February 14, 2022 |
The Corporations Committee wrapped up its redistricting work on Thursday, approving a plan that expands the legislature to 62 house seats and 31 in the senate.
Statewide Compilation Plan 6 now goes to the full legislature, which convenes in the Budget Session today. Plan 6 emerged late last month as a way to deal with expanding populations in Wyoming’s biggest cities while rural areas lost people leading up to the 2020 census.
The biggest changes voted on Thursday dealt with how districts in the eastern part of the state were remapped from Cheyenne to Gillette. Michael Swank with the Legislative Service Office said other amendments were minor changes submitted by county clerks, including Gwynn Bartlett.
The plan passed on an 11-3 vote. An alternative plan that did not expand the legislature was tabled. Senator Ogden Driscoll said its existence might committee’s 62/31 plan during the session, which will be submitted as HB 100. Driscoll said whether committee members liked the bill or not, it was their constitutional duty to pass something.
The hard feelings that the long redistricting process produced were on display in the final hours of Thursday’s meeting. Representative Jim Blackburn of Laramie Count voted against the 62/31. Blackburn expressed anger with how Cheyenne’s house districts were carved up, redistricting conservative member Clarence Styvar out of his seat and into Blackburn’s.
Senator Tara Nethercott pushed back against the suggestion that the committee used the redistricting process as a political weapon against lawmakers it does not like. Nethercott asked for a map to be displayed showing where Cheyenne’s lawmakers live.
The map didn’t clear up the question. The discussion, however, did spark the “Where’s Waldo” question from a member of the legislature who is not on the committee. Senator Tom James of Sweetwater County, asked in public testimony the question that hangs over the committee’s co-chair.
Questions about Zwonitzer’s residency were first raised at a meeting of the Wyoming Republican Party’s central committee in January. Real estate documents and voting records suggest the co-chair of the committee in charge of redistricting the state moved out of his district in February of last year when he sold his house.
The Secretary of State’s office declined to investigate the matter. Instead, Ed Buchanan said last month that the question is matter for the legislature’s leadership council. The heart of matter is whether Zwonitzer is qualified to remain as a House member if moved from his district, and if he used redistricting to gerrymander his new residence into House District 43 from which he was elected to serve. Senator Driscoll, the other co-chair, quickly circled the wagons at the question Thursday. As Zwonitzer leaned back in his chair, his face turned from his microphone, refusing to answer, Sen. Ogden fended off the question.
Representative Zwonitzer was ordered by House Speaker Eric Barlow to answer the question in writing. It’s unclear if he has or not at this time. The question is a cloud over the committee that may undo its work during the session. Senator Charles Scott, who voted against the plan to expand the legislature already submitted his own bill, SF 60, as a backup plan.
That was 1992, when Governor Mike Sullivan vetoed the redistricting bill that passed the legislature. Senator Scott’s backup plan is essentially the 60/30 plan developed by the county clerks. The plan was abandoned in December by the Corporations Committee as it worked through as many as 50 other plans, three of which were drawn up over the lunch on Thursday. The redistricting rodeo will continue when HB 100, the plan approved last week , is introduced and debated by state lawmakers.
Related: HD 47 remains intact, for the moment