Residents push for redistricting commission

Some area residents came loaded with questions Monday for Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, about his move to block a committee vote on statewide redistricting, but had to settle for having their displeasure expressed to other legislators.

Smith called in sick for Monday’s Third House session, which allows constituents to make statements to or ask questions of local legislators.

A couple of speakers among a crowd of 70 asked Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus, and Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, to pass along to Smith that redistricting is critical to the state moving forward before the next census and the state needs to do something now.

Mary Kohen, Columbus, said she had spent a lot of time going back over committee testimony on the bill and was discouraged by Smith’s comments during the committee hearing in which the committee vote was blocked.

Citing the bipartisan report the bill had received, along with having judges and college presidents making up an independent commission to do the redistricting, Kohen said the issue needs to be brought back and taken seriously.

In an earlier interview, Smith, who chairs the Indiana House Elections and Apportionment Committee, said he had concerns with House Bill 1014 because it could waste legislative time and taxpayer dollars and diminish the integrity of the General Assembly.

Smith’s issue with the bill is that it calls for a special legislative session before Oct. 1 of the year redistricting is to happen, with the General Assembly voting on the independent commission’s recommendation — including the option of turning down the recommendation, Smith said.

Then, another special legislative session would have to be called to consider a second recommendation from the independent commission, after which the General Assembly could also turn that proposal down, Smith said.

“My job is to make sure the bill has the right intent,” Smith said of its language.

Smith said if Indiana is going to have an independent redistricting commission, the bill creating one won’t pass out of a committee he chairs unless he is sure it will work.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.