House Intends to Redraw Senate Districts

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(Host) The battle over the reapportionment of the Legislature is heating up at the Statehouse. House Republican leaders are unhappy that the Senate is making changes to the House plan, so the House is now prepared to radically change most Senate districts.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) If this legislative session spills into June, there’s a very good chance that the fight over reapportionment will be a major reason why.

This year marks the first time that reapportionment has taken place with the Republicans in control of the House and Democrats holding a majority in the Senate. Traditionally, each chamber redraws its own map and does not interfere with the map of the other body but this year things are very different.

Last month, the House gave its approval to a new map that Democrats claimed was unnecessarily partisan because it pitted a number of incumbent Democrats against one another in newly created districts. A special Senate committee has been reviewing the House map and has decided to make a number of changes; it’s an action that has angered House Republicans.

So GOP House leaders decided on Wednesday that if the Senate could redraw the House map, then the House could draw its own Senate map and they unveiled a plan to create 15 two-member Senate districts throughout the state. The new map eliminates the six-member Chittenden County district and three-member districts in Rutland and Washington counties.

House Government operations chairman Cola Hudson:

(Hudson) “Because it become very apparent that the Senate has decided in its wisdom to be very inquisitive, I think, to say the least, in regard to the House plan with the idea of moving some districts around.”

(Kinzel) Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin says the House’s own reapportionment plan is a partisan disaster and that the House effort to redraw the Senate map is unconstitutional because it does not follow county lines closely enough:

(Shumlin) “I think that they’re playing political games in order to try and build leverage for a House plan that has absolutely no support out in the district where they’ve redrawn lines.”

The Senate hopes to take action on a new House plan sometime next week. If that happens, it’s likely that the House will take formal action on their new Senate map. If the House and the Senate cannot agree to a reapportionment plan this session, it’s likely that the issue will have to be decided by the courts.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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