In this email edition:
Are Partisan Redistricting Organizations Just Pretending to be Neutral?
Testimony received during a recent hearing of the Senate State Government Committee highlighted many of the difficulties and controversies surrounding the process of congressional redistricting.
Albert Eisenberg, a co-founder of Broad + Liberty, warned that people need to be wary of groups that call themselves “non-partisan” when it comes to the redistricting process, stating the following:
“One reason to be suspicious about the non-partisan groups is they ignore Maryland. So, you look just to the south of Pennsylvania, I saw a headline yesterday, that Maryland Democrats are considering an 8-0 map, Democrat to Republican. One reason why I became suspicious of Fair Districts Pennsylvania and ultimately was frustrated and made my concerns heard, they were not heard, and I consider them to be a Democratic activist group masquerading as a non-partisan group.”
Amanda Holt first gained her passion for redistricting in 2003, when the split of her municipality caused confusion for her neighbors at the polls. Amanda advocated, above all else, keeping all counties and municipalities whole in Congressional redistricting. She submitted several maps that accomplish this goal.
David Thornbugh and Justin Villere of the Committee of Seventy’s “Draw the Lines” project gave testimony on “The Pennsylvania Citizens’ Map,” which is based on the work of over 7,000 Pennsylvanians who have submitted maps in five different public competitions since 2018. As David Thornburgh stated, redrawing districts is a “Rubik’s cube” problem – moving a boundary in Erie can have ripple effects that require changes in Berks County.
Election Reform and Redistricting Discussion with Rep. Grove
The Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association invited me, in my role as the chair of the Senate State Government Committee, to sit down with Rep. Seth Grove (R-York), the chair of the House State Government Committee, to participate in a discussion on redistricting and election reform. You can watch the full program at this link.
Senate to Consider Redesign of PA Constitutional Amendment Process
After a year marred by critical mistakes by the Department of State, I recently chaired a hearing reviewing a proposal to redesign the process of amending the state Constitution.
Earlier this year, an unprecedented error by former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar derailed a constitutional amendment to protect victims of child sex abuse. Boockvar resigned in disgrace. Two months later, the Department of State published ballot questions on another issue regarding the governor’s emergency powers that were widely criticized as biased.
Senate Bill 940 would give the responsibility of advertising proposed constitutional amendments and drafting ballot questions to the Legislative Reference Bureau, a non-partisan bureau responsible for drafting legislation.
During his testimony, Shannon Royer, a former Department of State official under Governor Tom Corbett, said, “Senate Bill 940 goes a long way in helping to ensure that we will never face another situation like we experienced with the childhood sexual abuse amendment. This is a commonsense reform that will restore confidence in how Pennsylvania administers the advertising of constitutional amendments.”
Learn more about this hearing here.
Election Results Show Importance of Parental Input in Education
Earlier this month, voters across the country went to the polls for the 2021 election. Here in Pennsylvania, voters had the chance to cast their vote for judges on some of our state’s highest courts, as well as a wide variety of municipal positions. Visit this link to see the results.
One of the biggest surprises was the election of Glenn Youngkin as the Governor of Virginia. Throughout his campaign, Governor-elect Youngkin emphasized the importance of parent’s input regarding what their children are taught, and frequently mentioned the dangers of critical race theory.
Here in Pennsylvania, the Legislature is considering a bill that would increase curriculum transparency, which I strongly support. Learn more about this proposal here.
PennDOT Holds Firm on Bridge Tolls Despite New Federal Funding
Despite Congress passing a bill that would provide $1 trillion in funding for infrastructure projects, PennDOT has stated they still plan to move forward with their controversial plan to toll nine interstate bridges across Pennsylvania.
This tolling proposal is just another example of the Wolf Administration, in this case an obscure branch of PennDOT, taking unilateral action without hearing from impacted Pennsylvanians or working with the Legislature. Check out this article from the Commonwealth Foundation to see just how prevalent the Governor’s “lone wolf” tendencies have been for the past seven years.
After hearing concerns from many of you, I voted in favor of a bill to ensure the House and the Senate have a voice in this process. Read more about this bill and its progress through the General Assembly here.
Reducing Cost Overruns, Delays on PennDOT Projects
The State Government Committee passed a bill this month that would reduce cost overruns and delays on PennDOT projects by requiring additional vetting of companies before they sign contracts. This bill was introduced by Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) after a project along I-83 in her district faced delays for over three years. According to her office, the company which delayed this project has a well-documented history of adding on costs to infrastructure projects and missing deadlines.
This bill is now under consideration by the full Senate. Read more about it here.
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