The Lines They Are a-Changin’

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission officially approved the new maps for Assembly districts, State Senate districts, Congressional districts and Board of Equalization districts on August 15.  District lines were formerly drawn by the California Legislature, but thanks to the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 and Proposition 20 in 2010, they are now drawn by the citizen commission.  These new districts will be used for elections over the next decade starting with the June 2012 primary election.

There are certainly some clear repercussions for California politics (incumbent vs. incumbent matchups, more competitive elections and early retirements) and many unknown consequences that will play out over the next decade as this reform is combined with the new open primary system.  These new lines could also impact tobacco control.  Here are the major effects of these new district lines on California’s tobacco control efforts:

  • Goodbye Sacramento, Hello DC – redistricting provides politicians the chance to run for newly created districts and many legislators are taking the chance to run for Congress.  With respect to tobacco control at the state Capitol, this could mean saying goodbye to both leaders on the issue (Sen. Juan Vargas – author of smokefree tot lots bill and smokefree entryways bill and Sen. Michael Rubio – champion on tobacco retailer licensing in Kern County) and those who have opposed tobacco control efforts (Asm. Isadore Hall – who blocked SB 575 from moving forward in the Assembly).
  • Tobacco Tax Time? – while elections are difficult to predict (except of course in California prior to redistricting) analysts who have looked at the new district lines are speculating about the possibility that Democrats could obtain a two-thirds majority in the legislature.  Tobacco taxes, or any other taxes for that matter, have no chance of passing the legislature right now because of the required two-thirds vote for tax increases, but that could change after the 2012 elections.  Of course, the California Cancer Research Act is on the ballot in June 2012, which may make a tobacco tax increase through the Legislature unnecessary.
  • Follow the Money – it will be interesting to see how the tobacco companies spend money in these competitive elections.  Will they choose sides between two supportive members or will they contribute to both to cover their bases?  Stay tuned to throughout the 2011-2012 election cycle for all of the Center’s tobacco money reports.
  • New Faces to Educate – as some legislators try for Congress, get termed out or get matched up against other incumbents, there will be opportunities for new people to run for Assembly and Senate seats.  With term limits there is always a lot of turnover every two years, but there could be even more new faces than usual in 2012.  It will be important to take advantage of New Legislator Orientation, I&E Days and District Days to educate these new legislators on tobacco control.

Can you think of any other effects that redistricting will have on California’s tobacco control work?  What do you think of these new districts?

–Justin Garrett

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