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March 4, 2005

Dear Attorney General Lockyer:

Pursuant to Elections Code Section 9005, we have reviewed the proposed initiative constitutional amendment related to redistricting (File No. SA2005RF0062).


The California Constitution requires the Legislature to adjust the boundary lines of the state Legislature (Assembly and Senate), Board of Equalization (BOE), and the U.S. House of Representatives districts every ten years, following the federal census. This process is known as “redistricting.” The primary purpose of redistricting is to establish districts which are “reasonably equal” in population.

Typically, redistricting plans are included in legislation and become law after passage of the bill by the Legislature and signature by the Governor. In the past, when the Legislature and Governor have been unable to agree on redistricting plans, the California Supreme Court performed the redistricting.

Major Provisions

This measure amends the California Constitution to change the way boundaries of districts for the state Legislature, BOE, and the U.S. House of Representatives from California are determined.

“Special Masters” Panel. This measure requires that a three-member panel of special masters develop redistricting plans. The measure requires that the panel be composed of retired federal and/or state judges who have never held partisan political office. The panel would be selected by legislative leadership from a list of nominations prepared by the Judicial Council. The panel would have to hold public hearings with respect to the plans. A panel would be required to develop a redistricting plan for state offices for use following the measure’s approval. Following each future federal census, a panel would develop a redistricting plan for both state and federal offices.

Funding. The measure specifies that the Legislature must make funding available from the Legislature’s budget (which is limited under the State Constitution) to support the work of the special masters, including employment of counsel and independent experts in the field of redistricting and computer technology. Funding for the special masters would be limited to one-half of the amount spent by the Legislature on redistricting in 2001 (adjusted for inflation).

Requirements of District Boundaries. The measure adds new requirements regarding the drawing of district boundaries. Among these requirements are: (1) for state offices, population differences among districts cannot exceed 1 percent; (2) the BOE districts must be comprised of adjacent legislative districts; and (3) the plan must minimize the splitting of counties and cities into multiple districts. In addition, when drawing boundaries, the panel could not consider information related to political party affiliations and other specified matters.

Fiscal Effect

Special Master Panel Allowable Costs. While the precise amount spent by the Legislature in 2001 on redistricting is not currently available, past redistricting efforts have tended to total several million dollars in costs. This measure would limit future redistricting efforts to costs equaling half of the amount spent in 2001, adjusted for inflation. The exact amount allowable under the measure, therefore, would need to be determined, but it would probably total a few million dollars for each redistricting effort.

One-Time Costs. Under existing law, the next redistricting plan would not be developed until after the 2010 federal census. The measure, however, requires that a redistricting plan for state offices be developed upon passage of the measure. This additional redistricting plan would result in one-time state costs, which probably would total a few million dollars. These costs would be accommodated within the Legislature’s existing spending limit.

Future Savings. The preparation of future redistricting plans (after 2010) under the measure would be on the same schedule as existing law. Due to the measure’s limit on redistricting costs, there would probably be state savings—totaling a few million dollars—for each redistricting effort. These savings would be realized within the Legislature’s existing spending limit.

Summary. This measure would have the following major fiscal impact:


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