And the redistricting price tag keeps growing — now the figure is $8 million
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Earlier this week, we reported how the initial cost for legal fees in the redistricting hassle here in New Mexico came to nearly $3 million.
Then a couple hours later, we received a phone call from an official at the Legislative Council Service telling us that adding in other legal costs and assorted fees, the figure was really $5.4 million – “at least,” the official told us.
Now, three days later, Barry Massey of Associated Press has tabulated the costs of everything — including the special session the legislature convened last September to supposedly hammer out a redistricting agreement.
The price tag for taxpayers now? Nearly $8 million.
“I just thought it was appalling the way this whole thing was done,” Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino said Thursday. The Albuquerque Democrat blames the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez for failing to resolve their differences and avoid an expensive court battle.
Republican Sen. Rod Adair of Roswell also favors having a bipartisan commission handle redistricting, saying it will eliminate the “over-the-top greediness that members in both parties have for their districts.”
“If you had a commission, you could have demographers focusing on ethnic groups, racial categories, economics, municipalities and all the things that make up the state. But all of this is subordinated to the goals of parties when you have the current system,” said Adair, who didn’t seek re-election after he was lumped into the same district as another incumbent because of boundary changes.
Martinez supports having a redistricting commission, according to her spokesman Greg Blair. She favors a proposal introduced in the past by Adair and the governor’s chief of staff, Keith Gardner, a former GOP legislator from Roswell.
Redistricting has to be done every 10 years ago and back in 2001-2002, legislators and then-Gov. Gary Johnson also couldn’t come to an agreement and the issue ended up in court. At that time, the price tag came to $5.3 million.
Last summer, there were warnings the cost of another redistricting battle going to court would be significantly higher. Those warnings proved correct.
Some background on this last redistricting fight:
Roundhouse lawmakers convened last September in a special session but Democrats ended up passing a bill Republicans thought was unfair (not a single member of the GOP voted for it). Since Democrats control both chambers of the Roundhouse, the bill made it through but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
That sent the fight to court, where lawyers for various political and ethnic groups argued their respective cases before retired Judge Jim Hall back in December.
Hall came back with a ruling but Democrats said it was unfair to them and they and other groups took their complaints to the state Supreme Court (which was made up of all Democrats except one Republican who was sitting in for a justice who recused himself). The high court ruled Hall had to make adjustments to his original ruling and after more legal arguments, he came back with a second ruling that Democrats and Republicans grumbled about but accepted.