Senate Finalizes Reapportionment Plan

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(Host) The Senate on Monday afternoon gave its final approval to a new reapportionment plan. The vote on the measure was 21 to 8. Most of the Democrats supported the bill while the Republican caucus was evenly split on the legislation.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The boundary lines for the new Senate districts are very similar to the existing system. In the past few weeks there’s been a lot of discussion concerning efforts to break up the six-member Chittenden County district, but in the end no changes were made to this district, which has more members than any other Senate district in the country.

Senate Reapportionment Chairman Dick Sears told members of the Senate that his panel tried to maintain the state’s traditional system of using county lines to determine Senate districts. Sears says the Reapportionment Committee considered moving one of the four senators from the northeast Kingdom over to Franklin County to reflect a shift in population in the most recent census, but Sears says his panel left this decision to a future Legislature:

(Sears) “In order to continue our work in a bipartisan manner, we dropped that idea. But if present population trends continue in the next 10 years, a future legislature I believe will be forced to look carefully at the four senators from Essex, Orleans and Caledonia counties and should be somewhat concerned with that number.”

(Kinzel) Some Republicans were very unhappy with the bill. Bennington Senator Gerry Morrissey said the entire process was tainted because Democratic leaders created a special Reapportionment Committee instead of allowing the Senate Government Operations committee to deal with this issue:

(Morrissey) “I have heard the word bipartisan thrown around quite freely here today but we must remember that bipartisanship was eliminated the day we formed a blue ribbon committee and the committee of jurisdiction of this body did not oversee the reapportionment of this Legislative body. For some reason we forget that.”

(Kinzel) During its debate, the Senate supported a plan to move the town of Orange from Orange County to Caledonia County. Republicans strongly opposed the change because they felt it would hurt the re-election chances of the incumbent GOP senator in Orange County, but the plan was approved on a 15 to 14 party line vote.

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

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