Fair Districts PA and UUJustice News

The UU Justice Groups of UUJusticePA

Economic Justice
This group if focused on Raising the Minimum Wage. Senator Tartaglione has 20 cosponsors for a bill introduced this session, SB 12. Mardys Leeper is the leader of this group and welcomes UUs interested in advancing this legislation by making this issue known in communities and the legislature.
Reproductive Justice
No one needs to be told that Reproductive Justice in the United States and in PA is under attack right now. At least twelve pieces of legislation were introduced in the PA legislature to springboard off the challenge to Roe v Wade in the Supreme Court of the U.S. If you see anti-abortion bills in other states, understand these will reach PA eventually, as templates for legislation is useful to fast propagation of ideas, and lessening the options for those choosing abortion services. There is a team working with allies on these issues for those interested in working in this area.
Environmental Justice
PA is in the midst of pushback against unfair and, in some cases, unenforced regulations around fracking, land and water rights, and disregard for natural resources which belong to all the people of PA. Thirteen anti-environmental bills have been introduced this session, and Senator Muth is fighting back. She could use a citizen army. Working with a deeply involved and informed team headed by Bob Redfern in Delaware County and Rachel Mark in Harrisburg, the interested person would be joining a team already moving.
Good Government
This team covers a variety of issues that are precisely in the middle of actions now before summer sets in and recesses the legislature. The Gift Ban proposal SB401 is currently
being pushed hard by March on Harrisburg. Fair Districts PA had an opportunity to give testimony before an open Senate State Govt Committee hearing over congressional redistricting maps. Both issues are supported by this group led by Tom Ulrich and could use as many interested activists as possible. The monthly meeting is the first Tuesday of every month.
Gun Violence
The committee on Gun Violence also needs no introduction. It is led by a very experienced UU, Tom Buglio, of West Chester. Those interested in beginning advocacy work will find this group moving ahead with materials and arguments already formed. You will have partners and support and real teamwork. This team is in the midst of contacting Senator Toomey to ask him to help President Biden get David Chipman confirmed as director of the ATF. This group does not always have a national focus, but it has an extremely knowledgeable leader who knows how to press. He could use help.

September 26th is UUJusticePA Sunday!  Join Us! 

For the first time in PA history, the redistricting process is open for voters to view… at least so far. Voters may now submit testimony about what they would like to see in terms of new state legislative House and Senate districts as well as congressional districts, but the most critical period of public comment will come before maps are finally adopted.

Open hearings are currently scheduled around the state for congressional maps at paredistricting.com. The Southeast open hearing is scheduled for September 21st. Location will be Spinnerstown Hotel, 2195 Spinnerstown Rd., Spinnerstown, PA (Quakertown). We have yet to learn if these meetings will be livestreamed, though video will be available afterwards. 

If folks are interested to attend, perhaps we could gather for a road trip? It takes about 40 minutes from Pottstown. We could meet at the church before heading out and maybe plan to eat lunch at the hotel before the hearing.

The Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) is currently accepting detailed testimony from citizens about their preferred map boundaries for state House and Senate maps. The website to participate in testimony is https://www.redistricting.state.pa.us/.

The LRC scheduled a hearing on prison gerrymandering, or the practice of counting incarcerated individuals at their place of incarceration rather than at their place of residence before incarceration. This practice is considered by activists to be contrary to the PA constitution. The practice can be discontinued by the LRC without legislative action and this is what activists are recommending.

Further hearings are announced in advance and interested individuals can sign up on the LRC website to be notified of future hearings.

Action Being Taken Now on Criminal Justice Reform — August 2021

UU Fellowship of Pottstown was recently contacted by Robin Garrett, member of the Unitarian Congregation of West Chester and UCWC liaison to the UUJustice PA criminal justice reform team. Robin is part of a terrific team that wants to contact every member of the PA legislature in Chester County about the issue of Solitary Confinement in the State Prison System. Robin is asking UUFP members to join her in her discussions with Rep. Hennessey around this issue. (Please see the August 2021 Sojourner for further information.) You may contact her directly at rgarrett48@yahoo.com; 610-306-2722. If you need help on how to schedule a meeting with Rep. Hennessey, I can help you with that. Please contact me directly at patroon3@gmail.com; 617-347-3926). ~ Patricia Rooney

Social Justice at UUFP, Fair Districts PA Update — June-July 2021

Trish and Kay joined with Fair Districts PA and Indivisible on Monday, June 21st for a rally and protest outside Senator David Argall’s Pottsville office in Schuylkill County. The rally emphasized the need to bring SB222, the Senate version of the Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act, to the floor for a vote. Senator Argall is Chair of the Senate State Government Committee and has sole authority to bring the bill to a vote. This bill was first presented to the committee in February with no action taken since. Twenty five sitting PA Senators cosponsored the bill which has broad public support.

