Shutting Down the “Kumbaya Committee?”

UPDATE: Based on the release we just received from Sen. Rollie Heath, Democratic co-chair of the Joint Select Committee, it looks like they’re finished. Full text after the jump:

In an effort to keep the process moving, it is likely that a bill will be introduced during the week of April 25th.  Heath indicated that he looked forward to continuing a bi-partisan effort and was confident that the General Assembly would achieve a sound legislative result.  He added that it is important to keep all options open.

—–



As close as you’re going to get.

Today could will be the end of the line for the Joint Select Committee on Redistricting, which we’ve affectionately (it was always affectionate, folks) dubbed the “Kumbaya Committee” in recognition of the long odds against taking the politics out of something as inherently political as congressional redistricting. Today, it appears Speaker Frank McNulty will end its work by refusing to grant the Republican co-chair more time to negotiate.

Last night, the committee met again for over four hours, the first half of which was spent by Democrats trying to get Republicans to explain their submitted maps–including revised “McNulty” maps for which no explanation of changes had ever been offered. Republicans countered these questions with a drumbeat demand to abandon all maps, and start fresh  with areas where Democratic and Republican map overlapped (the aforementioned “Bipartisan Map 1″).

One issue with the demand for everybody to jump right into a new “consensus” map is this: Tuesday evening, Democrats had been grilled over a period of hours by Republicans over every part of their “City Integrity” series of maps. Before Democrats were prepared to consign those maps to the dustbin, they wanted to know why these maps were drawn the way they were. Reportedly, things got very interesting at this point in the hearing–Rep. Dave Balmer, the GOP co-chair of the committee, didn’t know anything about McNulty’s revised maps. Sen. Greg Brophy stood in to answer questions about them, ending almost every answer with pleas to “draw a new map.” It was pretty obvious that Republicans wanted a theatric mapmaking sideshow much more than they wanted to answer questions about their existing proposals.

Dave Balmer, on the other hand, seems to have found his moment to strike back after being essentially sidelined by McNulty and his operative friends. Balmer, according to all reports, led the committee’s Democrats on a lengthy and enthusiastic tour of the “Balmer 1″ map, revealing a depth of knowledge about individual precincts that was described to us as “almost scary.” In doing so, Balmer wrecked the whole strategy of painting Democrats as uncooperative for continuing to question existing proposals–not to mention throwing the “draw maps now” mantra hopelessly off track. Reporter Lynn Bartels of the Denver paper was keen to note Balmer’s defection from the GOP party line of “draw new maps now,” Tweeting during the hearing, “If Dems agree to work off of Balmer Map 1, GOP will probably flip. They’ve done their own stuff.”

Our understanding is that McNulty is not now inclined to allow Balmer any more chances to go “off reservation” like he did last night. The next step after this committee should be competing map legislation introduced–if the of the redistricting committee’s extension of time is not granted, we would expect to see those bills right away.

And of the two Republicans who have submitted maps, Balmer and McNulty, whose do you think–we ask rhetorically but just so everybody’s clear–will pass Frank McNulty’s House?

It looks like “Kumbaya,” both inter- and intra-party, may have outlived its usefulness.


Senator Rollie Heath Issues Report Regarding Congressional Redistricting

“Every vote should count, district lines should be fair and competitive”

DENVER- Today, Senator Rollie Heath (D-Boulder), co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Redistricting, issued a report on behalf of Democrats on the committee.

The Joint Select Committee on Redistricting was created by Senate President Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont) and House Speaker Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) using Joint Rule 41. The committee was tasked with:

“…evaluating proposed maps for redistricting, soliciting feedback on the redistricting process and making recommendations to the General Assembly on redistricting.”

In an effort to keep the process moving, it is likely that a bill will be introduced during the week of April 25th.  Heath indicated that he looked forward to continuing a bi-partisan effort and was confident that the General Assembly would achieve a sound legislative result.  He added that it is important to keep all options open.

The report fulfills the obligation of the committee to issue a report by April 21st.

The full text of the report is below:

Dear Colleague,

The Joint Select Committee on Redistricting was charged with one of the most important and challenging tasks before the General Assembly. The leadership of the General Assembly tasked the committee with, “…evaluating proposed maps for redistricting, soliciting feedback on the redistricting process and making recommendations to the General Assembly on redistricting.”

The committee traveled the state and conducted ten public meetings, as directed by leadership.  Hundreds of Coloradans testified before the committee and thousands emailed and called to offer their thoughts on how Colorado’s congressional districts should be drawn.  A consistent message was heard:  Every vote should count, district lines should be fair and competitive and districts should not create “congressmen for life.”

In personal stories, many Coloradans testified to the impact of being perpetually in the minority in districts that are “safe” for one party.  The safe districts discourage participation in the election process and discourage voting.   At every public meeting the committee held, we were asked to draw competitive districts to assure neither party has an unfair advantage in any district.  It is incumbent upon the members of the General Assembly to address these concerns.

In fulfilling our work, the committee agreed on the following principles that we recommend to the General Assembly:

1. Provide for equal populations among districts

2. Follow the federal and state law

3. Maintain communities of interest

4. Preserve political subdivisions

5. Assure Competitiveness

As the Senate co-chair, I can tell you this committee has devoted hundreds of hours to execute faithfully its charge.  The Democratic members of the committee urge adoption of a competitive map to keep Colorado’s delegation dynamic and responsive to their constituents.  Competition is the heart of our democratic process.  It gives credibility to the principle of “one person one vote.”

Sincerely,

Rollie Heath

7 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Awen says:

    The deadline for introducing a bill is TODAY; if McNulty declines the request for an extension, they’re done for this session.

  2. Just Anita says:

    Again, when have the Republicans ever missed the opportunity for a court to decide for people. We, the people, think too much.

  3. Dan WillisDan Willis says:

    However, if 33 Reps and 18 Senators of any party combination are willing to get behind a compromise map, there is still hope.

    There are several citizen-offered maps that have been submitted to the Redistricting Committtee that are compromise maps, mine is only one. Any one of these would be a great place to start with and have the regularo committee process make the tweeks necessary to get a final map.

  4. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    http://coloradoindependent.com

    Hickenlooper said that he had not yet given up on the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Redistricting’s efforts to draw up new lines for Colorado congressional representation.

    “I still hold hope that both sides can come together and find the right compromise,” Hickenlooper said. He said that with so many different ways to draw the maps, Democrats and Republicans needed a bit more time.

    The Redistricting Committee was put together at the beginning of the session in an attempt to circumvent the partisan battles and costly court cases that have followed congressional redistricting in Colorado’s past. Those hopes were tightly held onto until both sides unveiled their maps earlier this week. The maps showed little similarity as Republicans called for Western Slope and Eastern Plains voting blocks and Democrats called for competitive districts.

  5. BlueCat says:

    Time to change the way we do redistricting? In the meantime, wake me when the courts have decided.

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