Bill Text: NH SB8 | 2019 | Regular Session | Amended


Bill Title: Establishing an independent redistricting commission.

Spectrum: Moderate Partisan Bill (Democrat 11-2)

Status: (Engrossed) 2019-04-24 - Retained in Committee [SB8 Detail]

Download: New_Hampshire-2019-SB8-Amended.html

SB 8 - AS AMENDED BY THE SENATE

 

03/28/2019   1197s

03/28/2019   1309s

 

2019 SESSION

19-0972

11/05

 

SENATE BILL 8

 

AN ACT establishing an independent redistricting commission.

 

SPONSORS: Sen. Chandley, Dist 11; Sen. Rosenwald, Dist 13; Sen. Sherman, Dist 24; Sen. Hennessey, Dist 5; Sen. Dietsch, Dist 9; Sen. Levesque, Dist 12; Sen. Cavanaugh, Dist 16; Sen. Fuller Clark, Dist 21; Sen. Feltes, Dist 15; Rep. Belanger, Hills. 27; Rep. Porter, Hills. 1; Rep. Wolf, Merr. 5; Rep. W. Pearson, Ches. 16

 

COMMITTEE: Election Law and Municipal Affairs

 

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ANALYSIS

 

This bill establishes an independent redistricting commission.

 

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

03/28/2019   1197s

03/28/2019   1309s 19-0972

11/05

 

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nineteen

 

AN ACT establishing an independent redistricting commission.

 

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

 

1 Short Title.  This act shall be known as the Fair Maps Act of 2019.

2  New Chapter; Independent Redistricting Commission.  Amend RSA by inserting after chapter 662-A the following new chapter:

CHAPTER 662-B

INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION

662-B:1  Independent Redistricting Commission.

I.  There is hereby established an independent redistricting commission which shall be charged with establishing all election district boundaries for all state and federal elections in New Hampshire.  This commission is established so that henceforth elections shall reflect to the greatest extent possible the wishes of the voters of New Hampshire by eliminating partisan distortions of electoral districts.

II.  The commission shall consist of 15 members of the public.  

III.  No person shall be eligible to serve as a member of the commission if, at any point during the 4 years prior to submitting an application for appointment to the commission, the person:

(a)  Has been a candidate for, or elected to, any federal, state, or county elective public office.

(b)  Served as an officer or employee of, or consultant to, a major political party or a campaign committee of a candidate for federal, state, county, or municipal elective public office.

(c)  Served as an elected or appointed member of the state committee of a political party.

(d)  Has been registered as a paid lobbyist in New Hampshire.

(e)  Has contributed 75 percent or more of the individual campaign contribution limit allowable under the Federal Election Campaign Act, or any successor law that replaces the Federal Election Campaign Act, to any one federal candidate.

IV.  No person shall be eligible to serve as a commission member if he or she is a staff member, consultant to, under a contract with, or a person with an immediate family relationship with the governor, secretary of state, any member of the legislature, or any member of the United States Congress.  As used in this section, a member of a person's immediate family is one with whom the person has a bona fide relationship established through blood or legal relation, including parents, children, siblings, and in-laws.

V.(a)  By joining the commission, a member waives his or her right to hold any state elective public office or to hold any appointed state or local public office for a period of 4 years from the date of appointment to the commission.

(b)  A member of the commission shall not be eligible, for a period of 2 years from the appointment, to serve as an officer or employee of, or as a consultant to, the New Hampshire general court, or any individual legislator in the state or in the United States Congress, or to register as a lobbyist in this state.

662-B:2  Appointment of Commissioners.

I.  The secretary of state shall create an application designed to determine the eligibility of potential commissioners and circulate the application to the public.  These efforts shall include, but not be limited to:

(a)  Advertising the application period and criteria in all daily newspapers in the state for one month.

(b)  Advertising the application period and criteria on the home page of all state agency websites.

(c)  Requesting media to publicize the commission’s search for eligible members.  

II.(a)  A person who is interested in serving as a member of the commission may submit an application to the secretary of state no later than September 1 of each year ending in the number zero.  In addition to conflict of interest eligibility, the secretary of state shall screen applicants for persons who are compromise oriented, are able to be impartial, and have an appreciation for New Hampshire’s diverse demographics and geography.  From all timely and eligible applications received, the secretary of state shall choose 45 applicants who have demonstrated their eligibility no later than the first Wednesday after the first Tuesday of December of each year ending in the number zero.

