GOP redistricting bill is premature

The provisions outlined in a Republican bill to govern congressional redistricting in Colorado make a great deal of sense and would be good for western Colorado.

No wonder Club 20, the Western Slope advocacy group, supports them.

We support many of the items in the bill as well, especially provisions that would keep the Western Slope and Eastern Plains intact within their separate congressional districts. We argued for that very thing earlier this year.

The problem with House Bill 1276 — and it’s a big one — is the timing.

As a story by The Daily Sentinel’s Gary Harmon made clear Wednesday, the bill is up for a committee hearing in the Legislature March 19.

That’s the very day that a bipartisan redistricting committee, formed at the beginning of this year, is to hold a meeting at Mesa State College to take input about redistricting plans. The group is mandated to make a recommendation to the entire Legislature by April 14.

The redistricting commission was a group created by leaders of both parties in an effort to prevent the sort of partisan rancor that marred redistricting efforts a decade ago. It includes some of the most conservative members of the Legislature, such as Rep. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, as well as some of the most liberal ones, like Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder.

HB 1276 is already reviving partisan rancor since its introduction last Friday. Sponsored by Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio and Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and nine other Republicans, it resurrects a partisan fight that began in 2004 and resumed last year over specific directions to judges about what they may consider during redistricting.

The Republicans’ arguments in that respect aren’t without merit. And House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, was off base in claiming HB 1276 would create “narrowly drawn, gerrymandered districts.” In fact, it seeks to prevent that.

But, again, why not wait until the redistricting commission has completed its work and put forth a recommendation — perhaps one that can draw support from both parties in the Legislature — before raising an issue that is guaranteed to stir up partisan differences.

Even if it passes the House committee on March 19 and eventually wins approval by the full House, HB 1276 is unlikely to meet with any success in the Democratically controlled Senate.

By then, the work of the redistricting committee should be nearing completion. Here’s hoping that its recommendations are broad-based enough to win the support of both parties.


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