House Creates New Districts, Senate Unchanged
04/25/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel
(Host) House and Senate negotiators will agree on a new reapportionment plan for both the House and the Senate on Thursday. While the House map contains some new districts, it's likely that the Senate proposal will be very similar to the existing boundary lines for Senate districts.
VPR's Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) One of the keys to the compromise between the House and the Senate on the issue of reapportionment involves the make up of the Chittenden County district. Currently the County has six senators and Republicans wanted to divide the region up into six separate Senate districts.
Vermont is one of only four states in the county that has multi-member Senate districts. The three other states, Nevada, North Carolina and West Virginia each have several two-member districts. Vermont is the only state with two three-member districts (Rutland and Washington counties) and a six-member district in Chittenden County.
Senate Reapportionment Chairman Dick Sears resisted efforts to create smaller Senate districts:
(Sears) "It was important as much as possible to keep the Senate districts along county lines. And that's what the goal's been, rather than zeroing in on Chittenden County. I think the same is true throughout the state to try to keep the county lines as the base of a senate district."
(Kinzel) House Majority Leader John LaBarge wanted to break up the Chittenden district but agreed to leave it alone in order to win other concessions on the House map. But LaBarge says this issue may still be decided by the courts:
(LaBarge) "But that doesn't preclude any town in Chittenden County, an outlying area or any town in Vermont from taking an act to court. Any of the towns who only have one senator can certainly take that issue to court, so that may be done in the future. I don't know, but we aren't going to be looking at dividing up [Chittenden] - that was part of the agreement that if they gave us the map that we looked at and wanted, we wouldn't touch that area."
(Kinzel) The Senate did consider a plan to move a senator from the northeast Kingdom to Franklin county to reflect population growth in the northwestern part of the state. But Senator Sears says this plan was rejected because it would undermine efforts to reach agreement with the House on reapportionment plans for both chambers.
For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.