Arizona Legislatures seek to change redistricting panel

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Steve Yarbrough, President of the Arizona Senate, and J.D. Mesnard, Arizona House Speaker, discuss their plans to change the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

The idea to expand the redistricting commission came from Yarbrough. He says that recently Democrats have “seized control” of the commission, and it has not been operating in an independent fashion.

“The results were not fair nor competitive,” Yarbrough says. “[Democrats] only ended up with three competitive districts, but the results were not fair. [There is a] 8.8 percent deviation in population between districts [that] is fundamentally not fair. I think we need to get rid of that kind of deviation.”

Yarbrough’s final plan that he brought to the floor was increasing the current commission of five people – two from each major party and one Independent – to a commission of nine – three for all three parties. He proposes that two of the Independents be chosen by legislative leaders, which wasn’t a favorable idea on the floor he says. It may come down to the appellate court commission to vet the independents and choose them.

Mesnard co-sponsored the proposal. He sees that the one Independent in the current commission has too much power in their swing vote, and it’s “inappropriate.” He mentions that other states have shown success in having a 3-3-3 redistricting commission setup.

“I suspect there is flexibility with making that process [of choosing the Independents] as apolitical as it can possibly be,” Mesnard says. “The real big ticket items are you need to expand the commission to nine and have more equal districts because without that it is fundamentally unfair.”

Related: Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, spoke on Horizon last night on why he disagrees with the idea of expanding the commission.

Besides working together on changing the commission, the House Speaker and Senate President are also composing a code of conduct together following the expulsion of Don Shooter from the house on sexual harassment claims.

“I wish it [a code of conduct] weren’t necessary,” Yarbrough says. “I wish we can have it against the rules to be stupid. Apparently that isn’t efficient so we’re going to have to define some of the things that make up stupid.”

TED SIMONS: TIME FOR OUR WEEKLY LEGISLATIVE UPDATE, AND TONIGHT IT'S THE REPUBLICANS TURN AND WE WELCOME SENATE PRESIDENT STEVE YARBROUGH AND HOUSE SPEAKER J.D. MESNARD. GOOD TO SEE YOU BOTH AGAIN, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. BIG STORY ON THE SENATE SIDE HERE, EXPANDING, CHANGING, THE REDISTRICTING COMMISSION. WE HAD SENATOR QUEZADA ON LAST NIGHT, HE’S AGAINST THIS IDEA. THIS IS YOUR IDEA. TALK TO US HERE.

STEVE YARBROUGH: IT IS INDEED MY IDEA. WE HAVE DONE THE REDISTRICTING TWICE IN THE LAST 20 YEARS. THE FIRST TIME THE REPUBLICANS MANAGED TO CONTROL IT. THE SECOND TIME THE DEMOCRATS COMPLETELY SEIZED CONTROL OF IT. IT HAS NOT BEEN OPERATING IN AN INDEPENDENT FASHION. I THINK WE CAN DO BETTER. THIS IS NOT SCRIPTURE. IT IS NOT SACRED. IT CAN BE DONE BETTER, AND I HAVE A PLAN, WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF THE SPEAKER, TO SEND IT TO THE VOTERS.

TED SIMONS: DEMOCRATS SAY THAT MAYBE THE CONTROL DID LEAN, THEY WOULD SAY, TO THE DEMOCRATIC SIDE. YOU SAY COMPLETE CONTROL. THEY SAY LEAN. THEY WOULD GO THAT FAR, BUT THEY ALSO SAY THAT DOESN'T MATTER. THE RESULTS WERE FAIR AND COMPETITIVE. DO THEY HAVE A POINT?

STEVE YARBROUGH: NO. THE RESULTS WERE NEITHER FAIR NOR COMPETITIVE. THEY ONLY ENDED UP WITH THREE COMPETITIVE DISTRICTS, BUT THE RESULTS WERE NOT FAIR. A 8.8% DEVIATION IN POPULATION BETWEEN DISTRICTS IS FUNDAMENTALLY NOT FAIR. I THINK WE NEED TO GET RID OF THAT KIND OF A DEVIATION. WE SHOULD NOT HAVE DISTRICTS WITH 25,000 MORE PEOPLE THAN OTHER DISTRICTS. THAT MEANS THAT SOMEBODY'S VOTE IS WORTH .9 AS MUCH AS SOMEONE ELSES.

TED SIMONS: THE COMISSION HAD FIVE, WAS MADE UP OF FIVE. TWO REPUBLICANS. TWO DEMOCRATS. ONE INDEPENDENT. YOU NOW ARE LOOKING FOR-IS IT NINE? OR IS IT EIGHT? WE’VE GOT TO NINE NOW?

STEVE YARBROUGH: WELL, IT’S NINE AFTER THIS AFTERNOON. I AMENDED THE BILL. IT IS NOW NINE, WHICH BASICALLY, IN MY VIEW, MAKES IT LESS LIKELY THAT IT’S IS GOING TO BE HIJACKED.

