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REDISTRICTING GOAL NEEDS COMPROMISE.

Byline: JOEL FOX Local View

NO, Gov. Schwarzenegger, you're not a ``pest.''

That's what Arnold Schwarzenegger was concerned about being labeled after his State of the State address when he once again asked the Legislature to change the way congressional and legislative seats are drawn in California.

Despite the loss of a redistricting-reform measure in the 2005 California special election, even lawmakers have since come to recognize the unfairness of the system they control to draw legislative and congressional district lines. The current district drawings would make Picasso proud. The Legislature drew bizarrely mapped districts to ensure safe seats. Thus, Democrats got control of the Legislature, and Republicans didn't lose ground to Democrats in the biggest congressional delegation.

But without the chance of competitive races, the range of candidates with varying ideas is limited. This lack of competition may be partly responsible for the steady drop in voter participation in election campaigns.

Both parties talk a good game about the need to reform redistricting, but nothing ever gets done. There seems little incentive, especially for the majority party, to upset the apple cart and give up the power to draw its own safe district lines.

Then let's offer an incentive to draw fair districts by offering an opportunity for something legislators want: More time in office. Why not make a deal -- redistricting reform for term-limit changes?

The jury has been out on term limits for 15 years. Now it comes back with a shrug. Under term limits most agree that there has been some good and some bad. Many point to the increased diversity of elected officials since the onset of term limits as opening up opportunity for all. Others argue that term limits take away continuity and experience from a job that demands both.

A compromise that includes redistricting reform while keeping term limits but lengthening the term in office is the answer to one of the state's biggest political problems. Such a deal would continue to put a check on the power of incumbency, while injecting more competition into political races.

The compromise often discussed is to establish an alternative commission outside the Legislature to establish district lines and, at the same time, lengthen the term an elected official can serve in one house of the Legislature to 12 years from the current six in the Assembly or eight in the Senate. The official would remain in the house he or she was elected to for the entire 12 years, if re-elected, and then would be barred from serving in the other house.

Why not?

If there is more competition with the redrawn districts, there will likely be a greater turnover in certain competitive seats. Not every elected official will serve out the full 12 years allotted under the new limit.

There is nothing sacrosanct about the number of years currently assigned to the limits. People who argue for term limits nationally will defend a three-term limit in one state and a two-term limit in another.

Adjusting the system would honor the goal of the people who supported term limits in the first place -- fairness in our government's makeup.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 24, 2007
Words:521
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