I am often asked, why I love my job…and what exactly is my job?
In 2010 when I first ran for election and was meeting many citizens at their door, I got asked a myriad of questions, a few that I remember to this day.
Pam’s legislative wish list for the New Year!
At this time of year, I enjoy taking the time to reflect on the path traveled. Simultaneously, I like to look forward to the possibilities of the New Year.
Since I write in my capacity as your State Representative, my thoughts center on the legislative initiatives that can truly make a difference in the lives of my constituents. In no particular order, I think the state legislature should focus on:
A measure now being considered to expand gaming in PA is meant to fill the state’s revenue gap, but Pam cautions that it could be a big gamble.
Over the past several years there have been a few attempts to expand gaming in the commonwealth.
No bill had made it successfully through both chambers to the Governor’s desk until HB271.
The revenue gap of over $1.5 billion was the impetus to craft a bill that could provide some recurring revenue for the state since so many of my colleagues are averse to considering raising any type of tax. For example, the personal Income tax was last raised in 2004, and we still do not have a severance tax on Marcellus Shale.
In last month’s column, I shared with you something scary. This month, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will share with you some things for which I am grateful.
It is November already and as I write this it is a very mild autumn we are experiencing, which is a reminder that I am truly grateful we live in a geography that rarely experiences hurricanes like Irma, floods like those Harvey created with 50 inches of rain, and fires like the ones that destroyed towns in California.
How our state budget turned scary!
The theme this month is Halloween and I was asked to pen something scary. Hmmm – does anything happen in state government that is not scary?!
Let me share something that is happening right now. Something that is quite scary indeed.
Too many of PA’s voting districts are gerrymandered. Pam supports a way to put this practice out of its misery.
Fair and square elections are what citizens are demanding and I am working hard to deliver by supporting redistricting reform legislation.
Why is this important? Every ten years after the U.S. Census is taken, new boundaries are drawn for Pennsylvania State Senators and Representatives to accommodate shifts in population. This redistricting process is necessary but the manner in which the new boundaries are drawn has been abused by a process known as gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is the manipulation of the boundaries to favor one party.
Election Day is approaching fast. Pam runs down the races and discusses how the “merit selection of judges” could give us better candidates.
May 16th is Election Day. Election Day occurs two times a year although you would not know it by the historical turnout in non-Presidential election years.
Generally turnout is no greater than 20%. I sincerely hope that given the current heightened interest, involvement, and awareness of citizens, our turnout on May 16th is closer to 50% (although in my opinion it should be 75% or higher).
Putting a stop to gerrymandering
This past election cycle there has been much discussion about winning elections fair and square. There has been talk of rigged elections. Many citizens are now familiar, at least somewhat, with the role of the Electoral College.
Additionally, many citizens are recognizing the impact of what is referred to as gerrymandering — the manipulation of the geographic boundaries to favor one political party. Gerrymandering happens in our commonwealth every 10 years under the guise of redistricting and it is a practice that needs to stop.
What is redistricting? Our state constitution requires that district lines be redrawn every 10 years following completion of the United States Census. These lines must be drawn in a compact, contiguous manner taking care to only divide communities for good and sufficient reason.
In PA, we have a Redistricting Commission which is responsible for redrawing the state representative and state senatorial districts. The five-member Commission is comprised of the 4 caucus leaders (the majority and minority leaders of the PA House and Senate) and the fifth individual, ostensibly non-partisan, is chosen by those caucus leaders. If this individual cannot be agreed upon, then the PA Supreme Court appoints the chair. The legislature does not vote on the plans and the governor has no power to sign or veto them.
Needless to say, this results in elected officials deciding those boundaries and therefore ‘picking their constituents’ instead of creating districts where competitive races can be run. ‘Safe seats’ and districts packed with one or the other party is the result. This is gerrymandering.
I am in support of creating an Independent Commission to assist in the development of compact and contiguous districts.
Redistricting congressional districts goes through the legislative process. A bill defining the district boundaries is passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the governor. Although the process is potentially bipartisan, if one party controls both the Pennsylvania House and Senate and the governorship, that party has exclusive control over how the district boundaries are drawn thereby becoming highly manipulated.
In 2012 I was a “no” vote for the legislation put forth to redraw our 18 congressional districts and was appalled at the yes votes from both sides of the aisle. Rumor had it that members of the congressional delegation were asking for affirmative votes…and those votes were ultimately received. Again, gerrymandering.
The topic of gerrymandering is so important to good government and transparency and the development of policy that meets the needs of the greater good of our citizens that I have covered it in all 59 of my Town Hall meetings. A few of those meetings have been focused almost exclusively on this topic.
If the size of the legislature were to be reduced without gerrymandering being outlawed, our governance process will be even more prone to serving special interests and not our citizens.
As a member of the Government Reform caucus, I will continue to work tirelessly on this, IMHO, ‘root of all evils.’
FairDistrictsPA is a coalition led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause PA to change our state constitution to create a redistricting commission composed of citizens selected by lottery to redraw the boundaries. We need this amendment to our state constitution to pass before the next U.S. census in 2020.
Help Us Fight for Fair Elections
If you want to get involved in this effort and do not have access to a computer, please call my office at 215-482-8726 and we will put you in touch with the Philadelphia coordinator of this effort.
Pam reflects on 2016 and hopes to move onward and upward in the new year.
First and foremost a Happy New Year! The New Year is always an opportunity for me to reflect back and to look forward.
Thank you to the voters who made the decision to elect me to continue to represent them in Harrisburg. It is an honor and privilege to serve the 194th in this capacity.
State laws impact our daily life and I do my best to be present for all session days and voting committee meetings in our state capitol. I also participate in debate both on the floor and in the standing committees of which I am a member.
Some little known facts about running for office from Rep. DeLissio.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief. Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker…
Many citizens would be surprised that any of the folks listed is eligible to run for office in the United States from the President to local school board, township commissioner, city council member, or district magistrate.
The true benefit of our type of government is that when it comes to elected office, theoretically, the playing field is level.
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