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A bill to create an independent Redistricting Commission

Submitted by: Frank Sims

SPONSOR: Sen. Blevins & Rep. Kowalko;
Sens. Bushweller, Connor, Ennis, Hall-Long, Henry,
Peterson, Simpson, Sokola; Reps. Keeley, Schooley

DELAWARE STATE SENATE
145th GENERAL ASSEMBLY
 
SENATE BILL NO. 20

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 29 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO THE REAPPORTIONMENT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF DELAWARE:

Section 1. Amend §805, Title 29 of the Delaware Code by striking said section in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the following: “§805. Redistricting after federal decennial census; authorization of state redistricting commission.

(a) The apportionment provided for by this chapter shall continue in effect until the official reporting by the President of the United States of the next federal decennial census. After the official reporting of the 2010 federal decennial census by the President to Congress, and each decade thereafter, a Commission organized pursuant to this section shall be authorized to redistrict the legislative districts of the State Senate and the House of Representatives. The Commission shall be known as ‘The Redistricting Commission for the State of Delaware’. The Commission shall have the power to adopt rules related to its operations and the redistricting process, and shall submit the proposed rules to the General Assembly. The rules shall become final unless rejected by a majority of the members of both Houses of the General Assembly within fifteen days of their submission.

(b) The Commission shall continue in existence until a final plan of redistricting of the General Assembly for the following ten-year cycle becomes law. The Commission may be recalled to work by the General Assembly if the need arises for an interim redistricting.

(c) The Commission shall be composed of eleven members, ten of whom shall be appointed. Each county and the City of Wilmington shall have at least one member. By January 15th of each year ending in one, the Speaker of the House, the House Majority Leader, the House Majority Whip, the House Minority Leader, the House Minority Whip, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Majority Whip, the Senate Minority Leader, and the Senate Minority Whip shall each appoint one member of the Commission. By February 15th of each year ending in one, the Chair of the Commission shall be chosen by a vote of the ten appointed members and shall be a non-voting Chair.

(d) No member of the Commission shall hold elective office. No member of the Commission shall be a registered lobbyist. No member of the Commission shall be permitted to run for the General Assembly in the election following redistricting. No elected official and no officer of a state political party office may serve on the Commission. A Commission member shall not have been an elected official within two years of his or her appointment to the Commission. Each Commission member shall be a resident of the state and a qualified voter. Each member of the Commission shall attest under oath that he or she is willing to serve as a member of the Commission, that he or she is able to serve in a fair and impartial manner, that he or she shall not allow personal, financial, or partisan political interests to affect his or her decisions as a member of the Commission, that he or she is not the subject of a conservatorship, and that he or she agrees to abide by the provisions of Delaware law, the duly adopted rules of the Commission, and any other applicable law.

(e) Should any member of the Commission become unable to serve during the remaining time the Commission is working, the legislator who appointed the member shall appoint a replacement to the Commission.

(f) The Commission may not exercise any of its powers or perform any of its duties until the Chair is elected. The names and addresses of the members of the Commission shall be prominently published in at least two Delaware newspapers of general circulation, within fifteen days of the selection of the Chair.

(g) Six voting members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum for purposes of convening and conducting a meeting, however, seven voting members must approve any motion for it to pass.

(h) In order to familiarize the members of the Commission, including the Chair, with the redistricting process, each of the members of the Commission shall attend a program on the redistricting process, conducted by the Commissioner of Elections.

(i) All meetings of the Commission shall be open to the public and the Commission shall be subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. A Web site shall be created for review by the public and shall contain such information as will assist the public in reviewing, understanding, evaluating, and commenting upon the work of the Commission. The Web site shall, at a minimum, include the names and addresses of all Commission members, the location and schedule for Commission meetings, the agenda for each Commission meeting, any regulations adopted by the Commission, the district maps from the previous redistricting of the State Senate and the House of Representatives, preliminary district maps for the redistricting being conducted by the Commission, and revised district maps prepared by the Commission. At least seven days notice shall be provided for all regular meetings of the Commission. Notice of the Commission's meetings and hearings shall be prominently published in at least two Delaware newspapers of general circulation.

(j) Operations of the Commission shall be funded by the General Assembly. The State of Delaware shall provide the Commission, and a judicial panel appointed pursuant to this section, with such support staff, equipment, computer software, materials, and other resources that are needed to complete the redistricting process.

(k) The Commission may obtain the services of one or more attorneys. Any attorney hired by the Commission must also meet the requirements of §805(d), which apply to Commission members.

(l) Members of the Commission shall be reimbursed for expenses related to their travel in connection with the work of the Commission.

(m) The Preliminary Plans for both the State Senate and the House of Representatives shall be prepared for public distribution and comment by May 30th unless late Census returns cause the Commission's work to begin later than April 1st. Four public hearings shall be held upon completion of the Commission’s Preliminary Plans. One hearing shall be held in each county and one in the City of Wilmington to review the Preliminary Plans. Each hearing shall be open to the public and shall allow for both comments and questions from the public. At least seven days notice shall be given for each hearing.

(n) The Commission shall submit a Final Report and a Final Redistricting Plan to the General Assembly by June 15th.

(o) Unless the Commission’s Final Redistricting Plan is adopted by a majority vote of both Houses of the General Assembly within four weeks of its submission by the Commission, the Plan shall be considered rejected. If the Plan is rejected, it shall be returned to the Commission. After a public hearing, with at least seven days notice, the Commission shall transmit a new redistricting plan to the General Assembly. Unless the new redistricting plan is adopted by a majority vote of the General Assembly within two weeks of its submission by the Commission, the plan shall be considered rejected. If the new redistricting plan is not approved by the General Assembly, the Commission may submit additional modified plans to the General Assembly, after a public hearing is held to review any such modified plan with at least seven days notice to the public. The General Assembly and the Governor shall have until September 30th to enact a redistricting plan. No redistricting plan submitted by the Commission to the General Assembly shall become law unless it is approved by a majority vote of both Houses of the General Assembly and approved by the Governor.

(p) If the General Assembly and the Governor fail to enact a redistricting plan by September 30th, the redistricting of the General Assembly will then be completed by the Chancellor of the State of Delaware and a Superior Court Judge, who shall be appointed by the President Judge of the Delaware Superior Court, and shall be of a different political party than the Chancellor. The judicial plan of redistricting shall be made public by November 1st of the same year and shall be final and lawfully binding. In preparing the judicial plan of redistricting, the Chancellor and the Superior Court Judge may conduct such proceedings as they deem appropriate in their discretion. The judicial plan shall not be subject to change by the General Assembly or to any appellate process.

(q) No redistricting plan adopted pursuant to this section shall alter the composition of the General Assembly or provide for a number of legislative districts different than that established by the General Assembly.

(r) The Commissioner of Elections and the Commission shall work together to ensure that coordination with local and county redistricting efforts is maintained throughout the process. The County Departments of Elections shall make their technical personnel, who are familiar with the redistricting process and the pertinent computer software, available for consultation with the Commission, and a judicial panel appointed pursuant to this section.

(s) In order to assist the work of future redistricting Commissions, by December 1st of the same year, the Commission shall submit a written report to the General Assembly with recommendations for improvements to the redistricting process.”

Section 2. If any provision of this Act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of the Act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to that end the provisions of this Act are declared to be severable.

SYNOPSIS This bill will create an independent Redistricting Commission to reapportion the State Senate and House of Representatives.

Author: Senator Blevins


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