A large number of voters think legislators should have no say in the process that reapportions the districts they run in.
Lawmakers work the district boundaries to insure their re-election with little concern about geography, voters’ interests and other factors. Drawing lines to help incumbents is a process known as “gerrymandering.”
A better system, according to the state League of Women Voters, would create a citizens’ commission of 12 members – four Republicans, four Democrats and four nonpartisan voters. Creating new boundaries would require a super majority of eight votes.
Recently petitions bearing 430,000 signatures were turned in to the secretary of state’s office. Signers want a referendum on the issue put on the ballot in November.
This movement, however, takes place in Ohio. Pennsylvanians may hold similar disgust, but the state constitution prohibits such referendums.
Ohio’s constitution permits certain issues to be placed on a ballot with the referendum’s outcome binding. Ohio school districts and municipalities even have to submit tax increases for voter approval.
A story by Marc Kovac in the Youngstown Vindicator notes a group called “Voters First” is pushing the referendum and hope to get more signatures before the August deadline. About 385,000 valid voter signatures are required to get the issue on the ballot.
Even with defects, they seem to already have enough signatures. Some leaders learned last year to use the petition drive as momentum and roll into the election.
In 2011 Ohio voters stuck it to Gov. John Kasich, even though they had just elected him the year before. Kasich had rammed several new laws through his Republican-controlled legislature. The legislation drawing voters’ ire sharply reduced collective bargaining rights of public employees.
Known as Senate Bill 5, the action angered labor unions and apparently a good many more Ohioans. Some 1.3 million voters signed petitions asking for a referendum to repeal SB5. In November Kasich’s law was soundly rejected 62 per cent to 38 per cent.
In some political circles Ohio is known as a state where the Indians run the reservation, both locally and statewide. Referendums limit the power of elected officials.
Not so in Pennsylvania.
Voters go to the polls to elect their public officials and that is their only bite at the apple. Referendums in Pennsylvania may only be put on the ballot when a bill passes both Houses and is signed by the Governor.
Change comes slowly in PA. A few years ago legislators granted power to voters in local school districts to limit or deny property tax increases. No similar brake on state legislators’ taxing powers is under consideration.
In fact, very little reform is expected. Some 25 elected and former members of the House of Representatives and their employees have been convicted or pled guilty of theft of services paid by taxpayers. This “white collar crime wave” would trigger tighter rules and more accountability in most other states.
The House recently voted to reduce membership in both the House and Senate. The bill awaits action by the Senate before the end of this two-year session on November 30. The legislation would then have to be voted through another session of the legislature, probably 2013-14. Then it would go to the voters for final approval.
The legislature made a midnight pay grab in 2005, and then rescinded it when voters growled. Later, to mollify the angry electorate, lawmakers adopted some new rules. No more legislation without hearings, no votes after 11 p.m., no votes until three days after a bill is introduced and the like.
The 2012-13 budget was passed very shortly before midnight June 30. Companion laws and even legislation that had nothing to do with the budget were pulled from the shelf and rammed through in other late night votes.
Hearings? Three day waits? Voting before curfew?