(b)  The 45 persons so selected shall proportionally represent the 5 current executive council districts.  In addition to fair geographic representation, the secretary of state shall, to the extent practicable, achieve racial, ethnic, and gender diversity within the applicant pool, reflective of the state’s diversity.

(c)  The 45 persons so selected shall be divided into 3 pools:  15 members who are members of the largest political party in the state; 15 members who are members of the next largest political party in the state; and 15 persons who are not members of either the largest or next largest political party in the state.

(d)  The majority and minority leaders in each house of the general court shall review the 45 potential members for a period of up to 3 weeks and may each strike 2 applicants, up to a maximum of 8 total strikes by the 4 legislative leaders in total.

(e)  From the potential members remaining, and no later than January 31 of each year ending in one, the secretary of state shall appoint at random 3 members who are members of the largest political party in the state, 3 members who are members of the next largest political party in the state, and 3 persons who are not members of either the largest or next largest political party in the state.  These 9 members shall then appoint the final 6 members from those persons remaining in the pool.  Of the final 6 members, 2 members shall be members of the largest political party in the state, 2 members shall be members of the next largest political party in the state, and 2 persons shall not be members of either the largest or next largest political party in the state.

III.  In the event of substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office, or inability to discharge the duties of office, a member of the commission may, after being served written notice and given an opportunity for a response, be removed by a vote of 11 members of the commission.  A finding of substantial neglect of duty or gross misconduct in office may result in referral to the New Hampshire attorney general for criminal prosecution.

IV.  Vacancies on the commission shall be filled in the same manner as initial appointments.

V.  The terms of all commissioners shall be 10 years.  A member may be re-appointed upon the expiration of his or her term.  The members shall elect annually a chairperson from among the members.

VI.  No redistricting commission member shall make a contribution, as defined in RSA 664:2, to any candidate for office or political committee for the time they serve on the commission.

VII.  Each commissioner shall be paid $200 a day, or $100 per half-day, plus mileage at the state employee rate while engaged in her or his official duties.  These rates shall be adjusted annually to account for inflation or deflation based on the consumer price index.  The chairperson or his or her designee shall receive his or her reasonable expenses while traveling out of state in the performance of her or his duties.

662-B:3  Commission Meetings.

I.  The commission shall act in public meetings by the affirmative vote of at least 9 members, including at least 2 members who are members of each of the 2 largest political parties in the state and 2 who are not members of either the largest or next largest political party in the state.

II.  All meetings of the commission shall be open to the public.  The commission shall publicly post notice of its meetings on the commission website and other appropriate outlets at least 7 days prior to such meetings.  All records of the commission, including all communications to or from the commission regarding the work of the commission, shall be made available for public inspection.

III.  The commission shall hold at least one public meeting in each county prior to drawing any plans and at least one public meeting in each county after releasing any proposed plans.

IV.  The commission shall create a website that shall provide, at a minimum, a description of the role of the commission in the redistricting process, timely information to the public about the time, place, and purpose of each meeting of the commission, a portal for the submission of proposed plans, all preliminary plans, all data used to create plans, all reports analyzing the plans, and all other disclosures.  

V.  The commission shall provide a meaningful opportunity for all persons to participate in the public meetings, including, but not limited to, issuing notices in multiple languages and ensuring that translation and sign language services are available at all hearings at the commission’s expense or through partnership with outside organizations.  Meetings shall be held only in spaces that are accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended.

VI.  Commission meetings shall be adequately advertised and planned so as to encourage attendance and participation across the state.  This includes scheduling meetings outside of regular work hours and using technology that allows for real-time, virtual participation and feedback.

VII.  The commission shall be considered a public body subject to RSA 91-A.  No documents created or received by the commissioners or staff as part of official duties, including emails and text messages, shall be exempt from disclosure for any privilege other than attorney-client privilege.

662-B:4  Commission Duties.

I.  The commission shall establish districts for state representatives, state senators, executive councilors, and United States  representatives using the following criteria:

(a)  Districts shall comply with the United States and New Hampshire Constitutions and all applicable federal laws.  Districts shall be drawn on the basis of total population.

(b)  Districts shall form single boundaries and shall not be bisected or otherwise divided by other districts.

(c)  Districts shall respect the integrity of communities of interest to the extent practicable.  A community of interest is defined as an area with recognized similarities of interests, including but not limited to, economic, social, cultural, geographic, or historic identities.  Communities of interest shall not include common relationships with political parties or political candidates.

