Surprise Reapportionment Amendment Dies in Senate

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(Host) The Senate on Thursday afternoon gave its final approval to a new House reapportionment map. But there were some surprises during the Senate’s debate over this issue.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Senate Republicans decided to jump into the battle over reapportionment on Thursday afternoon but their effort was not successful.

The Senate is considering a new map for the House that was passed by that chamber last month. House Democrats complained that the plan was too partisan. A special Senate reapportionment committee agreed and made several changes to the House map. This action angered House Republican leaders and they’ve vowed to redraw all Senate districts next month.

When the House plan came up for a preliminary vote on Wednesday afternoon there was no debate over the issue and House GOP leaders expressed dismay that their counterparts in the Senate had not gone to bat for them.

So during final consideration on Thursday, an amendment was proposed to redraw the Senate’s boundary lines based largely on a plan drafted by House Republicans.

The plan clearly surprised members of the special Senate reapportionment committee because they are not scheduled to look at a new Senate plan until next week.

Caledonia Senator Rob Ide urged members of the Senate to back a plan to create fifteen two-member Senate districts. It’s a proposal that would eliminate the six-member Chittenden County district and three-member districts in Rutland and Washington counties:

(Ide) “Mr. President, this takes into account exactly what the population of the different towns are. It’s a plan that puts a lot of communities with like interests together and it is a plan, Mr. President, that gives every Vermonter in the state of Vermont the equal opportunity of voting for two senators.”

(Kinzel) Senate Reapportionment Chairman Dick Sears urged his colleagues to reject the plan because his panel has not had an opportunity to study it:

(Sears) “I’m not sure if I’m dreaming or not, Mr. President. I’m a little struck by the process that this amendment is brought to us by…. To have this thrust upon us at the last minute without even consideration of advance notice to the Committee so we could meet and discuss it, is a violation of the usual bipartisan process in my view, Mr. President.”

(Kinzel) The full Senate rejected the amendment by a vote of 18 to 10 and then passed the House reapportionment plan on a 17 to 11 vote.

The controversy over this issue will continue next week. The House will continue its work on a radically different Senate plan, while the Senate reapportionment committee looks a proposal that makes only a few changes to the existing Senate districts.

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

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