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Eye On Boise

Good news for redistricters: They have two extra days on the clock

Idaho's citizen redistricting commission got some good news today - it actually has two more days than it thought to reach an agreement on legislative and congressional district plans. A check of statutes showed that the first day, when the commission was convened, doesn't count toward its 90-day deadline; that means the deadline falls on Sept. 5, instead of Sept. 4, and Sept. 5 happens to be Labor Day - so the deadline falls at 5 p.m. the next day, Sept. 6.

"I guess we're going to be working Labor Day weekend, by the looks of it," said GOP Commissioner Lorna Finman. But with the clock ticking, the added time could be valuable. "We are all glad to see that," she said. "Hopefully we do something that serves the citizens."

Commissioners struck a conciliatory note this afternoon, after degenerating over recent weeks into an ugly, combative, finger-pointing impasse. GOP Co-Chairman Evan Frasure had praise for a new plan submitted by Democratic commissioners, L-46, and assured the Democrats, "We do hold the Constitution in the highest regard." The two sides have been sparring over whether the constitutional ban on dividing counties whenever possible should override the statutory requirement for connecting roads within legislative districts, unless five commissioners vote to waive that requirement.

Frasure said it's that statutory requirement that's pushed the GOP legislative district proposals up to 11 county splits, and said, "We realize that's a lot of county splits." The latest Democratic plan divides seven counties, up from six in their first proposal; Frasure said there may be some middle ground between the two parties' positions. "We see progress, and we're encouraged," he said.

The commission will reconvene in the morning at 10; after tomorrow's meeting, it's off for a week and a half before it reconvenes. Republican still don't like the sprawling new District 2 the Democrats are drawing in North Idaho, and Democrats still don't like GOP plans to pair half a district's worth of Ada County with Boise County and points east; there are other big disagreements, too. But both sides were optimistic this afternoon that compromise can be found. Said GOP Commissioner Lou Esposito, "I don't think failure is an option. ... We've been been empowered to do a job, and we're going to figure out how to get the job done."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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