Aug 5, 2011- Special Session: Day 5

By: Michael Hyland
By: Michael Hyland

After months of controversy, the WV House of Delegates approved its redistricting plan Friday night, splitting Kanawha's massive 30th district.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The House of Delegates approved its redistricting plan Friday night, creating a map means major changes in Kanawha County and other part of the state.

Kanawha County’s 30th district, which is currently represented by seven delegates, will be split into two districts. One district will be represented by four delegates, while the other will be represented by three.

Lawmakers spent the last few days negotiating this deal, though some still aren’t thrilled with it.

"When you have a chance to do something like this to move our county, to move our district and our constituents forward, I think you have to take that chance," says Del. Doug Skaff (D-Kanawha)

The 30th district is the biggest district in the state, and has become the focal point over the debate about smaller districts.

Del. Eric Nelson (R) says the split is "not necessarily where we want it to be, but it's a small step."

With this agreement, the state’s new largest district will be in Monongalia County. A district will increase from the current four delegates to five.

Skaff says the districts will be split so that he, Dels. Bobbie Hatfield (D), Bonnie Brown (D) and Nelson will represent one district.

Dels. Nancy Guthrie (D), Danny Wells and Mark Hunt will represent the other district.

"Well, we're weakened,” says Guthrie, who advocated leaving the 30th district intact. “No matter how you slice it, when you've got seven voices advocating for you in a district, you're a lot more powerful than when you've got four or three."

For months, Republicans have pushed to break up the large districts and go to 100 single-member districts. They say that would truly live up to the idea of one person/one vote.

But, some members of Kanawha's big district have said they work well for the county as a team.

“Did that favor a lot of our constituents? Yes. But the question is, is that fair and reasonable? No,” says Nelson.

When asked how intense the negotiations were, Guthrie described them as “pretty bad.” In the initial draft map released to the public on Monday, the 30th district was left largely untouched.

"Why would you want to give up seven voices and seven votes?" asks Guthrie.

Guthrie says amendments were being proposed for the 30th district that did not satisfy several of the district’s delegates.

30th district delegates say there was pressure on them to break up the district given that many others were being broken up, or even converted to single-delegate districts.

"I do not think we lose any power. We had the same number of delegates before this redistricting, and then we leave today having the same number of delegates," says Skaff.

The final plan includes 47 single-delegate districts, up from the current 36.

Even with these changes, Republicans still opposed the overall plan. It passed 64-33.

"We're not happy with the results," says Nelson.

The plan that passed Friday also splits the 32nd district in the northern part of the county into three single-delegate districts.

In other business, the House also approved a plan that would phase out the food tax and increase the state’s rainy day fund.

Delegates also approved a bill that sends more coal severance tax revenue to the counties that produce coal.
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