Skip the signature drive and pass bill for redistricting reform

Sometimes doing the right thing is also the easy thing.

That’s certainly true when it comes to redistricting reform. We don’t really need a multimillion-dollar signature-gathering drive to put redistricting reform on the November ballot, as the governor and advocates have promised to do.

All we need to do is pass SCA10 out of the Assembly. It has already received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate.
The Assembly could have this measure on the governor’s desk within a week of resuming session in 2008.

It really is that simple. The Legislature passes the measure. It goes to the ballot and the voters decide. No army of signature gatherers, no millions of dollars on qualifying the initiative.

The Senate is already on record in strong support, having sent it to the Assembly on a 34-2 vote. Assembly leadership says it’s as popular as mom and apple pie. The governor is willing to lead a campaign.

So, what’s the problem?

Senate Constitutional Amendment 10 is a tested and proven product. This is anything but a slapdash effort. SCA 10 is the result of several years of refinement through the legislative process. You’d be hard-pressed to find a piece of legislation that has been the subject of more hearings, more commentary and more scrutiny than this.

SCA 10 is battle tested, and it is ready to go. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read an editorial or a political column in which someone says that we need reform that reaches the standards outlined in my bill.

In all the years I’ve been pushing for reform, I have never insisted that I have a monopoly on good ideas, and I’m not saying that now. But I do believe that a good bill is sitting in the Assembly, ready for a hearing, and, if the members deem it so, ready for a floor vote. Ready, in the end, for the governor’s signature and a place on the ballot.

I understand this is a touchy subject. Under the current system, we draw the boundaries of our political districts, and we are, within reason, able to draw boundaries that serve our own best interests. My district, for example, has significantly more Democrats than Republicans. But the fear of losing partisan advantage in California is unfounded.

Two of the past three reapportionments were finalized by courts, out of the hands of the Legislature. The last one, in 2001, was carefully crafted to avoid a third instance in which we would have to surrender this responsibility to the judicial branch.

But the fact is that the judiciary-drawn boundaries proved a boon to representation and competitiveness and haven’t harmed either party. Indeed, under the court-ordered redistricting plans, African American and Latino representation increased dramatically, resulting in a Legislature that looks more and more like the state it represents. In fact, under the court -drawn lines of the 1990s, the Assembly changed majorities three times.

From a political perspective, reform is good. From a policy perspective, reform is good. From a practical perspective, it makes much more sense for us to keep our word and do the job than to let it fall to the increasingly overused system of paid signature-gatherers.
The people’s business can and should be done in the people’s house. It really is as simple as that.

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