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Murphysboro American - Murphysboro, IL
  • Battle over legislative districts set to begin

  • State lawmakers are preparing for another battle as they get back from spring break, one with political consequences for the next decade.

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  • State lawmakers are preparing for another battle as they get back from spring break, one with political consequences for the next decade.
    Both Democrats and Republicans are pushing constitutional amendments to overhaul the system used after each census to draw their legislative districts.
    The goal is change. Often, legislative deadlock has resulted in the party winning the right to draw the maps being picked out of a hat.
    But they come at the solutions from far different perspectives.
    Democrats will need at least some Republican support to get their preferred reforms approved. The GOP says those plans don't go far enough. So what will prevail - reform that some see as flawed, or the status quo?
    Here is a look at the competing plans and what's up next.
    Democrat version
    Democratic Sen. Kwame Raoul of Chicago introduced on Monday what he called The Citizens First Amendment. It would keep the map-drawing power in the hands of the Legislature but would change the process if an agreement could not be reached.
    If lawmakers couldn't agree on a joint map, the House and Senate could approve - with a supermajority vote - maps for their own chambers without the other's OK. But if that fell short, a redistricting commission appointed by the four legislative leaders would go to work.
    Still no solution? Then it goes to a "special master" picked by two top state Supreme Court justices. And if that falls short, it goes back to the legislature and governor.
    Republicans say all that back-and-forth misses the mark on redistricting reform.
    "There's potentially no end to the process," said Sen. Dale Righter, R-Charleston. "Any proposal that allows the General Assembly to draw its own lines fails the test of real reform."
    Republican version
    The redistricting amendment introduced in February by House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont comes from the other direction.
    The proposed Fair Map Amendment would take the map-drawing power away from the legislature and put it in the hands of a nine-member commission - eight picked by four legislative leaders and a ninth member chosen by the panel.
    Like Raoul's measure, a special master would be chosen if the commission could not agree. But the master would make the final decision.
    Raoul argues that the GOP amendment aims to "minimize the diversity and the voice of communities." He said his measure is "real reform" because it allows minority communities to shape their districts.
    "It invites citizens to partake in the process," he said. "It's not seen in any other proposal that I know of."
    What lies ahead
    Page 2 of 2 - Cross has major doubts about his plan moving ahead. House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, would not commit to calling his measure in a recent discussion.
    "I would probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than this being called by the speaker," he said.
    Steve Brown, press secretary for the House Democrats, said Madigan plans to review the Senate proposals. "We'll see what emerges from there," he said.
    Cross argues that leaving the map-drawing up to the legislature allows incumbent lawmakers to protect their districts. He called Raoul's plan bordering on "charade of being reform when it's not."
    Cross could see Republicans supporting Raoul's plan if changes to a commission drawing are made.
    "We've got to be in the situation to come together and compromise," he said. "We can't be in the business of preserving the status quo."
    Both Democrat and Republican plans are to be considered by a Senate committee Monday afternoon. Cross doesn't expect the GOP plan to emerge then.
    Time is running short. Any proposed constitutional amendments have to be approved by a three-fifths vote in both chambers by early May. Republicans have enough votes to keep that from happening in the House.
    Meanwhile, a group supporting the GOP proposal is trying to take its own route to the ballot. The Illinois Fair Map Coalition is working to get the required 280,000 signatures for a petition-backed amendment to be put in place by early May.
    The group hopes to get to 500,000 signatures to avoid a challenge that could drop it below the required number of valid signers. It has set an internal deadline of April 16 for that goal.
    John Guidroz can be reached at 217-782-6882 or John.guidroz@sj-r.com.
     
    AMENDMENTS
    Here is a look at the different redistricting amendments being proposed in the legislature:
    Democrat Plan (Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 121):
    Allows the legislature and governor to redraw the maps. Requires either majority approval in both chambers or House and Senate to approve their own maps with three-fifths approval.
    If that doesn't work, a 10-member redistricting commission goes to work. After that, a "special master" appointed by top judges does the job. And if that falls short, it's back to lawmakers to decide.
    Republican Plan (House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 56 and Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 104):
    Creates a nine-member commission to draw the maps, with members appointed by the four legislative leaders and the panel itself.
    If that doesn't work, a special master appointed by two top justices to draw the maps and make the final decision.
     
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