Wednesday, December 08, 2010

One after another, editorial boards tell lawmakers IL needs sunshine in redistricting process

Some of the fiercest advocates of government transparency – the news media – have joined the choir of Illinoisans who are demanding stronger sunshine requirements in a pending redistricting proposal.

Within the last day, the Bloomington Pantagraph, Champaign News-Gazette noted and the Springfield State Journal-Register each have editorialized in need of improving the public participation portion of Senate Bill 3976.

The bill, which is pending in the House, would mandate that after the release of Census data next spring, lawmakers hold four public hearings to discuss the state’s House and Senate districts and …

And that’s it.

Lawmakers wouldn’t have to show the public proposed maps before they’re approved. They wouldn’t have to take public input on ways to improve those districts. And legislators wouldn’t have to share tools and resources with the public which would empower residents to create their own redistricting proposals.

As the News-Gazette noted: “There's nothing wrong with pre-map hearings. But what about holding public hearings on the map Democratic leaders ultimately propose? How about releasing the census information and allowing various interest groups to draft and propose their own maps? Democrats rejected amendments to do that.”

The Bloomington Pantagraph correctly notes that: “There is nothing requiring public input after the maps and have been drawn — the most critical part.”

And a baffled Springfield State Journal-Register questions why, as we approach the two-year anniversary of Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s arrest on corruption charges, lawmakers have yet to embrace one of the simplest reform possible: Sunshine. “It’s as if legislative leaders simply can’t quite let go of the old ways,” the editorial board laments.

We agree.

The bill currently awaits action in the House, which is scheduled to come back into session in early January.

That gives lawmakers ample time to respond to these criticisms by beefing up the transparency mandates in the proposal.

Contact your state representative and state senator and tell them what you think.

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