Print version: Redistricting proposal advances to House floor
A Democratic-backed redistricting plan is just one step away from legislative approval. But it still lacks the crucial support from GOP House lawmakers to clear that final step.
A House committee voted 10-7 Tuesday to move Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 121 to the House floor.
The measure would still let the legislature draw the maps first but would change the steps in the redistricting process if a compromise could not be reached.
It rivals a Republican-backed proposal that would take the map-drawing power away from lawmakers and into the hands of a committee chosen by the four legislative leaders. That effort, more commonly known as the Fair Map Amendment, remains stalled and was rejected again Tuesday.
The Democratic-backed measure still needs at least one House Republican vote to be approved. House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, says that no GOP lawmaker would support the measure.
"No one in the Republican caucus is in the status quo whatsoever," he said.
The committee debate, which lasted more than four hours, included testimony from several interest groups and lawmakers supporting both measures.
Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, testified in support of SJRCA 121.
C.W. Chan, chairman of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, also supported the plan, calling it the "most promising language to address inequities in our community."
Jan Czarnik and Chris Butler with the Illinois League of Women Voters testified in support of the Fair Map Amendment.
Raoul criticized the Fair Map Amendment, saying it did nothing to take politics out of the process.
Czarnik defended accusations from the committee that her group worked solely with Republicans on the measure.
"We do not have a horse in this race," she said.
Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago pointed out that Cross and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, each helped fund the Fair Map effort.
The debate turned heated on how the Fair Map Amendment would protect voting rights for minorities. Butler said he took "strong offense" to the committee "parading as great defenders of minority rights."
Raoul countered, saying African-Americans did not support the Fair Map Amendment during earlier redistricting hearings.
"Don't bring tokens out here to defend something like that," he said. "It's insulting to my community as an African-American."
Cross tried to attach his redistricting amendment to the Democratic measure.
His plan would allow an eight-member commission to draw the maps instead of lawmakers. It failed in committee on a 7-9 vote.
What lies ahead
House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, said she is ready to call the measure for a vote Wednesday.
The Republican-backed measure has another shot to get on the Nov. 2 ballot if the legislative stalemate continues. The Illinois Fair Map Commission is working to collect around 280,000 signatures and submit them to the secretary of state's office by May 3.
The coalition reported last week that they had collected 120,000 signatures. Petitions will be accepted by the coalition until April 28.
During the committee debate, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, asked Czarnik whether the league was paying volunteers to collect signatures.
"We have not, but other (organizations) may have," she said.
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Senate Joint Constitutional Amendment 121: Sponsored by Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago.
The measure would still allow the Legislature to draw the maps first.
If lawmakers could not compromise, the House and Senate would draw their own districts, which would have to be approved with a three-fifths majority in each chamber.
If that didn't work, a committee selected by the four legislative leaders would draw the maps, which would require three-fifths approval in each chamber.
If that didn't work, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court and a justice from the opposite party would appoint a special master to draw the maps.
If that didn't work, the map-drawing decision would go back to the Legislature.