by Coleman Poses
Upset by State Reapportionment Commission's tapering their advantage from 33 House seats down to five, Republicans are now ready to pass two constitutional amendments that would allow them complete control of the redistricting process through gerrymandering, as well as complete control of the state's appellate courts through jurist-mandering.
PA HB 2207 would create a new 11 member commission, composed of: Eight members selected by majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate, two selected by the majority of votes from the county governments, and one selected by Commonwealth Court. Since most of the Pennsylvania counties are Republican governed, and since the Commonwealth Court is primarily Republican, the GOP would have the edge on this commission. The Commission would be responsible for drawing new state maps. If the commission's maps are rejected by the Republican dominated state legislature, the legislature can draw a new map and vote on its approval. Since Republicans always have the final say, one is left to wonder why expend the time and resources to have a commission at all.
Yet the most insidious bill right now is the one that has been reintroduced in the General Assembly, which has been deemed to be judicial gerrymandering, or jurist-mandering. To refresh your memory, PA HB 38 would create geographic districts from which justices from the Superior Court, Commonwealth Court, and the Supreme Court would be elected. The districts would be drawn up by the State legislature, and could be fluid from election to election. You only need to remember the various Big Lie lawsuits that passed through Commonwealth Court and the Supreme Court in 2020 and 2021 to realize how important these institutions are.
The current fair funding educational lawsuit being heard in Commonwealth Court is an example of how nefarious this law could be. The Republican legislators are the defendants in this case. By the time it is appealed to the State Supreme Court (which it is almost bound to be), justices from districts created by the lawsuit's defendants will be hearing this case.
Since both of these bills are written as Constitutional amendments, they do not need the Governor's signature to pass the two houses before they are introduced as ballot questions.