Redistricting Bill Scheduled for State House Committee Vote on May 29

The Pennsylvania House Government Operations Committee, which heard testimony on gerrymandering issues earlier this year, is scheduled to vote on May 29, 2008 on a new consensus approach to reforming our redistricting methods. This is the only opportunity for Pennsylvania to change the gerrymander process before the 2010 census results are converted into new district lines for Congress, the State House and State Senate. JSPAN urges its readers to contact the members of the House Government Operations Committee immediately and to ask for their support of H.B. 2420. The contact list of members of the Committee is included below. H.B. 2420, introduced by Rep. Steve Samuelson (D – Lehigh County) and signed by eighty-seven other sponsors, was referred to the House Government Operations Committee on May 7. The Bill would amend the State Constitution to establish a new procedure for the required redistricting done every ten years: the Legislative Reference Bureau (“the Bureau”) would have the task of drawing district maps for U.S. House of Representatives and Pennsylvania Senate and House seats. The Bureau is an agency led by a director chosen by the Senate and the House, with the primary functions of drafting bills and codifying the laws of Pennsylvania. The Bureau also collects information, maintains a library and is available to advise legislators, the Governor, state agencies and the public. It is required to make sufficient information available in advance to the public to permit anyone to draw proposed maps (a process that is reported to be feasible with available software and a personal computer). The maps drawn by the Bureau will be sent to a new “temporary redistricting advisory commission” of five members, four of whom are appointed by the minority and majority leaders of the Senate and House, but none of whom may be an elected official, political party official, or their employee or relative. The advisory commission receives public input and reports its recommendations on the Bureau proposal to the House and Senate, which vote on the map. If the map does not pass both Houses, a second map is prepared in a similar manner, which proceeds to a vote in which no amendments are permitted. If no redistricting plan is approved by both Houses, the matter goes to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for decision. In addition to the federal requirement that election districts be drawn to include equal population, H.B. 2420 provides several standards for mapping, including the goals of compact and contiguous districts, following existing political subdivisions, and avoiding dividing counties or municipalities. The Bureau and advisory commission are instructed not to collect information or consider the protection (or ouster) of any incumbent legislator, or the political makeup of the population of any district. The State Senate is reported prepared to take up companion legislation if the House Bill comes out of committee. Attached is a list of the members of the House Government Operations Committee (those members who HAVE NOT signed as sponsors of H.B. 2420 are noted by asterisks). The full text of H.B. 2420 can be found through the following link: Members of the Pennsylvania House Government Operations Committee:

Josephs, Babette, Chairman
*Blackwell, Thomas W., Vice Chairman
Gibbons, Jaret, Secretary *Baker, Matthew E., Chairman
Mantz, Carl W., Secretary Carroll, Mike
*Cohen, Mark B.
*Curry, Lawrence H.
*Fabrizio, Florindo J.
*Freeman, Robert
Kortz, II,William C.
Kula, Deberah
*O'Brien, Michael H.
*Oliver, Frank Louis
*Parker, Cherelle L.
Ramaley, Sean M.
*Vitali, Greg
*Youngblood, Rosita C.
Benninghoff, Kerry A.
Clymer, Paul I.
Creighton, Tom C.
*Gingrich, Mauree
Grell, Glen R.
Marshall, Jim
McIlhattan, Fred
*Quigley, Thomas J.
*Rapp, Kathy L.
*Vereb, Mike
Watson, Katharine M.