By a vote of 11-4, totally along partisan lines, the House redistricting committee Friday recommended killing a bill (from Hanover Democrat David Pierce) which would establish an independent commission to travel around the state and then offer a recommendation, NOT a final plan, for redistricting.
The committee also voted to retain two bills, one which be used a a framework for the ultimate redistricting plan which will be developed after census numbers come in around April 1, another which would mandate that redistricting by done by House order rather than by a bill, thereby preventing the current or any future governor from vetoing a plan.
The hearing on the "order" lasted more than an hour with Dem Representatives Pierce and Lucy Webber, from Walpole, grilling the Republican sponsors Winter, Mirski, and Balboni. Rep Winter asserted that when the crisis hit ten years ago, Secretary of State William Gardner was prepared to move forward with the order, but since the idea came in late, two-thirds vote would have been required, and the Senate fell one vote short, thus causing the court to get involved ("circus" was the word Rep. Winter used). Most likely, the "order" notion would be challenged in court (perennial suer Paul Twomey was on hand to tesfity against the "order"), but Redistricting Chair Mirski seems determined to move forward with the idea. Time will tell.
As to the commission...well...I needn't say more here because I made the motion to kill the bill and in that capacity, I wrote the blurb for the House calendar. Here it is (I've added paragraph breaks for ease in following):
"Rep. Steve Vaillancourt for the Special Committee on Redistricting: Currently, the House and Senate are responsible for redistricting every ten years. Traditionally, the House has been responsible for redistricting the House, the Senate for redistricting the Senate, and both bodies have worked to draft plans for redistricting Congressional, Executive Council, and County Commission districts.
This bill would take the responsibility for preparing redistricting plans away from elected officials and place it with a seven member panel (two appointed by the Governor, one each by the Supreme Court Chief Justice, the House Speaker, Senate President, and minority leaders of the House and Senate).
A limited number of states (12 at last count) have adopted a system of redistricting panels outside the Legislature, but there is no evidence that the end product is any better than with states which have not gone that route. Law suits are just as likely to be filed; non-competitive districts are just as likely to be created.
Out of all the states, New Hampshire, with its 400 elected representatives, is least in need of the system proposed in this bill. The majority believes it would be unwise to take this great responsibility away from duly elected representatives of the people and place it in the hands of what most likely would turn out to be partisan non-elected people. Note for example that with two appointments, the governor would have supreme power in this proposed system. There would be nothing to prevent a governor from choosing two people with similar partisan leanings.
While senators and representatives are certainly partisan, at least we come with the imprimatur of having been chosen by voters who have vetted our partisanship. As if this bill weren’t bad enough, it comes with a $250,000 cost."