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Now that California's legislative and congressional districts have been drawn for the first time ever by an independent citizens commission, the 14-member panel is recommending ways to smooth the process in years to come.

The commission's recommendations are contained in gut-and-amended legislation, Senate Bill 1096, proposed by the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee.

The redistricting commission, created by voter passage of Proposition 11 in 2008, drew Assembly, Senate, Board of Equalization and state congressional districts last year that will be used in this year's statewide election.

By law, the panel consisted of five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters. Three votes from each bloc were required to pass new district maps.

Proposed changes have bipartisan support and focus on timing and technical issues, including:

• Requiring the state auditor's office, not the secretary of state's office, to provide support functions when a new redistricting commission is formed every 10 years, until it hires staff and becomes fully functional.

• Revising deadlines to provide more than four additional months to select commission members.

• Requiring that only veteran auditors employed by the Bureau of State Audits can be chosen, by random drawing, to serve on a three-member panel that screens redistricting commission applicants and helps to create a pool of finalists.

• Mandating that the commission publicly display its first preliminary statewide maps no later than July 1 of the year it plans to vote on them. The public would have 14 days to comment on those initial maps, then seven days for any other preliminary maps and three days for final statewide maps

• Specifying that any bill proposing legislative amendments to the redistricting process be in print for 12 days, rather than 10. It would prohibit lawmakers from altering the redistricting process in any year ending in 9, expanding upon current law, which bans procedural changes in years ending in 0 or 1.


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