Newsom Offers a Mixed Bag for Redistricting Reform Bills

Gov. Gavin Newsom has vetoed a bill that would have required cities and counties with more than 300,000 residents, or school and college districts with over 500,000 residents, to establish independent redistricting commissions. 

AB 1248 was authored by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) after a disturbing discussion between three L.A. council members was leaked to the public. In addition to making racist and homophobic comments, the officials discussed how they could get their council-appointed redistricting commission to draw maps that would keep them in office. 

“While I share the author’s goal of ensuring community input over the redistricting process, this bill creates a state-reimbursable mandate in the tens of millions and should therefore be considered in the annual budget process,” Newsom wrote in his veto message.  

In 2019, Newsom vetoed similar legislation that applied specifically to counties.  

Newsom did sign another redistricting reform bill authored by Bryan this session — AB 764. This legislation aims to strengthen the Fair Maps Act (FMA) by expanding redistricting criteria, increasing civic participation requirements, and prohibiting incumbency protection. It also expands FMA requirements to large school districts.

The governor also signed two county-specific bills. AB 34 (Valencia) will require an independent redistricting commission for the Orange County Board of Supervisors and AB 314 (Ashby) will require an independent redistricting commission for Sacramento County supervisor districts.

A number of counties already have citizen redistricting commissions for their supervisor districts. These include Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego.