Gov. Schwarzenegger Signals He'll Press For Election Redistricting Reform (Anti-Gerrymandering)
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(Dec. 4, 2006) -- In two recent addresses, CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signaled that he intends to push for a change in the way CA's election districts are drawn.
In his December 2 radio address, Governor Schwarzenegger said he wants the process of drawing election districts moved into the hands of a "neutral body."
Declaring that when he ran for Governor three years ago, he "promised the people of California that we will restore their faith in government and bring integrity back to the political process" the Governor said that in the coming year "we are going to make every effort to change the way California draws its congressional and legislative districts to guarantee that our elected leaders are more responsive and more accountable to the people they serve."
The Governor said that "in the past three election periods, only four out of the 459 congressional and legislative seats up for grabs in California ever changed party hands. And to me, thatís evidence of a system that needs to change," and continued:
I know first-hand that nothing drives excellence more than the threat of competition and thatís why I want California to lead the way - to show the rest of the nation what true political reform is really all about.
Redistricting can be done by moving the power into the hands of a neutral body. Now this way, we can put a system in place that ensures voters the best opportunity to make changes that reflect their will.
Iím confident that by working together, just like we did last year, that we can set aside our differences and bring real political reform to the people of California.
The Governor's radio remarks follow a November 14 address to CA's Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute in which he opened by citing bipartisan support, including from State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D., Oakland), for a package of bond debt measures (recently approved by voters). "You hassled all your Democratic friends, and I hustled by Republican friends, and we all came together and we raised a lot of money so we could afford the campaign," Gov. Schwarzenegger said, then continued:
[W]e must have political reform, which is so important. The people demand honest government with legislative districts that are truly competitive so that politicians can't ever take their constituents for granted.
Following the 2000 census, Democrats who held majority control in the state Assembly and state Senate, redrew election districts to produce mainly Democrat with some Republican majorities, a system that columnist Jill Stewart said leaves CA voters ruled by politicians who choose their voters instead of the other way around, effectively rigging election outcomes in favor of incumbent party control.
The effects were felt strongly locally, where LB area voters lost their entire 38th Assembly district (then held by Republican Congressman Steve Horn) which carved up between the districts of Carson-area Democrat Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (given 80% of LB) and an OC-PV Congressman Republican Dana Rohrabacher (roughly 20%, mainly ELB and Belmont Shore + Ports). State lawmakers also created "safe" Democrat seats for the state Assembly and state Senate.
The outcome of the November 2006 election for the 55th district Assembly seat, covering Carson and part of LB, was largely a foregone conclusion, won by 6th district LB Councilwoman Laura Richardson in the Democrat primary six months earlier (when she bested Democrat opponent Warren Furutani). A similar result occurred in the 54th Assembly district in which incumbent Betty Karnette prevailed in a district drawn to create a Democrat majority.
Some Democrat incumbents have resisted efforts to change the status quo...and some in party leadership are believed to have retaliated against at one local Democrat who proposed a redistricting reform measure (that critics said was still too politicized and subject to party manipulation)..
In August 2006, the Assembly's Democrat leadership blocked an effort by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that would have created an 11 member "Independent Redistricting Commission" to reapportion legislative and congressional districts.
Under the Lowenthal-proposed measure, a panel of ten retired superior court or Court of Appeal judges would have nominated candidates for appointment to an 11-member "Independent Redistricting Commission" (working with the Judicial Council and Fair Political Practices Comm'n "to work to ensure that the panelists, pool of candidates, and commissioners, as applicable, are representative of this state's racial, ethnic, cultural, geographic, and gender diversity." The candidate pool would consist of 55 nominees with 20 nominees from each of CA's two largest political parties and 15 not registered with either of the two largest political parties.
The Senate President Pro Tem, Senate minority floor leader, Assembly speaker and Assembly minority floor leader could each then strike up to two candidate from the pool of candidates and each legislative leader would appoint to the "Independent Commission" two candidates from the remaining pool of candidates registered with the same political party as that legislative leader. The Fair Political Practices Commission would then appoint the remaining three persons by random selection from the pool of candidates who aren't registered with either of the two largest political parties.
The measure cleared the Democrat-controlled State Senate and was supported in the Assembly by co-authors Richman, Canciamilla, Leno, Nation, and Wolk...but was effectively blocked by the Assembly's incumbent Democrat leadership. A news story at the time by Copley news service (carried in the Daily Breeze) indicated that Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D., Los Angeles) was so displeased at Sen. Lowenthal for advancing the redistricting measure to the Assembly that Speaker Nuñez, assisted by Appropriations Committee chair Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D., Monterey Park), blocked three key port clean-up bills by Sen. Lowenthal from reaching the Assembly floor.
Sen. Lowenthal was eventually permitted to advance the text of a container fee measure that Governor Schwarzenegger ultimately vetoed, but Lowenthal's "no net increase" in port pollution bill, a measure Lowenthal had called the most important he'd introduced in all his years in Sacramento, died in Democrat Chu's committee.
In November, termed-out Assemblywoman Chu won election to a Democrat-drawn seat on CA's State Board of Equalization, which includes LB, Lakewood and southeast L.A. County areas. It carries a six figure annual salary plus benefits. Chu's husband, Mike Eng, a Monterey Park City Councilman and a Democrat, was elected to Chu's former Assembly seat. It also carries a six figure annual salary plus benefits.
In November 2005, a ballot measure to turn redistricting over to a panel of three retired judges, selected by legislative leaders, failed when it was part of a package of controversial ballot measures supported by Governor Schwarzenegger in a special election. Democrats and their allies targeted the entire package of measures for defeat...and succeeded.
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