Democrats set sights on re-ger­ry­man­der­ing Penn­syl­va­nia

The Community Connection - - OPINION - Low­man S. Henry Colum­nist

Em­bold­ened by the suc­cess of their strat­egy to re-ger­ry­man­der Penn­syl­va­nia’s con­gres­sional dis­tricts, Democrats have set their sights on gain­ing con­trol over the re-draw­ing of district lines that will oc­cur upon com­ple­tion of the 2020 cen­sus.

By way of re­view the Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court ear­lier this year ruled the district maps, ap­proved back in 2011 in a bi­par­ti­san and pre­vi­ously court-ap­proved process, amounted to un­con­sti­tu­tional ger­ry­man­der­ing. The jus­tices then im­posed new district lines by ju­di­cial fiat, in what many saw as a vi­o­la­tion of pro­vi­sions in both the fed­eral and state con­sti­tu­tions.

Since the Supreme Court is the fi­nal ar­biter of what is con­sti­tu­tional, the only re­course would have been im­peach­ment by the Gen­eral Assem­bly. Even as they watched the high court emas­cu­late their leg­isla­tive pow­ers, law­mak­ers could only muster howls of protest while tak­ing no sub­stan­tial ac­tion.

At the end of the day the court or­dered map — art­fully ger­ry­man­dered in its own right — was im­ple­mented. When the dust set­tled Democrats picked up four con­gres­sional seats con­tribut­ing to a na­tional wave of wins that saw Repub­li­cans lose ma­jor­ity con­trol of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Gov. Tom Wolf has launched yet an­other end run against the es­tab­lished process with an eye to con­trol­ling the 2021 re­dis­trict­ing. He has em­pan­eled a 15-mem­ber com­mis­sion to sup­pos­edly “im­prove” the re­dis­trict­ing process. Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem­pore Joe Scar­nati, who al­lowed the Supreme Court to get away with its last power grab, protested that Wolf has no power to set up such a com­mis­sion, failed to con­sult with the Gen­eral Assem­bly in se­lect­ing its mem­bers, and charged the com­mis­sion fails to rep­re­sent ru­ral Penn­syl­va­nia. Know­ing the leg­is­la­ture is a lion that roars, but does not bite, Wolf pro­ceeded with nam­ing the com­mis­sion.

Wolf named as chair­man of the com­mis­sion the head of a Philadel­phia-based or­ga­ni­za­tion pos­ing as a “good govern­ment” group. The League of Women Vot­ers, an­other Demo­crat front group has a seat at the ta­ble as does higher ed­u­ca­tion and “ur­ban af­fairs” rep­re­sen­ta­tives. To bal­ance par­ti­san Democrats on the com­mis­sion the gov­er­nor ap­pointed Char­lie Dent, a for­mer Repub­li­can con­gress­man well­known for his Left-lead­ing ide­ol­ogy.

The mis­sion is to sup­plant the or­derly process that for decades had passed court muster.

Ex­actly what is that process? Con­gres­sional re­dis­trict­ing takes the form of a bill which must be ap­proved by both houses of the Gen­eral Assem­bly and then be signed into law by the gov­er­nor. To win leg­isla­tive ap­proval, the con­gres­sional re­dis­trict­ing bill must go through the same process as any other leg­is­la­tion: it is drafted, there are hear­ings, there is a com­mit­tee vote fol­lowed by a floor vote in each cham­ber. Both houses must agree on an iden­ti­cal bill for it to be sent to the gov­er­nor for sig­na­ture.

In other words, the very same process by which any other law is en­acted is how we do con­gres­sional re­dis­trict­ing. For the gov­er­nor and his par­ti­san Left-wing al­lies to sug­gest that process is un­fair is to sug­gest our en­tire sys­tem of govern­ment is un­fair.

Here is what the gov­er­nor is ac­tu­ally say­ing: Repub­li­cans con­trol both houses of the Gen­eral Assem­bly and are likely to re­main in con­trol through the 2021 re­dis­trict­ing.

Wolf wants to in­stead have the job done by an un­elected com­mis­sion which he would ap­point.

Not only is that un­con­sti­tu­tional, but it un­der­mines the very sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers foun­da­tion upon which our Repub­lic is built.

This time, Sen. Scar­nati and his fel­low leg­isla­tive “leaders” need to do more than just talk — they need to stand up to Wolf and his power grab be­cause this time the very essence of our con­sti­tu­tional repub­lic is at stake.

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