SCOTUS may upend redistricting commission

May 27, 2015

The Supreme Court is poised to rule on the constitutionality of citizen redistricting commissions such as the one approved by California voters in 2008.  From Melanie Mason and Patrick McGreevy at the Los Angeles Times:


“If the court strikes down independent commissions, it could set off a scramble in the Legislature to redraw California's congressional map. (Legislative districts, which were also determined by the citizens panel, would not be affected).


“Elected officials, legal wonks and advocacy groups ‘are trying to figure out — for every single permutation — how do we bring stability as quickly as possible in a way that is as close to what we believe the voters' will is,’ said [Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause].”


In addition to deciding on redistricting commissions, SCOTUS has declared that it will also take up a Texas case challenging the “one person one vote” dictum put in place by the Warren Court more than a half century ago.  That decision could upend decades of political gains by Latinos.  Cathleen Decker, LAT:


“The Texas case was brought by plaintiffs who want only citizens to be counted in the crafting of voting districts; currently, all residents are counted, which boosts the number of districts in places like Southern California. Were the plaintiffs to succeed, many urban districts would not retain enough viable constituents to exist on their own. The court’s decision, which covers state and local elections but could be expanded to include congressional districts, will not be announced until early next year.


“Under the worst-case scenario for Latinos who hold huge sway over politics in California, a court decision siding with the plaintiffs could force multiple Latino districts to collapse together, or to be merged with areas dominated by other types of voters. In theory, that could force titanic clashes between existing Latino players -- or between Latinos and other minority groups -- with some of them falling aside.”


The Assembly may have moved an iPoker bill out of committee for the first time since 2008, but the Bee’s Alexei Koseff says it’s an unlikely bet that online gaming will be legalized this year.


“The issue has been circling the Capitol for more than seven years, and disagreement among the state’s major gambling interests – Indian tribes, card rooms, horse tracks – over who should be permitted to participate has prevented any deal so far.


“Supporters were buoyed this month when an Internet poker bill passed out of committee for the first time since 2008, but it still has a long way to go. AB 431, a shell bill meant to keep the process moving, contains temporary language that will be amended if a satisfactory proposal is negotiated this summer.


“Given the intense divisions that still exist over two major issues – whether horse tracks will be able to offer Internet poker, and whether to prohibit gambling sites that operated illegally in the U.S. before a federal crackdown in 2011 – most experts are not expecting agreement any time soon.


“’There won’t be a bill until all of the lobby money is spent,’ former state Sen. Rod Wright, who oversaw several failed attempts to legalize Internet poker as chair of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee, said at a conference last week hosted by Capitol Weekly.”


Responding to the furor over the proposed “Sodomite Suppression Act” of  2015, Assembly lawmakers have passed two bills to limit “frivolous” ballot propositionsPatrick McGreevy at the Los Angeles Times:


“[The] California Assembly on Tuesday passed two bills to discourage outlandish ballot measures.


“One would increase the $200 filing fee for potential ballot initiatives to $8,000. Another would allow the state attorney general to include a disclaimer in initiative petitions when a proposed measure would be likely to result in a violation of individuals' constitutional rights.


“Most Republican lawmakers opposed both bills, arguing that they are an attack on California's system of direct democracy, in which citizens can petition to change the law if the Legislature refuses.”


A new state tax on managed care organizations – a cornerstone of Governor Brown’s proposed health care budget – is meeting strong resistance at the state capitol.  From Jim Miller at the Sacramento Bee:


“A major part of Brown’s proposed health care budget, the expanded tax on managed-care organizations would raise an estimated $1.7 billion to help pay for health care for the poor and pay for a court settlement ending a years-long legal fight over reduced hours for home-care workers.


“Health plans could choose to absorb the higher cost or, what seems more likely, it could show up in the bills of the nearly 14 million Californians who the California Healthcare Foundation said receive health insurance though commercial plans such as Aetna and others with few or no Medi-Cal patients.


“’It is a common practice that taxes get passed on through increased premiums and so it would not be surprising,’ Mari Cantwell of the state’s health care services department told an Assembly budget panel this month.”


The power of the press: following Monday’s Associated Press story outlining the Assembly practice of using the chamber’s operating budget to fund favored causes, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins says she will stop the practice.  Fenit Nirappil follows his own story:


“The announcement comes a day after The Associated Press reported that Atkins and her two predecessors redirected $115 million to programs of their choosing between 2008 and 2014 with little oversight. Last year Atkins steered money to programs to help veterans, the elderly and schoolchildren.


“Leaders have defended this practice as helping worthy causes, but government watchdogs warn of limited oversight and the potential for abuse.


“Atkins' spokesman John Casey said Tuesday that the speaker will stop unilateral spending starting this summer because there is enough money in the state budget to fund cash-strapped programs through traditional channels.”


US Presidents visiting abroad probably have to deal with many strange proposals, but this, from Kenya, is a new one on us:


“A city lawyer has a special request for President Barack Obama.


“His dream is to marry one of Obama’s daughters, Malia, and is ready to pay 50 cows, 70 sheep and 30 goats as bride price.


“Speaking to The Nairobian, Kiprono, who hit the headlines when he moved to court seeking to have William Ruto sworn in as president when Uhuru travelled to The Hague for his ICC case, said he is ready to meet Obama to discuss the matter when the US president visits in July…


“’People might say I am after the family’s money, which is not the case. My love is real,’ he said, adding that, ‘I am currently drafting a letter to Obama asking him to please have Malia accompany him for this trip. I hope the embassy will pass the letter to him. I will hand it over to the US Ambassador with whom we have interacted several times.’ 


“The lawyer said that should Obama accept his request, his engagement to the ‘love of his life’ will be ‘unique with a twist.’


“’If my request is granted, I will not resort to the cliché of popping champagne. Instead, I will surprise her with mursik, the traditional Kalenjin sour milk. As an indication that she is my queen, I will tie sinendet, which is a sacred plant, around her head,’ he said.


“Kiprono adds that he will avoid expensive hotels in the city. ‘I will propose to her on a popular hill in Bureti near my father’s land where leaders and warriors are usually crowned.’ The place is called Kapkatet, which means ‘victory’,adding, ‘ours will be a simple life. I will teach Malia how to milk a cow, cook ugali and prepare mursik like any other Kalenjin woman,’ he said.”

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