State Sen. Alex Padilla, the Democratic Party nominee for Secretary of State, has proposed legislation that, if passed, will allow the Secretary to act as a “czar” over local redistricting plans, rejecting those deemed unfair to minority voters. Effectively, Padilla is imposing the kind of “pre-clearance” requirement the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in its recent ruling on the Civil Rights Act–and running to ensure that he wields that vast power.
Steven Greenhut, columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, notes that Padilla’s effort, AB 280, is part of a trend by Democrats and special interest groups to create a new set of “czars” in state government–not just over local politics but over such matters as health insurance rates. Padilla is in the unique position of attempting to boost the powers of the very office for which he is running, signaling his vast ambitions to California voters.
Padilla currently trails Republican Pete Peterson narrowly in the race for Secretary of State. Peterson, who is the executive director of the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, has avoided such contentious issues. Instead, his campaign has focused on simplifying small business registration and improving the state’s voter databases and absentee voting rates, currently among the worst in the nation.
In addition to proposing the “redistricting czar” measure, Padilla is also behind the legislative effort to ban plastic bags in California, an effort strongly opposed by both the manufacturers of both paper and plastic bags. Concerns about job losses have held up such bills in past years, but recent political deals have lowered the political opposition in Sacramento to a plastic bag ban, and Padilla’s legislation may soon come up for a vote.