Hundreds of amendments have been offered to SB 22 since it was voted out of the House Rules Committee earlier this week. Fair Districts PA is watching three amendments with great interest.
Fair Districts PA has consistently called for the creation of an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that has certain key features. These include:
A qualified and diverse commission that would draw maps for both congressional and state legislative districts.
A commission made up of voters - not politicians, lobbyists or political operatives.
A truly independent commission that is protected from attempts by partisan actors to influence the way maps are drawn.
A commission voting process that encourages cooperation and limits opportunities for a single political party to hijack the process for partisan gain.
An open and transparent process with meaningful opportunities for public input.
A prohibition against using party registration, voter addresses and past election results to draw lines that protect incumbents.
An effective “fail-safe” provision in the unlikely event that the commission is unable to agree on a final redistricting plan.
While many amendments have been put forward in the House of Representatives that would include some or even most of these key components, FDPA has identified a few which are noteworthy because of their content as well as the likelihood that they might be given serious consideration in the remaining days before the July 6 deadline for approval by both chambers.
FDPA does NOT support Amendment A07847 (Turzai) because it would apply only to redistricting of congressional - not state Senate and House - districts. FDPA believes the House should give favorable consideration to the following amendments:
Amendments A08876 and A0877 (Samuelson). These amendments include the best features of both the original HB 722 and HB 2402, as well as some significant improvements that are currently included in SB 22, imposing strict limitations on splitting counties and municipalities when drawing district lines. A08876 also includes a “fail-safe” provision that forces the commission to produce a final plan through a ranked choice voting process if they are unable to reach consensus under the normal process. Combined, HB 722 and HB 2402 were cosponsored by 115 representatives, the most of any bill introduced in this session. These two amendments include feedback and suggestions from many of the legislators who considered and cosponsored those bills.
Amendment A07872 (Reed). This amendment is based upon Majority Leader Reed’s House Bill 2449. It contains many of the provisions included in the original HB 722 and HB 2402, with additional safeguards to prevent legislative leaders from hand-picking commission members. The Reed amendment also provides for a bipartisan legislative “fail-safe” if the commission cannot agree on a plan.
FDPA believes these three amendments are also worthy of consideration by the House because they would delete the “poison pill” added by the Senate to create a system for electing appellate judges by geographic regions. Regardless of the merits of this concept, regional judicial districts are both controversial and unrelated to the issue of most concern to the voters of Pennsylvania - a fair and independent process for drawing congressional and legislative districts.