Aug 1, 2011- Special Session: Day 1

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

The special session on redistricting began today. Some people criticized the House for not including more single-delegate districts.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Changes are coming at the Capitol, where lawmakers are debating plans to redraw the state’s electoral boundaries.

Lawmakers are in town this week for a special session focused mostly on redistricting, the once-in-a-decade process where lawmakers have to account for shifts in the population.

Ultimately, it means who represents you in Charleston and Washington could change.

A House of Delegates committee held a public hearing Monday evening in which several people called for a major change in how the state operates.

They called for 100 districts in which people elect one delegate.

Under a plan released shortly before the hearing, they could get some of what they want but not all of it.

Robin Holstein, a concerned resident, says under the current system delegates “do not fairly represent areas, such as where I live in the upper Kanawha Valley."

Currently, there are 36 single-delegate districts. The remaining delegates come from larger, multi-member districts. The largest such district is the 30th in Kanawha County. Seven delegates represent the 30th district.

"With the seven members, we have a lot of power, and also we can get projects done," says Del. Bobbie Hatfield (D), one of the 30th district’s seven delegates.

Keith Morgan, who lives in the 30th district and represents West Virginia Citizens Defense League, disagrees.

"I feel like I have little to no meaningful representation," says Morgan.

Republicans have supported going to 100 single-member districts, but have gotten push back from some democrats who say the current system helps them better serve the people.

"I do not believe this is a Democratic or Republican kind of thing. It is merely a good government thing," says Tom Crouser, a 30th district resident who advocates for single-delegate districts.

House leaders unveiled a map showing some changes we can expect.

Among the main takeaways, there would be 11 more single-delegate districts than there are now.

Also, Mason County would make up the majority of a district that would be shared with Putnam County, meaning Mason could get its own delegate. That’s something local leaders have been pushing for.

But, some people are criticizing this process.

"I just don't see the cooperation. I don't see folks listening to both sides of the aisle," says Mike Stuart, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party.

Another concern mentioned by several people was that Monday’s public hearing was announced less than five hours before it happened.

"The public hearing was called today because that's when everyone came in town. If we waited until tomorrow, then we keep the Legislature in town that much longer. So, we just need to start moving, start working on it," says Del. Mike Caputo (D-Marion).

That work will start tomorrow morning when the House redistricting committee meets. Amendments are expected to be proposed before the final vote.

A Senate committee approved that chamber's plan Monday night 16-1.

Meanwhile, candidates running for governor are weighing in on this issue too.

"If you come out here to the hinterland, as we've come to know it, people are fed up. And, they want one person, one vote. [I] would veto anything that didn't come out of the process that didn't have one person, one vote," says businessman Bill Maloney (R).

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) says, "From the time I started there were only a total of about 30-some districts. Today, there are nearly 60. And, the Legislature has been moving more towards single-member or smaller districts for the last 30 years. And, I think they'll continue to do that this time in the House of Delegates.”

Tomblin is not going as far as Maloney to say the House should go to all single-member districts, but he says he will support a plan that includes more of them.

ORIGINAL POST: 8/1/11 @ 1:30 p.m.
The first (and possibly only) special session of 2011 is underway. The main topic, of course, is the once-in-a-decade process of redrawing electoral boundaries. Who you elect to represent you in Congress or at the state level could change as a result of this process.

I'll be updating here throughout the day Monday.

Senators will meet later this afternoon to discuss their plan. Later in the evening, the House will hold a public hearing, where citizens will get a chance to weigh in on what's been proposed to this point.

The Associated Press has a quick summary on what's going on today:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia lawmakers are tackling the once-in-a-decade task of revisiting legislative and congressional districts.

The Senate and House of Delegates convened Monday for the special session called by acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The 2010 Census shows the state must redraw House and Senate districts to ensure equal representation. At least two of the three congressional districts also require changes.

Tomblin has also proposed a slight cut of the food tax, and to supplement the budget and redistribute coal tax revenues.

The Senate's redistricting committee meets 3 p.m. Monday.

The House is hosting a 5 p.m. public hearing, requested by advocates of single-member districts for all its 100 House seats. The House's redistricting committee won't meet until Tuesday. Its plan is expected to reduce but not eliminate multimember districts.
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