Jim Lazarus: Critical moment for redistricting reform

150 150 Jim Lazarus

Once considered one of the most powerful economic engines in the world, California recently made headlines for its record-breaking 100-day budget impasse. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated occurrence. Over the last decade, our state has seen unprecedented budget deficits, rising levels of unemployment, and even teetered on the brink of insolvency.

California is in peril in part because, year after year, gridlock prevents state lawmakers from effectively addressing our most pressing issues – including education, healthcare and economic development. This political stalemate, combined with the state’s broken budget process, continue to put California in a precarious economic position.

The state’s redistricting process is at the core of the problem. For years, legislators have been able to draw their own district lines, resulting in a 99 percent re-election rate in state legislative races. As a result, our elected leaders have become less accountable and less responsive to the needs of voters.

In 2008, Californians voted to change this dynamic with the passage of Proposition 11 (the Voters First Act), which took the power to draw the state’s Senate, Assembly and State Board of Equalization district lines out of the hands of politicians and placed it into the hands of a 14-member, non-partisan citizens commission. Today, nearly 5,000 Californians are being considered for the commission, which through a fair and thorough process will result in five Republicans, five Democrats, and four not affiliated with either of those two parties comprising the commission.

Two measures on the November 2 General Election Ballot will either reverse or expand California’s historic redistricting reform. Proposition 27 would eliminate the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission that is now being created and put the power to draw district lines right back in the hands of the elected politicians. This damaging initiative does nothing but unravel the will of voters and ensure continued gridlock in Sacramento for years to come.

Proposition 20, on the other hand, will expand redistricting reform to include congressional races. Rather than having our state legislature and congressional leaders draw the district lines, the Citizens Redistricting Commission will use the same open and transparent process that will be used for state legislative seats, assuming Proposition 27 is defeated.

Propositions 20 and 27 will have a profound impact on the efficiency and responsiveness of California’s elected leaders. It is time to end the partisan gridlock that grips the Golden State. Join the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and California Forward in voting Yes on Proposition 20 and No on Proposition 27.

Jim Lazarus is Senior Vice President of Public Policy at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.


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