Due to a change in how this platform works, it has become very difficult to make new postings for future events. I hope to find a solution soon, but in the meantime my apologies for a rather thin slate of events! There really is a lot going on... note that I also share events on Facebook, so look me up there if you're at loose ends.
Constitutional amendments have been proposed regarding redistricting: House Bill 38, to create judicial districts, and House Bill 2207, to replace the Legislative Reapportionment Commission with a sham citizens commission.
Thanks to the strong outcry from so many of you and other concerned organizations, no further action was taken on those bills this week. The House is in recess until January 24, so there’s still time to continue speaking out against both bills.
HB 2207 is clearly designed to push back against the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s preliminary House map, which House GOP leadership has described as a Democratic gerrymander. The proposed map is far less distorted than maps of the past few decades. It corrects decades of distortion made to keep incumbents in their districts as population shifted. In doing so, it puts in jeopardy the locked-in majority Republicans have enjoyed in the House for most of the last twenty years. For voters, this is a good thing: a chance at a more accountable, responsive legislature. For those representatives who have consistently ignored voters’ voices, the prospect is obviously upsetting.
If you’ve contacted your representative, please also consider a local letter to the editor against one or both bills. (you can find ideas for HB 2207 here, and see sample letters on HB 38 here and here.)
Preliminary Legislative Maps
January 18 is the deadline for comment on both preliminary maps. After that, the commission has 30 days to revise. It’s not too late to offer your own comments on both preliminary House and Senate maps.
Final hearings on the proposed maps, now full, will take place January 14 and 15. The hearing from 2 to 5 pm on Friday, January 14, will feature expert testimony assessing the maps. You can find schedules and agendas here.
Congressional Map (House Bill 2146)
After almost a month of no action on the Congressional map, the PA House voted this week on House Bill 2146, a map initially drawn by citizen mapper Amanda Holt. When members of his committee refused to approve that selection, Representative Grove amended it and it was voted out of committee on a party-line vote on December 15.
It is still not clear why that particular map was chosen or what criteria Rep. Grove was using. The map falls short of other submitted maps and Governor Wolf has already indicated he would veto it. With the Senate in recess until January 24 and numerous lawsuits already filed in Commonwealth Court, it seems likely that the court will intervene soon. You can see the proposed map and our assessment here. Draw the Lines grades both map and process here.
There has been far more attention to the redistricting process than in the past. The process is not over, but be assured, the resultant maps will be far better than those provided at the start of the last decade. In all of this, it remains clear: real reform is needed. We are learning a great deal as we go through this redistricting season and will be turning attention to drafting the strongest reform bill possible once new maps are finalized.
Fair Districts PA has been hosting a series of Mapping Monday Open Houses -- they’ll be continuing through the end of January. This is an unstructured Zoom meeting with breakouts to look at maps by region, explore redistricting metrics or ask questions about the current process. Register here for a link and reminder.
The 119th Sustainability Salon will be our annual early-December feature on Consumption (in part so that folks might sally forth into the holiday season and, I hope, buy less stuff).
Laura Lovett is an associate professor of history at Pitt who studies race, sex, gender, and the environment. Her course "The Age of Plastic: Modern Consumption and the Environment in the United States" explores the rise of mass consumption in the post-war era -- how we moved within a single generation to embrace a single-use plastic lifestyle -- and its implications for our environment and waterways. Join us to see how American consumerism came to be.
And folks from Pittsburghers Against Single-Use Plastic (PASUP) will share a bit of what we've been doing during the pandemic, thoughts on the intersection of consumption and happiness, and a few ways that you can reduce your plastic footprint this season and every season.
Upcoming salons: January's topic is TBA, but in February we'll continue our virtual walk through the woods -- Part 2 of our Urban Forest series -- with Forest Restoration.
ROCIS (Reducing Outdoor Contaminants in Indoor Spaces) is launching their next virtual air quality monitoring cohort – Cohort 50! - soon. It is ideal to have participants who are already engaged in air quality advocacy (but all interested folks are welcome!). Please share this information with others who may be interested in participating.