"The Entire State Is Watching Us"

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That was the big closing thought from the main author of the proposal to again allow voters to weigh in on whether the Legislature should no longer draw its own district maps. And when the votes were tallied, the state Senate approved a redistricting bill this afternoon... the first such vote by a legislative body in the nation.

After a long-- and politically frank-- floor debate, the vote on SCA 3 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) was 27-11... the bare minimum needed to send the measure on to the Assembly, and possibly the ballot.

You'll remember that just 24 hours ago, redistricting reform seemed dead. The legislative leadership had thrown in the towel on efforts to tackle redistricting and term limits reform, and the buzz in the Capitol was that there weren't enough votes for Lowenthal's plan, either.

But today's floor action included speeches from a few senators who were likely the swing votes. One of those might have been Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento), who said it should come as no surprise that redistricting has "always been political," and that legislators have a lot of work to do to regain the public's trust.

Opponents focused primarily on two issues: the fact that SCA 3 still includes a role for judges (this time: helping organize the citizens mapping commission), and that it's not an issue average folks care about. The comments about judges were particularly pointed. "The judiciary is about 89% white male," said Sen. Gloria Romero (D-LA). Others, like Sen. Bill Morrow (R-Oceanside), said that it's wrong to assume that judges are not political themselves.

Even with SCA 3's dramatic 11th hour victory in the Senate, changes in redistricting anytime soon still face big hurdles. The bill now heads to the Assembly, where even Sen. Lowenthal says it may be modified. And given the fact that state elections officials say the deadline for measures on the November ballot is this Friday, a redistricting proposal still may not reach voters until the spring of 2008.

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About John Myers

John Myers is Senior Editor, California Politics & Government for KQED News. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades. He previously served as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC). In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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