The proposed state constitutional amendment would redistribute state senators, having them represent specific geographical areas, rather than seats apportioned by population. Gallagher, with other rural legislators and leaders, will hold a press conference in Sacramento today to introduce the bill authored by the Yuba City Republican.
“This state is made up of distinct regions,” said Gallagher. “However, only two parts of the state (Los Angeles and San Francisco) have a final say. If they want something, other regions have very little ability to stop it. This amendment attempts to give an equal place at the table to all the regions.”
Currently, both houses of the Legislature are decided by the majority. His amendment seeks to check and balance population representation similar to the federal model.
State Sen. Jim Nielsen, Republican from Tehama County who represents this district, supports the amendment.
Nielsen argues a United States Supreme Court ruling in 1964, Reynolds v. Sims, destroyed representation in the state.
That decision established the “one-person, one-vote rule,” in which state legislative voting districts must be equal by population, according to the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. Prior to that, the senators were elected by county. The result of the ruling shifted California’s Senate representation to the growing urbanized areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles.
According to the California State Legislature district map, nearly three quarters of Senate seats are near the two major metropolitan areas.
Gallagher’s amendment would reapportion the state into eight geographical regions, each with five regional senators.
State senators would represent areas as determined by a citizens redistricting committee.
Less-populated counties, including Sutter, Yuba and Colusa, would join the Northern California Region along with 17 other counties.
In contrast, highly populated Los Angeles County, would be a region unto itself.
Yuba County Supervisor Andy Vasquez Jr., who will speak at today’s press conference with Gallagher, does not think this is an issue of rural versus urban communities.
“People in San Francisco have a different perspective on things, and they dance to the beat of their own drum,” said Vasquez. “This is about fair and adequate representation. We are not looking for a fight. They (San Francisco) don’t have the right to enforce their morals or ethics on me.”
Yuba County Supervisor Gary Bradford, also scheduled to speak at today’s press conference, agreed.
“We live in a very diverse state with different needs and challenges,” said Bradford. “Often the state does a one-size-fits-all approach. There is no check and balance on what urban centers want.”
Bradford said the federal model would allow for better representation in the state.
One of the most notable groups concerned with representation, the State of Jefferson movement, is in support of the amendment.
Mark Baird of Siskiyou County, who spoke on behalf of the organization, supports Gallagher’s efforts, but he is skeptical of the amendment’s future.
“I wish him (Gallagher) success and luck,” said Baird. “It’s a try, so I can’t fault a legislator for trying to do something about it. At least someone is waking up.”
Nielsen said it is not out of the question for representatives across the aisle to lend support to the amendment.
“There is always a hope and a prayer,” said Nielsen. “These representatives have shown sympathy for other causes important to rural communities.”
Nielsen cites bipartisan support for issues like water, criminal justice and public safety where rural and urban centers worked together.
Gallagher said the issue might gain traction because of places like the Inland Empire and the Central Valley that are also under-represented.
“It is a heavy lift, but I want to open up the discussion,” said Gallagher. “I don’t know if this amendment in its present form is the end product. If this evolves the idea of better representation for the state, that is my goal.”