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SCOTUS begins issuing new opinions, with another expected related to the power of federal agencies, the battleground state of Wisconsin gets a ruling on alternative voting sites, and coastal work is being done to help salt marshes withstand hurricanes.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

House, Senate Redistricting Comes to a Close in Pennsylvania

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Tuesday, March 22, 2022   

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, rejected legal challenges to new state House and Senate maps last week, finalizing the legislative redistricting process.

The chair of the commission tasked with drafting the maps said he believes the districts fairly represent residents. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission, in a 4 to 1 bipartisan vote in February, approved the maps, which include 203 House districts and 50 Senate districts.

Mark Nordenberg, nonpartisan chair of the panel, said the commission made an effort to host a record number of public hearings, despite delays in receiving U.S. Census data.

"I do think that these maps will serve the people of the Commonwealth well for the next decade," Nordenberg asserted. "That seems to be the consensus view from the good-government groups and the leaders of minority groups, too."

Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre/Mifflin, is a member of the commission who voted against the maps. He said in a statement the court decision will "artificially create a Democrat majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives through deliberate racial and political gerrymandering."

The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced the 2020 census undercounted Black people and Native Americans, with Latinos having a net undercount rate of nearly 5%.

Nordenberg acknowledged some undercounts were expected because of the pandemic, but are still disappointing.

"You work hard to key your redistricting efforts to the census results that come from the federal government," Nordenberg explained. "We are required to do that. That news makes it all the more important that we did try to create minority-influence districts."

The new maps created majority-Latino districts in Philadelphia, Reading and Allentown. The state's Latino population grew by 45% between 2010 and 2020, according to census data, and its Asian population grew by 46%.

Candidates running for legislative office in Pennsylvania have until next Monday to submit their nomination petitions.


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