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When it comes to new congressional districts, respect the constitution: Mike Folmer

Posted 3/7/18

My love and respect for the constitution is why I ran for office and it’s also why I recently joined in legal action to block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s newly mandated congressional …

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When it comes to new congressional districts, respect the constitution: Mike Folmer

Posted

My love and respect for the constitution is why I ran for office and it’s also why I recently joined in legal action to block the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s newly mandated congressional maps.

I carry — and read — both the U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions. We are in a constitutional crisis thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s actions to make the other two branches of government irrelevant. Most alarming, they’re apparently doing this simply because they think they can.

Judges are essential elements of a constitutional republic. Their role offers numerous protections of core government principles written into both our federal and Pennsylvania constitutions. These principles have worked for decades but are now in jeopardy due to a lack of respect for the constitution.

Both our constitutions first establish the Legislature, empowering it to make law — and, to ensure due deliberation, splitting it in two: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The executive branch was established to enforce laws; the judiciary to interpret laws.

Article I, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures responsibility for: “The times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the Legislature thereof.”

Pennsylvania’s constitution gives the Legislature responsibility to establish congressional districts using the same process as all other legislation: introduce a bill, consider it on three separate days in each chamber, vote on it, and send to the governor to be signed.

I opposed the 2011 bill that adopted congressional maps. However, it became law using the required constitutional mandates of bill introduction, consideration by both chambers, and enactment into law.

Six years and three elections later, the state Supreme Court is usurping legislative and executive authority by establishing districts on its own without legislative or executive involvement. They declared the 2011 maps unconstitutional — using standards found nowhere in the state constitution. Then they dictated a timeline to draw new maps outside the constitutional requirements for how a bill becomes law.

Unfortunately, the outcry for changing how congressional districts are determined has been entangled with court actions. Those proceedings have nothing to do with permanently changing the way redistricting is done. Citizens who have visited my office in the hopes of permanent change have been deceived by those seeking to change the political makeup of Congress.

As chairman of the Senate State Government Committee, I remain committed to carefully examining the process by which congressional districts are drawn. It’s why I’ve scheduled a public hearing on bills to change the process.

For now, we have four state Supreme Court justices relying on a California law professor to draw new maps — one person. No public explanation has been offered for how the maps were redrawn. No public hearings were held. No recourse was provided to the public to challenge the new maps. The maps were presented via court order as if written on stone tablets from on high.

Judges are not deities. Their actions must be grounded in the constitution — they, too, are elected in Pennsylvania. When they don their robes, they are to leave political affiliation behind. Otherwise, the judiciary becomes a political weapon.

When courts exceed their authority as the state court has done, our system of government no longer works. Our constitutional republic has issues but nonetheless allows all parties — including minority opinions — to be heard and to work out differences. It’s what’s given our nation both stability and liberty. People of good faith can disagree.

Judges have to respect the constitution. If they don’t, we have a right — an obligation — to say something. And so I have. I have too much respect for the constitution to do otherwise.

Like judges, I swore an oath to support, obey and defend the constitution of the United States and the constitution of this commonwealth. To act differently fails to respect the constitution we’re all sworn to uphold.

Mike Folmer is a Republican member of the Pennsylvania Senate whose 48th District includes Middletown. His Capitol office telephone number is 717-787-5708.