(Host) House and Senate leaders on Friday began to consider the legal ramifications of throwing the issue of reapportionment to the Vermont Supreme Court. The leaders were cautioned not to assume that the Court will necessarily follow any particular course of action.
(Kinzel) Members of the House and Senate conference committee on reapportionment have given themselves one more day to try to find a solution to their stalemate. They’re deadlocked over a plan to redraw district lines in Burlington and a proposal to move the town of Orange into Caledonia County.
On Friday, the committee asked the Legislature’s chief legal counsel, Bill Russell, to outline what will happen if this issue has to be decided by the courts. Russell urged the committee not to make any assumptions about what the Vermont Supreme Court might or might not do, but he thinks the Court is aware that the filing deadline for all Legislative candidates is just five weeks away on July 15:
(Russell) “This timing, this window to how fast you have to move is really to put things on a fast track in Vermont’s state court system up to the Supreme Court. You don’t need to go through the Superior Court and then have to appeal to the Supreme Court. You go directly to the Supreme Court, hopefully within that 30-day window, and then the whole idea is that the Supreme Court would take it directly and appoint a special master.”
(Kinzel) Russell also told the committee that he believes the Court will only impose a short term solution if it is asked to decide this case:
(Russell) “I believe that they will do that because it is a legislative prerogative to establish the districts and probably their decision would be to put in place something for the 2002 elections.”
(Kinzel) Both sides say they don’t want the Court to decide this issue. House Government Operations Chairman Cola Hudson, who has participated in three previous legislative reapportionments, said he would be very disappointed to have the judicial branch of government draw new maps for the Legislative branch:
(Hudson) “It seems to meÂ¿ I think the people of the state of Vermont deserve our resolving this problem within the walls of this building Â¿ at least to put out a bill. Then if there are challenges to it, so be it.”
(Kinzel) The conference committee plans to meet one last time on Saturday. It could be the last meeting because the full legislature is expected to adjourn by Saturday night.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.