Public Policy Program

Public Policy – Judicial Gerrymandering

There is a constitutional amendment before out state legislature. If passed, HB38 would require judges to run for election in districts drawn by lawmakers, undermining constitutional checks and balances and allowing a new version of gerrymandering. No other state elects their judges this way.

To bring this constitutional amendment before the voters in the spring’s primary, the amendment must pass in two consecutive legislative years. This bill was rushed through the general assembly last year with only 9 minutes of discussion. There was no public input.
For the past 4 years the organization Fair Districts PA has fought hard to eliminate gerrymandering and have our congressional districts drawn up by a nonpartisan panel. This organization helped create a bill with bipartisan support, cosponsors and 100,000 signatures and it was never given a final vote. Now our legislative leaders are rushing this gerrymandering bill through the General Assembly. This constitutional amendment must be voted on by Feb 15 in order for it to appear on the spring primary ballot. Fair Districts PA, League of Women Voters of PA and Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts believe this poorly written bill should be vetoed.
To learn more, google Fair Districts PA judicial gerrymandering.

Sen. Boscola 610-868-8667
Rep. Samuelson 610-867-3890
Rep. Flood 610-746-2100
Rep. Freeman 610-867-3890
Rep. Emrick 610-588-8011
Rep. Mackenzie
Rep. McNeill 610-266-1273

Joan Howe Public Policy Chair

Public Policy Dysfunction by Design

Because my job is to inform our members about public policy, I’m hoping a quick civic lesson will be helpful. Keep this in mind when I write about what’s happening in Harrisburg that effects all of us.

I recently watched the webinar “Dysfunction by Design” presented by Fair Districts PA. It helped me understand why our state legislature needs major procedural reform. The current process is not designed for collaborative legislation. It is designed so the majority party maintains complete control, if a bill proceeds onto the floor for debate or dies in committee.
The dysfunction starts with gerrymandered districts. The majority leaders draw up the distorted districts to protect their incumbents. Incumbents with seniority control the rules. The Speaker approves committee chairs and the chairs control the agenda. The Speaker, President Pro Tem, or Majority Leader decides if and when a bill gets a hearing. Anyone of these individuals can send a bill to another committee to DIE! There is no transparency or accountability. The game is fixed! 93% of bills go nowhere; no hearings, no debate, no vote! 85% of successful bills are introduced by the majority party.

An organization recently ranked state legislatures on agenda fairness and collaborative atmosphere. Colorado was given a rating of 100%, Pennsylvania got a 0% rating. Yet, PA is the largest and most expensive state legislature in the country, but the least productive. Even bills with high public backing go nowhere.


  • Anti gerrymandering: Fair Districts PA’s bill with all its bipartisan and civic backing died without debate.
  • Lead Exposure: 18 PA cities have higher levels of lead than Flint, MI due to old pipes and paint.  25 bills precented, none voted on.
  • Public School Funding: Current funding formula leaves the neediest districts with $7,800 less per student than wealthier districts. No legislative action.

As citizens and tax payers we deserve good legislation. Good bills deserve debate and a vote. Harrisburg needs to reform its procedural rules.

Joan Howe Public Policy Chair

AAUW Pennsylvania Public Policy Priorities 2020-2022

AAUW PA’s public policy goals are to educate citizens about the impact of public policies on women and girls and to advocate for policies that will advance equity for women and girls. In Pennsylvania, AAUW actively endorses the national AAUW Public Policy Program. AAUW-Pennsylvaniasupportsgoodgovernance, an informed citizenry, and community dialogue on critical issues. Biennial priorities are intended to complement national priorities and to be a focus for active educational and advocacy efforts by members in the state.

To enable members and all citizens to participate fully in a representative democracy and self-governance, AAUW-PA advocates:
• Awareness of issues so that members may be fully informed and empowered voters
• Opposition to measures likely to suppress voting rights
• Support for efforts to increase civil discourse and compromise between those with opposing views • Efforts to Get Out the Vote, including voter registration and use of social media to promote voting.

To support a quality system of public education, AAUW-PA advocates:
• Opposition to the diversion of public funds to non-public elementary and secondary education, charter, and cyber charter schools
• Support for a fair and adequately funded system of public education
• Strengthening secondary and post-secondary programs that provide women with education, vocational training, and support for success in the workforce, including non-traditional occupations
• Policies promoting inclusion, diversity, equity, and justice in our schools

To improve the economic self-sufficiency of all women, AAUW-PA advocates:
• Pay equity and fairness in compensation and benefits
• Raising the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage to an amount that would provide a meaningful boost to family incomes in Pennsylvania and help grow the state’s economy
• Vigorous enforcement of employment anti-discrimination statutes
• Creating family-friendly workplace environments, including flexible workplace policies, paid leave for personal and family illness, and quality child-care facilities available to all parents regardless of their circumstances
• Improving retirement security
• Reducing the unprecedented level of student debt and the record-high cost of college

To improve the operation and transparency of government, AAUW-PA advocates:
• Measures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of government that can improve the well-being of women
• Efforts to end the practice of partisan redistricting, gerrymandering in Pennsylvania