Supporters for redistricting reform continue to fight despite the halt in committee

By Andi TenBarge
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — House Bill 1014 may have failed this year, but supporters say their fight for redistricting reform in Indiana isn’t over.

The House Elections and Apportionment Committee heard testimony on a bill to establish an independent redistricting commission, but the chairman, Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, did not to call for a vote.

Julia Vaughn with Common Cause Indiana said she was disappointed in the House Elections and Apportionment Committee for not holding a vote on a bill that would establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Committee Chairman Rep. Milo Smith’s, R-Columbus, decision to hold the bill came days before the House committee Feb. 21 deadline. Photo by Andi TenBarge, TheStatehouseFile.com

“If we pass something, I want to make sure it’s going to work and not just pass something to appease the people that are appearing before me,” Smith said after the Feb. 15 hearing.

It was a decision that sparked outrage among the bill’s supporters.

“I think we elect people not only to sit and take testimony,” Julia Vaughn with Common Cause said during Wednesday’s press conference. “We elect people to actually make votes and they took the easy way out.”

If enacted, the Republican and Democratic caucuses in the legislature would’ve chosen two members. Presidents from Ball State University, Indiana University, Purdue University, and the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court would’ve chose another three members. The eight-member commission would’ve then appointed its own chairperson to fill the ninth spot.

Vaughn said she wasn’t expecting problems getting the bill through the House, because it was co-authored by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. Rather, Vaughn thought she would run into more trouble in the Senate because of the lack of support from Senate leadership.

“We have many people who want to help us work on this issue who want to be part of the solution,” Vaughn said. “We’re disappointed this debate was cut short this year, but we absolutely do feel cheated.”

Vaughn acknowledged hot button issues during the current legislative session such as road funding and the budget may have discouraged lawmakers from taking a closer look at the issue. She said her supporters plan to raise awareness about redistricting reform throughout the state before the 2018 legislative session.

“The good news is that it’s not a budget year next year, so we intend to come back,” she said. “The focus issue of the 2018 General Assembly needs to be redistricting reform and we intend to make it so.”

Andi TenBarge is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news site powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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