Redistricting commission moves toward final maps as Brewer, GOP run out of time - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Redistricting commission moves toward final maps as Brewer, GOP run out of time

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Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 5:42 pm | Updated: 1:43 pm, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

The state's Independent Redistricting Commission begins its final push Tuesday to adopt final political maps as Gov. Jan Brewer and Republican legislators are running out of time to find some way to undo the panel's work.

Committee members are set to review the comments received during more than two dozen public hearings after they drew preliminary lines for the state's 30 legislative and nine congressional districts. There were various criticisms over splitting what some said were "communities of interest" as well as for creation of one congressional district that stretches from the southeast corner of the state to Arizona's northern border with Utah.

It remains to be seen what changes, if any, the commission will make in the lines.

But this week's meetings are also occurring in the wake of the effort by Gov. Jan Brewer to fire chairwoman Colleen Mathis, a move that, while ratified by the state Senate on a party-line vote, was overturned just last week by the Arizona Supreme Court.

That has left the governor and other Republicans trying to find other ways to short-circuit the commission's work. But as of Monday afternoon, Brewer, having been rebuffed by the high court, was instead waiting for some signs from Republican legislative leaders of what they want to try next.

But Senate President-elect Steve Pierce said it's up to the governor to decide.

"We've given them ideas," he said. "We're waiting on them; they're not waiting on us."

But time is running out.

Because the commission was created by voters in 2000, any move to repeal it or even change how it operates would require ratification at the polls.

There already is a statewide presidential preference primary set for Feb. 28, though only the Republicans have a contest. But there is a Wednesday deadline to expand that event to something for all voters.

One proposal would ask voters to repeal the commission. That would return the task of drawing the political lines to the lawmakers themselves.

Another would instead ask voters to revamp the commission, adding more politically independent members, perhaps with a requirement for some rural representation that does not exist now.

Senate Majority Whip Frank Antenori said he has done a head count in his chamber and there are sufficient votes for either outright repeal or some modification. The Tucson Republican said the blame for the lack of action lies elsewhere.

And House Speaker Andy Tobin says he has told the governor's staffers that his chamber is "ready to go" and can line up the votes for either outright repeal or reform.

Brewer, however, said she's not the problem.

"I don't know exactly what direction the Legislature wants to go on how they want to address it," she said. But Brewer said she has no meetings planned with legislative leaders.

"That doesn't prohibit them from calling me," Brewer said.

Pierce was frustrated with what he sees as lack of action by the governor.

"We need to get with the governor and hash it out," he said. "We've got our members who want to do this."

He said it is up to Brewer whether to pursue reform or repeal.

At this point, though, Pierce said he doubts that latter plan is saleable.

"I don't think voters are going to want to give it back to us," he said. And some polling done by Republicans appears to back that up.

Brewer, however, said she's not convinced.

"The bottom line is that we can believe what the polls say, or we can believe that the public maybe is not completely aware of what has taken place and how the Constitution is written," she said.

Pierce said voters might be convinced to make some changes, like having some sort of commission to draw maps but giving the final say to the Legislature. Pierce also likes the idea of expanding the commission from its current five members - two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent - to ensure that the independent, as the swing vote, does not have too much power.

"When it's only five people, it's easy to corrupt," he said.

That still leaves the question of taking any question to voters on Feb. 28. Brewer said she supports that, since there already is that GOP primary set for that day.

"It's probably a lot less expensive to do it on the presidential primary election," she said, saying the state already is going to spend $5 million on that vote. And Brewer said she sees nothing improper about scheduling a vote on either repeal or reform of the commission as part of an election where the only other issue to bring voters out is a primary where Democrats and independents have no reason to show up.

"I believe that the issue itself would bring everybody out to the polls," she said.

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