After the rally and news coverage on Monday, Senator Argall brought the bill up in committee on Tuesday, June 22 but offered an amendment which gutted the bill, removing the prohibition “not to unduly favor or disfavor any person or party” when drawing district lines. Argall’s amendment also removed legislative redistricting from consideration and instead focuses solely on congressional redistricting. If Argall’s amendment stands, legislators will continue to draw their own districts without constraint and without public oversight.

The rally also sought to push back on Senator Argall’s proposal for an additional audit of the 2020 Presidential election result in PA. Despite the fact that PA has had two official audits of the results and assurances from County and State election officials, as well as (at the time) Attorney General William Barr, affirming that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in Pennsylvania, and that the results were accurate, Senator Argall continues to push for it.

For more information on this recent PA Government issue please click on: https://www.inquirer.com/politics/pennsylvania/spl/pa-election-audit-arizona-david-argall-20210618.html

Social Justice at UUFP, Fair Districts PA Update, April 2021

In March 2021, over 600 PA voter-volunteers offered to visit their legislators to request cosponsorship on House Bill 22 and Senate Bill 222 which define strict guidelines for creating state legislative and congressional district maps.
Representative Tim Hennessey and Senator Katie Muth, legislators for districts housing UUFellowship at Pottstown, have both agreed to co-sponsor. To date, thirty-eight House members are cosponsors, and fourteen members of the Senate have cosponsored.
Also this month, four members of the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC) have been named: Senate Republican Leader Kim Ward, Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, and House Republican Leader Kerry Benninghoff, House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton.
The Chair of the Senate House State Government Committee, Senator David Argall, has used language from SB 222 to write a bill specifying the qualifications and characteristics necessary for the fifth, tie-breaking member of the LRC.

• • • April 6: 7 to 8:30 PM• • •

In April, two big programs took place for those fighting for racial justice:
Six Regional Forums to Discuss Prison Gerrymandering
WHO: Host organizations include Fair Districts PA, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Decarcerate PA, the Abolitionist Law Center, Straight Ahead, Free
the Ballot, Pennsylvania Council of Churches Advocacy and the ACLU – Pennsylvania.
WHAT: SOUTHEAST PA REGIONAL FORUM TO EXAMINE PRISON GERRYMANDERING AND ITS IMPACT ON COMMUNITY REPRESENTATION
A series of six virtual (Zoom) regional forums on prison gerrymandering. The events are open to the public, without charge, but registration is required.
WHEN: Southeast PA, April 6, 7 to 8:30 pm
WHERE: Virtual on Zoom. Registration required.

WHY: “Many Pennsylvanians have heard of partisan gerrymandering, drawing maps for legislative and congressional districts to advantage one party over another,”
notes Carol Kuniholm, Chair of FDPA. “But even communities most impacted may not have heard of prison gerrymandering. In Pennsylvania, many incarcerated people are still eligible to vote, but by PA law they’re not allowed to vote in the districts where they’re incarcerated. Yet that’s where the Census Bureau currently counts them. That means their home communities lose political power, while districts with large prisons have outsize influence in Pennsylvania elections.”
Planned regional forums will give more background on the issue and show how prison gerrymandering impacts communities in every part of Pennsylvania.
Speakers will include Robert Saleem Holbrook and John Rowland of the Abolitionist Law Center, Jenna Henry of Free the Ballot, Carol Kuniholm and Bob Leipold of Fair Districts PA, plus area residents impacted by mass incarceration and prison gerrymandering. While each
forum will include speakers and information specific to the region, anyone unable to attend the forum in their own region can register for one of the others to learn more about this important issue.
Details and links to all events are available at FAIRDISTRICTSPA.COM

• • • April 15, 2021• • •

UUJusticePA Economic Justice Team presented: The Road to the Racial Wealth Gap Begins With Inequitable PA School Funding (and what we are doing about it)
Presenters:
Public Citzens for Children and Youth: Tomea Sippo Smith, Education Policy Director
Pa Education Law Center:
Maura McInerney, Legal Director
Education Voters:
Susan Spicka, Executive Director
Join us on April 15th from 7 – 8:30 pm.
Registration is at UUJUSTICEPA.ORG

You’re Invited…March 10, 2021

The Chester County Steering Committee for  Fair Districts PA is inviting you to a Zoom Get-to-Know-You party. Our five-year struggle has been long …and we are entering the part where the rubber meets the road. Come what may, the best part of our struggle has been meeting all of you, working with you, listening to legislator frustrations—or successes like we had in 2020 here in Pottstown with Representative Tim Hennessey. You all broke the records for success!

