Leader McClinton statement on committee vote

House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton made this statement about a House committee’s vote today on a bill she sponsored:

“This morning the Republican members of the House State Government Committee advanced a substantially amended version of my legislation, House Bill 706, which was initially drafted to correct the longstanding practice of prison gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. During the committee meeting the majority members of the committee attacked the clear legal authority of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission and referred to its neutral, non-partisan Chief Counsel’s analysis as ‘dubious.’ The majority members questioned the LRC’s good faith effort to move its work forward in a fair and equitable way. This unprecedented action was done after I explicitly requested that this action not be taken. 

“I’ve long advocated for the end of prison gerrymandering and the reallocation of incarcerated individuals to their home communities for purposes of legislative and congressional redistricting. I’ve introduced legislation to do so in three legislative sessions. Republicans have only chosen to act now at this late hour as a result of their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the LRC’s legitimate and thorough process.

“As I wrote in my correspondence to Chairman Grove, the Chief Counsel to the LRC, Honorable Robert L. Byer, traced the Commission’s authority to make this adjustment of census data and concluded that the authority derives from Article II, Section 17 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Specifically, Judge Byer noted that, at the 1967-1968 constitutional convention, ‘[t]he committee for the convention that made the proposal for what now is Article II, Section 17 made a purposeful decision to take this power outside the purview of the General Assembly.’  The actions taken this morning are no more than an attempt to undermine the productive work of the LRC and assert power the legislature does not have.

“The amended version of House Bill 706 ignores the clear and considerable differences between college students choosing to move to communities in which they study and incarcerated individuals who are forcibly moved to prisons outside their home communities. Incarcerated individuals cannot establish residency in their prison under Pennsylvania law while college students are free to register and vote in their new community.  They are also free to participate in those communities and form ties in them while those incarcerated have no meaningful connections to those communities. The LRC explored these differences in detail in public hearings over the course of months and came to a reasoned compromise.

“While working with Chairman Nordenberg and other members of the LRC we have come to a compromise rooted in fairness and equity. I urge my colleagues to reject this attempt to undermine the thoughtful and deliberate process of the LRC.”