Senator Perata’s Redistricting Hypocrisy

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that California State Senate President Don Perata recently convened a meeting of Sacramento Democratic “insiders” to “hammer out an opposition plan to Proposition 11” also known as the Voters First Initiative. The manufactured justification according to Paul Hefner, a Perata spokesman, is:

It’s not fair to have a commission evenly split between Democrats and Republicans in a blue state, and that the initiative could disenfranchise communities of color.

This is incumbent protection hypocrisy. Senator Perata voted for Senate Constitutional Amendment 3, a redistricting reform measure that passed the State Senate on August 16th, 2006. Had the Assembly not killed it, SCD 3 would have placed on the ballot a commission “evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.”

Again in 2007, Senate President Pro Tem voted for SCA 10, a redistricting measure essentially identical to the previous SCA 3. This measure also created a commission “evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.”

What are we to think of Senator Perata’s flip-flop? It appears that his earlier support of reform was only a public relations stunt, conducted with confidence that the Assembly, under former Speaker Nunez, would never allow a vote on either measure.

It is worth noting that incoming Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg also voted for SCA 10 last year (he was not in the State Senate at the time of the vote on SCA 3). Let us hope that the incoming Senate President Pro Tem and newly-elected Assembly Speaker Bass will bring a new attitude toward redistricting reform. Perhaps Senator Perata’s flip-flop will be the last straw for voters who may tire of this bipartisan incumbent-protection redistricting done at the voters’ expense.

Former Democratic Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg and Former Republican Senate Leader Jim Brulte said it well:

By allowing legislators to determine their own districts, there is no denying that today’s system protects sitting legislators before all else.” Perhaps Senator Perata will join them in seeking forgiveness for transgressions against the voters and communities of California. If not, perhaps his recent flip-flop will provide the motivation California voters need to pass redistricting reform.

Speaker Nunez’s legacy was permanently tarnished by his failed term limit extension and redistricting reform reversal at the end of his term. Will this latest flip-flop similarly tarnish Senator Perata’s legacy as his term comes to an end?

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