Redistricting and the Fate of the Environmental Community in California

Jul 28, 2011

Drum roll please…After months of anticipation, the 177 almost-final new legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization district maps were released today. These maps have the potential to shake up California’s political forces and greatly impact the environment. (Take a look at the maps here.)

At this juncture we know that the adoption of final maps by 2/3 of the Citizens Redistricting Commission (CRC) must take place on August 15, 2011, or the fate of the entire process will be thrown into the lap of the California Supreme Court.

During this 14-day review period, prevailing wisdom is that the CRC has already completed most of its major lifting and that any additional changes will likely be last-minute, small tweaks – rather than wholesale readjustments – to the maps. There is little doubt that multiple lawsuits will be filed to block the CRC’s redistricting plan regardless of what the final maps look like (and perhaps a referendum that would place the issue before voters). Bottom line: look to November to have a final resolve.

All 80 Assembly seats will be up in 2012, plus half of the Senate seats, with the remainder on the ballot in 2014. There is strong indication that the new maps would give Democrats a competitive edge to win 27 Senate seats and 54 Assembly seats, garnering a 2/3 majority in both houses.

CLCV Education Fund, and its sister organization CLCV, have been major behind-the-scenes players – testifying in support of the federal Voting Rights Act and fighting to protect ‘environmental-communities-of-interest’.  Our rationale has largely been accepted by the CRC, especially with regard to our argument that contiguous, environmentally-sensitive areas are better represented by a single legislator.

Another key principle that earned the support of the CRC was to “keep odd districts odd” in the Senate. The California Constitution is rather vague on exactly how numerical ordering should take place (other than that they shall be drawn starting from north to south). Since the Senate runs for reelection every four years, there was a potential for large swathes of voters to lack representation for nearly two years. Hypothetically speaking, if an environmental tragedy such as a tsunami like the one that struck after the Japanese earthquake impacted a district without a legislative leader battling for FEMA and state disaster relief funds, constituents would face a dual disaster.

As we await final resolution on this process, CLCV will continue to act as guardians of the environment on whatever front that takes us. Who represents your interests matters. Holding your members accountable on conservation and public health issues matters. And ultimately, lines matter.

- Eric Schockman, Vice President, CLCV Education Fund




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