The following commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
Vermonters deserve transparency and deliberation with their legislators. Yet that is precisely the opposite of what Vermont House Democrats are providing in their attempt to ramrod their own cherry-picked legislative district map in the first days of the 2022 legislative session with limited debate.
A tri-partisan majority of the Legislative Apportionment Board (LAB) recommended the state join 40 other states in adopting single-member legislative districts in both chambers, giving every Vermonter more equal representation across the state. Yet, House Government Operations Chair Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford) has decided to advance the Democrat-favored map rejected by the LAB. She never even asked her committee which map to put forward — she made the decision alone — or behind closed doors.
Before this year’s session started the member from Bradford had planned to pass the Democrat-favored map just 72 hours after the Legislature convened for the 2022 session — without taking testimony from any member from the majority of the LAB — but she instead deferred to the Democratic Party-appointed dissenter who drafted the alternative map. This is an alarmingly partisan attempt to subvert the will of the LAB, and all Vermonters.
Putting aside the merits of the LAB-recommended map, there is absolutely no need to steamroll the drawing of district lines in such little time without adequate public input. In 2012 this process wasn’t completed until January 30th making this year’s move an unprecedented rush job in a year that already started late. While Copeland-Hanzas argues that this is to allow for “public hearings”, she ignores the fact that she is effectively eliminating the opportunity for the public to comment on the rushed action her own committee is currently taking. For House Democrats, it’s ‘pass first’ and ‘ask questions later.’
Vermont Democrats have spent the last year decrying attacks on democracy. Now, they’re undermining the very democratic process they say they represent. Ironically, the multi-member district scheme they’re presenting would make Vermont the only state in the nation with multi-member districts in both chambers.
This is one of the fundamental reasons Republicans are here and going to be active this legislative session. When Democrats are willing to test the limits of their power to advance their will as quickly as possible without the proper input, Republicans will be a check on the majority.
“Hopefully the Independents and Progressives who care about a fair-minded and deliberate process will join us in going back to a normal timetable rather than this unprecedented rush.
With their support, and the support of our Governor’s veto power, it’s the only way we can keep the Democratic party from abusing the authority Vermonters have entrusted them with.
Republicans are asking for what is reasonable. Let’s use the same timeline we did 10 years ago. If this is a real process, and not just a facade, let’s work together to get a draft done at the end of this month, not the end of TODAY. And let’s hear from both sides. Let’s at least hear why the tri-partisan majority didn’t go with the proposal you are rushing through. Doesn’t the majority have that right to comment? The fact the majority is being denied the right to speak is indefensible.
I encourage every Vermonter who values a fair, open and deliberative process to contact their legislator, and Committee Chair Copeland-Hanzas to ask for this important and enduring bill to be given the proper time and consideration by all parties before moving forward.