Standing room only
By ROSE and DAN REEDER
For those of you following the Gerrymandering issue, we have an update. Dan and I were able to attend the Senate State Government Committee Hearing in Harrisburg for SB22 and three related bills. You may have noticed that we are totally committed in our support of SB22.
Although we tend to be daunted by city traffic and by simply being present in that massive, reverent, and beautiful seat of our Pennsylvania government, the Capitol Building, we were the second couple to arrive at the hearing room.
Of course, you know that the Congressional voting districts map presented by the Supreme Court justices is only a stop-gap measure to fix the terrible and unconstitutional Congressional Districts created in 2011. This map does not address the problems at the state level and it does not do anything to change the process we call gerrymandering. We must work with everything we have to change this awful system before it totally undermines our representative Democracy.
Having this committee hearing is a major step forward in our struggle to change the system. This bill must move out of committee and onto the Senate floor for a yes vote and then to the House for a yes vote. Both chambers must pass an identical bill before the end of this legislative session in July and pass the same bill again in the next session. This must happen or the public will not have a chance to vote on it in 2020. If we don’t vote for a change in 2020, the census will be completed and the same, unfair practices of gerrymandering will continue as redistricting occurs, no matter who is in the majority at that time.
We must tell you, the hearing room elicited a feeling of reverence with the massive wood and ornate details. The senators sat on the bench, like in any courtroom. The room had a capacity of 200 and it was completely filled, with folks standing in the back, as well. Two other large rooms were also full with live streaming provided. All of this made the event a bit overwhelming and definitely exciting. The hearing went beyond the allotted time to allow all of the speakers to present.
We were directed to remain quiet and we really tried to comply, but at times, this was simply beyond our control. All presenters were articulate and factual, but Sen. Anthony Williams and the primary co-sponsor of SB22, Sen. Lisa Buscola, gave passionate, feisty, and funny responses within their testimonies. Sometimes, everyone just had to cheer. There was a negative response to one of Sen. Mike Folmer’s questions. Rather than reprimand us, he explained that if he was to be fully informed he just had to ask questions. On another occasion, when he was about to ask a hard question, he reminded us, that he just had to ask it. The audience accepted that and there were no other negative responses.
There was accepted code of courtesy and respect throughout the proceedings. At this four-hour hearing, co-chairs, Sen. Folmer and Sen. Williams, led a thorough and, at times, lively discussion concerning the need for a new redistricting process. We were impressed with the decorum and camaraderie.
Those who testified included lawyers, advocates, opponents, and especially, the co-founder of Fair Districts Pa., Carol Kuniholm. She is a particularly well-prepared and articulate speaker. She was well received and her comments made it very hard for us to remain silent. FDPA embraces logic, communication, and education with a strong adherence to courtesy and respect for all. Carol is a great example of those principles and her approach was convincing and well appreciated by not only the FDPA volunteers but by the Senators, too. We believe the Senators continue to be impressed with her preparation and her arguments and we are hopeful that they will move forward and pass SB22. This event was videotaped and can be viewed at www.pcntv.com.
There will be follow up committee meetings before a vote is taken so we must continue to encourage the State Government Committee members to support SB22.
At this point, our Sen. Joe Scarnati has not supported this effort. If you wish to help, contact him and the members of this committee and ask for their support. For further information go to Fairdistrictspa.com. If you wish to stand and be counted, join us in Harrisburg for a very large and enthusiastic rally on April 16. In our area, a bus is available from Williamsport for a small price. You can purchase a ticket at the FDPA website. If you have never participated in a rally, it is democracy in action. This should be a very positive one.