Julie McClure, writing for the Columbus Republic, has an article on how Rep. Milo Smith (317-232-9620) blocked HB 1014, introduced by Rep. Jerry Torr and prepared by the interim special study committee on redistricting. The bill establishes a redistricting commission “to create, hold hearings on, take public comment about, and recommend plans to redraw general assembly districts and congressional districts.” It requires LSA to provide staff and administrative services, establishes standards to govern the commission and the agency in the creation of redistricting plans, and provides that the general assembly must meet and enact redistricting plans before October 1 of a redistricting year. Additionally, it authorizes the general assembly to convene in a session to act on redistricting bills at times other than the times the general assembly is currently authorized to meet. Generally, the idea is to make redistricting more of a non-partisan effort and reduce the temptation to gerrymander districts for particular results.
Smith is the chair of the House Elections and Apportionment Committee which gives him the power to call or not call a vote on legislation. He permitted a hearing on the bill but then blocked a vote. In the Republic article, he cites a number of potential concerns about the legislation. In particular, he questions a process whereby the General Assembly would come back at an irregular time to approve the maps and, whether the bill is specific enough about the existing process kicking in if the General Assembly does not approve the redistricting commission’s maps.
But, the salient point is that he did not propose amendments to address his concerns. And it’s not like Rep. Torr just sprang it on him. This was legislation recommended by the Interim Study Committee on Redistricting. If Rep. Smith had concerns while the committee was studying the issue, he presumably could have communicated those to the Committee this summer or fall. Additionally, it’s pretty routine for legislators to allow legislation to proceed with promises by other legislators to work on fixes as the session progresses. So, Rep. Smith’s refusal to hold a vote, ostensibly because of imperfections in the bill, comes off as disingenuous.