A proposed state constitutional amendment creating an independent commission to oversee redistricting passed the state Senate today by a vote of 33 to 16.
The bill, which has been in the works for more than a year, went through revisions as late as yesterday. Its final version included a controversial amendment from Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) that, in addition to legislative districts, would create districts for the state’s Commonwealth, Superior and Supreme courts.
A subsequent vote to revert to an older version of the bill without the judicial districts failed by the same vote margin.
The bill now goes to the House for consideration, but not before opponents got the chance to air their grievances online:
From Sen. Jake Corman (R-Centre) opponent Ezra Nanes:
Attacking and undermining our citizen-elected courts is shameful. Redistricting should be a transparent, fair, impartial and independent process that works with integrity for all Pennsylvania Voters. The original #SB22 accomplished that, the current version does not.
— Ezra Nanes For PA State Senate, 34th District (@EzraPASenate34) June 13, 2018
From Rep. Alexander Charlton (R-Delaware) opponent Jennifer O’Mara
#SB22, a bill originally designed to create fair districts and end gerrymandering, has been co-opted and amended by @PASenateGOP to do exactly the opposite of what it was supposed to. As a legislator, I will fight for fair and equal districts across PA. #VoteOMara #Flipthe165th
— Jennifer O’Mara (@JennOMara4PA) June 13, 2018
From Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny):
#SB22 passed the Senate today – but not in the form of a good redistricting reform plan. Instead, Republicans forced it through with a disingenuous amendment to gerrymander our court system. I explain what happened here: https://t.co/nhAep5g7q8
— Senator Jay Costa (@Senatorcosta) June 13, 2018
And the Pa. Senate Dems weighed in, too:
Easy distinction on SB22
Us: We want a fair, open process for redistricting that involves citizen and expert input.
GOP: We want to retaliate against PA Supreme Court for finding our Congressional gerrymandering efforts unconstitutional by now gerrymandering judicial districts pic.twitter.com/zg8E01DRiY
— PaSenateDems (@PaSenateDems) June 13, 2018
Republicans have defended the bill in its final form as measures that should be advanced at the same time. At a Tuesday press conference, Aument denied the judicial districts amendment was partisan. He said creating judicial districts, which would also be overseen by the same independent commission, would make voters feel more represented and give them a greater stake in elections.
Opponents, including Sen. Costa, described the new amendment as a hijacking of the original bill designed to retaliate against judges with whom state Republicans disagreed.
For her part, Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton), the bill’s prime sponsor, said the process required a lot of “give and take” but she is ultimately satisfied with the outcome. Should voters approve the measure, politicians will be out of the business of legislative boundaries, she said.
“It is truly a historic day for the chamber. In most other states where redistricting reform took place it was through petition and referendum, something not available to the voters of Pennsylvania. Today, we took steps to diminish our influence over the way in which we draw all our legislative district boundaries and turn it over to an independent commission,” she said.