Monday, January 12, 2015

Lawmakers Ponder Redistricting Commission

I would be very surprised if this proposal goes anywhere, but Senate President Pro Tem David Long is saying out loud the time has come to consider taking the politics out of the process of redistricting congressional and state legislative maps. "We need to move on this discussion and I think this is the year to do that," Long told the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Niki Kelly. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) has introduced SB 183 to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission, while Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel) has introduced a similar bill, SB 202. Under both proposals, legislative leaders would appoint members to the redistricting commission and lawmakers would still be required to approve any recommendations made by the commission, which is required by the Indiana Constitution.

Long told Kelly he expects a legislative study committee to be set up to study the issue over the summer before any legislation is considered. The Indiana House last year approved the concept of a legislative redistricting commission by a vote of 77-20, but the legislation stalled in the Senate. "I don’t think right now the way we do our redistricting has credibility with the public," Sen. Lanane told Kelly. "People assume we draw squiggly lines for the party in power. It’s all about politics – not democracy. We need to change that perception and that reality."

A handful of states have already moved to a redistricting commission. Common Cause's Julia Vaughn, a supporter of the idea, says a similar law in Arizona is being challenged in the federal courts. Legislative leaders there contend only state lawmakers may draw the boundaries under the U.S. Constitution. That case is expected to be decided by the Supreme Court this year. Vaughn supports the concept of allowing state lawmakers to tweak boundaries drawn by the commission.

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