Monday, March 7, 2011

State Rep. J. Paul Brown is just trying to keep things together

When congressional district lines are drawn this year, Ignacio’s Republican Rep. J. Paul Brown says he wants to ensure communities such as his are not sliced up in the process.

His measure, House Bill 1276, introduced Friday, says, among other provisions, that communities of interest must stay together when the lines are redrawn. The bill puts back in place the criteria that existed prior to the passage of last year’s House Bill 10-1408, sponsored by former Democratic Majority Leader Paul Weismann, of Louisville. HB1408 has given more sway to considerations such as party affiliation and creating competitive districts.

Keeping congressional lines wrapped around communities of interest is at the top of the list for Brown.

“It’s important to folks to keep their communities together, especially when they have a lot in common,” said Brown. “My constituents are concerned about things such as water issues, agriculture, and tourism that are particular to their lives.”

Already opposing the bill is Democratic House Minority Leader Sal Pace, of Pueblo, who says the bill flies in the face of the work that has already begun on redistricting.

“This legislation undermines the work of the bipartisan redistricting committee, and it undermines the people of Colorado taking the time and trouble to testify before the committee,” said Pace in a prepared statement.

Redistricting is historically a contentious process because the lines that are drawn every 10 years, based on Census data, can swing a district toward one political party or another. The bipartisan redistricting committee formed by leadership of both parties has been seeking input from voters through town-hall style meetings. Pace says HB 1276 is a step backward.

“Republicans are opting to make up the minds of our smaller communities even before Grand Junction, Alamosa and Pueblo have had an opportunity to have their voices heard,” said Pace. “This plan will manipulate the congressional redistricting process so that we’re stuck with narrowly drawn, gerrymandered districts for the next 10 years.

Still, Brown says that ignoring traditional communities of interest would mute the voices of those communities.

“It’s much harder for a person to represent their constituents when their interests are too varied,” said Brown. “It would effectively dilute their voice.”

Via – Colorado News Agency

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