The new Commission would be appointed by the 'big 5' Sacramento leaders, plus one by the President of the UC system (anyone remember where his budget comes from?) and one by the Judicial Council, which includes one incumbent Senator and one incumbent Assemblyman (both Democrats). While partisan balance is claimed by a max of 3 members from any one party, those members only need be members of the party for 3 years, and they cannot be lobbyists, office holders, or campaign "officers." A neat term: campaign managers, we should note, for legal purposes, are usually NOT officers of campaigns, rather they tend to be employees. There is no application and review process (as proposed in the earlier versions of the bill), nor any random drawing (as other proposals do, usually from retired judges).
So each of the Legislative leaders will appoint their campaign managers; the judicial council and UC President will appoint whomever the legislative leaders tell them to appoint; and the Gov will either rebel or trade his appointment for some concession from the legislature. Not very independent.
And then there are no real rules for how the Controlled Commission draws its districts, other than the same federal laws that let Tom DeLay go wild in Texas. Population balance -- the legal reason why California Legislators claim the right to split communities across the state -- is actually given MORE emphasis than under current law.
As far as the dart-wielding mokey's proposal, PETA has already emailed Phoblographer* to register its opposition. But it does seem like leaving it in the legislature may, in fact, be better than making it a small politicized group (instead of a 140 member politicized group whose jobs we can more directly affect). Promise to do more reading up as well . . . . see what's really going on here.