Posts by marc stier

Speaker Turzai Offers Up A Fake Redistricting Reform Plan

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Speaker Turzai has recently floated a proposal for legislation to delegate the process of drawing congressional district lines to a commission modeled after the process used for drawing legislative districts that is embedded in the PA Constitution. The legislative districting commission consists of one member appointed by the majority and minority caucuses and fifth member appointed by those four. If they cannot agree on a fifth member, according to the PA Constitution, the Supreme Court chooses that person.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

How to Fix Legislative Districting in Pennsylvania (Without Making Things Worse)

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We at the PBPC have been very critical of the effort to pass SB22, a constitutional amendment to change the way legislative districts for both Congressional and state legislative races are drawn, as it was recently amended in the state government committee. But that’s not because we don’t favor an independent redistricting commission that would create fair, nonpartisan districts.

We are very much in favor of a nonpartisan independent redistricting commission. There are very good, strategic options for securing a constitutional amendment, or the best parts of the current SB22, through legislation this year or very soon without supporting SB22 as it stands now. But we object to a political strategy that runs the very real risk of giving us another decade or more of gerrymandered districts, especially one that allows the Republican majority to claim credit for creating a better redistricting process when they have, in fact, undermined it. 

"Work Requirements" and the Political Appeal of Cruelty

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We at PBPC are engaged in a major effort to push back against legislation in the PA General Assembly to create work requirements for Medicaid and SNAP. The new federal Farm Bill put forward by House Republicans, which authorizes the SNAP (Food Stamp) program, has similar provisions.

Why the PA Supreme Court's Lines Should Stand

The effort by the General Assembly’s Republican leaders to have the United States Supreme Court block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to create new, fair congressional districts in our state is based on both a hypocritical attempt to undermine the rights of states and a flawed understanding of the subtle, yet fundamental, ideas of our constitutional system. The vehemence with which they are pursuing their case makes one wonder whether those ideas can survive in a day and age when so many politicians, especially on the Right, appear to have neither the intellect to understand principles that are the least bit complicated nor the integrity to follow them when they cut against the results they seek.

(Click to read the rest of the post.)

On President Trump's Infrastructure Proposal

The president has put forward a "plan" for infrastructure spending that identifies no new source of funding, that makes unbelievable assumptions about how much state and private spending can be leveraged by a limited amount of new federal spending and that proposes an end-around of environmental regulations in the guise of streamlining those regulations. 

In response to deep and long ignored needs in Pennsylvania and throughout the country for upgrading our roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and water and sewer works - needs that should be met by new investments that could create tens of thousands good jobs - the president has offered a glittering fantasy with little of the substance necessary to meet those needs.