House, Senate Take Up Redistricting Revisions

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(Host) A special Senate Reapportionment Committee hopes to vote on a new House redistricting plan by the end of the week. It’s expected that the committee will make several changes to a proposal that was adopted by the House last month.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The General Assembly is facing an issue this year that it’s never had to deal with before – it needs to draw new district maps for both the House and the Senate at a time when the Republicans control the House and the Democrats have a majority in the Senate.

Traditionally the House and the Senate do not change the map of the other chamber, but this year things are very different. Last month, the House gave its approval to a new plan that angered a lot of Democrats because it will force a number of incumbent Democrats to run against each other in newly drawn districts.

The Senate created a special committee to consider reapportionment. The chairman of the panel is Bennington Senator Dick Sears. Sears says it’s likely that his committee will address concerns with the House map in Chittenden, Bennington, Washington, Windham and Franklin counties:

(Sears) “Oh, we’re going to make changes to the House plan. I think that’s a given. We’re not going to go along with everything that the House did, although again I will say this: that you begin to realize that each time you move one community to try to solve one problem, you sometimes create others and you have to deal with those others.”

(Kinzel) Republican House leaders have vowed to redraw the Senate map if the Senate makes any changes to the House plan. Sears is hoping that that won’t happen and that House and Senate members can negotiate the final reapportionment plan just as they would any other bill:

(Sears) “And the question will become: Do we want to have the courts decide it or do we want to have the House and Senate and the Legislature and then ultimately the Governor decide? … I don’t like the term “warfare” and I don’t think it’s going to be. That it’s like any bill, we’re going to have differences with the House, and if they’re willing to work with us in conference we’re willing to work with them and we’ll try to hammer out those differences like we do on anything.”

(Kinzel) It’s possible that the House plan could be on the Senate floor for a vote as early as Friday.

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

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