Reapportionment Plan Passes in House
02/20/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel
(Host) The Vermont House has given its approval to a Republican-backed reapportionment plan.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Of all the issues that come before the Legislature, few are as partisan as reapportionment. It's a process that takes place every ten years to redraw the boundaries of legislative districts to reflect changes in the state's population.
The process has taken on more of an edge this session because this year is the first time the Legislature has considered a reapportionment plan with the Republicans in control of the House and the Democrats in the majority in the Senate.
House Democrats are very unhappy with the GOP proposal. House minority leader John Tracy says some district lines have been drawn to pit incumbent Democrats against one another and other districts combine towns that have nothing in common with each other:
(Tracy) "And people realize it's always about politics and it's always about power, but I think this has been an abuse of both and I think the wishes and the will of local communities in Vermont should be respected more than they have been in this plan. And I am hopeful that the Senate will take care if that."
(Kinzel) House Government Operations Chairman Cola Hudson says the map is fair and that it is impossible to draw a map that all lawmakers will support. Hudson also acknowledges that the map is designed to help some Republican legislators:
(Hudson) "Here in this building we work with a majority opinion and when one particular party is in the majority, that is the dominant voice that is going to be heard. And it's a legitimate voice in my opinion."
(Kinzel) The Democrats' frustration may be best seen in the Mad River Valley. The GOP plan places Warren, which is in Washington County, in a district with Lincoln which is in Addison County. What angered the Democrats is that the two towns are separated by the Green Mountains and the new district would force two Democratic incumbents to run against each other in a single member district.
Lincoln Representative Mike Fisher urged House members to reject the GOP plan:
(Fisher) "Your House Government Operations committee created districts that sever such communities. It created a district that saddles a 4000-foot mountain, a county border, four school district lines in order to pit two of us against each other."
(Kinzel) But Londonderry Representative Rick Hube argued that the new district was fair and Hube said a map drawn by Democrats in 1992 also contained a number of similar districts:
(Hube) "Mr. Speaker this is a mountainous state and it is impossible to create 150 House districts or House seats - either single or double - that don't have a mountain between them."
(Kinzel) The House defeated an effort to change the district by a vote of 90 to 53. The reapportionment plan is expected to come up for a final vote in the House on Wednesday afternoon.
For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.