Public critiques preliminary Pa. House and Senate maps

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — New boundaries for state house and senate seats will be finalized in the next few weeks and they will stand for the next ten years. But the group drawing the maps let the public speak about them over the past two days, and they’ve provided an earful.

“Please do not split the municipality of Murrysville between two state legislators,” Murrysville Mayor Regis Synan said.

The public was allowed to comment on proposed house and senate maps and the public did. “South Fayette School District is a stand-alone school district. The proposed map would split it in two,” Douth Fayette Township Manager John Barrett said.

Maria Gutierrez worries the surging Latino population isn’t appropriately reflected in the legislature. “With these numbers, how can we explain that Pennsylvania has never had a Latino senator and has had only four Latino representatives?” Gutierrez asked.

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The complaints are hyper-focused like the Mayor of Murrysville asking not to be split between two state reps. “If I need help at the state level, who should I go to? legislator A or legislator B? Do legislator A and B work well together? Those are issues a small town Mayor does not want to wade in,” Synan said.

Mapmakers are forced to wade into the vague concept of communities of interest. They’re not supposed to split them. But defining them isn’t easy. “Sometimes it’s maybe our parochial thinking at times we just can’t visualize there would be any sense of community,” Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R) said.

“An alternative would be to include northern Dauphin, with parts of Schuylkill, Lebanon, and Northumberland County,” Jenn Handley said. She brought her own map and specific ideas on how to improve the commission’s preliminary drawings. “If there is a possibility to make adjustments that are not too disruptive, I ask that you please consider doing so.”

The commission heard lots of testimony about maps and boundaries. And will hear more. But are they listening? Chairman Mark Nordenberg says absolutely. “It would stun me if there was not changes made to the preliminary maps before we make them final,” Nordenberg said.

House Republican Leader Kerry Benninghoff reiterated after two days of hearings it is clear that changes need to be made. He thinks the maps unfairly favor Democrats.

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