Area House districts intact in Vt. reapportionment proposal

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Apportionment Board (VAB) last week voted 4-2 on a final recommendation for redrawing boundaries for the Vermont House of Representatives that leaves most Addison County districts the way they are now.
Lawmakers will discuss VAB proposals for the House and Vermont Senate during the 2012 legislative session before voting on a final reapportionment plan.
The VAB’s new House proposal, submitted to the Legislature on Aug. 11, represents a dramatic reversal from its previous majority position that the state be divided into 150 single-seat House districts. It’s a plan that would have, among other things, split Middlebury and Monkton in half.
But local boards of civil authority (BCAs) weighed in on the plan in unprecedented numbers during the past few weeks, said VAB member Gerry Gossens of Salisbury, and their overwhelming message was: “We don’t like it.”
“It showed we had hit a bad nerve,” said Gossens, who had voted against the 150 single-seat plan.
The seven-member VAB was charged late last year with redrawing House and Senate district lines to reflect U.S. Census numbers in a manner that is consistent with the Constitutional standard of “one person, one vote.”
Republican and Progressive VAB members ended up voting for 150 single-seat House districts back in June, stating such an arrangement would best allow local representatives to interact with their constituents.
Democratic opponents argued the new arrangement would divide communities with common interests and fracture school districts that are currently well-served by two-seat districts.
Gossens noted that 145 boards of civil authority returned comments on the 150 single-seat House district plan. Ninety-three of those responses were unfavorable, including those submitted by Brandon, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven and Starksboro. On the other hand, BCAs in Addison, Bristol, Ferrisburgh, Granville, Hancock, Orwell, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Whiting supported the plan.
Other local BCAs did not weigh in.
Based on the BCA feedback, the VAB last Thursday went back to work and cobbled together a new plan that features 109 House districts. Seventy-seven of those are single-seaters (up from the current 66) and 30 are two-seaters (down from the current 42). Also included is the 10-seat Burlington grouping and the three-seat St. Albans grouping.
“I think it was a reasonable compromise,” Gossens said of the VAB’s final proposed map.
The document received yes votes from Gossens; former Rep. Tom Little, R-Shelburne; former Rep. Steve Hingtgen, a Montpelier Progressive; and Progressive Meg Brook of South Burlington. Republicans Neale Lunderville and Rob Roper opposed the map. Democrat Frank Cioffi was not present for the vote.
The only Addison County change in the final VAB map: Hancock leaves Addison-2 and joins an adjacent district that would also include Granville, Rochester and Bethel.
Gossens said Hancock officials are OK with the switch.
The VAB has also forwarded to the Legislature its proposed redrawing of Senate districts, a proposal that calls for Addison County to lose Brandon but gain Charlotte.
Officials in both Brandon and Charlotte have offered positive feedback on such a switch, according to Gossens.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.
 

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