100 WVIA Way
Pittston, PA 18640

Phone: 570-826-6144
Fax: 570-655-1180

Copyright © 2022 WVIA, all rights reserved. WVIA is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Panel nears final vote on Pennsylvania legislative districts

 The LRC's proposed state legislative maps, approved at a Dec. 16, 2021 meeting, side-by-side.
The LRC's proposed state legislative maps, approved at a Dec. 16, 2021 meeting, side-by-side.

The Democratic leader of the Pennsylvania Senate said ahead of a final vote Friday on new General Assembly district maps that changes since preliminary maps were approved in December are minor.

“I think they're modest,” Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said in the Capitol's East Wing Rotunda early Friday. “Tweaks, changes, but nothing significant, to my knowledge.”

Costa is among four top legislative leaders on the Legislative Reapportionment Commission who have crafted the new maps, along with the chair, former University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, a Democrat. The changes made since December have not been made public.

Costa voted for both the preliminary House and Senate maps when the commission passed them on Dec. 16. The House map vote was 3-2, with the Republican House and Senate floor leaders voting no, while the Senate plan vote was 5-0.

In a change from December, the commission will vote on the maps together as one plan, he said. Costa declined to say how he will vote on the final version Friday afternoon.

“There will be one final plan offered, so this one I’d rather wait to discuss where I’m going to vote,” he said.

House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, outlined his amendment at a Capitol news conference, saying he felt he had been kept in the dark during the commission's process. His alternative, Benninghoff said, would make the suburban Philadelphia region of Bucks County more competitive, make changes in the heavily Republican Juniata Valley in central Pennsylvania and reverse plans to split Allentown, Reading, Lancaster and Harrisburg.

Whatever passes Friday, the new district maps will reshuffle the political deck in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, accounting for population growth in the eastern and southcentral parts of the state over the past decade.

Republicans have for several cycles controlled redistricting, and have long held durable and substantial majorities in both legislative chambers, even though statewide elections are usually close.

In the Senate, Costa said, he expects “it’ll be a fair map, at the end of the day, with opportunities for both sides.”

Since the December preliminary vote, the commission has fielded criticism and other input.

According to the state constitution, people who are “aggrieved” by whatever passes on Friday can file direct appeals to the state Supreme Court over the coming month. If the Democratic-majority court finds their objections show the plan violates law, the justices will send the plan back to the commission with orders to change it.

Pennsylvania also has not yet adopted a new congressional districts map after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Saturday vetoed a proposal that had passed the Legislature on nearly party-line votes. The state Supreme Court said this week it was stepping in to decide the congressional maps because of the impasse.

When the state Supreme Court redrew congressional district maps as a result of a lawsuit four years ago, what had been a 13-5 GOP edge in congressional seats became a 9-9 split. Pennsylvania lost a seat because of the 2020 census, so its delegation is shrinking to 17 U.S. House members.

Copyright 2022 90.5 WESA

Mark Scolforo | Associated Press