Redistricting bill advances
DENVER – Two Senate staffers quit and another broke into tears during heated discussion Tuesday about a bill to redraw congressional districts in Colorado.
Senate Bill 352 redraws the districts, which would give Republicans a stronger hold in their five districts and weaken Democratic influence in their two districts. The bill was approved by the Senate on an 18-12 vote Tuesday and advanced in the House State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee later the same day. The two Democrats on the nine-member committee refused to vote on the bill, so it now goes to the full House for debate.
Democrats also said the bill is unconstitutional because there has been no public input, and they couldn’t make changes because they didn’t get copies of the bill until yesterday.
And State Attorney Ken Salazar said he will not represent Colorado in the “inevitable, expensive” lawsuits that would follow.
State legislatures are required to redraw congressional district boundaries to divide the state into areas of equal population while keeping communities of interest intact. Because of Colorado’s rapid growth in the 1990s, the state had to add a seventh district after 2000 Census population numbers were tallied. The new district is represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., who won the seat with a 121-vote margin.
The new map would expand the 7th District to include Arapahoe and Elbert counties, currently in the 6th District, thus adding 27,000 more Republicans to the voting ranks in the state’s newest district. It would also reduce minority representation in the 7th District from 20 percent to 14 percent.
Democrats are vehemently opposed to the bill, particularly because legislators have yet to address many major issues, and today is the last day of the session.
Salazar, a Democrat, said redistricting shouldn’t take place every two years after elections. Republicans, however, say the congressional districts drawn up by a judge last year were only temporary and that the Legislature has the right to change them.
Salazar said he also is worried about the precedent the bill would set for other states. He said it would remove stability in the U.S. Congress.
An aide said Monday that mayhem broke out in the Senate as Democrats tried to delay discussion on the bill by walking to the podium to cast their votes and explaining why they voted. Two staffers quit and one staffer was in tears after Republicans refused to let Democrats make amendments to the bill, saying Democrats failed to submit the proposed changes in the correct format.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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