Day of Editorials Against Prop. 93: Not Without Redistricting Reform

The Sacramento Bee‘s editorial opposing Proposition 93:

Early last year, legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger left us with a smidgen of hope they would agree on a carrot-and-stick deal to bring real political reform to the Capitol.

The carrot would be a loosening of term limits, allowing smart, accomplished legislators to spend more time in office.

The stick would be redistricting reform. No longer could legislators draw their own districts every decade, ensuring safe seats for incumbents.

Now that we have crossed over into 2008, it’s hardly surprising that Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez have delivered only on half of this deal – Proposition 93. This measure, which stands a chance of passing on the Feb. 5 ballot, does little to loosen the current shackles of term limits and mainly serves to give Núñez and Perata more time in their posts.

Such an outcome might have been palatable had Perata and Núñez followed through on their promises and placed a redistricting reform measure on this ballot. But they didn’t, and they shouldn’t be rewarded. Voters should reject Proposition 93 in the hope that the next pair of legislative leaders can show more courage and deliver real results.
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A better option would be to truly loosen term limits, allowing legislators to serve 8-10 years in the Assembly, and 12 in the Senate. Any such modification, however, would need to be conditional on passage of redistricting reform – creating a reasonably independent commission to draw districts every decade.

Bill Cavala at the California Progress Report calls the editorial “arrogant, petulant, and stupid”:

…the BEE wouldn’t support even their own reform unless it was made “conditional on passage of redistricting reform”. You know, a change rejected by voters five times – the last two years ago.

A quid pro quo like that, if suggested by a lobbyist, would mean jail time.

The BEE should stop acting like frustrated deal makers and provide counsel to voters on whether the ballot measure before them is good or not.

To say that it is good, but that voters should vote no until something better comes along that is attached to another irrelevant ballot measure that voters oppose is to be arrogant, petulant and stupid. That’s a difficult combination, and I suppose we should congratulate the BEE for its achievement.

Of course, he could say much the same about every editorial page in the state. For instance:

The Modesto Bee:

Núñez and Perata originally promised to couple Proposition 93 with changes in the way legislative district boundaries are drawn. That might have been an acceptable trade-off. But as they’ve done before, they reneged on those promises — this time without even bothering to offer the mealy mouthed excuses they’ve come up with in the past. That is enough by itself to cost them any hope of support for Proposition 93.
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Proposition 93 is not a serious reform of term limits. If it is passed, Núñez, Perata and many other incumbents could run for re-election in the June primary. Many of them still would be around when the time comes, after the 2010 census, to draw the legislative boundaries again. That’s a recipe for preserving the gerrymandering that makes a mockery of state elections.

That system makes seats safe for incumbents in all but the most extraordinary cases, and guarantees that seats won’t often change party hands even when an incumbent is not running.

Jim Boren in the Fresno Bee:

Assembly Speaker Fabián Núñez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata promised to combine a change in term limits with reforming the way boundaries of legislative districts are created in California.

Right now, legislators draw the lines of their own districts to make elections as noncompetitive as possible. They have become very good at protecting their careers from the democratic process.

You could argue that it would be good public policy to loosen term limits a bit if that reform had been coupled with a measure to give redistricting powers to an independent commission. That was what was supposed to have happened this year.

Guess what? They skipped the part about reforming redistricting, but dummied up a group to put a term-limits measure on the ballot. So much for keeping their word.

And then the Núñez/Perata anti-democracy machine got even more self-serving…
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The big problem with Proposition 93 is that any reform of term limits should be coupled with redistricting reform. That’s what Núñez and Perata promised, and they should not be rewarded for lying.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel:

The Legislature is nakedly partisan and can point to few fully realized achievements. Redistricting reform, which could bring consensus and compromise back into the political vocabulary in California, remains elusive, even though it was initially linked to term-limits reform.
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…due to past redistricting horrors, [Assemblymember John Laird] would face nearly impossible odds of successfully moving on to the state Senate. The two senators currently representing portions of this county — Democrat Joe Simitian of Palo Alto and Republican Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria — are in districts redistricted to be safe for incumbents. But, again, this shows the need for changing the way political districts are drawn.
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…we could support changes in the current tight limits — but not without redistricting reform.

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