Lawmakers attempt to modify operations of Prop 2 redistricting commission
By LISA BOWERS
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE — Opponents of a Republican lawmaker’s bid to put additional requirements on the independent citizens redistricting commission formed by Proposal 2 have dubbed the measure unconstitutional.
Senate Bill 1254, which was sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Shores, puts new conditions around the commission, which will be made up of 13 independent citizens — four Republicans, four Democrats, five independents and the individuals who staff it.
The legislation, which passed the Senate on Dec. 5, would not change the constitutional language of Proposal 2, as such an amendment would require a three-fourths vote of the Legislature, but it would place conditions around how a potential commissioner is determined to be affiliated with a political party. In addition, a potential commission member who identifies as an independent would be required to swear under oath that they are not a member of a political party.
Representatives of the group that gathered petition signatures to put Proposal 2 on the ballot said the Legislature is trying to reassert control over the redistricting process.
“They don’t have any power to override this constitutional amendment at all,” Voters Not Politicians President Nancy Wang said in an interview on Tuesday.
“They are trying to reinsert political control over parts of the process, where, in the whole constitutional amendment, voters were saying ‘enough’ with politicians redistricting.”
She said the Legislature is precluded from interfering with the implementation of the constitutional amendment in any way, pointing out that it contains specific language stating that it is “self-executing.”
A memo from the Detroit-based Honigman law firm to Michigan senators and representatives confirms Wang’s assertion.
“The constitutional amendment is self-executing and includes specific language prohibiting the Legislature from altering or abrogating any function of the independent redistricting commission created by the constitutional amendment,” the memo states. “Unlike amendments to the minimum wage initiative and paid sick time initiative, amendments to the Michigan Constitution require a vote of the people. The Legislature may not amend the constitution through passage of a bill. SB 1254 is an attempt to amend the constitution by legislative action.”
Pavlov told MLive in an article published Dec. 4 that the bill implements Proposal 2 without changing it.
“They voted for the concept and it’s there and all we’re trying to do is put some precautions to match up with the intent of fairness that was stressed throughout the process,” Pavlov told MLive.
Wang said she hopes the measure, which was referred to the House Committee on Elections and Ethics on Dec. 5, will not pass in that chamber.
“We are really hoping that we don’t get there,” Wang said. “Our law firm has done a ton of research, and the law is just crystal clear; 2.5 million people voted to amend the constitution. We are really hoping that the house committee will save a lot of money and hassle and not move forward with this bill or that Gov. (Rick) Snyder will do the same. The action of the Legislature is an attempt to override the will of the people in lame duck.”
Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.