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Court could name final member of state reapportionment panel

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Monday, April 4, 2011

HARRISBURG -- The fifth and potential deciding vote on state legislative reapportionment could come from a state Supreme Court appointee if legislative leaders fail to agree on a chairman by midnight.

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission, made up of two Democratic leaders and two Republican leaders from the House and Senate, is scheduled to meet this afternoon to try to decide on a fifth member, who would be the chairman. If not, then the Supreme Court will appoint the commission chairman.

The commission is responsible for redrawing boundaries of the state House and Senate districts based on the 2010 Census. It does not address congressional districts, which are reshaped through state legislation.

What's at stake: who represents you in the Legislature; whether, in some cases, your next lawmaker lives in the same county as you; and whether your municipality will be split into more than one legislative district.

Republicans called the meeting for today. A handful of additional candidates are expected to make their case to be chairman. At a previous meeting, more than a dozen candidates were considered.

Members of the commission are Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont.

Bill Patton, a spokesman for Dermody, said Dermody believed enough candidates for chairman were offered at the last meeting. Costa said he will wait to see what develops today. Turzai had no comment. Pileggi's office offered no specifics other than background information about today's meeting.

A Supreme Court appointee chaired the commission during the most recent reapportionment, in 2001. Retired Supreme Court Justice Frank J. Montemuro served as the fifth member of the panel after Democrats and Republican lawmakers were unable to agree on a chairman.

Republicans now control the House and Senate as a result of the November election. The Senate remained in GOP control while Republicans took back the House.

The panel must reshape 203 state House districts and 50 Senate seats based on population changes.

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