Reapportionment Stalemate Continues, May Extend Session

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(Host) The stalemate over reapportionment continued at the Statehouse Thursday. The Senate offered a new plan to the House but it was immediately rejected.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) A special House-Senate conference committee meeting over reapportionment agreed on Thursday that it would be best if the Legislature could decide on a new map to redraw districts for the General Assembly, rather than have the issue decided by the courts. But that was about they only area of agreement between the two chambers.

The fight over reapportionment has essentially boiled down to two issues. The Democrats are unhappy with the way the Republicans have drawn district lines in Burlington because some districts are much larger than others. The Republicans strongly object to a Democratic plan to move the town of Orange from Orange County to Caledonia County.

The Democrats offered a new plan on Thursday ¿ one that moved a senator from the northeast kingdom over to Franklin County. They argued that the proposal was justified based on population changes, and they returned Orange to Orange County. House Majority Leader John LaBarge was not impressed:

(LaBarge) “I have to be honest and tell you that I really didn’t, after we took a look at this, didn’t think it was a serious proposal. And let me give you the reason why: number one is that we’ve certainly negotiated a lot and you gave us a plan, but you didn’t offer us in terms of accepting our plan¿. I think this violates what you stood for all along was pitting incumbents against an incumbent and you did that in Caledonia County.”

(Kinzel) Bennington Senator Dick Sears, who is the lead negotiator for the Senate, reminded the House members that the original Senate plan was very similar to one proposed by the bipartisan Legislative Apportionment Board. When the House rejected that plan, Sears says the Senate tried a different approach:

(Sears) “The reason it is serious is that we had so many arguments about Orange and I was yelled at by a representative on Saturday night, regarding this is partisan, right in the face. And so I’m tired of what is partisan, you’re tired of what somebody said, I’m tired of hearing that the Senate was partisan. We put forth a bipartisan plan that was operated by the LAB.”

(Kinzel) The conference committee plans to meet again on Friday. If they do not reach a compromise, some lawmakers want to delay final adjournment for several weeks to give the committee more time to resolve the issue.

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

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