Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 2

The belated second installment of our series on redistricting reform proposals:

2.) SCA 3

  • Overview: Adds Section 23 to Article IV of the California Constitution to create the Citizen's Commission on Boundaries and Accountability comprised of seven member appointed by various legislative leaders, the Governor, Judicial Council, and UC President. Amends Article XXI of the California Constitution to vest in the Commission the authority establish and adopt plans for new districts (by 4/7 vote). Does not substantially amend current district specifications. Provides for Commission creation in 2010.
Who holds the colored pencils?

The Citizen’s Commission on Boundaries and Accountability, a seven member body serving 3-year terms. No two members can be from the same county (that’s 2 Sacto, 2 LA, 2 SF, and a San Diegan – why couldn’t they all be from different counties?), all must be California voters registered with either the same party or with no party for the 3 years preceding appointment, and each must commit to being honest, independent, and impartial – but no mention of consequences for failure to do so. Commissioners cannot have been elected officials (note: or candidates), party officials, registered, paid lobbyists, or officers in a candidates’ campaign committee for 3 years prior to service. There’s also a Michael-Berman-Need-Not-Apply clause added to this version of SCA 3 baring anyone with a familial or financial relationship from service.

Commissioners face a short 3-year prohibition from pursuing public office or registering as a paid lobbyist. (Question: how many unpaid lobbyists are there?)

No more than 3 members can be of the same party. Four votes are required for action.

Who chooses them and how?

Here’s the question that garners this plan the most criticism. Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, the Speaker, the Pro Tem and Minority Leaders in each house, along with the Judicial Council and – ever my favorite – the UC President. Just ‘cause.

As with the MALDEF plan, SCA 3 includes language stating a preference for a racially, ethnically, culturally, and gender diverse commission “representative” of California.

When do they get to draw?

The Commission isn’t appointed until after January 1, 2010, so no mid-decade redraw under this proposal.

How do they have to draw?

SCA 3 amends Article XXI, Sec 1 of the Constitution, vesting the redraw with the Commission and establishing very few criteria by which districts should be drawn. The current version wisely eliminates the outdated and impossible requirement that districts be within plus or minus one person or seven persons in Senate and Assembly districts, instead requiring, wisely, deviations as equal as practicable and not exceeding federal standards. Districts shall comply with the US Constitution and the VRA (again, thank got someone’s protecting the supremacy clause). The plan requires compactness, contiguity, respect for geographic integrity, and that districts reflect “communities of interest” – a term SCA 3 defines no further.

Besides some notes on numbering the districts and letting some places keep their numbers, that’s it.

What are the major drawbacks? Benefits? Other fun trivia?

A lot of the drawbacks, we’ve covered already.

The major two, however, working in tandem, are the selection method and lack of process guidance.

While the MALDEF proposal’s selection methods border on the neurotically goofy, the relatively free rein given to appointing electeds here rightly causes reform proponents concern. Judges have their own issues, but at least that process is slightly randomized. Even MALDEF’s incomprehensible system of lists and pools adds a hint of expectation. We can pretty much guess these seven commissioners (all we know is none of them will be Michael Berman thanks to the page 5, line 14 addition).

Proposition 77’s district-specific language might not seem that much more specific, but legislation is an every-word-counts game. It has more words, and for the most part, better words, when it comes to laying out how its panel must construct districts. Even a few extra clauses help define the process. Most importantly, Prop. 77 includes a mandate that all incumbents’ residences be ignored. While willful ignorance is a tough assignment to a body certainly comprised of in-the-know people (remember, they’ve only got to wait 3 years on the bench and they’ll know their own addresses just fine), the results will be an immediate, healthy shake-up. Staffers in the legislature still mourn the absence of Fred Keeley – the poster child for who pays in incumbent-protection scenarios. Every provision we weave to bind the hands of line-drawers is one more stitch in the security blanket of a strong constitution. Under any plan, those in charge can really only mess up as far as we let them.

Prop. 77 clearly edges out SCA 3 in terms of process, but even it isn’t the best. We’ll get to the other options soon.

This proposal dances the lines around Bagley-Keene, but refuses to use the pre-existing open meeting law by name.

Also fun – proposed Sec. 23 (k) kicks challenged plans determined unconstitutional by the Supreme Court to . . . the Supreme Court, vesting in them the right to redraw and adopt a revised plan in accordance with the standards set forth in this proposal. So we could end up with court-drawn plans anyway – after wasting a lot of time and money on a politicized process that’s far from independent. In effect, the proposal codifies the 90s process.

And there’s a lot of other crap about town hall meetings, budgets, and fluffy stuff. Not sure why that needs to be included in a redistricting reform measure, but we’re not going to get into that part here anyway.

Next up: Communities of Interest, Units of Representation, and a Model Amendment . . . the third possible proposal.

A Primer On 3 Current Proposals: Part 1
Following Up on the Redistricting Prop's Legal Snag
Great, Now We Can All Get Back To The Really Important Stuff
Add This One For Good Measure (The MALDEF Proposal)
Map Fights Might Be Starting Already
Athene's Op-Ed
Can't Hardly Wait
This Should Do Wonders For The Negotiation Process

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