Changes Proposed for Charlotte’s Senatorial Representation

If the proposal by the Legislative Apportionment Board (LAB) gains final approval by the legislature in 2012, Charlotte will become part of the Addison County Senate district.  In fact, the six member Chittenden County Senate district will be broken into four Senate districts with two members each. 

This Chittenden County senatorial district is currently the largest in the state, and the idea of breaking it up into several smaller districts had been discussed in earlier reapportionments.  Political considerations never allowed such a breakup to get past the discussion stage.  However, population changes in the last decade have renewed interest in breaking Chittenden County into several more manageable districts. 

The 2010 Census counted 625,741 people living in Vermont, and since there are 30 senators, this means each senator should “ideally” represent 20,858 residents.  According to LAB Chair Tom Little, “The Vermont Constitution also directs that in setting the Senate district lines we should adhere to county boundaries.  (Yet Washington and Windsor Counties are the only Senate districts where the county lines and the district lines are the same.)”  Furthermore, the increase in the population of Chittenden County would add one more member to the district. 

The Chittenden County town of Colchester is presently part of the Grand Isle senatorial district which has one senator, Dick Mazza.  Included in the LAB proposal is expansion of the Grand Isle Chittenden district to include Milton and Georgia (Franklin County) to make a two member district.  The Chittenden Central senatorial district would consist of the city of Burlington; the Chittenden West senatorial district would include Winooski, South Burlington, Shelburne, Williston and Saint George; and the Chittenden East senatorial district would include Westford, Essex, Underhill, Jericho, Richmond, Bolton, Hinesburg and Huntington.  Each would be a two member district. 

So, how did Charlotte end up in the Addison County senatorial district?  Little said that various configurations were considered such as moving Bolton into the Washington County district or putting Hinesburg with Addison.  However, in order to satisfy the criterion for maximum deviations from the ideal population size, putting Charlotte into the Addison district seemed to make the most sense to the LAB members.

It is worth noting that two other minority configurations were proposed to the LAB, one by Progressive Party member Meg Brook, who proposed eleven large districts, and one by Republican Neil Lunderville, who proposed 30 single member districts.  The proposal approved by the LAB on a 4-2 vote consists of 16 mostly two member districts.

The final redistricting proposals for both the House and Senate have been delivered to the respective House and Senate committees, which will begin reviewing them in September.  Those committees will approve or modify the proposals.  The Senate will have the final say on its redistricting proposal.  However, any committee modifications to the House redistricting plan will get one more review by affected Boards of Civil Authority which, with some restrictions, will have the final say.  As I wrote in my June report, Charlotte will retain its single House seat and will be a district unto itself.  The two slices of Hinesburg that are currently part of the district will be rejoined to the Hinesburg district. 

More information, maps and details can be had at the LAB’s website:

Legislative Report - Energy Assurance Exercise - 7/11/2011

A few weeks ago, at the same time Vermont was experiencing its own weather emergency, I was privileged to take part as a member of the Vermont legislature in the Northeast Regional Energy Assurance Exercise along with two members of the Vermont Department of Public Service and a representative of the Vermont Emergency Management Agency. 

The conference was organized by the U.S. Department of Energy to review and apply state emergency management plans to ensure the availibility of energy resources during crisis events.  Twelve states participated, sending representatives from state government and energy related industry groups.  Federal government representatives from the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security, Transportation, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Argonne National Laboratories also attended. 

Prior to the exercise, participants were provided with a descriptive scenario setting up the conditions for the exercise that would develop over a day and a half.   In this imaginary scenario, a major oil refinery in the Virgin Islands had been shut down by the first hurricane of the season.  A second hurricane, Bret, had just made landfall in North Carolina and had taken out power to 5 million residents of NC and SC.  Gasoline shortages had caused the price of diesel fuel to approach $5/gallon causing an independent truckers’ strike in the south.  In preparation for the exercise, each state’s Energy Assurance Coordinator was asked to summarize their state’s emergency management plans with respect to a set of questions that would be considered at the conference.

Three extraordinary event scenarios were considered as part of the exercise, each building on the preceding scenario.  The first scenario projected hurricane Bret to continue moving up the east coast.  After NOAA and the U.S. Energy department gave a detailed description of the scenario, the attendees were divided by states into six discussion groups in which interdependencies, responsibilities and responses to the scenario were considered, including wide area power disruptions, seaport closures, fuel transport disruptions, and the ripple effects induced by those conditions.  Participants discussed their evaluation of the resulting impacts and their proposed responses.

The second scenario built on the first one.  In this scenario, a geomagnetic solar storm had been detected and was heading toward earth.  Lead time from detection to impingement on earth’s atmosphere for this type of solar weather is between 20 and 90 hours.  NOAA and Argonne Labs scientists briefed the conference on the potential effects on telecommunications and power distribution.  Not only would satellite-based communications be affected, but airline travel, rail travel, manufacturing, and cellular communications could be as well.  Ground-induced currents could literally fry the huge transformers used by utilities for power distribution.  Current fluctuations in lines could also develop that could impact electronic devices.   

The third scenario was the extension of the truckers’ strike nationwide to demand suspension of state taxes on gasoline.  The obvious effect of fuel delivery disruptions was further exacerbated by the blockading of bridges and tunnels by the truckers.  Other impacts on construction, food transport and spoilage, and agriculture were also considered.

The exercise included a lot of discussion, brainstorming and reassessment of current emergency plans.  The exchange of ideas among the states provided valuable insights for all the participants.  Each state delegation was assigned the task of developing an after-action report that includes lessons learned and proposed changes to their plans, and I expect to be involved in these discussions as well in the coming weeks.  With effective planning, Vermont will be ready to handle and recover from a wide variety of possible emergencies.