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Running out of time: Give the bills a vote

Pennsylvania House Bills 22 and 23 remain in the House Government Committee, a committee chaired by state Rep. Garth Everett.

With the intent of eliminating partisan gerrymandering, these bills would create an independent citizens’ commission to draw congressional and state legislative maps following the 2020 census.

These bills include a check and balance system that insists upon transparency and public input. Because HB 22 would require a change in the state constitution, it’s imperative that the bill passes by the end of the 2020 June legislative session in order for it to meet further requirements.

HB 22 and 23 have 97 and 99 co-sponsors, respectively, who constitutes nearly 50 percent of the House, and yet these bills can’t get out of Rep. Everett’s committee. He has been quoted saying that legislators have told him, “‘I co-sponsored it to get those FairDistricts people off my back … but they (the co-sponsers) don’t want to vote on it.”

Perhaps a vote on the floor would be in order, if for no other reason than so constituents know which representatives they can trust to tell the truth.

The alternative to an independent citizens’ commission is business as usual.

The state Legislature maps will be drawn by the Legislative Reapportionment Committee, a committee that historically has been made up by the majority and minority leaders of both houses (or their deputies), and a fifth person appointed by the state Supreme Court, whose majority is now Democrat.

This process has no checks and balances, is not transparent and has little meaningful public input. It’s the process that has given us our current gerrymandered map. (Just an aside: All four legislators who drew the maps in 1991 were later incarcerated for corruption.) I have been told that because of the work by organizations like FairDistricts PA, so much light has been cast on the redistricting process that another gerrymandered map would be unacceptable. Personally, I wouldn’t bet on it. A process completed behind closed doors and controlled by Democrats who feel aggrieved over past maps does not sound to me like a recipe for a cooperative, non-partisan process.

Who would you prefer to draw the legislative maps for the next decade: An independent citizens’ commission made up of your peers or a committee controlled by angry Democrats? Time is running out for our opportunity to create a non-partisan process to create legislative districts that are not blue or red, just fair. Time is also running out on Rep. Everett to pass meaningful reform legislation before his retirement.

Please, contact your state representative, Garth Everett, in the 84th District; Jeff Wheeland (who’s also on the House Government Committee) in the 83rd District, and other state representatives in our region of northcentral and central Pennsylvania and insist that they give these bills a vote.

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