We want to introduce you to the rest of the Chester Team, and create the kind of environment where we are working as one organism toward the goal of passing the Redistricting Transparency Bills, House Bill 22 and Senate Bill 222, before summer recess.

That is not a lot of time. Come meet us, play a game or two, hear the latest news, and let’s make the next couple months into something our legislators will never forget. Let’s not let Covid steal any more opportunities from us. We have learned how to use the restrictions imposed by Covid in our favor. Let’s do this!!

When: Wednesday, March 10, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Who: The Chester County Steering Committee invites FDPA Chester Volunteers

UU Justice PA

Unitarian Universalists are renowned for social justice activities. It’s who UUs are. Reverend Joan Sabatino a few weeks ago made the case that we have a lot of work to do to bring our country, state and city into alignment with what we like to think of as that “peaceful state.” The work is never-ending, but that doesn’t mean you should wear yourself out working alone in obscurity. We work with allies, we work with others who have their eyes focused on the best path forward for all the people. Walk awhile with nonpartisan UUs who wish to make things better.

Let’s be socially aware, socially active, socially engaged. Let’s share the wealth of the blessings we have. Please consider joining  UUJusticePA and let us move forward together.

Thank you, Trish

UUA Social Action, Social Justice Causes

As an expression of our faith and values, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) takes positions on relevant issues of social justice. Our positions are discerned via the social witness process, as shepherded by the Commission on Social Witness. Grounded in these social witness statements, the UUA will sign on to letters and amicus briefs in coalition with other faith and social justice organizations, magnifying our impact in the larger world.

Please see the links below for UUA supported social justice causes:
Justice and Inclusion

Take Action With Us:  Resources for Justice

Immigration

Side with Love

Disability & Accessibliity

Defying The Nazi Project: UU’s against Hatred

Economic Justice

Racial Justice

UUPlan and Fair Districts PA

UUFP Virtual Meeting with State Rep Hennessey on Redistricting

Mark Pavlovich, Advocacy Team Advisor for Fair Districts PA, Trish Rooney, Judy McDonald and Kay Price met with state Representative Tim Hennessey via Zoom in September to urge his support on redistricting reform. A new strategy for achieving redistricting reform emerged amid the pandemic, after the collapse of earlier efforts to create an independent redistricting commission. Time to make that happen ran out in late June this year. Representative Hennessey was one of the first legislators to cosponsor House Bill 2638, a bill which allows legislators to be the final decision-makers on district mapping but which opens the entire process to public scrutiny and engagement.

Also called the Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LACRA), HB 2638 adds enforcement clauses should counties or municipalities be split more than strictly necessary and precincts are not allowed to be split at all. Racial and language minority communities will be kept whole insofar as it is possible.

The public may submit maps for adoption if they see deficiencies with legislators’ maps.

Representative Hennessey faces stiff competition in this election and he wanted to make sure UUFP was aware that negative campaign literature falsified his record. For our part, we wanted to make sure Representative Hennessey understood that co-sponsorship was not enough; he still has a role to play by encouraging his colleagues and party leadership to adopt HB 2638 in the few House sessions before session end November 30.

If HB 2638 or SB 1242 do not pass both House and Senate before November 30, 2020, the two-year legislative session ends and all bills are wiped from the record and must be introduced in the new session. If the bills do not pass before redistricting next year, Pennsylvania will suffer through anotherdecade of maps created by and for partisan actors.

Thank you to all those who helped with the effort to end gerrymandering in PA. ~ Trish

Patricia Rooney, Volunteer, Fair Districts PA: P.O.Box 193, Honey Brook, PA 19344 patroon3@gmail.com, 617-347-3946 (cell)

Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities

Due to the coronavirus in-kind donations can not be accepted at this time. If you can donate financially to the Cluster please visit their website to make an online donation.  Thank you.

UUFP participates annually in the Chester County Pride Fest! The Pride Fest has been cancelled due to the coronavirus. Hopefully it will be rescheduled later this year. Updated information will be posted here. It is usually held at Reeves Park in Phoenixville followed by a Pride Gala event. Please consider joining us for the 2020 celebration.