TED SIMONS: THREE REPUBLICANS. THREE DEMOCRACTS. THREE INDEPENDENTS. REPUBLICANS GET TO CHOOSE THEIRS, I UNDERSTAND. DEMOCRATS GET TO CHOOSE THEIRS. WHO GETS TO CHOOSE THE INDEPENDENTS?

STEVE YARBROUGH: WELL RIGHT NOW I HAVE IT WITH TWO OF THE INDEPENDENTS BEING CHOSEN BY LEGISLATIVE LEADERS. I MET A LOT OF BLOWBACK ON THAT ON THE FLOOR TODAY. WE MAY SWITCH THAT AND ALLOW ALL THREE INDEPENDENTS TO PERHAPS BE VETTED AND COME FORWARD FROM THE APPELLATE COURT COMMISSION IN A POOL.

TED SIMONS: WHY NOT EVERYONE COMING FORWARD FROM THE APPELLATE COURT COMMISSION?

STEVE YARBROUGH: WELL IT ACTUALLY IS A POLITICAL PROCESS. LEGISLATIVE LEADERS SHOULD BE ABOUT REDISTRICTING EVEN IF WE HAVE A COMMISSION. I THINK THAT BELONGS IN THE HANDS OF THE LEGISLATIVE LEADERS.

TED SIMONS: WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS IDEA?

J.D. MESNARD: I CO-SPONSORED IT. I THINK THERE IS WIDE UNDERSTANDING THAT SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE. CONCENTRATING THAT MUCH POWER IN ONE SWING PERSON'S, THE CHAIR’S, HANDS IS JUST INAPPROPRIATE. WE DON'T DO THAT ANYWHERE ELSE. WHEN YOU LOOK AT WHAT OTHER STATES DO WHO HAVE AN INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION, OR ARE SUPPOSED TO, LIKE CALIFORNIA, THEY DO A THREE, THREE AND THREE. THERE IS A LOT OF MERIT TO THAT, IN ADDITION TO THE IDEA THAT EQUALITY IS FOUNDATIONAL IN OUR ELECTION SYSTEM AND THE IDEA THAT YOU CAN HAVE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO ARE UNDERREPRESENTED IS JUST REALLY OFFENSIVE TO MOST PEOPLE OUT THERE.

TED SIMONS: KEEPING THE APPELLATE COURT COMMISSION FOR THE THREE INDEPENDENTS, SOUNDS LIKE A PRETTY GOOD IDEA?

J.D. MESNARD: THAT'S OBVIOUSLY GETTING INTO THE PROCESS. I SUSPECT THERE IS FLEXIBILITY WITH MAKING SURE THAT PROCESS IS AS APOLITICAL AS IT CAN POSSIBLY BE. AT THE END OF THE DAY THE REAL BIG TICKETS ITEMS ARE THAT YOU NEED TO EXPAND THE COMMISSION TO NINE AND YOU NEED TO HAVE MORE EQUAL DISTRICTS BECAUSE WITHOUT THAT IT IS FUNDAMENTALLY UNFAIR.

TED SIMONS: SOME SAY YOU ALSO NEED TO FIND OUT THE DETAILS OF THAT PROBE, THE INVESTIGATION INTO DON SHOOTER. YOU ARE KEEPING SOME OF THIS SECRET OR AT LEAST NOT TRANSPARENT. WHY?

J.D. MESNARD: THAT'S JUST NOT RIGHT AT ALL. THE REPORT WAS COMPREHENSIVE. IN FACT, MOST PEOPLE'S NAMES WERE IN THE REPORT. THE ONLY THINGS THAT WERE KEPT PRIVATE WERE KEPT PRIVATE TO PROTECT THE VICTIMS THAT CAME FORWARD. IF SOMEONE CAN SHOW ME HOW TO RELEASE THAT INFORMATION WITHOUT HAVING A CHILLING EFFECT ON ANY OTHER VICTIMS OUT THERE COMING FORWARD, I’M ALL EARS. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY, THAT COMPREHENSIVE REPORT LED TO THE EXPULSION OF A MEMBER, SO IT WAS EFFECTIVE. THE VICTIM'S PRIVACY WAS INTACT, AND I THINK THAT’S PARAMOUNT.

TED SIMONS: AND YET YOU HAVE SOME LAWMAKERS, REPUBLICANS, SAYING THE PUBLIC DESERVES TO KNOW THE DETAILS OF IT, THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW SOMETHING THAT THE PUBLIC PAID FOR.

J.D. MESNARD: THEY DO. THAT’S WHAT THE REPORT IS. IT IS A COMPREHENSIVE EXPLAINATION OF THE VARIOUS ACCUSATIONS AND WHAT THEY FOUND. A LOT OF WHAT IS BEING TARGETED IS ACTUALLY SOMETHING THAT DIDN'T END UP RELATING TO A LAWMAKER DIRECTLY. A LAWMAKER WASN’T INVOLVED, SOMEBODY ELSE, A LOBBIEST WAS. IF LAW ENFORCEMENT WANTS TO PURSUE IT, I'LL BE HAPPY TO BE AS HELPFUL AS WE CAN BE IN THAT LAW ENFORCEMENT PROCESS.

