Redistricting commission looks to dodge Lame Duck bullet

A protestor demonstrates during a Dec. 12, 2018, rally in the Capitol | Ken Coleman

A bill that would put additional requirements on an independent citizen redistricting commission outlined in Proposal 2 is another Lame Duck casualty.

Senate Bill 1254, sponsored by state Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Twp.), sailed through the upper chamber by a mostly party-line 25-12 vote on Dec. 5. But as the Advance reported early Wednesday morning, it seems to have stalled in the lower chamber.

Jocelyn Benson

That’s also what happened to Senate Bill 1248, sponsored by term-limited state Sen. Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc), which would have yanked campaign finance oversight away from Democratic Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson.

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt), told the Advance Wednesday that the bill “isn’t on today’s agenda.” What’s more, the House Elections and Ethics Committee held its last hearing of this session Wednesday morning and the bill did not come up.

On Nov. 6, voters approved Proposal 2, a constitutional amendment for redistricting reform. The Voters Not Politicians ballot proposal was overwhelmingly approved 61 percent to 39 percent, setting up a new independent citizen redistricting commission. The proposal calls for the panel to be made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and five independents.

Pavlov, who is term-limited, did not return repeated calls and an email asking for comment on Wednesday. He has said that his bill is intended to create “additional safeguards to protect the integrity of the independent redistricting commission.” He argued it does not regulate or amend the constitutional amendment itself.

Phil Pavlov

However, critics said that SB 1254 would require the three-quarters majority of both legislative bodies required to amend ballot initiatives under the Michigan Constitution, not a simple majority.

The commission “was always designed to try to remain nonpartisan,” Pavlov said as reported by Bridge. “We want to remove any doubts, so the voters have confidence in what they voted for.”

Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren) declared on the Senate floor last week that the bill that would “monkey with the intent of the voters.”

“There is a lot of cynicism in society when people take a look at what is going on in this chamber. We just had an election and the electorate spoke very highly, very clearly, and very definitively. Now we’re coming in at the 11th-and-half hour in a Lame Duck session to try to change it.”

Nancy Wang, president of Voters Not Politicians, told the Advance today she was pleased that the bill looks dead.

“The Legislature rightfully decided not to waste additional time on Senate Bill 1254, which illegally imposed unnecessary laws on the redistricting reform amendment. We are prepared to defend the amendment from future legislation and court challenges,” she said.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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