Reapportionment Plan Headed for Vote on the House Floor
02/13/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel
(Host) The House Government Operations Committee approved a new reapportionment plan late Tuesday. The vote sets the stage for a highly partisan fight on the House floor later this week.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) In many respects, the debate over the reapportionment of the Legislature is one of the most partisan issues that ever comes before the General Assembly.
Every ten years the Legislature redraws the boundary lines of all its districts to reflect changes in the most recent census. There is a new twist this year. This is the first time that the House and Senate have been under the control of different parties in a reapportionment session and it could lead to some heated exchanges between the two chambers.
The vote in the House Government Operations Committee culminates several weeks of wrangling between the two parties over the House's new political map.
The Democrats are unhappy because the new plan calls for several of their incumbent members to face each other in three or four newly redrawn districts, while it enhances opportunities for the Republicans.
House Majority Leader John LaBarge, who was transferred to the Government Operations Committee in January to oversee this issue, thinks the process has been fair:
(LaBarge) "We have many factors we have to deal with - whether it is county lines or town lines and population. So it's not as easy to just go and say, 'Oh yes, we're in control so I'm going to make sure that Republicans pick up 20 more seats.' It's impossible - you can't do that. But certainly there's going to be areas where we're going to, like I said, protect our members and we're hopefully going to set up an area where we could gain one or two seats."
(Kinzel) House Democratic leader John Tracy is very unhappy with the committee's work particularly in Bennington, Addison, Washington and Windham counties:
(Tracy) "And then to come back with a plan where lines are drawn to benefit a particular political party that's unfortunate. Does it happen? Sure. Are we going to stand by and say it's okay? No, there are certain districts that are drawn here where if you were to look in the dictionary for the definition of gerrymandering it would have the photo of that district right next to it. It's unfortunate and we're just not going to roll over and say it's okay."
(Kinzel) It's possible that the reapportionment plan could be on the House floor for debate as early as Thursday.
For Vermont Public Radio I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.