U.S. Supreme Court upholds redistricting commission

Jun 29, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case fraught with political drama for California, upheld the use of an independent, voter-approved commission to draw the boundaries of congressional districts in Arizona. California, which patterned its own commission after the Arizona model, had been watching the case closely.


From Capitol Weekly's John Howard: "That whooshing sound you hear is the sigh of relief from California political reformers."


"The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by the Arizona Legislature to dismantle that state’s voter-approved, independent commission that draws the political boundaries for legislative and congressional districts. Arizona lawmakers had argued that the commission – which California used as a model for its own redistricting commission — was unconstitutional because it cut them out of the map-drawing process."

"The court in a 5-4 decision with its most conservative members dissenting, said the state had the right to set up an independent commission to draw the boundaries, a decision that means the California commission’s similar authority will stay intact."


And more from the LAT's David Savage: "Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Constitution gives states broad leeway to decide on their election rules, and states like Arizona and California may rely on "direct democracy" which allows the voters to decide."


"The people of Arizona turned to the initiative to curb the practice of gerrymandering," she said, and nothing in the Constitution forbids them from making that decision"


Meanwhile, the impact of the High Court's same-sex marriage decision last week is surging through the country.


Sen. Mark Leno (D- San Francisco) made history as California’s first openly gay man to become a Senator, and then made it again when he introduced the first bill to legalize gay marriage in the state back in 2004.  He celebrated Friday’s Supreme Court decision, but says there is a lot of work left to doCarla Marinucci, SFGate:


“[He’s] among a core of gay and lesbian leaders already looking ahead and steeling themselves for the next big legal and legislative challenge.


“’Once the government sanctions (same-sex) relationships and that hurdle is crossed,’ Leno said, ‘how do you then deny someone who happens to be gay or lesbian freedom from discrimination in employment or housing?’”


And, speaking of Friday’s ruling, KQED has some pretty great moments photos of SF's Pride parade, including photos.  Lisa Pickoff-White, Rebecca Bowe and Adam Grossberg:


“’We’re on a gay road trip through California. We just came out of Yosemite with no cell reception and were like woah, marriage equality! We were looking at bears yesterday. This is awesome!’ — Matthew Taylor


Dramatic news from the state Democratic party’s S Street HQ this weekend. Party head John Burton, 82, confirmed that he will be leaving when his term is up in 2017.  No great surprise there, but we didn’t expect him to take Executive Director Shawnda Westly and CFO Angie Tate with himDavid Siders, Sacramento Bee:


“Burton, 82, was not expected to seek another term after next year’s presidential election, but Westly’s move came well before the end of Burton’s term. Chris Myers, the party’s managing director, replaces her as executive director.


“Westly said the changes are designed to provide “for a smooth transition … which prioritizes institutional knowledge and allows for ‘time on the job’ prior to the new Chair assuming office.”


“She said Angie Tate, the party’s chief financial officer, also plans to leave the party when Burton’s term expires.”


(Big question, of course is: how does all this affect Capitol Weekly’s Top 100 List?)


Two Bay Area legislators have introduced a bill disallowing PG&E to take a tax write off for the $1.6 billion penalty incurred for the 2010 San Bruno explosion that killed eight.   George Avalos, San Jose Mercury News:


“In April, the state Public Utilities Commission imposed a $1.6 billion penalty to punish PG&E for its role in the explosion of natural gas, which killed eight and wrecked a quiet San Bruno neighborhood.


"’We can't let PG&E hide behind the tax laws,"’said state Sen. Jerry Hill, whose San Mateo County and Santa Clara County district includes San Bruno. ‘This is a penalty. It was designed as a penalty. This explosion occurred because of PG&E's negligence and violation of safety laws. It should be treated as punitive, because a penalty would not be tax deductible.’


“Hill co-authored the legislation, SB 681, with state Assemblyman Kevin Mullin of San Mateo County.”


And, let’s go for a Siders two-fer.  The intrepid Bee reporter looks at an old issue that’s been resurrected with the drought: population growth.  How many more people can the state’s infrastructure and public services accommodate?


“With the state in its fourth year of drought, population growth – an issue that receded from public debate in recent years – appears resurgent in California’s consciousness. And like the value of an almond or the luxury of a front lawn, which exposed rifts between urban and rural sensibilities in this state, the number of people living here has provided a platform for division, too.”


Supporters of SB 128, the aid-in-dying bill inspired by the plight of Brittany Maynard which is currently stalled in the Assembly Health Committee, got a lift from longtime civil rights advocate Dolores Huerta, who visited the capitol Thursday to lobby lawmakers to support the bill. Alexei Koseff, Sacramento Bee:


“’This is an important measure that really gives families and individuals the right to make that choice if they want to end their lives with dignity when they know that otherwise it would be very torturous and terrible thing for them to go through,’ she said. ‘This is a responsibility of the Legislature in a democratic process to give people that right.’


“Huerta used her visit to speak with members of California Legislative Latino Caucus, who make up about a third of the health committee.


“’I know it’s a difficult decision for some people,’ Huerta said, ‘but again, when people are elected to office, they are not here to vote their personal decisions, their personal belief. They are here to serve their constituents.’”


Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have vetoed Mark Leno’s marriage equality bill (twice!), but it looks like he’s finally gotten on board


“Like many on Facebook, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to use an image of himself overlaid with rainbow colors as his new profile picture to show support for the Supreme Court’s marriage-equality ruling. One of his Facebook followers took issue with that, and the Governator’s response was… classic.”


“What’s wrong with you Arnie? I have to unlike…” wrote one disgruntled fan. 


The former gov’s response: “Hasta la vista.”

correction: we initially identified Mark Leno as California's first gay Senator. That distinction belongs to Sheila Kuehl, elected to the senate in 2000.

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