Conference Committee Agrees on Reapportionment Plan
06/13/02 12:00AM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on a new reapportionment plan. If the full General Assembly gives its approval to the proposal later this week, Vermont will become the first state in the country that has a split Legislature to adopt a reapportionment compromise.
(Kinzel) After weeks of being deadlocked on the issue of drawing new districts lines for the Legislature, a breakthrough agreement was reached on Wednesday afternoon.
House negotiators agreed with a Senate proposal to put the town of Orange in Caledonia County and the Senate agreed with a House plan to draw new lines for several districts in Burlington and Winooski. Bennington Senator Dick Sears, who is the lead negotiator for the Senate, says the deal is ultimately good for both sides:
(Sears) "I don't think anybody comes out of this a big winner, I don't think anybody comes out of it a big loser. Perhaps the big winner are the people of the state of Vermont because we now have the first state in the nation to have a plan adopted ¿ hopefully adopted ¿ by both houses of the Legislature. That still has to be voted on ¿ this is just a conference committee coming to agreement. But we now have a plan that hopefully will be adopted by both houses of the Legislature. While there may be portions of the plan that go to court, the plan itself will have been acted on by the Legislature."
(Kinzel) Although they signed the conference committee report, House members did not want to discuss their decision to give the Senate what it wanted. Senate Minority Leader John Bloomer said the House acted in the best interests of the state:
(Bloomer) "I think over the next two or three months, we would have seen some of the largest constitutional crisis here in the state of Vermont with the courts and the Legislature and lawyers arguing where districts should be. I think the public has been very well served by there being an agreement, even though I'm not 100 % happy with the agreement. I think that sometimes you have to swallow hard and do what's right for the citizens of Vermont."
(Kinzel) There are still some procedural questions concerning how the Legislature will complete its business but lawmakers hope to resolve these issues by Thursday afternoon.
For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.