SB 1108 AND SB 958: A Tale of Two Redistricting Reform Bills

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed two redistricting reform bills into law. And while one promotes more open and efficient government, the other is nothing but a recipe for one-party control, writes Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters.

First there’s Senate Bill 1108, authored by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), which allows cities and counties without charters to set up independent redistricting commissions with the authority to adjust district boundaries after every federal census.

“Sen. Ben Allen’s measure is a step toward more open and responsive government,” Walters writes, “patterned after the creation, via ballot measure, of a state commission to write redistricting plans for the Legislature, the congressional delegation and the Board of Equalization.” It builds on an earlier law establishing a similar commission for San Diego County’s supervisorial districts and strives for balance, prohibiting the body from being dominated by any one political party.

Not so for Sen. Richard Lara’s Senate Bill 958. The legislation, which applies only to Los Angeles County, takes us in a “dangerous” direction, Walters says.

SB 958, carried by Sen. Richard Lara, creates a 14-member commission to redraw the county’s five supervisorial districts and requires its membership to reflect the partisan makeup of the county’s voters.

Given Los Angeles County’s Democratic dominance, it ensures that the party’s adherents will control redistricting and eliminate any chance for anyone other than a Democratic politician to become a Los Angeles County supervisor, one of the state’s most powerful and desirable positions.

Lara calls it good government, but it’s not. It’s a recipe for officially bringing party politics into what officially has been, for many decades, nonpartisan local government.

Despite a current Democratic majority, Lara’s bill was opposed by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, as well as the California State Association of Counties.


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