US Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick pushes for redistricting reform
A resolution introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon by Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick attempts to shed light on what the lawmaker has said is the underlying cause for Congress' inaction on more prominent issues.
Co-sponsored by Democrat Alan Lowenthal, of California, the resolution calls on Congress to eliminate gerrymandering from the redistricting process. Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown, said such a move would improve public confidence in the electoral process.
"Partisan gerrymandering has exacerbated electoral complacency that causes lawmakers to focus on accumulating power rather than serving constituents, and contributed to the growing divide of partisanship that grinds the gears of government to a halt," said Fitzpatrick. "The American people need fewer politicians and more independent voices focused on serving."
Redistricting reform was the subject of one of Fitzpatrick's first bills when he took office in January. The CLEAN Act would direct states to use independent, nonpartisan commissions to redraw congressional maps every 10 years.
According to the Congress.gov website, no co-sponsors have supported the bill, and it sits in three House committees: Administration, Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform. A spokesperson from Fitzpatrick's office said Wednesday in an emailed response that the congressman has been working the House floor every day to build support.
State and local activists in Pennsylvania have stepped up their own push to enact redistricting reform in the state. Groups like Fair District PA hold regular seminars and workshops explaining the issue and supporters have regularly contributed opinion pieces and letters to the editors of this news organization.
Their efforts have focused primarily on Senate Bill 22, legislation introduced in Harrisburg by Sens. Lisa Boscola D-Lehigh/Northampton, and Mario Scavello, R-Monroe/Northampton in February.
The current redistricting process is overseen by a five-person committee. Two of the members are chosen by the Democrats, two by the Republicans, and both parties agree on the fifth. If the parties cannot sign off on the fifth, the state Supreme Court makes the call.
Under the proposed bill, an 11-member commission would be formed with four Democrats, four Republicans and three independents. Any redrawn maps would need approvals from seven members, with at least one from each subgroup.
The proposed reform would need to become an amendment to the state Constitution. That means it needs to be approved in two consecutive legislative sessions, then presented to state voters as a ballot referendum. If the timeline remains intact with General Assembly votes adopting the legislation in the 2017-18 and 2019-20 sessions, that referendum could appear in the 2020 election.
SB 22 remains in the Senate's State Government Committee with 10 co-sponsors, including one Republican and nine Democrats.