Introduced by Representative Smith of Morristown
Subject: Reapportionment; legislative apportionment board; house districts
Statement of purpose: This bill proposes to make the following changes to the process for reapportioning the house of representatives: (1) emphasizing the importance of preserving existing communities; (2) requiring the general assembly to make affirmative findings in legislation which enacts a plan for reapportioning the house of representatives which differs from that proposed by the legislative apportionment board; (3) requiring the general assembly to have a two-week period for comment on any proposed final reapportionment plan; and (4) establishing a preference for single-member house districts.
AN ACT RELATING TO THE PROCESS FOR REAPPORTIONING THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. 17 V.S.A. § 1901 is amended to read:
§ 1901. PURPOSE
The supreme court of the United States has ruled that the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution requires all state legislative bodies to be apportioned in such manner as to achieve substantially equal weighting of the votes of all voters in the choice of legislators. To comply with such requirement it will be necessary to reapportion the house of representatives at periodic intervals, so that changes may be recognized in legislative apportionment. It is the purpose of this chapter to achieve such reapportionment in an orderly and impartial manner and in a manner which preserves existing communities.
Sec. 2. 17 V.S.A. § 1903 is amended to read:
§ 1903. PERIODIC REAPPORTIONMENT; STANDARDS
* * *
(b) The standard for creating districts for the election of representatives to the general assembly shall be to form representative districts with minimum percentages of deviation from the apportionment standard for the house of representatives. The standard for creating districts for the election of senators on a county basis to the general assembly shall be to form senatorial districts with minimum percentages of deviation from the apportionment standard for the senate.
(c) The representative and senatorial districts shall be formed consistent with the following policies insofar as practicable:
(1) preservation of existing political subdivision lines;
(2) recognition and maintenance of patterns of geography, social interaction, trade, political ties, and common interests;
(3) use of compact and contiguous territory.
(d) Representative districts shall be formed consistent with the preservation of existing communities, as identified by the legislative apportionment board, insofar as practicable.
Sec. 3. 17 V.S.A. § 1906 is amended to read:
§ 1906. -INITIAL DISTRICTS; FINAL PROPOSAL; FINAL PLAN
(a) Upon receiving recommendations made under section 1905 of this title, the board shall consider the same, and shall, not later than August 15, prepare a final proposal for dividing the state into initial districts for the election of 150 representatives. The chair of the board shall, on or before August 15, transmit such proposal to the clerk of the house, and the proposal shall then be referred to the appropriate committee. The general assembly shall then accept the proposal and enact it into law or substitute another plan for reapportionment; provided, however, that:
(1) The plan for initial districts finally approved shall be in conformity with the provisions of this chapter; and
(2) Be duly enacted during the said biennial legislative session.
(b) The board’s final proposal shall identify existing communities, including communities which cross existing political subdivision lines, and how its proposal best preserves those communities.
(c) If the general assembly chooses to enact a plan for reapportionment which differs from the plan submitted by the board, the committee to which the board’s proposal is initially referred shall make affirmative findings which support its substituted plan. These findings shall appear in the legislation which enacts the general assembly’s reapportionment plan. Prior to enactment of a final reapportionment plan, the general assembly shall provide a two-week period in which a board of civil authority of a municipality may present formal comment on the final plan.
Sec. 4. 17 V.S.A. § 1906b is amended to read:
§ 1906b. DIVISION OF TWO-MEMBER REPRESENTATIVE DISTRICTS
initial district entitled to two representatives under section 1893 of this
may shall be divided into single-member representative
districts as provided in this section to the greatest extent possible.
* * *
(f) On or before April 1 of the year of the general election next after enactment of the final plan under section 1906 of this title, a board of civil authority of a town within an initial district entitled to two representatives and which resides in a different county from that of another town in the district may vote to divide the district. The board of civil authority so voting shall present a proposal for division to the clerk of the house, and the general assembly shall divide the initial district into single-member representative districts pursuant to that proposal.
(g) Representative districts proposed under this section shall become effective when approved by the general assembly before adjournment sine die. The general assembly shall approve representative districts proposed by the boards of civil authority if they are consistent with the standards set forth in this section.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street