|Congressman Jim Matheson addresses the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 19 at the College of Eastern Utah. With the redistricting map approved by the Utah Legislature on Monday, Matheson would no longer reside in the district he currently represents. Instead, he would reside in the second congressional district. In the event the United States Congress approves Utah's plan, who would become the congressman representing Castle Country would be decided by an election that would take place during a regular cycle or possibly at a special time.|
On Monday the Utah lawmakers approved a plan to redistrict the seats of the United States Congress in Utah.
The plan approved by the Utah Legislature on Dec. 4 was different than the alternatives presented to Carbon County citizens about a week ago when the state's congressional redistricting committee visited Price.
"When it came right down to it, this was a much better alternative than plan A that was approved in 2002," said Brad King, who occupies the district 69 position in Utah House of Representatives. District 69 encompasses two-thirds of Carbon County.
"The plan that was approved had a few changes from the preferred ones the committee presented here, but that didn't change anything for Carbon County," added King.
Plan L would give Utah what amounts to an "urban" congressional seat. The plan would take in much of Salt Lake County and put in parts of Summit, Davis and other urban areas into district two.
Although the Utah Legislature approved the state's plan on Monday, late Tuesday it appeared that the speedy redistricting process the state pursued was probably for naught. The matter was reportedly not included on the agenda of the three-day sessions scheduled in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives this week.
Presently, a bill sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia, would give Washington, D.C., a seat in the U.S. House. To balance out the representation, Utah would get a fourth seat. The reason for the "balance" is that it is assumed that the D.C. seat would be Democratic and the Utah seat would be Republican.
While the idea of a new seat for Utah is dead for the current year, it probably will be resurrected in the next congressional session.
Davis is returning and new U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi, said she still supports the proposal.
However, passage of such a bill still faces numerous obstacles.
Some state officials are notsure that the plan is the way to get Utah a fourth seat or whether the approach is constitutional under the details of the bill.
"It appears to me that things will change because of the growth in Utah in 2012 anyway," said Patrick Painter, who represents the western part of Carbon County in district 67 at the Utah House.
"When the new census is done, redistricting will probably take place. And even if this passes now, we will be looking at more changes in the boundaries for the fourth seat then, too," continued the district 67 representative
Painter said he could see several pros and cons about making the change before the next census, which is used by the federal government to determine state populations and ultimately the redistricting of the U.S. Congress.
"We have to look at a move like this in the long run," noted Painter. "If the Washington, D.C., area gets a seat in the House, does that mean eventually they should get two Senate seats, too? Every state that has a representative in the House has two senators as well."
Painter said he believes that the U.S. Capitol was set aside in various ways by the country's founders to be a type of independent "umpire" for the states of the union.
"I have to say that it would be interesting in Utah if a fourth seat were approved, though," commented Painter.
The interest comes from the fact that, in a sense, there would be a vacuum created by the fourth congressional seat's creation.
Presently, Congressman Jim Matheson represents a geographically significant area of what the new third congressional district would contain.
Matheson's home in Salt Lake City, under the new plan, would be in district two.
Because of the changes in the state's plan, there would have to be an election to determine who represents all four districts and that would mean literally there would be no incumbents.
Under the plan, with district three including all of the eastern and southeastern part of the state as well as a significant portion of Utah County, a new candidate could emerge to represent the area.
Representative Chris Cannon, who presently represents the third seat in Utah, would live in the new district. But he could face strong opposition from other members of the Republican party that would live in that area, along with a strong Democratic challenger.
|The plan approved by the the Utah Legislature on Dec. 4 differs from the alternatives presented to Carbon County citizens when the state's congressional redistricting committee visited Price about a week ago. Plan L would give Utah what basically amounts to an 'urban' congressional seat.|
Cannon faced strong opposition for his U.S. House seat from Democrats in the last election. Some Democratic strongholds in the state would be added to the new district three.
However, traditionally Republican Utah County would have more than 350,000 potential voters in the district and would make up 66 percent of the electorate.
For King, the representative's entire state district would be within the new seat. Painter would have some of his present representation in congressional districts three and four.
Utah Sen. Mike Dmitrich's district 29 representation would also be entirely in the new district three.
Who the congressman is in each district can affect state representatives.
"I knew when we went into this that having Congress do much with it was a long shot, and I wasn't sure about it," said Dmitrich in a phone interview on Tuesday morning. "But now that we have approved a plan, I think it was the right thing to do. It will help us when we come to 2012 and have to look at changes in the state and representation."
The redistricting committee members reportedly came to Price with the attitude that they liked the idea of having a rural-urban mix in every district.
But when it came down to the final hours, the rural-urban mix in the second district disappeared.
"I don't think that was a bad thing though," said King. "The fact the rural areas in three districts have increased clout is a good thing. But the fact remains that no matter what we as a legislature did, it had to be some kind of compromise."