Drawing the lines

Jul 19, 2011

California Republicans say -- loudly -- that they are going to challenge the political boundaries drawn up by the independent redistricting commission, although so far there have been no specific objections. The Press-Enterprise's Jim Miller has the story.


"Politics has never been far below the surface in the current process, however. In recent days, Republicans have stepped up their criticism of the commission."


"Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California Republican Party, said Monday that the party will consider challenging one or more of the commission's plans through a voter referendum.


"If they're willing to split up Santa Cruz and Sacramento County five different ways, who knows what they'll do (in the Inland area)," Del Beccero said. "We're going to be prepared in case our worst fears come true. But maybe they'll pull it out of the hat and do the right thing."


"The commission is scheduled to ratify the plans Aug. 15. Opponents then would have until Nov. 15 to collect 504,760 valid voter signatures for any plan -- Assembly, Senate, Congress or Board of Equalization -- they want to overturn."


Democrats aren't complaining either and for good reason: There's a good chance Democrats will finally get the Holy Grail of California politics -- two-thirds majorities in both houses.


From the Bee's Dan Walters: "Analysts on both sides of the political aisle have plumbed the new maps for their political content – a factor the commission is not supposed to be considering – and agree they would give Democrats a very strong opportunity to win 27 Senate seats and 54 in the Assembly, two-thirds majorities in both houses."


"All 80 Assembly seats will be up in 2012, plus half of the 40 Senate seats, with the remainder on the ballot in 2014."


"Paul Mitchell, a Democratic political consultant who runs Redistricting Partners, is one of several analysts who have tracked day-to-day changes in the maps being drawn by the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission. He concludes that the Democrats' 27/54 goal is within fairly easy grasp, with several additional seats in both houses considered "swing" or winnable by either party."


"Tony Quinn, a Republican redistricting expert, last week sharply criticized the commission for, as he alleged, allowing partisan considerations to enter the process, and the state Republican Party is threatening to challenge the maps via referendum."


California's redevelopment agencies -- joined by cities including San Jose and Uniion City -- have gone to the state Supreme Court to challenge Gov. Brown's move to abolish the agencies and take their money.


From Capitol Weekly's John Howard: "The legal challenge, in the works even before the Gov. signed the new laws last month, was filed directly with the state Supreme Court in what the agencies – creatures of the cities and counties – hope will lead to a speedier decision than if they went through the lower and appellate courts first. The agencies’ basic contention: The new law violates Proposition 22, which voters approved by in a near-landslide in November, that forbids the state from tapping redevelopment agencies’ money, local transportation money and other funding sources in order to balance its books."


“California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 22 just eight months ago to stop state raids, shifts and diversions of local redevelopment funds,” Chris McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities, said in a written statement. “The governor and legislature have blatantly ignored the voters and violated the State Constitution. We must now go to the Supreme Court to uphold the voters’ will and the Constitution by overturning this unconstitutional legislation. We are confident the Courts will uphold the will of the voters.”


"The challenge was brought by the California Redevelopment Association and two cities, San Jose and Union City. San Jose the new law "could result in the forced termination of its redevelopment agency and kill hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of vital redevelopment projects," according to a statement released by the Redevelopment Association."


The California courts, already clogged and delay-prone, are going to get a lot worse because of budget cuts, especially in San Francisco. The Chronicle's Bob Egelko has the story.


"Two hundred Superior Court employees, more than 40 percent of the staff, are about to be notified that they will be laid off Sept. 30 because of devastating losses of state funding.

"The civil justice system in San Francisco is collapsing," Katherine Feinstein, the court's presiding judge, said Monday."


"Effects of the newly approved, bare-bones state budget are already being felt in programs ranging from child care to university tuition and access. But leaders of California's judicial system, the largest in the nation, say courts up and down the state will be hit hard as well, with cuts of $350 million in operations and $310 million in a courthouse construction fund that once could be tapped for emergencies."


"Feinstein said it will be worse in San Francisco, where courts have coped with money shortages since 2008 by ordering unpaid staff furloughs, reducing services and draining a $10 million reserve fund to avoid laying off employees."


Hey, here's a surprise: Some voters are swayed by looks alone. From Emily Schulteis in Politico.


"A new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found that so-called “low-information voters” — those who watch a lot of TV but who aren’t up-to-date on policy issues — are most likely vote for a candidate based on looks alone."


"For every 10-point increase a candidate gets because of his or her appearance, about half of that increase comes from the voters with the least amount of political knowledge and the most time spent in front of the TV."


"The study analyzed data from two surveys conducted during the 2006 midterm elections: the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, which surveyed voters on their candidate preferences and television-watching habits; and a study headed by Princeton University professor Alex Todorov, which asked participants to rate ’06 Senate and gubernatorial candidates based solely on appearance."

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