Torr tries for better balanced redistricting 

click to enlarge Indiana Congressional Districts - COURTESY OF THE INDIANA SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE
  • Indiana Congressional Districts
  • Courtesy of the Indiana Secretary of State's Office

By Erika Brock

The Republican-controlled House is set to take up legislation that would give a bipartisan commission the duty of drawing maps for the House, Senate and congressional districts - but it's likely to undergo changes.

House Bill 1032 - authored by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel - would still give the General Assembly final say for now over redistricting, which occurs after each decennial Census. But the bill assigns a five-member commission with the job of first drawing the lines.

The Elections and Appointments Committee passed the bill Wednesday - but only after members expressed concerns that are likely to lead to amendments.

The commission would have four members - each one appointed by a leader of a legislative party caucus. That means one appointed by the leaders of the House Republicans, House Democrats, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats.

The four commission members would then have to agree on a fifth member, who would serve as the chair. If an agreement couldn't be reached, the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court would appoint the final member.

The House passed a similar bill in 2006 but it then failed in the Senate. "It is time to get the idea back out there and move it forward," said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

Several committee members including Reps. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, and Kreg Battles, D-Vincennes, said they thought the bill needed revisions before passing on to the House.

"The concept of the bill is great, but it needs a week," Bartlett said.

Battles said the bill doesn't require a unanimous vote of the commission to pass the maps; only three members would need to vote yes, which could still give power to one party.

"We have seen abuse by both parties to a certain extent (on the maps) and it would be great to have a unanimous vote," said Torr. "We are open to suggestions to improve the bill."

Other organizations including Common Cause and the League of Women Voters have stepped out in support of the bill.

Julia Vaughn, policy director of Common Cause, said she would want to see Indiana base some of the bill off California's redistricting committee.

California has 14 members on its committee. Vaughn thinks Indiana should have more commission members so it better "reflects the diversity of Indiana."

Lawmakers also debated whether to add criteria that would be used to make the appointment.

Battles said that area of the bills needs be "tightened up" before it's voted on by the full House.

Torr said he is open to the possibility of co-authors and said, "We have plenty of opportunity through this process to change and I suspect that there will be changes."

Erika Brock is a reporter for a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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