With a May 31 deadline looming Illinois Statehouse Democrats are anticipating a busy week. At stake, passage of a state budget, pension proposals, workers comp reform and even perhaps even more importantly, passage of a remapping proposal for the legislature and the Illinois Congressional delegation.
For the first time in modern state history, one party controls the entire remapping process.
If passage of the budget and the remapping proposal is delayed past May 31, the Democrats lose control of the process. Instead of a simple majority of the membership to pass bills, a super-majority of 3/5’s of the membership is required.
With this deadline looming Friday, at 3:30P House Democrats released a proposed remap. Two unusual weekend hearings were held on proposals from the House and the Senate map proposals in Chicago.
The legislature plans to hold a joint session of the house and senate redistricting committees Tuesday in Springfield. *** Update the senate hearing has concluded as of 2.34P. The house is moving ahead with a second reading of the bill. ***
Activists were generally pleased with the maps, but asked for ‘tweaks’ to fix issues they saw. On the North Side those issues included concentrating the votes of Asian-Americans into a single senate district and into one or two house districts. The map proposed by the Democrats spreads them across up to four senate districts and even more house districts.
Other proposals would add additional majority minority districts in the far northwest suburbs of Cook, Chicago’s west and southwest sides and in the southeast side.
“We believe that the percentages of North Side districts can be strengthened and that percentages on the South Side can be more balanced,” Josina Morita of the United Congress told the committee.
The proportion of Asian-Americans would very probably be less than 30 percent even if all these tweaks are accepted, activists from the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations noted.
“In the absence of change,” C W Chang of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community said of the North Side proposal, “we will be powerless for ten years” due to the Asian population being split among so many different districts.
The Ravenswood senate districts that would be changed by these proposals would include the 7th, currently represented by Heather Steans. Also, the 8th, 9th and 10th districts could see some changes.
A proposal to create the 6th senate district to include the home of Rep. Deb Mell had received a rare opposing editorial from The Bulldog. The proposed map puts Mell’s home back in the 20th senate district, currently occupied by Iris Martinez.
In one of the few discussions regarding the 6th senate and the 11th and 12th house districts a representative of Wrightwood Neighbors, Allan Mellis, expressed full support on behalf of the organization of the proposed map.
Speaking of the majority Latino districts in Avondale, Irving Park and Albany Park Sylvia Puente of the Latino Policy Forum looked to strengthen “the sustainability of the districts.” Puente expressed an interest in fewer districts with a higher proportion of Latino voters.
Republicans were critical of the proposal, noting it was released at 3:30P Friday in Springfield. Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) asked witnesses if they had been able to examine detailed information regarding the voting age population and when they knew a data disk was available.
Although Fortner noted the proposed map would force him into a runoff with another Republican, he was unable to say how many GOP legislators were in a similar situation.
Most witnesses admitted they had very little time or were unable to adequately review the proposal. In fact an analysis of the voting age population in each district was released by house Democrats minutes before the Sunday hearing.
“It is an insult to think the people of Illinois can understand a map produced less than 48 hours ago,” witness Bruce Crosby told the committee on Saturday’s hearing.
Witnesses at the Saturday hearing noted they only heard of the Sunday house hearing on Saturday at the senate hearing. On Sunday witnesses noted they were not aware a data disk was available.
Rep. Barbara Flynn Curie (D- Hyde Park) blamed the media for not getting the word out and noted the committee had released the disk to anyone who asked for it on Friday after 3:30P.
Whitney Woodward, speaking for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform called the process unacceptable. Noting that no maps had yet been released for congressional seats, she said the process lacked transparency.