Dems blast GOP over Pa. redistricting plan

    A preliminary plan for new Pennsylvania House and Senate districts has passed a bipartisan panel’s vote, three-to-two.

    Party leaders aren’t just split on the merits of the proposed maps–they’re at odds about the negotiating process.

    The proposals are the handiwork of the Republican caucuses, but GOP leaders insist they’re fair and legal.

    House Minority Leader Frank Dermody almost smacked the mike away after calling out House Republicans for not sharing their proposed plan until Monday, right before the scheduled vote.

    “And my guess is clearly that my colleague had a significant more amount time to review the plan.” Dermody said. “Frankly, I look at is as a classic bait and switch.”

    Dermody’s counterpart in the House said the Democrats knew full well which districts needed to be changed based on population growth–and which of those changes would cause a ruckus.

    House Majority Leader Mike Turzai says Democrats have repeatedly asked for delays, and this time is no different.

    “Look, you may not have seen a map, but everybody knew what were in negotiations. Everybody knew what was in play and what the contested areas were,” Turzai said. “There’s no surprises here, everybody knows.”

    The chairman of the redistricting panel called a half-hour recess to get legislative caucus leaders to share their final proposed maps.

    But Democrats and Republicans still emerged split on their respective plans.

    Democratic leaders were not alone in their objections to the process. A government reform advocate says the approval of a preliminary plan to redraw some Pennsylvania House and Senate districts shows the whole system needs to be changed. “Here we have what is really the biggest political power play of the decade being decided by four people who haven’t even seen the maps ’til half an hour before they need to vote,” said Barry Kauffman, head of Common Cause Pennsylvania. “That’s just an absurd situation. There’s clearly a need to change this whole process.”

    Kauffman said he also expected the public to get more than two and a half weeks to review the preliminary plan before the first scheduled public hearing.

    The Senate GOP spokesman says, in the past, redistricting plans haven’t changed much after the first round of maps are approved.

    Under the preliminary plan, one Senate seat would move from Allegheny County to Monroe County, and four House seats would move from the southwest to the central and eastern parts of the state–two Republican, and two Democrat.

    The public can check out the maps online and leave comments, or sound off at a Nov. 18 hearing in Harrisburg.

    The chairman of the redistricting panel called a half-hour recess to get legislative caucus leaders to share their final proposed maps. But Democrats and Republicans still emerged split on their respective plans.

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