On Redistricting Reform, Good Intentions Are Not Enough

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The first rule of politics, like that of medicine, is do no harm.

And the intention to do no harm is not enough, you need a strategy to ensure that your actions actually avoid doing harm directly or indirectly.

Once again, Fair Districts PA (FDPA) and March on Harrisburg, in two separate ways, are potentially doing harm to our political system in Pennsylvania. 

KRC Files Affidavit in PA School Funding Lawsuit

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Last week petitioners in Pennsylvania's school funding lawsuit filed a brief and affidavits refuting the claim made by the Republican leader of the PA Senate, Joe Scarnati, that the lawsuit was rendered moot because the state adopted a school funding formula in 2016.

The brief details how state funding increases have not kept pace with rising mandated costs, including pension expenses. Because of this, aggregate state funding available to school districts for classroom costs have effectively decreased by $155.3 million since 2013.

The General Assembly Budget Mirrors Many of the Governor’s Priorities But Does Not Go Far Enough

The House and Senate have now passed a $32.7-billion state budget — $281 million less than the governor’s proposed budget, which is expected to be passed on to the Senate next week. The General Assembly budget passed easily and proposed no new tax increases or fees.

The Trump Administration’s Newest About-Face: Seeking to Dismantle Protections for Those with Pre-Existing Conditions

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In a move in line with Trump’s typical bait-and-switch — purporting to be a defender of the American working class but then doing everything he can to shift power and wealth upwards — he and his Justice Department have decided not to defend the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) protection for those with pre-existing conditions. The pre-existing conditions provision is arguably the most popular piece of the ACA which ensures that insurance companies cannot deny, limit or overcharge anyone who has a pre-existing condition.

Republican Judicial Districting — An Existential Threat to Pennsylvania Democracy

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After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Protect Our Representative Democracy — Stop The GOP Attack on the PA Courts

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Representative democracy in Pennsylvania is under attack. This week, on a straight party-line vote, Republican senators passed a constitutional amendment that would give the majority party in the General Assembly a strikingly unprecedented degree of influence over who is elected to our courts, including the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In turn, that would undermine the checks and balances in our state government — including those that have blocked, and would block in the future, the Republicans from tilting the rules of our democracy in their favor.

Pennsylvania State Government’s To-Do List: June 2018

There seems to be an overall optimism among state legislators that the Pennsylvania budget will pass on time given the positive revenue numbers in the state, a straight-forward budget proposal by the governor, and no haunting budget deficit to overcome like in years past. That said, the details of what said budget will look like have not been shared.

To help legislators stay focused on what is most important to Pennsylvanians throughout the Commonwealth, we have put together a list of four to-dos:

- Increase state funding for education at all levels.

- Pass a severance tax.

- Increase the minimum wage.

- Stop harmful work requirements attached to SNAP and Medicaid.

Time to Stop SB 22

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Republicans today added a second constitutional amendment to, in effect, gerrymander the Supreme Court to a bill, SB22, that proposed a constitutional amendment to stop gerrymandering of the congressional and state legislative elections. The Supreme Court gerrymandering amendment passed on a party line vote. And it means that today all supporters of redistricting reform, including PBPC, withdrew support for SB22 and tomorrow all Democrats will likely vote against  it.

Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill Aims to Strengthen SNAP, Not Undermine it Like the House’s Proposed Bill

Last Friday, June 8, the Senate Agricultural Committee came out with its plan for the Senate Farm Bill. Keeping with the Farm Bill’s long tradition of bipartisan support, this version was released by the Senate Agricultural chairman Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas and the ranking member Debbie Stabenow who is a Democratic senator from Michigan. Unlike the House version of the bill which included harmful work requirements connected to SNAP, the Senate Farm bill would reauthorize SNAP and make steps toward improving it.

The Folmer Redistricting Commission: Neither Independent Nor Nonpartisan

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Update Monday June 11, 11:00 am

Some advocacy groups are supporting an omnibus amendment from Senator Folmer and others. It makes some small improvements to SB22 and deals with the finality issue I mention below. (point 4). But it does not deal with SB22's fundamental structural issues which will enable the majority party to continue to gerrymander congressional and state legislative districts. Thus, we continue to urge that SB22 be restored to its original form. And if not, it should be defeated. As we have pointed out elsewhere, defeating SB22 in its current form does not mean the end of redistricting reform. The House can pass HB2402, which is the same as the original version of SB22, and send it to the Senate. The best elements of SB22 can be enacted as legislation and applied to the current redistricting process. And we all can, and should, be working for a good constitutional amendment next year which can be used to redraw district lines as soon as the voters approve it. 

Click here to send your state senator a quick email asking them to oppose SB22 as currently constructed and to fight to return the bill to its original language.


Original piece

Both the political class in Harrisburg and the progressive community around the state are focused today on the redistricting issue. Last week the Senate State Government Committee passed a version of SB22 that was crafted by Senator Mike Folmer. Some of the advocacy groups that have been working in favor of a fair redistricting process have been cautiously, or in some cases not so cautiously, supportive of it. Some who have argued that the proposal itself is problematic have held that passing it in the Senate is a necessary step to reaching a better bill.

I’m reluctant to create divisions among people who are generally allies, but I want to make clear that I believe the Folmer redistricting proposal is not only deeply flawed but is in no way a step forward for those of us who want to see a fair, nonpartisan process of drawing congressional and state legislative district lines.

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