It's a done deal
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS State Sen. David Argall, seated, and state Representatives Jerry Knowles, left, and Doyle Heffley, visited the TIMES NEWS office in Mahoning Township to discuss redistricting.
Three local state lawmakers say nothing can be done to prevent legislative redistricting, which moves Summit Hill from the 122nd to the 124th Legislative District.
This means that the residents of Summit Hill will no longer be represented by state Rep. Doyle Heffley. Their new representative will be Rep. Jerry Knowles of Tamaqua.
The same state Reapportionment Plan moves Palmerton, Lower Towamensing Township, and parts of Monroe County to a new senatorial district.
Heffley, Knowles, and state Sen. David Argall, all Republicans, stopped into the TIMES NEWS office in Mahoning Township to discuss the redistricting.
The boundaries of all three state lawmakers will change with the redistricting, as will the area served by U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta.
"We go through it every 10 years," said Sen. Argall. "It is frustrating for everyone."
Argall's new area will no longer include Palmerton and the Poconos, which was also served by the late Sen. James Rhoades.
The senator said that redistricting has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and that it is a constitutional mandate.
Redistricting occurs every decade based on census figures. The theory is that each lawmaker must represent approximately the same number of people.
This marks the first time that Carbon County has had to lose a municipality to another legislative district through redistricting.
Heffley said because of Carbon County's growth, 3,000 people had to be transferred to another legislative district. He said Summit Hill has just the right amount of people to justify having it moved to another district.
Lansford has about 4,000 people, while Summit Hill has about 3,034 people, Heffley said.
"I would have preferred to keep everything," Heffley said. "We worked very hard in Summit Hill" during the election campaign last year. "I thought the best interest of the 122nd District is to keep it whole. That's not possible. Only two districts in the entire state did not change."
Heffley noted that each Pennsylvania House member will represent about 62,000 members. The 2010 census shows Carbon County's population increased to 65,249.
Knowles took offense to a recent opinion in the TIMES NEWS which stated that former Speaker of the House Keith McCall couldn't seek re-election in the 122nd District if he was still in office. McCall is a Summit Hill resident.
"That's absolutely ludicrous," he said, noting that if McCall was a member of the House of Representatives, no consideration would have been given to moving his home town to another district.
"They would have cut somewhere else," interjected Argall.
Argall said sometimes strange lines are drawn in the redistricting. He said the first time redistricting occurred while he was in office, he represented one-third of Washington Township while another lawmaker represented the other two-thirds.
"We never did figure out the dividing line," he laughed.
Knowles indicated that the redistricting was a bi-partisan effort.
"Eighty percent of the map was agreed upon by both sides of the aisle," he said.
"I understand what some of the people of Summit Hill are upset about," said Knowles, noting that Summit Hill has always been part of the 122nd Legislative District.
"I wish it didn't have to change," Heffley remarked. "Senators Argall and Rhoades were my senators my whole life. They worked very hard for me."
He said the Palmerton area's senatorial district will be covered by Sen. John T. Yudichak instead of Argall under the new redistricting.
Heffley said he is concerned about changes to the congressional districts, noting that Pennsylvania is losing a congressional seat.
"We're only going to have 18 congressional seats next year," he noted.
Knowles said he and McCall, a Democrat, worked closely together when McCall was a legislator. McCall has come out as strongly opposing the redistricting.
"I understand his frustrations," remarked Knowles.
"I love Carbon County," Heffley said. "It's a huge honor to represent it. I wanted to keep Carbon County intact as much as possible."
Of redistricting, Knowles commented, "It's not a pretty process."