The PA House and Senate seemed to recess weeks ago but have since been adding session days and committee meetings to push a mix of bills. This week they’ll be voting on several constitutional amendments, which opens the window to adding our bills as amendments to those amendments.
Both bills have already passed in one chamber and are speeding through the other with obvious leadership support, which is why we’re asking senators to support amendment to a house bill, and representatives support amendment to a senate bill.
When PA constitutional amendments go to public referendum, they’re divided into separate questions, so even if we don’t agree with the content of the initial legislation, it’s a way to move closer to a vote by PA voters on an independent redistricting commission.
Sound confusing? Of course it is. But it’s also a chance to hold legislators accountable.
We’d like your help for this last push.
Take a few minutes to make four calls NOW.
Remember to state your name, where you live, and express your support for an independent redistricting commission for both state legislative and congressional districts. Maps drawn next year will decide our elections for the next decade.
1. What are those bills about?
HB 196 would create regional judicial districts for electing appellate court judges. It passed the House with a very partisan vote and appears an attempt to push back on the PA Supreme Court for the redistricting lawsuit and other recent decisions. SB 1166 has two parts: one seeks to limit the governor’s emergency powers, while the other expands racial and ethnic equality protections.
2. Do we support HB 196 and SB 1166?
We are simply attempting to leverage the legislative process. Legislative leaders are fast-tracking those bills for passage before the constitutionally required summer deadline. Both bills have passed the opposing chamber and are moving toward a final vote. Offering amendments is a way to force a vote on our bills and hold legislators accountable.
3. Will legislators interpret requests for amendments as endorsement of HB 196 and SB 1166?
Not at all. They understand the process.
4. Will support for these amendments help those bills move forward?
HB 196 and SB 1166 already have strong support from legislative leaders, which is why they’re on the agenda for a vote weeks after the session appeared to recess. In reality, the amendments we support might slow or even derail the bills’ passage in this session. In any case, both bills would need to pass again in the next session, then the separate questions would be given a vote in a public referendum.
5. Won’t amendments to create a redistricting commission for legislative and congressional districts be ruled “not germane”?
Germaneness debates are always a possibility, but SB 1166 already includes two very different topics, so that argument would be hard to support.
6. Who will be offering amendments?
We know Senator Boscola and Representative Samuelson have submitted amendments and are ready to defend them, but there may be others from other supporters, either in the Senate State Government Committee or on the House or Senate floor. The process moves fast and is often unpredictable. This is why it is important to specify support of amendment that “creates an independent redistricting commission for legislative and congressional districts.”
7. Isn’t it risky to ask for amendments of bills we don’t support?
Welcome to PA politics. As we’ve all seen, it’s hard for the public to be heard, hard to get votes on bills, and bills enacted are often far removed from the policies most citizens would want. There is always risk, always the chance that bad bills will be passed and good bills blocked or amended. It seems very likely that HB 196 and SB 1166 will pass this week, whether citizens like those bills or not. Whatever the outcome, there will be another vote in the next session, then questions would go to public referendum. While there’s little public attention on what happens this week, if these questions go to referendum there will be plenty of time for public outreach and education. If the proposed amendments do pass, we would finally have a chance to vote for an independent redistricting commission for legislative and congressional districts. For ALL the questions on these bills, PA voters would have a say: our voices would finally be heard.
8. Why are we asking senators to vote on a house bill and representatives to vote on a senate bill?
Both bills have already passed in one chamber. Now they need a vote in the other. If they’re amended, they’ll go back to the other chamber, but won’t need to go back to committee.
9. What about that other new bill we’ve been talking about?
That’s still our best next step. If this effort for amendments fails, we’ll continue on with support of HB 2638 and the soon-to-be senate counterpart.
We’ll provide another web update after the final votes this week. Thanks for making those calls!