Smoke-Filled Rooms

SMOKE-FILLED ROOMS….As I’ve mentioned before, California is on the verge of moving its presidential primary date to February 5. But it turns out there’s more than presidential politics involved in the move. We’re also going to have a pair of initiatives on the primary ballot: one that allows an independent commission to draw legislative districts and one that extends the length of term limits from 6 years to 12. Scott Schmidt explains the timing:

If you wonder why these measures cannot be on the regular June 2008 ballot, you’re missing the point of the whole early primary exercise. The deadline to file for office for the June election falls in March. Sitting incumbents whose terms are scheduled to end in 2008, like [Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez], need a ballot measure approved and certified before that March deadline. Thus, we get an early presidential primary with a ballot initiative attached.

….But the redistricting measure under discussion wouldn’t go into effect until the first election cycle after the next census, which is, coincidentally, four years after the November 2008 election.

Essentially, California would have no real elections over the next four years, because we would have the same people running in the same districts where there is no competition.

Clever! But I have to say that this doesn’t bother me all that much. Offering longer term limits in exchange for redistricting reform has pretty much always been the deal on the table, so this is hardly unexpected. In fact, allowing it to apply to current officeholders, with only a few weeks to spare, might give it just the sense of urgency needed to actually get it passed.

And what if it doesn’t pass? Sure, the old doofuses will get termed out, but we’ll just end up with new doofuses in the same old noncompetitive districts. Frankly, four more years of the old doofuses doesn’t really seem like all that big a price to pay in the grand scheme of things if we get a decent anti-gerrymandering bill in return. And I’m in favor of the longer term limits anyway.

Still, you have to admire the behind-the-scenes shenanigans.