Legislators Turn Attention to Reapportionment

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(Host) The Legislative stalemate over next year’s budget and reapportionment continued at the Statehouse on Monday afternoon. Senate Republicans are trying to block consideration of the budget until a compromise can be reached on reapportionment and the dispute may carry over to the House later this week.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) As the Legislature begins a new week in Montpelier, the timetable for adjournment is very uncertain. The future of reapportionment is up in the air. Senate Democrats say they’re done trying to negotiate a new plan with House Republicans but the Republicans aren’t willing to say the issue is dead. Talks broke down early Sunday morning when Republicans insisted that the town of Orange be returned to Orange County in the Senate plan and Senate Democrats complained about how lines had been drawn for several districts in Burlington.

On Monday afternoon the focus shifted to the budget because it was on the notice calendar in the Senate. Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin urged the Republicans to suspend the rules in order to bring the budget up for immediate debate. The Republicans refused so now it will come up for consideration on Tuesday.

Senate Minority Leader John Bloomer said the extra time could be used to find a compromise reapportionment plan:

(Bloomer) “We’ve had a little breakdown on our redistricting reapportionment. I think 24 hours or 48 hours is good. I don’t know if we have to be here, but 24 or 48 hours for those who are involved in this will be time well spent. Each side has a lot of to gain and a lot to lose if we go to court.”

(Kinzel) Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin urged the Republicans to reconsider their decision. Shumlin says reapportionment is an issue that must now be decided by the Vermont Supreme Court and Shumlin argued that it’s time to pass the budget and go home:

(Shumlin) “So I’m not worried about what happens in court – we’ll let the judges decide. I am worried about this Legislature sitting here in overtime eating up taxpayer’s dollars when other Vermonters are both tightening their belts and having their budget cut by this Legislature because of inadequate revenue.”

(Kinzel) Many Democrats are also very unhappy with a provision in the budget that prohibits the Governor’s Commission on Women from using state dollars to lobby on issues. Some Democrats want to reopen the budget talks over this issue but Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Susan Bartlett said the Legislature could be in session until August if the budget plan is reopened for any reason.

Bartlett says it’s clear that House Republicans want to send a message to the Commission and other agencies of state government and she urged her colleagues to make the best out of a bad situation:

(Bartlett) “I will bet the Governor’s Commission is going to get more good press out of this than anything they could have possibly done. I think they can also use it. I think it ends up being a very good campaign issue for a lot of people and I think it ends up for an opportunity for us to help the Governor’s Commission raise a lot of money that they wouldn’t raise other ways.”

(Kinzel) Most Senate Democrats say they’re willing to support the budget even though they find this provision to be unacceptable.

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

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