She calls on committee chairman to consider her reform bill

HARRISBURG, Feb. 6, 2012 – State Sen. Lisa Boscola today spoke on the Senate Floor urging the Senate to reform the redistricting process. She also called on Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks/Montgomery), chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, to bring up her reform proposal (Senate Bill 650) for a committee vote.

Following are the texts of Boscola’s (D-Northampton/Lehigh/Monroe) floor speech and letter to Sen. McIlhinney:

Floor Speech:

“Mr. President, this year’s redistricting process proved to be a disgrace and debacle.

If you want proof, just look at the majority opinion issued by the Supreme Court that said a normal citizen, using her own home computer, was able to draw better legislative boundaries than the Legislative Reapportionment Commission with all of its experts, support staff, advocates and legal advisors.

One good woman, one concerned citizen named Amanda Holt -from Lehigh County — succeeded where the commission failed because she was more interested in being fair and logical than constructing weirdly shaped political fiefdoms.

Guided by constitutional dictates and common sense, she drew her map in a sensible way that ignored the many pitfalls that have corrupted the redistricting process over the years.

Amanda didn’t have state and congressional incumbents wheeling and dealing in back rooms, carving up communities and regions to suit their political ends.

Amanda didn’t have to worry about drawing squiggly lines to pack more Democrats or Republicans into some incumbent’s district.

She didn’t have to contort her maps to district-out potential rivals.

To Amanda, looking out for number one was looking out for ordinary citizens who deserve the best possible representation in Harrisburg and Washington.

Mr. President, I also want to publicly commend the majority Supreme Court members who largely said, “Enough is enough.”

They were tired of the gerrymandering….the game playing….the wheeling and dealing…the jaded reasoning and blatant disregard for what our Constitution demands.

Mr. President, if this sorry chapter in Pennsylvania history proves anything, it proves that the less politicians have to do with drawing these maps, the better.

This is why I hope my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle are finally poised to get this embarrassing chapter behind us and consider a more equitable, independent and rational means of re-drawing legislative districts.

For nearly a decade, I have promoted a bipartisan resolution that prevents politicians from controlling redistricting. Instead, my bill would allow an independent body of citizens to draw the maps in a more fair and rational way.

Mr. President, Senate Bill 650 is patterned off a proven system used in Iowa. Under my proposal, a state Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Bureau would be established and comprised of members who do not hold political or party offices….aren’t related to those who hold office….or don’t work for those who hold office.

This structure would help take partisanship and politics out of the reapportionment and redistricting process altogether.

And let me warn all of you, if we are not prepared to reform this process now, we will be right back here in 10 years, red faced over how political insiders with secretive ambitions and axes to grind were able to misuse the process — leaving communities and regions such as the Lehigh Valley needlessly split and mutilated to suit their political ends.

Mr. President, the Supreme Court did the right thing. It’s time for us to follow suit.

The people deserve better.

Thank you Mr. President.”

 

Boscola letter to Sen. McIlhinney:

Dear Senator McIlhinney:

I am contacting you to request that Senate Bill 650 be brought up for a vote before the Senate State Government Committee. SB 650 establishes a Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Bureau and is modeled after the Iowa redistricting plan. I have introduced this legislation in previous sessions, but given the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on the redistricting challenges, it is time that we examine Pennsylvania’s current redistricting method and perhaps consider an alternative process.

Under SB 650, both Congressional and Legislative redistricting would be done by this Bureau and districts would be drawn considering the following factors:

-Ideal population

-Municipal boundaries

-Contiguous territory

-Compactness

-Communities of interest

Additionally, SB 650 creates a Redistricting Advisory Commission to direct the Bureau in cases where the Bureau is confronted by a question in which no clear applicable guideline is available in law. These Commission members would be appointed by the four Caucus leaders and the respective appointees would select the fifth commission member. The appointees must be an eligible elector in the Commonwealth, may not hold a partisan public or political party office and may not be a relative of any member of the General Assembly or member of Congress or be employed by the General Assembly or Congress.

The legislation would remove much of the controversy and public perception that political considerations and motives are driving the reapportionment process. The recent embarrassing spectacle of the Supreme Court throwing out the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s plan underscores the public’s dissatisfaction over how the redistricting process has become distorted and tainted. If we are serious about public pledges for openness, conforming to the spirit and letter of our Constitution and improving the way the state legislature does business, supporting this balanced proposal is a step in that direction.

It is imperative that we instill public confidence back into our redistricting process and eliminate the perceived partisanship and politics. I strongly believe that my bill has the power to accomplish these goals and fix the aspects of our redistricting methodology that are clearly broken.

Sincerely, Lisa M. Boscola

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