TED SIMONS: AGAIN, FELLOW REPUBLICS ARE SAYING THAT BECAUSE SOME OF THIS IS BEING KEPT PRIVATE, THE PUBLIC STILL HAS SOME DOUBTS. YOU CAN'T MOVE FORWARD IF THERE IS STILL SOME DOUBT. DO YOU HAVE A POINT THERE?

J.D. MESNARD: I DON'T THINK SO. I HAVEN’T HEARD OF ANYBODY HAVING DOUBTS, OUTSIDE OF A FEW OF MY COLLEAUGES, WHOM I RESPECT, AND SOME IN THE MEDIA WHO WANT TO GET THEIR HANDS ON WHATEVER THEY THINK WASN'T IN THE REPORT. AGAIN, IF THEY CAN SHOW ME HOW THIS IS NOT GOING TO HAVE A CHILLING EFFECT ON VICTIM’S COMING FORWARD IN THE FUTURE, I’LL CONSIDER IT. UNTIL THAT TIME I’M GOING TO BE PROTECTING VICTIMS.

TED SIMONS: WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ALL THAT? I KNOW, DIFFERENT CHAMBER, NOT YOUR PROBLEM NECESSARILY, BUT YOU ARE WORKING TOGETHER ON A CODE OF CONDUCT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE INVESTIGATION, KEEPING SOME OF IT PRIVATE TO PROTECT THE WITNESSES?

STEVE YARBROUGH: I'M GOING TO DEFER TO THE SPEAKER WHO IS ENORMOUSLY MORE FAMILIAR WITH ALL OF THAT PROCESS THAN I HAVE BEEN. I HAVE MANAGED AT LEAST TO DODGE THE MOST RECENT BULLET. WE'LL LEAVE IT AT THAT.

TED SIMONS: WHAT ABOUT THE BEHAVIORAL CODE OF CONDUCT? WHY IS THAT NECESSARY FOR LAWMAKERS?

STEVE YARBROUGH: I WISH IT WEREN'T NECESSARY. THE SPEAKER SAID THAT. I SAID I WISH WE COULD JUST HAVE A RULE AND SAY IT’S AGAINST THE RULES TO BE STUPID, BUT APPARENTLY THAT ISN’T SUFFICENT. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO DEFINE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT MAKE UP STUPID, AND THEN WE’LL HOPEFULLY SEE THAT WORK.

TED SIMONS: WILL MEMBER ON MEMBER RETALIATION BE DEFINED AS STUPID?

J.D. MESNARD: IT CERTAINLY SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED. OBVIOUSLY DEFINING WHAT RETALIATION IS WILL BE TRICKY. YOU CAN HAVE ONE PERSON FROM ONE PARTY SAYING YOU ARE RETALIATING AGAINST ME AND IT’S REALLY JUST POLITICS. YOU’VE GOT TO BE VERY SPECIFIC. BUT RETALIATION FOR DOING SOMETHING IMMORAL, UNETHICAL, IMPROPER SHOULD NOT BE OKAY.

TED SIMONS: PUNITIVE MEASURES GOING TO BE INCLUDED IN THIS CODE OF CONDUCT?

STEVE YARBROUGH: WELL ULTIMATELY, IF A PERSON VIOLATES THE CODE OF CONDUCT,THAT WOULD LIKELY GO TO THE ETHICS COMMITTEE WHICH HAS VARIOUS OPTIONS INCLUDING THE POWER TO RECOMMEND EXPULSION.

TED SIMONS: DO YOU THINK PUNITIVE MEASURES SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN THE CODE ITSELF?

J.D. MESNARD: ABSOLUTELY. I DO THINK THE PURPOSE OF THE CODE IS TO THEN BE ABLE TO APPLY THE APPROPRIATE PUNISHMENT, WHETHER IT IS SMALLER OR THE FULL EXPULSION. I THINK THAT WILL HELP. WE DON’T REALLY HAVE MUCH. I THINK MOST, THE PRIVATE SECTOR HAS A CODE OF CONDUCT, OTHER AGENCIES DO. IT’S TIME FOR THE LEGISLATURE TO HAVE ONE.

TED SIMONS: THINGS SETTLING DOWN OVER THERE FINALLY?

J.D. MESNARD: I THINK SO, BUT TOMORROW’S A NEW DAY, SO WE’LL SEE.

TED SIMONS HOW ABOUT YOU?

STEVE YARBROUGH: WELL WE’VE GOT THE ELECTION BEHIND US. MY TWO SENATORS WENT OUT AND RAN AGAINST EACH OTHER. I'M GLAD THAT’S OVER WITH.

TED SIMONS: ALRIGHT, NO MORE BOBBING AND WEAVING I GUESS. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE.

J.D. MESNARD: THANK YOU

STEVE YARBROUGH THANKS, TED.

Steve Yarbrough: (R) Senate President
J.D. Mesnard: (R) House Speaker

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