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Friday
Mar092012

House And Senate Redistricting Plans Head To Lynch; Congressional Plan Attracts Opposition

            Within the week, redistricting bills for both the House and Senate could be on the governor’s desk.  The House passed the Senate plan by a veto-proof margin and then some (253-91; I spoke in favor of it), but guess what.

            Despite a 19-5 Republican advantage, Republicans in the Senate came one vote shy of a veto proof majority.  It was 15-8, and the lone absence was a Democrat (Houde) which means the vote would have been 15-9 had he been there.  In other words, four senators joined Democrats and if they hold, the Senate would be unable to override the Governor’s expected veto of the House plan.

            Three of the senators come as no surprise, Tom DeBlois from District 18 (five Manchester wards) and David Boutin (three Manchester wards) and Jeanie Forester from District 2 which includes Meredith.

            The House plan, as we all know by now, includes such injustices to Manchester that all Representatives from the city, including the city’s Republican Party Chairman, have sworn to stand with the Governor on a veto.

            Less publicized but just as real are the problems with Meredith in the plan.  It is just shy of deserving two Reps of its own, and Gilford has slightly more population than for two Reps of its own.  Lawyers who wrote the House plan behind closed doors (it’s true—don’t even try denying it) broke the Constitutional provision, yes that would be the one that Republicans themselves pushed for in 2006, that any town with a population of 3291 receive its own Rep.

            The House plan, rather than giving Meredith and Gilford each one Rep and then floating two Reps, forces the two towns (which only border through water) together for four Reps.

            By using the Parison method of calculation deviation, this problem could have been fixed, just like the Manchester problem could have been fixed by combining Hudson with Litchfield (six Reps for Hudson, two for Hudson, and two floated).  Thus, the Constitutional provision would have been followed in both cases, and Senators DeBlois, Boutin, and Forrester could have voted for the plan.

            The fourth Republican senator to vote against the plan was Raymond White of District 9 (currently Bedford and Merrimack).  It isn’t known whether the four senators would stand firm on a veto-override.

            Keep in mind that in the event of a veto, the bill would come back to the House first, and if all the Manchester Representatives stick together with the Pelham and Meredith and Gilford  Reps, only three or four other Republicans would be needed to sustain the veto.

            Rather than attempt to reach a compromise, Speaker Bill O’Brien continues to attempt to coerce his party into voting for the plan using the flawed logic of his lawyer/lobbyist (and now apparently gendarme) Ed Mosca.

            I add the word gendarme to Mosca’s responsibilities because now he’s apparently not merely pulling down a salary by sitting behind the Speaker on session days and coming up with unconstitutional redistricting plans, but the Speaker is using him to police House galleries.  Mosca was sent upstairs Wednesday, intent on silencing those in the crowd who dared express disapproval over the contraception vote.

            You just can’t make this stuff up. Hopefully someone got a picture of the legal counsel serving the role of gendarme (Gestapo might be too flamboyant a title, but if you translate the word from German, it would be perfectly accurate, state secret police).  Mosca, legal counsel, is certainly playing the role of secret police when so dispatched.

            But I digress as usual…

            The point is that a showdown on redistricting appears more and more likely for one reason only…hubris.  Yes, that would be false pride.  Rather than do what any temperate leader would do, that is to say to arrive at an acceptable compromise, the speaker is so driven by hubris that at last check, either he or Mosca or someone under their control were sending out a five page diatribe (after forcing all committee chairman to sign it) attacking those of us who are trying to arrive at an acceptable compromise.

            Hubris rules in the O’Brien House, as we’ve seen in so many other instances.

           The bills must be enrolled with the Secretary of State before they go to the Governor who will have five days to either sign or veto them (or let them become law without a signature).  As of late Friday, neither bill had yet made it to the Secretary of State's office.

            Meanwhile, a House subcommittee on redistricting voted 7-3 Wednesday to accept another behind-closed doors plan, this one for Congressional districts.  The only Republican to cross party lines was Will Smith (danger Will Robinson, danger, you could be removed as Finance Division II Chair).  

Even though I’ve worked out five or six plans for Congressional districts, all of which were submitted long ago to both the Speaker and Chairman Paul Mirski, R-Enfield, I was not placed on the subcommittee.  Imagine that!  (Clearly, they don’t want to be confused by anything that might make sense).

The secretly-devised plan has become controversial because—among other things-- it moves the town of Merrimack, despite the wishes of some there, into district two while moving several Merrimack County towns east of Concord into District 1.  It also moves Atkinson into district 1 and messes up parts of Coos County as well.  It’s posted on the web site, not that anyone except someone with the patience of Job can navigate that site.

            A simpler plan proposed by Rep David Hess, R-Hooksett, was rejected by House leadership, and as expected, Hess went through the most bizarre of contortions to back off from HIS VERY OWN PLAN (as he’d done with Executive Council districts) and support his leadership.

            Danke, Mein Herr.  I vill do vat I am told!

            Hess, again keeping a straight face while others in the room couldn’t help but snicker, said he was retreating from his plan in the Constitutionlally mandated interest of “promoting domestic tranquility”.  Anyone with even a smidgen of knowledge of Madison, Jay, Hamilton and the Federalist Papers could not help but wonder how Hess, if pressed, would be able to morph the “domestic tranquility” language of the founders to the drawing of lines for the town of Merrimack and towns in Merrimack County.  Hess was never pressed because as I note, I was not on the subcommittee, and Vice Chair David Bates, R-Windham, ruled that only subcommittee members (contrary to all rules of committees I’ve served on in 16 years) could  utter a word, either in opposition or support of any plan or presents any plan.

            Once again, you just can’t make this stuff up.

            The committee will reopen a public hearing on the issue Monday.  One can imagine the good folks of Merrimack and other towns will be there, not that it’ll make any difference.

            If we’ve learned anything in this painful redistricting process, it’s that once a decision has been made by House leadership and lawyuers behind closed doors, no amount of logic is likely to prevail.

            The more I write, the sadder I’m making myself, and I actually had supported the plan originally…not that I was allowed to say so!

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