PHOENIX - By: Bill Bertolino, Arizona Capitol Times
With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, don't think lawmakers are content with taking the week off.
It appears Gov. Jan Brewer and key lawmakers are planning – or at least strongly considering – a special session as early as this week to deal with the fallout from Thursday's court decision to re-install the embattled chairwoman of the state's redistricting commission. Late Friday, Brewer said she was meeting with legislative leaders to discuss the next step. And, perhaps just as importantly, incoming Senate President Steve Pierce said he could get his Republican caucus to the state Capitol on short notice. "We could bring them in tomorrow if that's what the governor wanted to do," Pierce said Friday afternoon.
The dust-up stems from Thursday's ruling by the Arizona Supreme Court, which said Brewer failed to show "substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office or inability to discharge the duties of office," as the Arizona Constitution requires, in the removal of Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Chairwoman Colleen Mathis. At Brewer's behest, the Senate on Nov. 1 removed Mathis from the position, claiming she committed a raft of public misdeeds, including violating the state's open meeting law and ran astray of constitutional mapping criteria.
Lawmakers appear to be considering two main options:
- Remove Mathis – again – by redrafting a better legal argument that explains why she allegedly neglected her duty in office or committed gross misconduct.
- Repeal Prop. 106 by putting the ballot initiative on the Feb. 28 election, which would coincide with the GOP presidential primary. This option would put the high-stakes redistricting process – mandated to be done every 10 years by the IRC – back in the hands of politicians.
That second option may be the tougher of the two rows to hoe for lawmakers. Though the redistricting battle has been fierce, it's a subject that many Arizonans just don't really care about – though they should. Asking the public to put political map-drawing back in the hands of politicians is a lot to ask of an increasingly skeptical public that is turned off by lawmakers.
Perhaps Pierce, a straight-talking rancher from Prescott, said it best. "If you went out on the street and asked people about the Independent Redistricting Commission, they'd say, ‘What's that?'" he said. "If you say, ‘Do you have a job that you can afford to make your house payments?' Well, they'd understand that." When voters don't understand the issue, chances are they'll shoot it down in flames. Nevertheless, that apparently won't keep lawmakers from trying to repeal the map-making process to put it back in their hands.
And that first step could start as soon as this week.