Nancy Pelosi, queen of legislative black magic on Capitol Hill, has for a moment trained her powerful wand toward her home state, California, where her gift of $5,000, combined with similar ones by 12 other Democrat members of the state’s Congressional delegation, is giving a boost to a movement to snatch control of redistricting from the public and give it back to the state legislature.
In 2008, after two earlier tries, a citizen-inspired ballot initiative (Proposition 11) was passed, wresting control of state legislative redistricting from the legislature and gave it to a 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission. Shortly after the February 10 deadline for citizen applications, it was announced that 25,797 applicants were eligible to serve. The ballot measure that is creating the commission calls for impartial, non-partisan division of districts to replace the gerrymandered, tortured districts designed to give this or that incumbent a guarantee of reelection.
Democrats have controlled both houses of the legislature for years and are the main beneficiaries of the old anti-democratic system; however, they get support from many Republican incumbents who are given safe districts in exchange for providing the necessary votes for passage of the decennial plan.
Why would Mrs. Pelosi waste any time on this far away issue? It will help put the disingenuously named “Financial Accountability in Redistricting Act” on the November ballot. Its proponents must gather 694,354 valid voter signatures by July 5 to accomplish this. This can only be done by using paid signature-gatherers. So, the $160,000 donated by Pelosi and her comrades in Washington will go a long way to paying the cadre of gatherers.
“FAIR,” as its proponents are calling this retrograde campaign, “Eliminates State Commission on Redistricting. Consolidates Authority for Redistricting with Elected Representatives. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.” Thus, it would be embedded in the state constitution, which would require a two-thirds vote in future to eliminate it.
Very clever. Who is behind this, in addition Pelosi & Co.? It is the Democrats in the legislature who have the most to lose, for fair and impartial redistricting would put many of them into more competitive districts, not just with Republicans, but in primaries with Democrats who could attack their records.
It is likely that these legislators are busy tapping their major supporters for money for this effort. Karen Bass recently resigned as Assembly Speaker to run for retiring Rep. Diane Waters’ House seat from Los Angeles. As a parting gift, she gave “FAIR” a $26,000 donation.
Other likely major donors are the cluster which makes up the largest special interest in California: the public employee unions. They have a stake in the status quo and they rely on their favorite donation beneficiaries, the legislative Democrats, to keep on supporting overly-generous public pensions.
There is another reason why Ms. Pelosi hopes her black magic can help overturn the idea of impartial citizen commissions to redistrict the state legislature. It is what might be called Phase II of the redistricting reform effort. Petitions are now being circulated for signatures on a ballot initiative that would have the citizen commission redistrict also the state’s Congressional districts.If she knows Latin, Ms. Pelosi is probably saying at this point, O tempora; O mores.