A 'Voter Redistricting Czar'? How About Not.

A California Democrat is cooking up something very un-democratic.


SACRAMENTO — Two prominent California politicians are using their current political powers to advance political changes — in one case a bill, in another an initiative — that would give them vast new powers if they win statewide office in November. Critics find it tacky at best.

In one case, Sen. Alex Padilla, the Los Angeles Democrat who is running for secretary of state, is the principal coauthor on a bill (AB 280) that would require any local redistricting plans to be approved by the secretary of state. It would provide more than $2 million annually to that office.

In the other case, state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who is running for a second term, has been a prime supporter of a trial-attorney-backed initiative (Proposition 45) that would allow the insurance commissioner to control health-insurance rates, turning him into the de facto "insurance czar." His support of the initiative is so deep that legislators have questioned him about it at a Capitol hearing.

The Padilla-backed bill is part of a package of bills by California's legislative Latino Caucus to address a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year (Shelby v. Holder) that removes the requirement that federal officials "pre-clear" any changes to certain state and local voting laws. That requirement was part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which applied mostly to Southern states, but also to a handful of California counties that had been accused of discrimination.

One Padilla-backed bill would mandate outside legal review of any California localities that create district-based elections to make sure that the new districts are not discriminating against minority voters. And now this one would restore the type of "pre-clearance" requirements stripped by the Supreme Court — and place it in the hands of the secretary of state rather than the attorney general. He would get to approve or deny the new local districts.

If he beats Republican Pete Peterson for the state's top election office, this could give Padilla "the power to be the redistricting czar in California," said Alan Clayton, a longtime redistricting expert who has worked to expand Latino representation. (AB 280 is on the suspense file, but could come back before the end of session.)

Regarding the insurance commissioner: If Proposition 45 passes, it would pay consumer/legal groups known as "intervenors" large legal fees to challenge rate adjustments proposed by insurers, in an administrative process that can take months or years to resolve. The result, according to a report produced by opponents of the proposition, "would severely disrupt Covered California's ability to manage the newly reformed marketplace."

That initiative is pitting trial-lawyer-backed Democrats such as Jones against Democrats who are big backers of Obamacare. Certainly, the insurance commissioner is free to back whatever initiative he wants to back, but the commissioner recently released an official report pointing to large hikes in premiums after the state's insurance exchange went into effect last year.

The Los Angeles Times referred to the report as "the first shot … in (Jones') campaign for more authority over health insurance premiums …" given that Jones argues that the only thing keeping future rate hikes in check is the fear of Proposition 45's passage.

But some state legislators believe it's wrong for a top state official to release an official taxpayer-funded study that helps a political initiative that would give that official enormous new powers. In testimony at a joint legislative hearing in July, Jones denied that he has used any department resources to boost the campaign.

Proposition 45 opponents point to a public-records act request that shows emails in which department employees seem to provide advice to its drafters on the language of the proposed initiative. I called Jones' office for a comment, and they sent me to a pro-Proposition 45 campaign number, which seems oddly appropriate. (No one there returned my call.)

I'm not naïve enough to think that politicians aren't going to play politics with their office. But voters should at least be aware of how shamefully transparent — tacky, if you will — they can be at times.


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  1. Before he was elected Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones tried to pass a bill requiring pet insurance companies to ignore pre-existing conditions when issuing policies. So by all means let’s give this dim bulb more power.

    1. Dim bulb, or does he just hate animals?

      1. I’m sure he loves animals, if it’s cold enough.

        More proof that the CA Insurance Commissioner doesn’t understand how insurance works. So let’s give him more authority over rate-setting — that’ll turn out well.

  2. Czars in a one-party state.

    What could go wrong?

    “(Proposition 45) that would allow the insurance commissioner to control health-insurance rates, turning him into the de facto “insurance czar.”

    Actually, the motivation for this is so clear, this might be what they mean by “transparency”. I can see right through them!

    We’d be better off appointing Gray Davis to set electricity rates.

    1. And yet these clowns get elected by margins of 65/35 because the “educated elites” of this state think the only alternative is some inbred deformity Strom Thurmond/Larry the Cable Guy hybrid.

