Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Laugh lines

The new state legislative district lines, drawn, as required by law following every 10-year census, are, as expected, laughingly partisan.

Laugh lines

(A brief discussion twixt Baer & Baer's editor, a.k.a. BE)

BE: Hey, JB, I see the Legislative Reapportionment Commission approved new state House and Senate district lines for the next decade.

JB: You betcha. Here's an Inky story. And you'll be shocked, SHOCKED to learn that the plan, controlled by Republicans, was approved by a partisan 3-2 vote with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.

BE: Wait, wait, you're not suggesting the post-census, every-10-year requirement to make our representation more representative by adjusting district lines to fit population changes is a POLITICAL exercise?

JB: Ha! Good one, boss.

BE: What possible evidence is there of that?

JB: Well, let's look at Harrisburg. Veteran incumbent GOP Sen. Jeff Piccola, whose current district includes the Democratic city of Harrisburg and who angered the city by pushing hard for a state takeover, suddenly has a new district that wraps around the city like a horseshoe.

BE: The areas outside of and around Harrisburg are Republican. So that makes Piccola's reelection much easier.

JB: Not much gets by you, does it?

BE: But certainly the overall intent is always to achieve the best possible representation for each area's population.

JB: Sure. Just like last time when former GOP state House powerhouse John Perzel re-shaped his northeast Philly district to exclude the home of Democrat Mark Chilutti who almost beat him in the election prior to the last redistricting.

BE: You make it sound like ALL this stuff is about incumbency protection.

JB: And laugh lines. Senate GOP Leader Dominic Pileggi, a commission member, said, apparently with a straight face, the plan "addresses population shifts." Democratic Senate Leader Jay Costa said, "It was a raw, politically partisan exercise."

BE: Hmmm. So they disagree?

JB: HA! HA! There you go again, cutting right through the subtle nuance of the issue.

BE: What happens next?

JB: Well, there's a 30-day period for public comment and there's a hearing on the plan Nov. 18. There are few glitches. Republicans "accidently" moved the home of Pittsburgh Democratic Rep. Adam Ravenstahl -- brother of Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl -- into a district where he doesn't live. But Republicans say it was an honest mistake that they'll fix.

BE: That's pretty funny.

JB: That's what it's all about. Whichever party has the power whenever the lines get redrawn always make sure we get at least a few good laugh lines. Grrr!

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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