Gov. Wolf Signs Bills Supporting Health Care Workers and Students, Vetoes Unfair Congressional Map

January 26, 2022

Governor Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 253, House Bill 1122 and Senate Bill 324. The governor also vetoed House Bill 2146. 

House Bill 253 appropriates $225 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the health care workforce in Pennsylvania and creates the Opioid Abuse Child Impact Task Force to focus on improving the safety, well-being and permanency of substance-exposed infants and other young children affected by their parents’ substance abuse disorders.

“This is a major, bipartisan investment in supporting the health care workers who have done so much for our commonwealth over the past two years,” said Gov. Wolf. “This funding will provide needed relief to our hospitals and health care workers.

“My administration convened a working group including all four caucuses in the General Assembly three weeks ago to take action on this issue. House Bill 253 is the result of those conversations, and I am proud of what we have accomplished in just a few weeks. It’s proof of what democracy can achieve when we work together to make a difference in the lives of Pennsylvanians.”

House Bill 1122 provides for a discounted volunteer instructor license to individuals certified to teach hunter or trapper education classes. The legislation also adds a ninth member to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Senate Bill 324 amends the Public School Code to ensure that students who are experiencing homelessness or are in foster care receive resources to help them toward a timely high school graduation. This includes establishing a point of contact for the student to obtain the resources needed. 

Gov. Wolf vetoed House Bill 2146, which put forth a congressional redistricting map that fails the fundamental test of fairness. The governor has made it clear for months that he expects any congressional map to follow the Redistricting Principles established by the Redistricting Advisory Council. Unfortunately, House Bill 2146does not deliver on the Pennsylvania Constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections.

The governor wants Pennsylvania to have a fair map that is drawn in an open and honest way. To ensure transparency and public participation, he created a Redistricting Advisory Council in September. The council’s six experts in redistricting, political science and mapmaking held eight in-person and one virtual listening sessions in October and November to gather public feedback. The council released a set of Redistricting Principles in late November to help inform and guide the General Assembly’s selection and the governor’s review of a map.  

Read Gov. Wolf’s House Bill 2146 veto message:

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 15 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, I am returning herewith, without my approval, House Bill 2146, Printer’s Number 2541. 

This legislation fails the test of fundamental fairness.  The result of a partisan political process, HB 2146 does not deliver on the Pennsylvania Constitution’s guarantee of free and equal elections.  The people of Pennsylvania deserve a fair election map that promotes accountability and responsiveness to voters and is drawn in an open and honest way.  Instead, HB 2146 adopts a map selected by politicians to take advantage of the process and choose their own voters.  This directly contravenes a “core principle of our republican form of government” identified by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: “that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”  League of Women Voters v. Commonwealth, 178 A.3d 737, 740–41 (Pa. 2018).

Last year, I convened a Pennsylvania Redistricting Advisory Council made up of six members with expertise in redistricting, political science, and mapmaking, to establish a set of Redistricting Principles to help guide my review of maps considered and ultimately passed by the General Assembly.  The Redistricting Advisory Council met numerous times, and subsequently held a series of in-person and virtual public listening sessions across the state to take public feedback on the Redistricting Principles and the redistricting process.  The Redistricting Principles were finalized and made public in late November and consist of (1) Legal Principles, i.e., directives for compliance with legal requirements, such as ensuring that population deviations between districts comply with the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions; as well as (2) Principles of Representation, i.e., guidance to ensure that communities of interest are maintained, that representation is fair, and that the public can participate meaningfully in the process.  This bill fails to comply with the Redistricting Principles outlined by the Redistricting Advisory Council. 

First, the revised map splits multiple communities of interest, including splits in Luzerne, Dauphin, Philadelphia and Chester counties that do not appear to be motivated by compelling legal principles, but rather by a desire to make districts more favorable to Republican candidates.  Second, the Redistricting Advisory Council recommended that I review proposed maps to determine whether their expected performance is consistent with statewide voter preference.  The HB 2146 map falls short on this basic measure of partisan fairness, giving a structural advantage to Republican candidates that far exceeds the party’s voter support.  A comparison of the HB 2146 map to prior election results and to neutrally drawn maps, using rigorous mathematical methodology, has demonstrated that the HB 2146 map would unnecessarily create noncompetitive districts unresponsive to Pennsylvania political trends and prevailing voter preference.  Third, the HB 2146 map does not adequately satisfy the traditional redistricting criteria identified by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in League of Women Voters.  Last, despite promises of an open and transparent process, Democratic members of the General Assembly were completely cut out of the process of selecting the map from start to finish. As recently as January 18, 2022, as HB 2146 moved out of committee, the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus issued a press release alerting the public that “[a]dditional amendments are expected,” in an effort to reach bipartisan compromise. Ultimately, these repeated promises of bipartisanship were only kept to the extent that several Republican members of the House of Representatives crossed the aisle to vote against this unfair map.

After this bill was introduced, I made my strong objections to the congressional redistricting map clear and urged bipartisan cooperation.  I even provided the General Assembly with two congressional redistricting map options as examples of the type of map I would support – free of gerrymandering, consistent with the principles of the Redistricting Advisory Council, and in full accord with the Voting Rights Act and United States and Pennsylvania Supreme Court precedent – and to show that there are multiple ways to draw a fair map that meets the Redistricting Principles.  Instead, the HB 2146 map was the only map considered by the General Assembly despite all the time they had to introduce maps for public comment and debate.  The public deserves a fair map completed in a bipartisan manner; the General Assembly failed to adopt one.   

For the reasons set forth above, I must withhold my signature from House Bill 2146, Printer’s Number 2541.

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