Malloy turns up the heat on redistricting panel

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered his first criticism Tuesday of the legislature’s bipartisan redistricting panel, saying yielding the responsibility to the courts would be “a gigantic mistake.”

“They should get their act together and get reapportionment done. It’s an odd number of people. Get a vote, and get it done, and stop playing around with it,” Malloy said.

Failure to produce new legislative districts by Nov. 30 would place the process in the hands of the courts.

“We know how bad Washington looks. We don’t need that replicated in our own state,” Malloy said. “So you know, ‘The ayes have it.’ Have a vote.”

The panel already has missed one deadline.

When the legislature’s eight-member Reapportionment Committee failed to finish by Sept. 15, the panel was reconstituted as a Reapportionment Commission with the addition of a ninth tie-breaking member, former state auditor Kevin Johnston.

But Johnston is not part of the daily negotiations.

The two Democrat House members on the panel meet regularly with the two Republican House members, focusing exclusively on drawing 151 state House districts.

The two Democratic senators on the commission conduct the same exercise with the two Republican senators, exchanging revised maps of 36 state Senate districts.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Fairfield, a commission member, said Tuesday night that the eight members have yet to discuss new boundaries for the five U.S. House districts.

“We are all mindful that time is running short. Obviously, we have not reached agreement. I wouldn’t handicap whether we will or we won’t,” McKinney said. “It’s not for lack of effort.”

A spokesman for House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, said the commission members are optimistic they will meet the Nov. 30 deadline. Donovan and Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, who are both members of the commission, declined to comment on Malloy’s remarks.

The commission members resume their negotiations Wednesday, one week from the deadline. There are no plans to meet on Thanksgiving, but talks are expected to pick up again Friday.

The state’s legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes. Ten years ago, the redistricting effort briefly fell into the hands of the courts after the two deadlines were missed.

The 2001 redistricting commission convinced the court that it could finish the job without court intervention. With the permission of the court, it did.