|Posted:||December 18, 2018 12:07 PM|
|From:||Senator James R. Brewster|
|To:||All Senate members|
Lessons learned from the last legislative reapportionment process should give us all a reason to demand reform. For me, this effort brings on additional significance. I was personally impacted by both the process and its aftermath.
As some of you may know, the 45th District I represent in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties was slated to be moved to eastern Pennsylvania following the first redistricting plan produced by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission in 2012. The map was created without sufficient regard to protecting communities of interest or the rights of citizens to impact their state government through their elected representatives.
Fortunately, this first flawed plan was overturned by the state Supreme Court. As a plaintiff in the case, I argued strenuously for protection of communities of interest, greater transparency, balance and equity. This successful argument was historic and precedent setting. It set the stage for a reapportionment reformation that, if enacted, would benefit citizens and members of the General Assembly. A subsequent plan, that did not relocate the district, was approved.
The process used to craft the original plan lacked sufficient input from citizens and was hobbled by party politics. To address these issues and provide greater openness and citizen involvement, I am proposing a new process. My legislation would amend the state’s Constitution to establish a new procedure to draw legislative districts. The proposed structure of the commission is based on the reapportionment process used in Arizona.
The legislation calls for a five-member commission selected by majority vote of an Appointment Committee. The Appointment Committee would be comprised by the chancellor of the state system of higher education, plus the presidents of Penn State University, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln. They would appoint four commission members from a diverse pool of 25 applicants. The fifth member of the commission would be selected by the appointed commission members, and, if they do not agree, the Appointment Committee would choose the fifth member.
No more than two members from the same political party would be appointed. The qualifications for appointment would include at least three years affiliation with a political party.
My proposal would automatically prohibit:
· any appointed, elected or candidate for public office;
· political party officer;
· independent contractor or employee of either the House or Senate;
· officer of a candidate’s committee; and
· employees of an independent contractor.
Under my proposal, the commission’s plan must be constitutional and conform with the voting rights act. Among other things, districts would be generally equal in population, compact, contiguous and respect communities of interest. Party registration and voting history would be excluded, along with the residence of incumbents or candidates.
The preliminary plan would be subject to a 30-day public comment period. Senate and House members could also make comments to the commission during this period.
I invite you to co-sponsor this important legislation.