State Lawmakers Decide to Pay Redistricting Commission's Bills

Mar 21, 2012

The state House voted Tuesday to give $700,000 to the Independent Redistricting Commission. But several lawmakers were not happy about it.

The funds are part of $1.1 million that Ray Bladine, the commission's executive director, said is necessary to pay existing bills as well as finance operations through the end of the budget year. But several lawmakers complained that the commission would not have run out of cash had it not spent money battling both a bid by Gov. Jan Brewer to fire the chairwoman and a lawsuit by Attorney General Tom Horne charging the members with violating the state Open Meeting Law -- even if the commission did win both fights. Scottsdale Republican David Smith said his concerns go beyond that.

"This message is a poor message to the taxpayers of the state," said Smith. "We're giving $700,000 with no restrictions, no direction to how they could pay it. They could spend it the way they want to."

He said if the commission wants the money it should justify the needs to lawmakers. Republican Chester Crandell of Heber said those concerns are legitimate. But he pointed out that the constitutional amendment creating the commission requires the Legislature to provide it enough funds to carry out its duties.

"I call it extortion by law," said Crandell. "But we don't have much of a choice in this."

The Senate is set to vote on the same plan this morning.