Redistricting Roundup

Dan Weintraub asks whether or not the Governor is “headed for another debacle at the polls, ala 2005?”

And if the Democrats oppose the redistricting initiative, it will almost certainly go down. Recent history around the country — and here — suggests that no attempt to reform redistricting can succeed without the support of the majority party.

See also his recent column:

I don’t know if it was a private joke or a stroke of brilliance when the good-government types who set up a recent forum on “restoring credibility” to the California Legislature chose as their panelists four men who, arguably, are as responsible as anyone for the decline of that body’s public esteem.

I like them all and have enjoyed working with them, especially since they have been such a wonderful source of material over the years. But Willie Brown, John Burton, Jim Brulte and Fabian Núñez are not the first people to whom I would look for leadership on legislative reform.
As Senate Republican leader, Brulte helped draw the district lines in 2001 that have all but eliminated competition in elections for the Legislature and Congress . . . At least Brulte now recognizes the error of his ways. He said it is time to give the job of drawing political boundaries to an independent commission so the next batch of leaders can’t do what he did.

Steve Harmon in an article from the San Jose Mercury News:

Political observers wonder whether this latest effort means that Schwarzenegger has plotted a novel strategy that can withstand a political pummeling from both sides of the aisle. Democrats don’t want to give up their lock on the Legislature, and Republicans may well be disappointed that Schwarzenegger’s plan doesn’t go far enough.

If the measure, introduced by the governor last week, makes the November 2008 ballot, Democrats and their labor allies likely would come charging out against it, political observers said. And they would employ a tried-and-true message to kill it: that the measure amounts to a Republican power grab that will disenfranchise communities of color.
“The Democratic Party will take a very, very close look at this,” said Bob Mulholland, the state party’s political adviser. “But this comes in with a lot of baggage. Remember, Gov. Schwarzenegger is not on our side. He’s going to be backing a Republican for president, so it comes in smelling a little bit. In the past, when these initiatives didn’t have the full participation of the party, we opposed them.”
Leaving congressional boundaries out could sap any energetic support Republicans would have had for it, said state Republican Party official Jon Fleischman, making the sale even more difficult to voters and Republican donors.

“Somebody with the governor’s gravitas should not be settling for half a loaf,” said Fleischman, who runs the conservative blog FlashReport. “I don’t understand why we’d want a plan that doesn’t include Congress.”

Still, he said, it could be that Republicans would support it in the end “on the grounds that it’s better than the status quo.”
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, whose own attempts to get a proposal through the Legislature have failed, gave a subtle swipe at the governor’s proposal.

Asked at a luncheon last week if he supported redistricting reform, he said, “if there was an honest and objective way to draw lines that would not result in a political power grab for Republicans, I’d sign up for that.”

George Skelton’s column in the Los Angeles Times:

With redistricting, the legislative stumbling block is the reluctance of many Democrats to surrender their gerrymandering power to shape districts to benefit themselves.
Democratic legislative leaders — Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles) — reneged on a pledge to pass their own redistricting reform.

“I don’t want to sit here and say Nuñez was lying,” says Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, one of the initiative sponsors. “I just don’t think he has the political juice to make it happen. His [Democratic] caucus members won’t let him.”

Los Angeles Daily News editorial:

Because any reform will create winners and losers, there are always forces willing to exploit confusion to sour voters to the idea.

Ditto for redistricting. Schwarzenegger tried to get reform passed at the polls as part of his 2005, special-election package. It failed. Without Democrats aboard, it was too easy for special interests to frame the issue as a GOP power grab – an automatic loser in this, a predominantly Democratic state.

That was the lesson Schwarzenegger learned the hard way: Large-scale reforms are nearly impossible to win through referendum. It takes bipartisan cooperation and support.

But now post-partisanship is all but dead. For all of both sides’ grand talk about working together on health care, they have allowed minor differences to derail their efforts. And legislative Democrats, who like the permanent majority that gerrymandering assures them, have proven themselves to be utterly insincere in their claims to support redistricting.

San Jose Mercury News editorial:

A proposal by the California Voters FIRST Campaign for a 14-member independent commission has the backing of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose own proposal for redrawing legislative boundaries was trounced at the polls two years ago.

Other redistricting initiatives have met a similar fate. But the public’s low esteem of the Legislature and legislators’ lame excuses for avoiding reform create hope that voters will say yes in November 2008. They should.

And on related topics as all the above, read Steve Wiegand’s column in the Sacramento Bee:

Notwithstanding Núñez’s Nixonian whining, and the old-timers’ nostalgia about the Good Old Days being full of harmony and productivity, the fact is the California Legislature has always had its share of inefficiency, skulduggery, sloth and avarice – just like any other collective human endeavor.

Democracy is a messy business, and there’s something to be said for cleaning up the process once in a while.

But no matter how hard we scrub, the Legislature is never going to be spotless. That’s not really a big deal, as long as it works.

If only this one would.

See also Anthony York’s article on Fabian Nunez in the Los Angeles Times:

Earlier this year, the governor tied his support for a new term-limits law to redistricting reform. But the Legislature couldn’t agree on how to change the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn. That Nuñez can still hope for Schwarzenegger’s endorsement of Proposition 93 testifies to the governor’s enduring desire to leave a legacy of healthcare reform.
But if Proposition 93 fails in February, the lame-duck Nuñez could be ousted as speaker, losing his bully pulpit to campaign for reform.
With healthcare negotiations stalled, time would seem to be running out for Nuñez. Worse for the speaker, the more he inches toward the governor on a healthcare plan, the more he risks losing the financial support of unions in an initiative campaign, which would be crucial for passage. The cost of his political maneuvering may be the speakership.

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