The second week has come and gone in the Vermont House of Representatives. It was our last week being fully remote as we came back to the House floor on Tuesday, January 18th to a hybrid session. Governor Phil Scott also gave his Budget Address via Zoom to our joint body on Tuesday and laid out his vision for the 2022 fiscal budget.
Last Friday, January 14th, House Bill H.589 came to the Floor. Every ten years our state is required by our State Constitution to redistrict our legislative maps to ensure equal representation based on population. There is a Legislative Apportionment Board (LAB) that is appointed to prepare and file proposed Senate and House plans with the General Assembly. This board consists of seven members – the Governor appoints one from each political party (one Democrat, one Republican, and one Progressive), and each political party appoints someone on their own. There is also one “Special Master” who is chosen by the Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court.
Starting in September of 2021, the LAB started their work and eventually met over thirty times. When their work was completed, they filed a report with the House Clerk on November 23rd of last year. The report and the map were voted on and approved by a tri-partisan majority of the LAB and the only map filed with the House Clerk.
On Friday, the House was given bill H.589 that didn’t include the map approved by the majority of the Legislative Apportionment Board. Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R- Stowe) and I offered an amendment to bill H.589 that would only include only the approved map – not the minority report written by the majority party.
The minority report leaves out the work the LAB did during the fall of 2021 and focuses on multi-member districts. It was the board’s vote of 4-3 to put forth a map consisting of single member districts for the next ten years. It is important to remember that Vermont is the only state left in the United States that has multi-member legislative districts in both chambers of its legislature.
One of my main concerns with multi-member districts is that some Vermonters have more representation in the House than others. An example of this would be St. Albans Town. The part of St. Albans Town that I currently represent (Franklin 3-1) has two representatives in the House while the rest of the Town (Franklin 3-2) only has one representative. I feel that we should take this once in a decade opportunity to fix it for all Vermonters. I support the work that the Legislative Apportionment Board sent to my local BCAs who reviewed it and gave overwhelming support.
We need to do what is right for Vermonters and the people we represent, not what is right for incumbents or any particular party. Our amendment did fail by a vote of 32-90, but a second amendment was offered that included both reports and both maps.
We are just getting started in the session and we still have many important issues to cover including the state pensions and student weighting factors bill. We are also working on a miscellaneous Covid-19 bill in House Education. If you need to contact me any time please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] with any questions, comments, or concerns. Thank you for your time!