Senate Approves Historic Redistricting Reform Plan — Including Fair Judicial Districts
The Senate approved sweeping changes this week to the process of how legislative and Congressional districts are created. The reforms included a plan I introduced that will bring greater fairness to the process of electing state appellate court judges by ensuring every region of the state receives representation.
Senate Bill 22 would create an independent commission to draw district lines instead of allowing a panel of lawmakers to create the maps. Elected officials, candidates for public office, lobbyists and legislative staff would be prohibited from serving on the commission. The maps would be required to be created without the use of partisan data, prior election results or the addresses of specific individuals to prevent any undue political influence in the process.
The legislation was amended to include my proposal that would guarantee that the diversity of Pennsylvania and the uniqueness of its various regions would be more accurately reflected in the election of appellate judges.
In current practice, appellate court judges are elected on a statewide basis, so many of the candidates for office come only from the largest counties in the state. Taken together, only 15 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are home to a Pennsylvania appellate court judge.
My plan would divide the state into judicial districts to ensure every region of the state is represented on appellate courts. This simple step would certainly promote greater diversity and fairness in judicial service.
Critics of the judicial reform proposal have wrongfully claimed that it would hurt the bill’s chances of earning approval in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill cleared the Senate by a bipartisan 35-14 margin, and I am hopeful that my amendment will make it more likely to be considered in the House of Representatives in time for the measure to be put on the ballot in advance of the next round of redistricting after the 2020 Census.
More details about the fair judicial district legislation are available here.
I was proud to join my colleagues for a news conference in support of Senate Bill 22 to bring greater fairness to the way we elect judges and the way that legislative and Congressional district lines are drawn.
Senate Committees Approve Agriculture Bills
Agriculture is the backbone of our state and local economies, and it is critical to ensure we support this important part of the heritage of our state and livelihood of so many Pennsylvanians. Senate committees endorsed three bills this week that I introduced to promote the state’s agriculture community.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 819, and the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 820. Both bills support agritourism activities such as farm tours, hay rides and corn mazes. Many farm owners offer these activities as a way to educate community residents and boost income. The bills are designed to set uniform standards and clarify liability issues regarding these activities.
The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee also approved Senate Resolution 382, which I sponsored to urge the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent misleading labeling of non-dairy products. Many plant-based products are marketed as milk, despite the fact that they contain no dairy. This practice only compounds the financial challenges facing Pennsylvania dairy farmers.
More information on the agriculture package is available here.
Rep. Mindy Fee and I enjoyed visiting with students from H.C. Bugard Elementary School during their visit to the Capitol Building in Harrisburg.