Friday, September 02, 2016
Gerrymandering: How Our Elections Are Really Rigged - Part Four
Blogger's Note: Part One describes the dramatic increase in the use of both technological advances and hybrid SuperPACs with the goal of controlling Congress. Part Two details a bipartisan legislative fix proposed by State Senator Lisa Boscola and State Rep. David Parker. Part Three details the impact the gerrymander has had on government, and suggests what you can do to help achieve legislative reform. This final story tells you where the legislation stands, particularly in the Lehigh Valley delegation.
State Senator Lisa Boscola is the prime sponsor of a senate bill (SB484) to eliminate gerrymandering in Pennsylvania by establishing an independent citizens' commission to draw the boundary lines for Congressional and state legislative seats every ten years. Republican Dave Parker, a State Representative from Monroe County, has offered a virtually identical bill in the state house (HB 1835).
A week ago, there were few local sponsors to this legislation. But following the gerrymandering forum at Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethlehem, that has changed dramatically.
The House Bill now has 22 cosponsors (10 Republicans and 12 Democrats). Locally, they include Bob Freeman, Mike Schlossberg and Steve Samuelson. Though Schlossberg is relatively new to the state house, both Samuelson and Freeman have been steadfast advocates of redistricting reform.
The Senate Bill has 12 cosponsors. Only two of them are Republican, but one of those two is Pat Browne, who chairs the powerful Appropriations Committee.
Both bills are in their respective state government committees. Boscola stated that a redistricting reform bill was in a government reform committee, but went nowhere because Republican and Democratic leaders used proxies from absent members to kill the bill.
According to Common Cause's Barry Kauffman, Pennsylvania is considered by academics to be "one of the most reform-averse states in the nation." It took him 17 years to get an open records law enacted. "If they see citizens want to lead, they will follow," he said.
Boscola stated that the only real way to effect this change is by both targeting leaders and insisting that your legislator cosponsor the bill.
"Don't just ask a Senator or a Representative, 'Are you for this?' A lot of the time, they're gonna' say Yes. If they say Yes, then say to them, "Cosponsor that bill. I want to know that you're really supportive.'" ... They'll say Yes because they know this bill isn't coming up for a vote. So they can hide. But once you put your name on a bill, you're not hiding anymore. You're supportive, because you're on the record."