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Public weighs in as Pa. House, Senate district proposals split cities

Pennsylvania's Legislative Reapportionment Commission hopes to finalize maps by the end of the month.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The first snowfall of the season can bring out the best in neighborhoods.

In Harrisburg's Allison Hill district, people grab shovels and pitch in, removing snow from sidewalks and cars, to help friends and family. 

That's what neighbors do.

Allison Hill is one of the region's most diverse and tight-knit neighborhoods. Many who reside there have lived in—or their family has lived in—the same house for decades. 

Soon, it could be split.

Casting a shadow over Allison Hill is the Pennsylvania State Capitol, where all the talk is about redistricting as lawmakers come back to session. The once-a-decade process occurs when the latest U.S. Census results dictate the mandatory redrawing of state House, Senate and congressional district lines. 

While the legislative body approves congressional lines, House and Senate lines are handled by a five-person committee called the Legislative Reapportionment Commission (LRC). Republicans on the committee include House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward. The democrats are House Leader Joanna McClinton and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa. 

Mark Nordenberg, the former chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh, is serving as the commission's chairperson and often acts as the deciding vote on any split issues.

Initial map proposals were released in December to tepid response from both parties. 

The Senate map was approved 5-0, but the House map was more split. Republicans said the proposal splits districts to pit 12 incumbents against one another in primaries. Democrats are upset because even though the maps increase minority representation, they do so at the expense of splitting cities and neighborhoods like Allison Hill. 

The LRC is in the process of hearing public comment from across the state throughout the course of the next several weeks. The commissioners will then tweak their original proposals, and they hope to have a final map completed by the end of January. 

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