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Thursday, July 31, 2014         

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Redistricting panel awaits OK of working funds

By B.J. Reyes

POSTED:



The state Reapportionment Commission is awaiting the governor's final approval of an emergency appropriation of about $664,000 before it can proceed with a contract for software and technical materials needed to begin redrawing the state's political boundaries.

Commission Chairwoman Victoria Marks said staff members have been in touch with administration officials to apprise them of the matter, and they are optimistic of a resolution soon.

Members expressed frustration but stopped short of drafting a letter to the administration asking that the money be expedited.

While it awaits word on the money, the state commission is turning to its four-member appointed county Reapportionment Advisory Councils for assistance in determining which residents should be counted as part of the permanent population when determining district boundaries.

According to the most recent U.S. census figures, the state's population of 1.366 million people includes about 6,000 residents such as military personnel who are living elsewhere but claim Hawaii as their home state, students and felons. It is up to the commission to determine whether some, all or none should be included in population counts for redrawing state House and Senate districts.

Marks assigned to the advisory councils the task of discussing the matter and reporting back to the commission at its meeting scheduled for June 9.

Councils also were asked to report on their preferences for keeping "canoe districts," those that span more than one island, and for bringing back multimember representative districts.

The practice of having more than one member represent some districts was ended in 1982, after a lawsuit that sought to end multimember districts, but the commission is awaiting an opinion from the state attorney general's office on whether it has the authority to reinstate them.

Also on Tuesday, Oahu advisory council members met for the first time to organize and begin work. Members elected Republican Senate appointee Mike Palcic as chairman and Democratic House appointee Glenn Ida as vice chairman. Other members are GOP House appointee Linda Smith and Democratic Senate appointee Nathaniel Kinney.

Members agreed to try to work with the city Neighborhood Commission to get word out to communities and solicit information and opinions. Ida suggested that members first study areas that are likely to be affected. The Oahu council scheduled its next meeting for June 8.

The commission is facing a deadline of Aug. 7 to have its proposed plans published and ready for a 20-day public comment period.






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