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Not Tomorrow: Congressional Redistricting Maps On Hold Again

(Updated at 4:45 to add quotes from Barry Kauffman and others.)

By Sari Heidenreich, Contributing Writer

Congressional redistricting maps will not be out tomorrow, said House GOP Spokesman Steve Miskin Tuesday afternoon.The office of State Government Committee Chairman Daryl Metcalfe said the only information they have at the moment is that “the committee staff was told to withdrawal the bill.” They could provide no information on the reasoning behind the decision.

The redistricting bill is no longer on the committee schedule instead, the committee is now set to vote on a national forests bill.  Candidates running for office 2012 start circulating their nominating petitions for on January 24 and H.B. 5 currently looks like the image to the right:

“There is still plenty of time to get this done,” Miskin said in response to concerns that time is running out to get a bill through both chambers and to the governor.

“Now the situation gets worse by the day,” said Barry Kauffman, director of the nonpartisan political watchdog group Common Cause, “If you do a little backwards mouth … we’re now [seven] weeks away from the date that candidates can start circulating petitions.”

According to the Chief Clerk’s office, the House is currently scheduled to be in session for another six days in December.

It takes a minimum of five voting days to get a bill passed through both houses. And that’s “that’s if everything ran just like clockwork,” Kauffman said. If the redistricting amendment were to be tacked onto a bill that had already been brought up in the House, it could take as little as three days. But again, that’s “if everything ran absolutely perfectly … from a legislative mechanics perspective,” which is not likely to happen Kauffman said.

On Monday, Kauffman sent State Government Committee members a memo in collaboration with the League of Women Voters urging them not to move the bill out of committee until Pennsylvanians have had at least 10 days to review the proposed districts. Kauffman said that while the committee held hearings in the spring regarding congressional redistricting, a version of their plan has not yet been circulated.

Because of it’s less-than-average population growth, Pennsylvania will be losing on of its 18 congressional seats next year. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Brad Bumsted reported yesterday that Democrat Mark Critz’s 12th district is the most likely one to go.

Bumsted quotes Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, as saying,  ”It seems very clear that the 12th district will vanish in the redistricting with its more Democratic areas being blended with the more Democratic areas of the 4th District, and its Republican-leaning regions being moved to adjacent GOP-held districts.”

This move would pit Critz against against Rep. Jason Altmire (D-4).

The other big rumor, according to the Times-Tribune is that Rep. Lou Barletta (R-11) may have Lackawanna
County written out of his district. Lackawanna County, and the Democratic stronghold of Scranton, would then likely become part of the 17th district currently represented by Rep. Tim Holden (D-17). Capitolwire reported this afternoon that Barletta will also likely shed Wilkes-Barre and Pittston, Democrtaic bases in his home County of Luzerne.

The Brookings Institute has their own state-by-state redistricting forecasts. For Pennsylvania, they see Republicans poised to solidify gains rather than expand their majority, an idea widely discussed over the past several months.

“The words are ‘consolidating gains,’ ” Borick told the Allentown Morning Call Friday. “[Republicans] are not looking for increased seats. They’re looking for ways to hold on to what they’ve got.”

But Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-6th) cautions onlookers about believing these ‘initial reports.’

“I was there 10 years ago and what people thought the map would end up being and what ended up in the bill [authorizing it] were different things,” he told the Morning Call. “Never believe initial reports.”

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