Lawmakers to pony up for redistricting legal fees

Commission's costs include defense of suit filed by legislators
2013-04-25T00:00:00Z Lawmakers to pony up for redistricting legal feesHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
April 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - State lawmakers are about to give the Independent Redistricting Commission another $635,226 in tax dollars to continue to fight lawsuits - including one filed by legislators themselves.

The votes Wednesday by the House and Senate appropriations committees came despite grumbling from several Republican legislators who noted this is the third pot of money the commission is getting just this fiscal year.

The new allocation, if given final approval, will bring this year's commission budget up to more than $2.5 million, pretty much all to pay for legal fights. And the commission already has spent more than $6.1 million since the decennial remapping process began two years ago.

"I still have a lot of concerns about the IRC and the spending frenzy without any seeming accountability to the people who have to pay the bill," complained Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City.

House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, agreed. But he told colleagues they really have no choice.

"We have a constitutional obligation here, as you well know," he said. That's because voters, in creating the commission in 2000, mandated that lawmakers provide them the funds they need for their job of drawing lines for the state's 30 legislative and nine congressional districts.

What happened a decade ago - and again this go-around - is those upset with those maps have sued. And Tobin noted the Arizona Constitution requires lawmakers to pay the fees of lawyers defending the maps and the associated costs.

Tobin is effectively a plaintiff in one of those suits.

The Republican-controlled Legislature sued in federal court, contending the U.S. Constitution requires congressional lines be drawn only by each state's legislature.

Attorneys for the state say that makes part of the 2000 law invalid, which would give lawmakers the power to create congressional districts, as they did before the commission was created.

The commission's lawyers argue, however, the voters have the power to decide that, for redistricting purposes, the commission and not the official Legislature is the legislative body.

That case has yet to go to trial.

A separate federal lawsuit by Republican interests charges the commission with ignoring requirements for equally-populated legislative districts, claiming disproportionate districts were created to provide a political advantage to Democrats.

A three-judge panel heard arguments in that case last month but has yet to rule.

And a third case, pending in Maricopa County Superior Court, charges the commission with failing to follow its own procedures in crafting congressional districts.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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