State finishes redrawing House, Senate districts

A redistricting plan approved by Connecticut’s Reapportionment Commission will take political power away from several major cities but is unlikely to substantially affect New Haven.

The committee charged with re-drawing Connecticut’s legislative boundaries reached agreements this week on how to reapportion the state’s 151 House and 36 state Senate districts, but has yet to announce a plan to eliminate one of the state’s six congressional seats.

If the state legislators on the Reapportionment Commission do not agree on a plan by midnight Friday, the duty will fall to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Every 10 years, when the federal government announces new census results, Connecticut must re-draw the boundaries of its state assembly and Congressional districts. This year, because Connecticut’s population did not increase as fast as the populations of several states in the West and Southwest, Connecticut will lose one-sixth of its representation in Congress.

Under the agreements reached this week, New Haven will retain control of its current state Senate representation but will lose parts of two state House seats.

The nine-member panel announced the state House agreement at about 8 p.m. on Thursday after announcing the state Senate plan on Monday.

Connecticut’s population — like that of most states — is becoming increasingly suburban, and cities are losing population to surrounding areas. But because New Haven lost less population than Hartford, Danbury and Stamford, local state legislators said the redistricting plans would not dramatically affect New Haven’s representation in the state House.

State Sen. Martin Looney, who currently represents about half of New Haven and parts of East Haven and Hamden, said he will continue to represent New Haven even though the boundaries of his 11th district will grow to include more of Hamden.

“Obviously while the population of the state did not change much in the last decade, the distribution of the population within the state did change,” Looney said Wednesday.

According to the 2000 census, New Haven’s population has declined by 6,848 people since 1990, while Hartford lost 18,161 people. New Haven’s population currently stands at 123,626.

Looney said the evolution of his district, which did not include any of Hamden until 1990, is an example of the general demographic shift to the suburbs.

State Sen. Toni Harp, who represents the remainder of New Haven and part of West Haven — the 10th district — will continue to serve roughly the same constituency, though she will not represent as much of Yale as she did previously as a result of boundary shifts within the city.

Harp said Wednesday she will still represent Davenport, Pierson, Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges and the medical school.

“The change is, I’m going to represent half or less than half of Yale,” Harp said. “But I will represent all of Westville, and for the first time I’m going to represent the Yale Bowl.”

The House redistricting plan will deprive New Haven of parts of two of its current districts. Currently, New Haven controls six entire House districts — the 92nd through the 97th — and part of the 88th district.

Under the new plan, New Haven will lose half of state Rep. Cam Staples’ 96th district as well as the small part of the 88th district currently under its control. New Haven will retain control of the 92nd through 95th districts and the 97th district.

Before the agreement was announced last night, Staples said he did not think New Haven would lose much standing in the assembly as a result of the changes.

The congressional reapportionment plan will likely combine the 5th and 6th districts, but Republicans and Democrats are uncertain on where the exact borders will be drawn.

The plan will likely not dramatically affect New Haven Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s ability to represent the city, sources said Thursday.

Daryl Harris, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut, said the state’s redistricting process betrays several national demographic trends.

“Obviously this has been going on for some time now,” said Harris, who teaches a course in urban politics. “The movement out of the cities — has a detrimental effect on the representation of those left in the cities.”

Harris added that the shift may also affect urban residents’ political standing.

“It affects the political dynamics as well,” he said. “Clearly, if you’re losing representation, your political position is weakened in a state legislature where those representing suburban areas and rural areas outnumber those who represent cities.”

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