(Host) The Vermont Senate this week is expected to consider a new reapportionment plan for itself. It appears unlikely that the Senate is going to back a proposal that would shift one senator from the northeast kingdom to the northwestern part of the state.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) After weeks of debate over a new reapportionment map for the House, the focus this week at the Statehouse will shift to plans to redraw Senate districts. The special Senate Reapportionment Committee is expected to vote out a final plan this week.
The major issue facing the committee is what to do about the northeast kingdom. Currently, the Caledonia County district has two senators and Essex-Orleans district has two senators. But over the past ten years, the state’s population growth has shifted away from this region and towards the northwestern counties.
Committee Chairman Dick Sears says a very plausible argument can be made to shift one senator away from the northeast kingdom:
(Sears) "How do we justify continuing to take towns from other counties to keep four senators in the northeast kingdom when it’s clear that Franklin, Grand Isle and Chittenden counties deserve ten senators Â¿ they have 33% of the state population. But what we continually do is take towns from other counties to maintain four senators in the kingdom. If we don’t face this problem squarely in this session the legislature, in ten years we’ll be forced to make a hard decision, because you just can’t continue to do that."
(Kinzel) Senate Republicans are unenthusiastic about this plan because currently all four senators in the northeast kingdom are Republicans. If the proposal is implemented, two incumbents would face each other in a single member district.
Sears says there is no doubt that the work of the Senate would become highly partisan for the rest of the session if the Democrats try to push through this reapportionment plan:
(Sears) "The sense right now within theÂ¿ if I might try to predict. The sense in talking with Senator Bloomer and others in the Republican side is that you know we’ve kind of had a high road, a very bipartisan working relationship in the redistricting committee. And he’d hate to see that undone and I would too. So that’s a real consideration."
(Kinzel) A new Senate reapportionment plan could be on the floor for debate by the end of the week.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.