Redistricting commission delays filing of threatened lawsuit - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Redistricting commission delays filing of threatened lawsuit

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Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 4:36 pm

With a promise that cash is on the way, the director of the Independent Redistricting Commission on Friday delayed the filing of a threatened lawsuit.

Ray Bladine said he spoke with Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who heads the House Appropriations Committee. And Bladine said Kavanagh assured him that the Legislature could give final approval to a measure to appropriate $700,000 by Wednesday.

Bladine said Mary O’Grady, a commission attorney, got a similar assurance from a member of the Senate Republican leadership.

“So it sounded to me real and it sounded to me like good-faith efforts,” Bladine said.

He acknowledged that he had said Thursday that the commission was out of cash and, in fact, was more than $50,000 in the hole. But Bladine said that’s only partly true.

“You know, sometimes when you do your own home budget you hold some bills back?” he said. “I’m just not paying some bills.”

Bladine figures he has more than $300,000 in those unpaid bills. Deducting the $53,000 that has been paid over what has been appropriated, that leaves about $250,000 of actual cash.

That cash, he said, will be used to pay the $26,000 in commission salaries for the second half of the month.

Several lawmakers have said the reason the commission ran out of money is because of what they saw as unnecessary litigation. That includes fighting the move by Gov. Jan Brewer to fire Colleen Mathis, who chairs the panel, as well as a court fight with Attorney General Tom Horne over whether the commission is subject to the state’s Open Meeting Law.

The commission won both battles. But Bladine said commissioners are not looking for another court fight over costs.

“In spite of what some legislators say, we’re not really happy to go out and spend money on litigation,” he said.

The commission’s demand is based on the fact that the constitutional provision which created the panel in 2000 to draw legislative and congressional boundaries requires the Legislature to provide adequate funding for its operations.

Even if lawmakers come up with the $700,000, that may not resolve the issue. Bladine said he figures the commission needs $1.1 million just to pay all the costs through June 30, what with likely legal fees to answer questions about the maps from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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