Saturday, February 13, 2016

One for the Good Guys

The state Supreme Court has trashed a politically motivated redistricting plan, an action that, surprisingly, is a win for good government.

One for the Good Guys


"Holy cow."

That was the reaction from good-government crusader Tim Potts, co-founder of the grassroots reform group Democracy Rising Pa, to news late yesterday that the state Supreme Court trashed a gerrymandered plan to redraw the lines for state House and Senate seats.

It was my reaction too.

Potts is also quoted, in an Inky story on the stunning move, saying, "The forces of truth and justice have another opportunity to prevail."

In Pennsylvania?

Maybe so. By a one-vote margin, the high court, and specifically former Philly Republican pol/now Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille, smacked down the state's GOP leadership  in ruling unconstitutional its partisan plan designed to maintain its legislative majorities for the next decade.

This isn't supposed happed in the Land of Low Expections. Routinely, the high court, every 10 years, endorses or looks away from partisan redistricting, regardless of which party is carving up the state to its own advantage.

Not this time. Even though the other six justices voted their partisan backgrounds, Castille broke the mold.

"The Pennsylvania Supreme Court acted with respect for the Constitution, communities across our commonwealth, and the voters," said Democratic Senate Leader Jay Costa in a statement released after the ruling.

Costa is right. And this, my friends, represents a signifigant departure from the usual politics of party-first. It offers at least some momentary hope that some fairness could trump the political thugs that usually shape our state.

It is as surprising as the House taking up legislation to reduce its own size, as it did earlier this week.

Two positive steps in the span of a couple days might represent an inching toward change. While the House debate and an actual vote is yet to come on the reduction plan and a final resolution of redistricting -- whether to use existing lines for this year's elections or whether legislative leaders quickly submit a new, more acceptable plan -- remain in the future, there is today a glimmer of hope, and one win for the good guys.




Daily News Political Columnist
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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

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

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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