PA High Court Deems Final Redistricting Plan Constitutional

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has unanimously ruled to dismiss the appeals filed by critics of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission’s 2012 Revised Final Plan.  In his opinion Chief Justice Ronald Castille suggested the question of municipal splits was “close,” but writes that the appellants did not prove the plan is contrary to law.

The state’s high court had previously rejected a 2011 version of the redistricting plan.

Four justices joined with Castille on the latest opinion, and Justice Saylor Thomas Saylor wrote his own concurring opinion.  Recently convicted, resigned & sentenced Justice Joan Orie Melvin did not participate. 

“I was happy that the decision was unanimous,” Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) told a group of reporters gathered in his capitol offices.  “There was not a single dissenting opinion and it’s a very diverse court.”

Senate Democrats were among the appellants and Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) released a statement calling today’s decision disappointing.  “However, Senate Democrats recognize that the court has now ruled and that it is time to move on in crafting policies that serve all citizens of Pennsylvania,” Costa’s statement concludes.    

The new legislative boundaries will be in effect for next year’s legislative elections.

Behind the Numbers of the Jobs Debate

Statistics ultimately led to Governor Tom Corbett’s now-infamous drug test comments.  The launching point for the entire conversation on this month’s edition of “Ask the Governor” was a statistic ranking Pennsylvania 49th among states when it comes to job growth.

Democrats and other Corbett critics are harping on the figure, but the governor says there’s more to the story.  “There’s an old saying that Mark Twain said.  There’s three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics,” Corbett quipped early on in the “Ask the Governor” conversation. “It’s a matter of when you look at the number, at what point in time you look at the number.” 

But what about that job growth ranking as it stands today?  Corbett’s Labor & Industry Secretary Julia Hearthway tells Radio PA that it’s being taken out of context:HEARTHWAY

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hanger says it’s a spin game the Corbett administration can’t win.  “I don’t think if you talk with most Pennsylvanians that they have found… that their job prospects have improved over the past year.” 

The longer Governor Corbett has been in office, Hanger says, the worse the jobs crisis gets.  “His best year was his first year, his worst year has been the last 12-months,” he says.  “We’ve literally, essentially, had no job growth with this governor in the last 12-months.  Zero.”    

The March jobs report from the Department of Labor & Industry includes two data sets.  The numbers used to calculate the 7.9% unemployment rate in March indicate a 0.5% year-to-year increase in employment.  The seasonally adjusted non-farm job numbers indicate regression to the tune of -0.1% from March 2012 – March 2013.

Governor Tom Corbett

Poll: Leading Democrats would Top Gov. Corbett Today

Quinnipiac University pollsters are already looking ahead to Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race and hypothetical matchups in November 2014.  Today’s poll is the latest in a string of surveys that suggest a tough road to reelection for Republican Governor Tom Corbett. 

Three of the leading Democrats, who may challenge Corbett next year, are winning hypothetical head-to-head matchups by at least nine points. 

But Election Day is still 18-months away and just last month Governor Corbett suggested that poll numbers don’t matter much because they don’t take the big picture into account.

Online Voter Registration Bill Clears Committee

Pennsylvanians would be able to register to vote online under a bill that has earned unanimous support in the Senate State Government Committee.  The modernization effort would increase access to voter registration, which ACLU of PA legislative director Andy Hoover says would lead to increased access to voting.  “That’s what voting rights are all about,” Hoover says.  “It’s making things easier for people rather than putting up barriers.”

In addition to allowing more convenient and timely access to the voter registration process, supporters say online registration would significantly reduce taxpayer costs.  “When Arizona went to this system, it was costing them about 83-cents to process a voter registration, now it costs them about three cents,” explains Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause PA

Arizona was the first state to allow for online voter registrations, but at least 13-states offer it today and Pennsylvania is one of many states considering it for the future. 

Kauffman and Hoover each say that online registrations would also lead to reduced data entry errors when paper voter registration forms are processed.

Traditional voter registration would still be available, but SB 37 would add the option of online registrations.  Up next for the bill is the Senate floor.

Poll Suggests Gov. Corbett Vulnerable in 2014

Just 39% of voters approve of the job Governor Tom Corbett is doing, according to Wednesday’s Quinnipiac Poll, while 49% disapprove.  The governor’s Quinnipiac Poll numbers have been worse – 35% approval in June 2013 – but not by much. 

Pollster Tim Malloy also took an early look at potential General Election matchups for Corbett in 2014.  “If the election were held today, six of the possible Democratic contenders, their races with the governor would be too close to call,” Malloy explains, “and he would in fact lose convincingly to Representative Joe Sestak and he would lose as well to Allyson Schwartz.”

Former US Congressman Joe Sestak is currently leading Corbett 47 – 38, while current US Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz leads Corbett 42 – 39.  Neither has officially entered the race.   

However Corbett can at least hang his hat on the fact that he’s polling better than the General Assembly.  The legislature’s approval numbers stand at 28 – 58.  Malloy says, “It’s a tough time to be a politician.”

Corbett Struggles in New Quinnipiac Poll

Pennsylvania voters are giving Governor Tom Corbett poor marks half-way through his first term.  Today’s Quinnipiac Poll finds that voters disapprove of the job Corbett is doing by a margin of 42 – 36%.  That’s down from a 40 – 38% approval rating in November’s Quinnipiac Poll.

Pollster Tim Malloy says there’s no strong base of support for Corbett among any income or age group, or in any region of the state.  “It’s halftime in Gov. Tom Corbett’s first term and if he were running a football team instead of a state, he’d fire his offensive coordinator,” Malloy said in a statement.

While 50% of PA voters disapprove of the way Corbett has handled the Penn State scandal over these past 15-months, the poll finds that they do support his lawsuit challenging the NCAA sanctions by a margin of 43 – 37%.

53% of voters say the sanctions – including a four year bowl ban and $60-million dollar fine – were too severe.  13% told pollsters they weren’t severe enough.  Meanwhile, voters do have a favorable opinion of the late Joe Paterno (43 – 29%).

First Democrat Enters Gov’s Race

The field of Democrats seeking to unseat Governor Tom Corbett may get crowded by 2014, but for today there’s only one.  John Hanger, a former Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary under Governor Ed Rendell, is touring the state to kick off his gubernatorial bid. 

Hanger wants to reverse education budget cuts and tax natural gas drillers.  “In September and October, for the first time in years, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate went above the national rate,” Hanger pointed out during a stop at the state capitol.  “That’s an extraordinary thing because of the gas boom and the gas opportunity that we have here.” 

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania has already fired back, issuing a statement that reads: “…The Corbett record of responsibility and success is a stark contrast from the broken, bloated and unsustainable state government that tax-and-spend politicians like Ed Rendell and John Hanger helped to create…” 

October’s statewide unemployment rate stood at 8.1%.  While it’s above the national rate, data from the Department of Labor & Industry also show that Pennsylvania has added 105,700 private sector jobs since Corbett took office.    

A November Quinnipiac Poll finds that PA voters are somewhat divided on the job Governor Corbett is doing: 40% approve, 38% disapprove.