May 29th Vote is off


So my trip to Harrisburg is off. However we will fight on. The plans are changed, see the note below from  the League of Women Voters and the following article from a Pocono Record Writer:

Late yesterday afternoon we received word that the House State Government Committee Chair, Rep. Babette Josephs had removed HB 2420 (our redistricting bill) from tomorrow’s committee meeting agenda citing concerns she had about the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) having the capacity to serve as the nonpartisan redistricting body. This however, would be the case with any agency that would be charged with this responsibility. The League has always taken into account that funds would need to be allocated to perform this task and have made that point in testimonies and position statements.
 
This last minute action is discouraging but we need to press ahead. A Senate version of HB 2420 will be acted on in committee on Tuesday.  We are open to exploring alternatives to the LRB and have expressed that we are working toward an amenable amendment to our bill so that it could perhaps be reinstated on tomorrow’s meeting agenda. In the meantime, please contact your House member and ask them to help usher HB 2420 through committee and to the House floor for a full vote. In the end the citizens of Pennsylvania will have the final word, but the bill must first clear the PA General Assembly.

Redistricting never leaves the station: Bus trip to Harrisburg
postponed

By David Pierce
Pocono Record Writer
May 28, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — There won’t be a committee vote Thursday on a state
House redistricting bill, and the local bus ride to support it has been
postponed.

The House State Government Committee was scheduled to vote on a
constitutional amendment that would grant authority for redrawing state
House and Senate district boundaries every 10 years to the Legislative
Reference Bureau.

Currently, a few key Democratic and Republican state leaders make those
decisions. Critics say this results in district boundaries that are
designed to protect incumbents and political parties rather than serve
the best interests of voters.

Rep. Babette Josephs, the Philadelphia Democrat who chairs the
committee, pulled the reform bill off Thursday’s agenda. Josephs said
she took that action after the director of the Legislative Reference
Bureau, Robert Zech Jr., expressed opposition to being involved in
redistricting decisions.

“I am in favor of the concept,” Josephs said in a phone interview. “I
just don’t think this bill, the way it is written now, is the way to
go.”

In a memo Tuesday to members of the State Government Committee, Josephs
called the role of the Legislative Reference Bureau — a non-partisan
state agency — in redistricting decisions a fatal flaw. Josephs said
she came to that conclusion after seeking Zech’s opinion on the
proposal.

Josephs quoted from Zech’s response letter in her memo to the
committee.

“This constitutional amendment will change the Bureau’s mission of
serving as an impartial drafting and advisory arm of the General
Assembly,” Zech wrote. “Contrary to our long-standing mission, the duty
of legislative reapportionment would directly involve partisan politics;
this has the potential to indirectly compromise the neutral and
nonpartisan reputation of the Bureau.”

Zech said his department would need additional personnel and equipment
to perform legislative reapportionment.

Josephs wrote: “The reply that I received convinced me that it was
necessary to pull the bill. For while I am doubtful that there is enough
support in the General Assembly to pass even the most carefully drafted
redistricting legislation, I am certain that the chances of passing
flawed legislation — legislation that would forever change the
well-respected non-partisan role of the LRB — are, in my opinion,
non-existent.”

All four members of Monroe County’s state House delegation co-sponsored
House Bill 2420, as the redistricting legislation is known. Two of them
— Rep. Mike Carroll, D-118, and Rep. Mario Scavello, R-176 — had
arranged for a free, bipartisan citizen bus trip to Harrisburg on
Thursday to support the bill.

They quickly postponed the bus trip, coordinated by the League of Women
Voters of Monroe County, after hearing the redistricting bill had been
pulled. Scavello said he didn’t know why the bill had been taken off the
agenda, but said such actions are common.

“It’s nothing new,” Scavello said. “The timetable is the problem I’m
concerned about.”

For a state constitutional amendment to be approved in time to take
effect by 2011 — the next time legislative districts will be redrawn
— the amendment must win initial House and Senate approval before
the General Assembly adjourns at the end of June.
Carroll, who serves on the State Government Committee, expressed
regrets about the latest turn of events.
“It is frustrating,” Carroll said. “That is disappointing from my
perspective.”

Josephs said she has no idea, at the moment, what agency or group would
be best suited to redraw legislative district boundaries in a
nonpartisan manner.

“There’s got to be some kind of answer of who can do this,” Josephs
added. “I don’t know where to look. We still have time. I know there are
a lot of people dissatisfied with the process, and I would like to work
with them.”

Carroll said the best hope for redistricting reform might be for
movement of a similar amendment in the state Senate. State Sen. Lisa
Boscola, D-18, whose district includes part of Monroe County, introduced
a redistricting bill that was amended similar to House Bill 2420.

Boscola is one of six state senators who represent portions of Monroe
County. The county doesn’t have a Senate district in which a majority of
voters are Monroe County residents.

Scavello and Carroll said they will sponsor another free bus ride to
Harrisburg in support of redistricting reform if another House
redistricting vote is scheduled. The bus had been booked to capacity and
some residents were turned away.

 

 

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