Redistricting Legislation Passes State Senate With Contentious Amendment

Republicans passed last-minute changes to judicial elections

PA State Capitol
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By Jennifer Bloodworth for NewsRadio 1020 KDKA

HARRISBURG (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – The state Senate passed the contentious legislation tackling drawing the commonwealth’s congressional maps Wednesday.

The bill proposes amendments to the state constitution, one of which would create an independent commission to redraw congressional maps, a measure that received bipartisan support.

The controversy came Tuesday when senate Republicans passed an amendment to the bill that would have Pennsylvania appeals court judges elected by districts rather than statewide voting.

Democratic Sen. Jay Costa of Allegheny County told the KDKA Radio Afternoon News Wednesday the “forced” amendment undoes years of efforts to adopt a fair, independent, bipartisan measure in Senate Bill 22 that would create fair federal and state legislative districts.

“It would simply take our … courts and basically strip them of what they are now and then redo them create districts,” Costa said. “Members of the courts would be elected by districts and the same commission that would be doing the legislative lines would be charged with the responsibility of doing the judicial lines.”

Costa says the bill has been around for a number of years, with advocates working with lawmakers on creating fairer districts. He and other Senate Democrats see the new measure as “retaliation” for the state Supreme Court’s new congressional map imposed earlier this year.

Lancaster County Republican Sen. Ryan Aument says he sponsored the amendment out of fairness, arguing on the floor Tuesday “only 15 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are home to an appellate court judge.”

The two issues in SB22 would appear as two different referendums on the November ballot if the House passes the bill; it is unclear how the House will vote.
 
Tony Romeo contributed to this article.

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