Despite talk in Sacramento of a potential redistricting deal between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders, L.A. software entrepreneur Bill Mundell continues to push for a ballot measure on the issue.
Mundell, who runs an educational software company in Westwood, provided $100,000 in seed money to the redistricting initiative developed by Ted Costa, who helped initiate the 2003 recall effort. The measure is one of three that Schwarzenegger is backing for a potential special election this fall; the other two are changes to teacher tenure and a budgetary spending limit. (Schwarzenegger dropped his support of a public pension overhaul measure earlier this month.)
"The lack of competition in elections is the biggest structural problem in American government, and the most egregious example of this is in California, where not a single state or federal seat changed party hands last year," said Mundell, a Republican who ran for a state Assembly seat 20 years ago and lost.
The Mundell-Costa initiative would take the power to redistrict away from the Legislature and hand it to a panel of retired judges. Most important, it would take effect with the June 2006 primary election.
The measure, which Schwarzenegger endorsed last month, has raised the ire of Democrats who view it as a Republican power grab. It's also caused some concern among Republicans in California's congressional delegation who fear losing one or more of their six committee chairmanships.
For the last several weeks, state Senate president-pro-tempore Don Perata, D-Oakland, and other Democrat leaders have been negotiating with Schwarzenegger on the term limits issue. According to various reports, the two sides are in agreement on taking redistricting power away from the Legislature. But they are still far apart on timing: Schwarzenegger is insisting on 2006 while the Democrats want to put off the effective date of the redistricting until after the 2010 census.
Nonetheless, a deal is considered likely.
"Prospects are good for a deal on redistricting," said Tim Hodson, executive director of the Center for California Studies at California State University Sacramento who 20 years ago helped draw district boundaries for the Legislature. "For the first time, the leaders of each house have agreed to turn it over to an independent commission."
Mundell said that he viewed the 2006 effective date as "urgent" and "non-negotiable."
"We are not flexible about the timing of this," Mundell said. "If there's a deal to move the effective date back we will go ahead with our initiative regardless."
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