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How redistricting will work in Pa. this year


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Your Postmaster: Sarah Anne Hughes
January 18, 2021
Definitive political fight, small protest, vaccine guidelines, no charges, Queen Bey's gift, and how to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It's Monday.
With partisanship in the Pennsylvania legislature at peak levels, lawmakers this year are gearing up for the once-a-decade brawl to redraw political districts. Here's how it will work.

There are different processes that govern the drawing of congressional boundaries and the state House and Senate districts. The first involves a bill passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, while the latter is controlled by a panel of legislative leaders. The state Supreme Court, meanwhile, can throw out any maps it deems unfair or illegal.

This year, with the U.S. Census Bureau behind schedule in releasing population data because of the pandemic and legal battles brought by President Donald Trump’s administration, the process is likely to be delayed — likely beginning in late spring.

THE CONTEXT: Redistricting is fundamentally controlled by the most powerful lawmakers in Harrisburg. They can manipulate the lines to all but guarantee legislative majorities — and their own job security.

It’s what Republicans did in 2011, when they controlled all three branches of government. And while they still control the General Assembly, the GOP this year will have to work with Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who can veto the congressional map, and the Democrat-dominated state Supreme Court.

Advocates for redistricting reform such as Fair Districts PA wanted to cut lawmakers completely out of the process, but the legislature failed to advance a proposal to create an independent commission. They're still pushing for requirements that would institute better criteria and add more transparency to the process.
"They were always afraid I would be too independent. When I kept winning, the delegation was not happy. I was breaking up the club."

— Former U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, one of only 11 women from Pennsylvania to serve on Congress, on how state politics continues to be dominated by men
POST IT: Thanks, Joe. P., for this shot of Cobbs Creek Park in Philadelphia. Send us your hidden gems use the hashtag #PAGems, or tag us on Instagram at @spotlightpennsylvania.
A QUIET SUNDAY: All was quiet at the state Capitol in Harrisburg yesterday, as just a handful of protesters and counterprotesters mingled amid a heavy police presence prepared for possible unrest. Among those who came out: one man in a “Fraud 2020″ hoodie.  

'A GOOD MAN': State Sen. Dave Arnold, of Lebanon County, died Sunday at age 49, PennLive reports. Arnold was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly before winning a special election in 2020. "We lost a good man and committed leader much too soon," Republican leadership said in a statement.
SHIFTING GUIDELINES: A lack of a central registry, shifting priorities, and public confusion are complicating the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Pennsylvania, the Post-Gazette reports. Most independent drug stores are still waiting for state approval to give the shots, and pharmacists are being forced to act as bouncers. 

NO CHARGES: A judge has thrown out charges against a fired Philadelphia police officer who beat a Temple University student during a protest, The Inquirer reports. District Attorney Larry Krasner said he plans to refile charges: "Philadelphians require equal treatment under the law, and that means police accountability has to be real."
INVESTIGATION OVER: The feds have closed an investigation into nine discarded ballots found in northeastern Pennsylvania, citing "insufficient evidence to prove criminal intent on the part of the person who discarded the ballots." As the Washington Post notes, the investigation was controversial from the start and seen as politically motivated. 
A DAY FOR SERVICE: It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day, "a day on, not a day off" dedicated to serving others. I plan to join the staff of the National Museum of African American History and Culture by transcribing Freedmen's Bureau Records. You can find other ways to volunteer both online and in-person here.

QUEEN BEY: A Philadelphia designer who focuses on up-cycled, sustainably made garments recently received a grant from the one and only Beyonce. The superstar's BeyGood foundation is helping Black-owned small-business owners survive the pandemic.

SOUNDS SILENCED: Jonnet Solomon wants to save the historic but deteriorated building that once housed the National Negro Opera Company in Pittsburgh, but she needs help. She's trying to create buzz about her fundraising campaign by inviting singers to perform outside the site.

GOODBYE TO A FRIEND: LA Times staff writer Amy Kaufman has this lovely remembrance of her friendship and correspondence with the late Joanne Rogers. “Never forget: I love you," Rogers told Kaufman during their final call.  

WELCOME, QUÝ BÁU: The Philadelphia Zoo is celebrating the birth of an endangered François' langur named Quý Báu. Please enjoy this very cute video of the baby being bathed.
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

Friday's answer: Generation

Congrats to our weekly winner: David I.

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