New map, new issue: Many congressional district offices delayed across Pa.
The Congressional Management Foundation has been helping lawmakers with things like constituent services since 1977, and its president says he's never seen anything like what's now happening in Pennsylvania.
A new, court-ordered congressional map that took effect earlier this month complicated the opening of new district offices for many of the state's congressional representatives — a problem typically only faced by incoming freshmen.
Per House rules, member-elects are unable to use any expenditures or take official actions, including toward offices in their new districts, until they're sworn in, which this year occurred Thursday, Jan. 3.
But with the February 2018 state Supreme Court's decision to redraw congressional lines because of Republican-favored gerrymandering, both freshman and experienced representatives still don't have all of their new, local offices open.
A new problem: Bradford Fitch, president of the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with congressional members to enhance their operations, said he'd previously never thought of this issue.
"Given the scope of the changes that were made through redistricting, a problem of this scale hasn't come up in the past in Congress as far as I know," said Fitch, who has worked with Congress for more than three decades. "This is the first time I've ever heard of this happening.
Last week, representatives for York County's congressmen — Republican Reps. Scott Perry and Lloyd Smucker, of the 10th and 11th districts, respectively — confirmed neither has yet opened offices in the county.
Perry, whose district previously included all of York County, had an office on East Market Street in Springettsbury Township, but he closed it last month.
With the new, court-drawn congressional lines, the 10th District now includes northern York County, part of Cumberland County and all of Dauphin County. The 11th district includes Lancaster and southern York counties.
Representatives for both Perry and Smucker cited the House rules as the reason for the delay in York County office openings. Both said local offices are in the works; in the meantime, the representatives' Washington, D.C., offices and district offices outside of York County are open and available to constituents.
A spokeswoman for Smucker said he's already selected office locations in Red Lion and Hanover, but no announcement has been made about when they will be open. Neither representative immediately responded to inquiries Friday, Jan. 11, about whether opening dates have been set.
Effects of a lack of offices: While such a delay is typical for incoming freshman members, Fitch said Pennsylvania's redistricting broadened the impact of the House rules.
"There's certainly going to be a delay in having face-to-face interactions with staff members in a physical office," he said. "I can see how it could be frustrating for staffers and constituents."....
Molineaux is the co-founder and executive director of Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 civic reform groups. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)
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