SB 581 & HB 1116Background and procedural information
There were two constitutional amendments pending in the Pennsylvania legislature in 2005: HB 1116 and SB 581. The Senate bill, introduced on 4/12/05 was referred to the committee on state government. The House bill was introduced on 5/2/05 and also referred to the committee on state government. The Senate bill proposes only superficial changes to the current procedure (e.g. giving the commission the power to draw congressional districts), which involves a commission consisting of the four legislative leaders and a fifth, non-political member. The House version proposes much more substantial changes, and unless specifically noted, is the version discussed below. Both bills failed.
Under the proposed legislation, are single-member districts a requirement or otherwise implied?
No. However, Article II § 16 requires single-member districts for the house and senate.
Does the proposed legislation provide for Voting Rights Act compliance (e.g. can the commission use voter history information)?
No. The commission is prohibited from using any political or personal considerations in drafting any reapportionment plan, and there is no exception for compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
Under the proposed legislation, how is the commission formed?
The 9-member commission would consist of 8 members appointed by each of the majority and minority leaders and whips of both houses. The Supreme Court would appoint the final member, who would also serve as chairperson.
Under the proposed legislation, are competitive districts favored?
Under the proposed legislation, can members of the public submit plans?
Possibly. The commission is prohibited from using any political or personal considerations in drafting any reapportionment plan. It is possible this language could cover a plan submitted by a member of the public.
Does the proposed legislation allow for mid-decade redistricting?
No. The legislation specifically addresses this issue and would allow districting only once in the decade following a census.
*Note: A proposal may be neutral on whether or not to favor competitive districts for a number of reasons, including that such a requirement may be thought to conflict with other criteria, potentially create other legal issues, or is assumed to flow from the new process itself -- or it might merely not be a priority for the legislative sponsors. FairVote believes that some form of proportional voting is needed to ensure maximum competitiveness for each seat and to ensure meaningful choices for all voters.