Senate Democrat Leader Vi Simpson offered an amendment to Senate Bill 80 today that would have established an independent commission to suggest new legislative district maps to the General Assembly for ratification. Simpson says the change would not require an amendment to the state constitution and could take effect immediately, impacting the 2011 redistricting process.
The amendment was defeated by a 16-33 party line vote, with Republicans voting against the measure. Sen. Simpson also proposed the same language in SB 289, which has not been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Elections Committee.
Last week that committee heard testimony on a similar proposal by Sen. Sue Landske (R-Cedar Lake) that would create a redistricting committee to study proposals on amending the state constitution to allow redistricting by an independent commission. The study committee and constitutional amendment process, however, would delay reform to the 2021 redistricting at the earliest.
Several who testified before the committee last week said they supported the intent of Senate Bill (SB) 136, but don’t believe the process should include amending the state constitution, which would take several years to accomplish. They expressed that the commission needs to be and could be established now so recommendations could be presented to the legislature for consideration prior to redrawing district lines in 2011.
Twenty other states have commissions that have the primary responsibility for drawing new districts or function as an advisory body for redistricting.
The debate over redistricting reform will continue in the General Assembly, with several other proposals still moving through the process and future opportunities for negotiations likely.
Listen to Senator Simpson’s comments from the floor debate today: