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Legislative leaders getting closer on redistricting

Legislative leaders, political reform groups and key elements of organized
labor believe they are getting tantalizingly close to overhauling the way
California politicians draw their own legislative and Congressional
districts.

“This would be historic. It’s possible that legislative leaders will seize a
historic opportunity to craft something themselves, rather than running
another initiative battle,” said Jay Hansen, legislative director of the
Building and Construction Trades Council.

If a bipartisan deal–futile dream for decades–is struck on this most
difficult of political issues, the result could be placed before voters in
November. It would be unique in the nation–a state Legislature voluntarily
relinquishing power over reapportionment, the partisan, once-a-decade
redrawing of political boundaries. The legislation at issue is a Senate
constitutional amendment, SCA3, authored by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long
Beach, and coauthored by Sen. Roy Ashburn, R-Republican.

“We are probably 75 percent in agreement,” said Kathay Feng of California
Common Cause. “There is a spirit of cooperation that has emerged from the
special election, and one of the areas that was identified for reform is
redistricting.”

“The thorniest issue,” Feng adds, “is the creation of that independent
commission.” Congressional leaders, who have no say on the proposal, have
not yet weighed in on the proposal publicly, Capitol insiders say, but they
are not happy. “They are going to hate it,” one said.

The latest version of SCA 3–it is a work in progress–would require a
two-thirds vote of the Legislature, but not the governor’s signature. It
would then have to be ratified by voters on an upcoming ballot, either in
June or November. It likely would be linked to an easing of term
limits–perhaps 12 years in each house–and it would take effect in 2011,
following the next census. The core of the proposal is an independent
commission that would draw the boundaries of Senate, Assembly, U.S. House
and Board of Equalization Districts.

Republican and Democratic leaders in both houses support reapportionment
reform, and they say that prospects for an agreement are good. “I think it
likely,”


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