House passes state redistricting bill

By Krista KanoMetroWest Daily News

November 2, 2011

The House took less than 90 minutes to pass the state’s complex redistricting bill yesterday after quickly rejecting amendments submitted by four local legislators to tweak the map.

The 150-3 vote ended a process that began this fall when the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting traveled across the state to explain the redistricting process and to gather public comment.

The Senate yesterday approved its redistricting map, 36-0.

In the House, Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, a member of the redistricting committee, was one of the dissenters along with reps. Steven Levy, R-Marlborough, and Thomas Conroy, D-Wayland.

Nine amendments were offered to the legislation, including two from Levy, and ones from Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, Rep. George Peterson, R-Grafton, and Rep. Matthew Beaton, R-Shrewsbury, which all involved redrawing their district boundaries.

Of the four legislators, only Levy, who represents the 4th Middlesex, chose to speak about one of his amendments that called for redrawing much of central Massachusetts, prompting a short debate.

Levy’s district now includes all of Marlborough, Berlin and northern Southborough. The committee redrew the 4th Middlesex to include all of Marlborough, southern Northborough and central Westborough. Levy’s amendment would have kept Marlborough and northern Southborough together in the 4th Middlesex and moved Berlin to the 3rd Middlesex.

“There’s more than one possible solution to the problem, and when an alternative is offered, it should be discussed so that we give the commonwealth the best draft,” Levy said.

Levy said his version would minimize change and would keep 7,500 more people in their current districts than the committee’s map.

Changes to Levy’s district reflect a population boom in Berlin, Marlborough and Southborough. In 10 years, Berlin’s population has grown from 2,380 to 2,866, a 20.4 percent increase. Marlborough’s population rose from 36,255 to 38,499, a 6.1 percent increase. Southborough increased 11.2 percent, from 8,781 to 9,767.

Rep. Michael Moran, D-Brighton, co-chairman of the redistricting committee, countered Levy’s argument, saying Levy’s amendment would affect seven districts.

Moran explained that the target district size – determined, by dividing the total Massachusetts population by 160 House districts – is 40,923, plus or minus 5 percent. That makes the lowest district size 38,877 and the largest 42,969.

“No matter how you draw this map, Marlborough has to be included with some other city or district with it, so you’d still have to split another community to join it,” Moran said. “This amendment alone shifts 28,727 people and that’s not including the five other districts it would affect.”

The amendment was rejected, as was Levy’s second amendment, which he had previously described as a “last resort” to keep his district together.

The House and Senate votes will move the redistricting plan to Gov. Deval Patrick, meeting a deadline of Nov. 4 for the 2012 election. This year’s redistricting was relatively non-controversial, with the redistricting committee earning praise from legislators and good-government groups.

In previous years, the maps were often challenged in federal court.

For the first time in the history of Massachusetts redistricting, the committee held a two-week public comment period before voting on the new maps.

The committee still needs to submit a congressional district map to the House and Senate, reducing the number of congressional districts from 10 to nine.

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