OLYMPIA--In an effort to resolve conflicts over the redrawing Washington's political boundaries, the State Redistricting Commission is scheduling weekly meetings and splitting up into "bipartisan" subcommittees.
At their monthly meeting Tuesday, commissioners acknowledged they are far apart on plans for legislative and congressional boundaries. Legislative maps proposed last month by the commission's two Republican members have major differences from the maps proposed by the two Democratic members.
And they're running out of time. State law requires at least three members of the commission agree to plans to be submitted to the Legislature by January.
All four agreed to a plan by Commissioner Tom Huff to split into bipartisan teams of one Republican and one Democratic appointee and try to come up with acceptable legislative boundaries for different regions of the state. Slade Gorton, the Senate Republicans' appointee, will work with Tim Ceis, the Senate Democrats' pick; Huff, the House Republicans' appointee will work with Dean Foster, the House Democrats' pick.
They'll start with the West Side, one group starting from the north and the other from the southwest and try rework boundaries for those legislative districts. Then they'll move on to other regions in Central and Eastern Washington. The legislative maps proposed last month have significant differences for Spokane and some southeast counties. (Click here to read a previous post on how the different plans affect Spokane and surrounding areas.)
"I don't think I'd liked to be here at Christmas time," Huff said.
But that will likely require meetings at least once a week, and more often if they reach some decisions on different regions. Under state law, the commission can meet with as little as 24 hours notice.
By meeting into December, however, the commission could run into logistical problems. On Nov. 28, the Legislature is scheduled to begin a special session to discuss budget problems. There may be competition for the hearing room the commission uses in the Senate office building that allows its meetings to be broadcast on TVW.
Foster said he wasn't too worried about scheduling problems: "The Legislature may be pretty accommodating to us."