The Legislative Reapportionment Commission had to delay the opening of its hearing this afternoon on a preliminary plan to redraw the boundaries for state house and senate seats, when protesters showed up.
As Commissioner Chairman Stephen McEwen tried to open the hearing, protesters from Occupy Harrisburg chanted “For those of you who will not be heard today, this is for you. Everyone has a voice.” McEwen asked “How long do you expect this to go on?” He was answered with more chanting and declared a recess.
When the hearing resumed, the chants continued for part of the opening testimony of Barry Kauffman of Common Cause, then died down. Kauffman raised concerns about the preliminary redistricting plan; then spoke about the protesters, saying “I fear the demonstration today was probably a manifestation of four decades of failing to reform this process. I really hope you’ll take seriously the concerns of the people, to make the government work for the people.”
State Senate minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny), a reapportionment commission member, raised numerous concerns about the preliminary plan. In a 17 minute opening statement, he said of the 19 senatorial swing districts, the plan alters 14 to increase the performance of the Republican Party and only 5 were altered to increase the performance of Democrats.
The proposal would move one Senate seat from southwestern Pennsylvania to Monroe County in the Pocono Mountains. In the House, it would add districts in Lehigh, Berks, Chester and York counties while eliminating districts in Allegheny, Philadelphia and Erie counties.
The Legislative Reapportionment Commission is scheduled to continue its public hearing on the plan next Wednesday in Harrisburg.