State lawmakers grudgingly approved $500,000 Thursday to keep the Independent Redistricting Commission in business – and help it fight the Legislature. The funding, given final approval by both the House and Senate, falls short of the $2.2 million the commission sought in supplemental funding for the balance of this budget year, which runs through June 30. But Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, said the amount will provide enough to pay the commission’s lawyers to be ready for a trial set to begin in March in federal court challenging the maps the panel drew for legislative districts. He said the rest of the funds the commission wanted are unnecessary – at least for the time being.
The commission, formed by voters in 2000, is charged with drawing the lines for the state’s 30 legislative and nine congressional districts. Before 2000, that was the responsibility of lawmakers.
Three lawsuits have been filed challenging the commission’s maps, including one by the Republican-controlled Legislature itself. The first of these cases goes to trial on March 23.
Ray Bladine, the commission’s executive director, asked for $2.2 million on top of the $1.4 million lawmakers approved for the current year.
Biggs, however, said it’s not clear all that money is needed right now.
He said the request includes $800,000 to draw new maps. But Biggs said that will be necessary only if challengers convince judges the commission acted improperly, something that the panel’s lawyers are not conceding.
Full Article: Legislature ponies up $500K for map panel.