Monday, July 21, 2014

State’s top court upholds redistricting plan

Luzerne County’s legislative districts part of statewide shakeup in effect next year.

May 09. 2013 11:42AM

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HARRISBURG — A year after a five-member legislative redistricting panel approved new boundaries for state House and Senate districts, the state Supreme Court deemed the plan constitutional Wednesday in a 6-0 decision.

The map will take effect for Pennsylvania’s 203 House districts and 50 Senate districts in next year’s elections and will change the layout of each of the House and Senate districts currently serving portions of Luzerne County. The 114th House District, now represented by Rep. Sid Michaels Kavulich, D-Taylor, and serving people living in Pittston Township and Yatesville, would be removed from the county and placed completely in Lackawanna County.

Conversely, the 22nd Senatorial District currently represented by Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, will gain in its Luzerne County footprint, adding Pittston Township and maintaining Avoca, Duryea and Dupont.

“As I enter my third year in the Pennsylvania Senate, I have been instructed by the Supreme Court that I will represent a modified 22nd District,” said Blake. “I also wish to express my commitment to work very hard for the new constituents who join the 22nd Senate District.”

Also making inroads into Luzerne County would be the 27th Senatorial District now served by Sen. John Gordner, R-Berwick. The district picks up six more county municipalities in the Nescopeck area that are now part of the 20th District, represented by Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and increases its Luzerne County municipalities from four to 10.

The 20th Senatorial District decreases its footprint in the county from serving 34 municipalities to only 26 starting next year, while the 14th Senatorial District, now represented by Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, picks up an additional municipality, going from 35 to 36 in Luzerne County. It gains White Haven Borough and Fairview Township and loses Pittston Township.

On the House side:

• The 116th District, now represented by Tarah Toohil, R-Butler Township, increases from 11 to 16 municipalities in the county. While it still represents Hazleton, many of its municipalities served the past decade are out and plenty of new ones are in, including Conyngham, Dorrance, Hollenback, Huntington, Nescopeck and Salem townships and Nescopeck, New Columbus and Shickshinny boroughs.

• The 117th District, now represented by Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, sees the biggest geographic loss in the county, going from 23 municipalities down to nine. This district surges into Lackawanna County, which it does not currently serve.

• The 118th District, now represented by Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, increases its number of Luzerne County municipalities from 10 to 14, adding Pittston and Plains townships and the boroughs of Penn Lake Park and Yatesville.

• The 119th District, now represented by Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, lost a few municipalities but gained enough to increases its footprint by four total municipalities. Among the new parts of the district: Dennison and Foster townships and the boroughs of Freeland, Jeddo, Nuangola, West Hazleton and White Haven.

• The 120th District, now represented by Phyllis Mundy, D-Kingston, remained almost completely intact, with the only change being the addition of Edwardsville.

• The 121st District, now represented by Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, lost Plains Township but gained Laurel Run Borough and Fairview Township.

A five-member panel tasked with redrawing the state’s legislative districts based on 2010 Census data approved a plan in 2011 but a legal challenge resulted and the court rejected the plan in January 2012, agreeing with citizen challengers that political considerations had created unnecessary splits between municipalities and too much gerrymandering.

The redrawn maps, that were adopted by a 4-1 vote last June, were also challenged but the court ruled that splits were kept to a minimum and it met the constitutional requirements. The approved Senate map shows just two municipalities split between districts statewide. The original plan that was rejected by the court had four such instances. The approved House map has 68 municipal splits. The previously rejected map had 108.

The court’s action last year caused the legislative districts that have been in effect since 2001 to be used for last year’s election cycle.

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