Press Release- Timber and Fishing Industry

Letter to the Editor or Opinion Letter April 9, 2016:

US Supreme Court Issues Recent Decision which continues logic that has caused a negative impact on the timber and fishing industry in Northern California

U S Supreme Court in its recent decision (Evenwel, v Abbot, Governor of Texas) continues supporting the 1964 Case of Reynolds v. Sims where the Supreme Court upheld that "The Equal Protection Clause" of the U S Constitution "requires that the seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis."

The Supreme Court decision stated "a State may draw its legislative districts based on total population."  This decision does not require that only the use of population basis be used to apportion state legislative districts and related maps.  It uses the terminology "one-person, one-vote" to describe this rule.   Over the ensuing decades, the Court has several times elaborated on the scope of the one-person, one-vote rule.  Finally it decided in another case, Brown vs. Thomson in 1983, that the Court would allow deviation in the method of apportionment as long as the deviation, between the largest and the smallest is less than 10%.  The Court has held the maximum deviations above 10% are presumptively impermissible.  One later decision allowed a 16% deviation in order to accommodate the State's interest in "maintaining the integrity of political subdivision lines.”  The State of Hawaii was allowed to deviate because of its island separation geographically made more sense.

Northern California Counties were severely impacted by the 1964 "Sims" decision because it had to redraw the California Senatorial Districts, as did the entire State, using total population from the U S Census Bureau rather than use the eligible or actual registered voters or just use county lines, i.e., one Senator per county.   This had a dramatic impact in Northern California from Sacramento North causing a loss of seven Northern California Senators from the State Senate.  This loss of seven State Senators representing the Northern California counties caused an extreme transfer of political power in the State Senate from Northern California counties with very low population towns and cities to large metropolitan urban centers like Los Angeles County.  Today there are only 4 Senators out of 40 representing most of Northern California (excluding the San Francisco and Sacramento area) while there were 11 Senators before the 1964 decision in Sims and the subsequent reapportionment i.e. the loss of seven Senators.  

Although this loss of political power by the Northern California is hard to measure I believe that between the State Legislation in the 1970s and the Federal legislative changes over the years it has had a dramatic impact on both the timber and fishing industry in the Northern California counties.  I reach this conclusion and comments from my experience and perspective from the several days traveling through six of these Northern California counties two years ago when campaigning for State Treasurer.

The fallacy of the use of total population rather than political boundaries like counties makes no sense in a bi-cameral government where there are two bodies--a house or assembly and a senate.  The house or assembly should be elected by population as it is in the U S House of Representatives and the Senate body should represent the different government sub-bodies normally counties within a state.  This is the same logic as for the Federal Congress today where the U S Senators are based on two per state, not on some equal population formula as is the House of Representatives with about 800,000 persons in each District.  If the Federal U S Senate were apportioned by equal population formula called for by the "Sims case" decision and the recent "Evenwel case"  there would probably only have one or two Senators in entire New England states instead of the 8 or 10 it has today and California with its large population would have 12 U S Senators, not just 2 it has today.

Hopefully the U S Supreme Court will recognize its use of population apportionment for both houses of a bi-cameral State government (as in both the "Sims case" and the recent "Evenwel case") is inconsistent with the Federal apportionment of two Senators per state. Instead States should be allowed under its 10th amendment states rights to come up with their own apportionment process for the second house (usually the Senate) in a bi-cameral legislature. One of these processes would be to use the county boundaries with the State to reapportion each Senatorial District. 


Greg Conlon, Wash. D.C., Attorney
Candidate for US Senate in California 

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