      Someone get me the hell outta here…

      1. Yeah, in California, all politics is national.

        They vote for Democrats because of what anti-immigration Republicans are doing in Arizona.

        They vote for Democrats because of anti-gay marriage rhetoric from the South.

        They vote for Democrats because of what some idiot Republican in Missouri says about “legitimate rape”.

        The Republican brand is so tarnished in California, they can’t even come out ahead even when various Democrat constituencies are at each others’ throats (see environmentalists vs. California ag.)

        They talk about splitting up the states, seriously, as if that’s more realistic than the Republican Party becoming relevant again. And I’m starting to wonder if splitting the state is more realistic than resuscitating the California GOP myself.

        The only hope on the horizon? If the GOP rebrands itself as a code word for libertarian. And Hillary Clinton may provide an opening, there, especially if Rand Paul makes a serious bid for the Republican nomination.

        Again, if all politics in California is national–and Hillary is fundamentally more of a necon war-hawk than Rand Paul? That may trickle down and provide an opening for some viable alternative to the Democrats in California.

        1. I thought when given a chance California voted against illegal aliens and homosexual marrage. Judges are the onew who through out those laws.

          1. Yeah, they won some battles–and winning those battles lost them the war.

            Ever heard of giving people enough rope to hang themselves with?

            Those things just served to give credibility to the suggestion that the religious conservative racists hiding under their beds really were a threat to take over the state.

            Prop 187 and Prop 8 must be the two worst things that have happened to the California GOP since the 1980s. The ultimate effects of Prop 187 were so bad, the only Republicans that could get elected to any position that mattered afterwards was himself an immigrant.

      2. Sudden|8.15.14 @ 12:58PM|#
        “And yet these clowns get elected by margins of 65/35 because the “educated elites” of this state think the only alternative is some inbred deformity Strom Thurmond/Larry the Cable Guy hybrid.”

        In their defense, the GOP in CA has decided that the major issue needing attention is whether little Johnny might have to share a can with someone who ‘identifies’ as a male.
        So the GOP has gone the distance to make their brand a laughingstock.

        1. John beat me to it; RTFC, Sevo!

          1. Man, I haven’t started drinking yet…
            Ken (not John) beat me to it.

        2. I guess when the marginal supporters have all left your party, the only people left are the true believers.

          If they have to support Rand Paul for president, things may change.

  3. OT: This Taboola shit has gotten out of control, and I mean that as a general observation across the Internet. It’s fucking everywhere.

  4. It sounds like Prop 45 might speed up the self-destruction of ACA. In that case, maybe it’s a good thing.

  5. I remember when Fox News’ Gretchen Carlson started a point by saying: “People use the word ‘czar’ so I looked up the word in the dictionary and it means…” and she proceeded to give the viewer its definition.

    (She also had to look up the word ‘ignoramus’ and then followed up with a slightly incorrect definition of the word).

    1. And if it were KD Couric (or Katie, or whatever her name is), she wouldn’t have known what a dictionary even was.

      If it were David Gregory, he would complained about someone misspelling “zar”.

      Had it been Walter Cronkite, he would have glazed eyes if someone mentioned “freedom and liberty”.

  6. CA critics of Dems are ignored. This is a one-party state and no ‘critics’ are going to affect that.

  7. The epiphany of hypocracy. Several years ago, we(CA) had a big redistricting task force. This was about the time the Dems were becoming the 1 party rulers. Well, story after story broke as to who getting paid off by who and who was really working for parties with vested interest. A big corrupted sham, but the stories faded and are now forgotten.

    This is what you get with a single power put into play not by voters, but by powerful well fiananced interests. What happens in Cali eventually sweeps the nation.

  8. My cooly executed plans to escape this state are coming to fruition. I thank God every day to show me the folly of this utopic cesspool.

  9. More evidence that Progs are evil minions from hell.

  10. California is a hair’s width away from being Venezuela. The next step after that, you’ll be calling it Cambodia.

    Go ahead. Laugh. I freak’n dare you.

    Land of the free and home of the brave? Now you’ve got me laughing.

  11. It’s almost like you’re suggesting that government seeks to empower itself.

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