York City could have a new state senator — who supports legalizing marijuana

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

York City could be going from a Republican state senator to...

Another one.

But this one supports recreational marijuana.

Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Regan introduces Dr. Mehmet Oz during the Doctor Oz for Senate campaign tour stop at Wisehaven Event Center in Windsor Township, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Under the new state Senate map, which could still be subject to legal challenge, the county seat would switch from a district represented by Kristin Phillips-Hill to one repped by Mike Regan. It marks one of the most significant changes for York County in this redistricting cycle.

"I like York City," Regan said, in an interview. "It's a town full of culture and nice people, and I look forward to it. I'm not going in there thinking that everyone's going to agree with everything I say, so I'll be looking to make friends."

>>Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.

York City officials feel the same way, apparently. Or at least they don't want to make enemies.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich and Council President Sandie Walker both declined comment when asked about the change.

"Historically, the reapportionment commission was about protecting incumbents from both parties," said political analyst G. Terry Madonna, who has decades of experience in the field at both Franklin & Marshall College and Millersville University. "They reach compromises on that to get through the process, unlike the congressional drawing, which is much more partisan."

State Sen. Kristen Phillips-Hill, R-York Township, speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for YMCA of York and York County's Urban Park in York City, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The state's Reapportionment Commission approved the new maps in a 4-1 vote. That commission is made up of the top General Assembly leaders and an independent chair.

Madonna said this year's redistricting generally favored Democrats.

"I think that Republicans were concerned that the districts drawn around this, it created a more favorable environment for Democrats, which is why they opposed it," Madonna said.

Regan's new District 31 incorporates parts of northern York County extending upward into Upper and Lower Allen townships in Cumberland County. The southernmost part of his new district includes Manchester, East Manchester and West Manchester townships as well as York City. 

In contrast, Phillips-Hill's district would extend down to the Maryland state line. It would include, among others, North Codorus, Springettsbury and York townships. 

The final state Senate map, approved in February 2022.

Phillips-Hill ranked 50th among 248 active lawmakers in the conservative organization American Conservation Union's 2020 scorecard, which evaluates how dedicated lawmakers are to upholding conservative ideals. Regan ranked 100th on the same scorecard.

Regan, meanwhile, is currently working with Rep. Amen Brown, D-Philadelphia, on a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana for those 21 and older. Incidentally, Regan recently appeared at a campaign stop for Dr. Mehmet Oz's U.S. Senate campaign.

For her part, Phillips-Hill hasn't said much publicly about legalization, aside from her office's informal 2019 poll advertised on her social media channels, which found only 29% of the 28th Senate District supported it. In 2016, when Phillips-Hill was still a state representative, she voted in favor of medical marijuana on final passage.

More:Marijuana legalization finds an unlikely new advocate: Mike Regan

Phillips-Hill's current term ends in November, while Regan's term would end in 2024. Both were state representatives before being elected to the Senate.

"I would do my due diligence," Regan said about his potential new constituency in York City. 

Regan noted he had experience in York before; as a U.S. marshal, he was assigned to the York City as part of the York County Drug Task Force for about two years.

If the map shift is approved, Regan said, he'd like to sit down with community leaders. He highlighted York County Economic Alliance President and CEO Kevin Schreiber — a Democrat — as a friend from when they were both state representatives, as well as Republican District Attorney Dave Sunday.

More:Tax collector resigns following criminal charges, sexual harassment allegations

Phillips-Hill declined to comment specifically on the map changes but noted in a statement that "any aggrieved person still has 30 days from Feb. 4 to appeal to the state Supreme Court with his or her concerns with the final plan.”

Congressional redistricting has generally been more hotly debated. Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court elected to take control of redrawing the congressional map.

Commonwealth Court Judge Patricia McCullough recently submitted a recommendation in favor of the GOP's map, which had been rejected by Gov. Tom Wolf. That map, submitted by redistricting advocate and former Republican Lehigh County Commissioner Amanda Holt, had been championed by Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township.

Oral arguments in that case begin Feb. 18.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.