(d)  Districts shall respect the geographic integrity of political boundaries to the extent practicable without violating the requirements of any of the preceding subparagraphs.

(e)  Districts shall provide racial minorities and language minorities with an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and shall not diminish their ability to elect candidates of choice whether alone or in coalition with others.

(f)  The  redistricting plan as a whole shall not have the intent or the effect of unduly favoring or disfavoring any political party or incumbent or candidate for political office.

II.  The commission shall solicit redistricting plans and suggestions from the people of New Hampshire.  The commission shall be authorized to purchase redistricting software that shall be made available to the public and legislators within 10 business days of the commission receiving it.

III.  The commission may hire up to 3 staff in the 2 years preceding the census and redistricting process for a term not to exceed 3 years and may, if it so chooses, share staff with either the attorney general's office or the office of the secretary of state.  Staffing salaries shall be in accordance with salary levels set by the joint committee on legislative facilities.  

IV.  Commissioners and staff shall not communicate about official duties with any outside persons attempting to influence commissioners or commission action outside of public meetings.  To the extent that commissioners and staff receive such communications, the identity of the person or group and the subject of the communication shall be publicly disclosed on the commission website.

662-B:5  Adopting a Plan.

I.  The commission shall act to release proposed plans and shall display the proposed plans for a minimum of 14 days for public comment in a manner designed to achieve the widest public access reasonably possible before establishing a final plan.

II.  No later than December 31 of any year ending in one, the commission shall act to approve final plans for New Hampshire house, senate, executive council, and congressional districts.  Upon approval, the commission shall submit the final plans to the senate president, speaker of the house of representatives, and senate and house minority leaders.

III.  The commission shall issue with all proposed and final plans written evaluations that measure the plans against external metrics.  These metrics shall cover all criteria set forth in RSA 662-B:4, I.

IV.(a)  It is the intent of this chapter that the general court shall conduct a roll-call vote on the final plans in either the house of representatives or the senate expeditiously under a procedure or rule permitting no amendments except those of a purely corrective nature.  It is further the intent of this chapter that if the bill is approved by the first chamber in which it is considered, it shall expeditiously be brought to a vote in the second chamber under a similar provision or rule.

(b)  It is the intent of this chapter that if a chamber of the legislature fails to pass a final plan, it shall issue a written explanation specifying how the final plans fail the criteria listed in RSA 662-B:4, I or any other binding federal or state law.  The commission shall then amend the final plans to the extent necessary to satisfy the criteria in RSA 662-B:4, I or other legal requirements and resubmit it to the legislature for a subsequent up or down floor vote.

(c)  It is the intent of this chapter that this process shall repeat until the legislature passes final plans for the New Hampshire house, senate, executive council, and congressional districts.

V.  It is the intent of this chapter that all enacted final plans shall satisfy the criteria in RSA 662-B:4, I.

662-B:6  Failure of Commission or Legislature to Reach Consensus.  If the commission fails to approve final plans by December 31 in the odd year following a decennial census, or the legislature fails to adopt a final plan by February 15 of the even year following a federal decennial census, it is the intent of this chapter that the New Hampshire supreme court shall appoint by March 1 in the even year following a decennial census a special master to create the relevant plans in accordance with the redistricting criteria and requirements set forth in RSA 662-B:4, I.  It is the intent of this chapter that the court shall make the special master’s plans public and schedule a hearing where interested parties may present testimony and other evidence regarding the plans’ compliance with redistricting criteria.  It is the intent of this chapter that the supreme court shall adopt the master's proposed plan no later than April 1 of the even year following the decennial census.

662-B:7  Judicial Review.

I.  The New Hampshire supreme court has original and exclusive jurisdiction in all proceedings in which a final plan is challenged or is claimed not to have taken timely effect.

II.  Any registered voter in this state may file a petition, within 45 days after adoption of a final plan on the grounds that the plan violates any federal or state law.

III.  The New Hampshire supreme court shall give priority to ruling on any matter related to redistricting presented to the court.  If the court determines that the final plan violates any federal or state law, the court shall fashion the relief that it deems appropriate, including, but not limited to, appointment of a special master to draw or modify a plan in accordance with RSA 662-B:4, I.

3 Severability.  If any provision of this act or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid, the invalidity does not affect other provisions or applications of the act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are severable.

4  Effective Date.  This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage.

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