Andy Biggs, Colleen Coyle Mathis

Arizona State Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs (R) speaks to Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission Chair Colleen Coyle Mathis on Wednesday, Dec 7, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Matt York

Insisting they are more accountable, Republican state lawmakers voted Wednesday to ask voters to let them once again draw the political lines for the state.

SCR 1035 seeks to repeal the 2000 initiative which created the five-member Independent Redistricting Commission. That panel is charged with dividing the state into the 30 legislative and, currently, nine congressional districts.

"The process has proven itself corrupt,'' said Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Glendale. And Senate Majority Leader Andy Biggs said the system of two Democrats, two Republicans and one who is supposed to be politically independent is not really responsive to public concerns, with that tie-breaking independent becoming "the map czar of the state.''

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said he agrees with Republicans that there are flaws in the process. But he said they could be fixed by revamping the commission, perhaps adding more members and guaranteeing some rural representation.

But Gallardo said scrapping the system outright is not the answer.

"The days of drawing them in a back room with no public input, (which) is exactly what's going to happen, are over,'' he said.

And Sen. David Lujan, D-Phoenix, said GOP senators themselves have proven they do not care about what the public has to say.

He cited the decision by Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, to refuse to accept public testimony during the early stages of hearings on the budgets for state agencies. And Lujan noted that Republicans went behind closed doors earlier this week to talk about a proposal by Gov. Jan Brewer to scrap the state's merit protections for employees.

The maps have been criticized widely by GOP lawmakers, candidates and party officials who contend that the lines were drawn in ways to give an edge to Democratic candidates.

At one point the charges were so strong that Gov. Jan Brewer proposed removing Colleen Mathis, the independent chair of the commission, as well as the two Democrats.

Brewer backed off a bit after the Republican-controlled Senate, which has to ratify any such move, balked at that. Instead, she fired only Mathis, a decision the Senate confirmed, a move designed to force a reconstituted commission to start over and draw new maps.

That action, however, was overruled by the Arizona Supreme Court. That leaves the commission-drawn maps in place, at least for this year's election.

If voters agree to repeal, lawmakers -- at least the majority party -- would have the chance to craft their own maps in time for the 2014 race.

Biggs, who crafted the proposal, told colleagues this is not about him. In fact, the Gilbert Republican said that, even with the new lines, there is little danger a Democrat could get elected from his area.

But he said that process involving 90 legislators is bound to be better than what exists now.

"It's harder to corrupt 90 than it is to corrupt one,'' he said.

The measure still needs approval by the full Senate and then the House before it goes to the ballot. The governor does not get a say in such proposals.

House Speaker Andy Tobin, meanwhile, has crafted his own set of alternate legislative and congressional maps. He wants a special election in May to give voters a chance to choose between those and the ones the commission adopted.

Tobin also proposes some changes to the structure of the commission amid his own questions of whether voters would approve the kind of outright repeal in the Biggs plan.


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