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Lehigh Valley, Monroe gain clout under reapportionment

Senator-Pat-Browne A column by Senator Pat Browne
16th Senatorial District

Pennsylvania's Senate and House of Representatives districts are redrawn every 10 years based on U.S. Census data. The Pennsylvania Constitution requires these boundary changes to ensure state residents receive equal representation in state government. 

Under the new reapportionment plan, each state Senator will represent approximately 254,000 citizens and each member of the House of Representatives will represent approximately 62,500 citizens.

The state legislative districts are drawn and approved by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral panel and do not need to be approved by the House or the Senate or signed into law by the Governor. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission recently approved the final maps showing the new realignment of Pennsylvania's state legislative districts.

The Lehigh Valley and Monroe County areas saw significant change with the release of the new districts. 

Starting with the Senate, the Legislative Reapportionment Commission was able to address the criticisms of the 2001 district realignments. For one, Monroe County, which was divided among six state Senators -- none of whom lived within the county lines -- will be represented by a single Senator come 2013. To make this possible, the 45th Senatorial District was moved from Allegheny County to Monroe County. With Monroe County experiencing some of the greatest growth in the state over the past 20 years and Allegheny County seeing its population numbers decrease it was natural to shift a seat from the west to Monroe. The new 45th Senatorial District will include all of Monroe County and will extend into part of Northampton County. 

While I regret losing my portion of Monroe County, I truly believe the consolidation under a single senatorial district is not only merited, but long overdue for those residents.

Another adjustment, this time in Northampton County, was shifting Easton back into the 18th Senatorial District where it had been until the 2001 redistricting.

As for the 16th Senatorial District, which I represent, it has been consolidated under the new reapportionment plan and will consist solely of municipalities in Lehigh County. My new district, starting in 2013, will include: the City of Allentown; the townships of Heidleburg, Lower Macungie, Lower Milford, Lowhill, Lynn, North Whitehall, South Whitehall, Upper Macungie, Upper Milford, Upper Saucon, Washington and Weisenberg; and, the boroughs of Alburtis, Coopersburg and Macungie.

I have greatly enjoyed and been privileged to represent parts of Northampton and Monroe County since joining the Senate in 2005. I believe, though, that the changes made in all three counties will benefit the residents of each and meets the goal of combining municipalities that share many common interests.

On the House side of the plan, one of the major changes involves the addition of a new district in the Lehigh Valley, specifically in the city of Allentown.

The 22nd State House District would be moved from Allegheny County to the City of Allentown. Currently, Allentown is split between four House Districts. Under the final approved plan, the city would be represented by just two seats: the 22nd and the 132nd districts. 

This move not only reflects the population growth experienced by the city, but will potentially provide Allentown a less fractured voice in Harrisburg. This change will be a true benefit for the city and for the Lehigh Valley region in general.

The final reapportionment plan was approved on December 12, 2011 and filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. A 30-day window in which grievances and challenges are able to be filed with the courts started following this approval. If no challenges are successful, the reapportionment plan will be approved by the courts and finalized. 

To view the final maps, visit the Commission's website: www.redistricting.state.pa.us/.