Today, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former Controller Steve Westly discuss overhauling the state's method of drawing legislative districts. Previously, they debated what impact Proposition 93 would have on legislators' time in office, the effect of the current term-limits law on California politics and why voters support term limits. Poizner and Westly will conclude their debate tomorrow.

Another year, the same broken promise


Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez — the powerful legislative leaders who are behind, and stand to benefit from, Proposition 93 — have promised for years they would pass meaningful redistricting reform. In 2005, I fought hard for redistricting reform with Proposition 77. We lost, but because of that effort Perata and Nuñez personally pledged to pass redistricting reform.

As 2006 came and went without redistricting reform, these legislators pushed a new idea of combining changes to term limits with redistricting reform as a means to gain support for their effort to stay in office longer.

"We can't put one on the ballot without the other," Nuñez told reporters in 2006.

But they did. This year they broke their promise and failed — once again — to pass redistricting reform.

The need for redistricting reform to restore legislative accountability is clear. Of the 459 possible elections for state Assembly, state Senate and Congress since the 2001 gerrymander of California's legislative districts, only a single seat changed partisan hands. In those same 459 elections, only a single incumbent lost.

If Proposition 93 passes, it would weaken term limits — the one check on legislators that currently exists. It would also damage any hope for real redistricting reform.

In fact, the absence of redistricting reform is why former Gov. Pete Wilson this week announced his opposition to Proposition 93. He's absolutely correct that Proposition 93, without addressing redistricting, is "incomplete reform."

But don't take my word for it. All major newspapers in the state that have so far taken a position on Proposition 93 have come out against it, correctly describing it as a "scam." If I can be forgiven for citing other papers while writing on The Times' website, it's worth reading what these newspapers have to say about Proposition 93 and redistricting reform.

The San Jose Mercury News declared, "Expanding term limits without adopting redistricting reform will throw a system that favors incumbents further out of balance, and it will make redistricting reform all but impossible to achieve. It would be like building an airplane with one wing. The initiative deserves to crash and burn."

The Fresno Bee announced its opposition by saying, "Nuñez and Perata originally promised to couple Proposition 93 with changes in the way legislative district boundaries are drawn in California.... But as they've done before, they reneged on those promises — this time without even bothering to offer the mealy-mouthed excuses they've come up with in the past. That is enough by itself to cost them any hope of support for Proposition 93."

The Riverside Press-Enterprise opposed Proposition 93 by saying, "Prop. 93 would set the table for more of the status quo. If the measure passes, politicians with a long record of putting self-interest first will stay in place to draw the district lines after the 2010 census — shaping California elections through 2020."

Currently, Perata and Nuñez are set to be termed out. If Proposition 93 passes, Nuñez could remain as speaker until 2014 — near the end of the next governor's first term in office — and Perata could be in charge of the Senate until 2012. Proposition 93 is simply an arrogant power grab by these politicians.

The cynical politicians behind Proposition 93 don't deserve to be rewarded with more time in office. Real political and legislative reform means defeating the self-serving Proposition 93 and pursuing meaningful redistricting reform.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner was elected in 2006 and is chairman of the No on Proposition 93 campaign.