Thursday March 24, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- The state's Congressional redistricting will be completed by November, according to state Rep. Christopher N. Speranzo.

The Pittsfield Democrat, a member of the committee on redistricting, said the process needs to be completed by then because state law requires candidates to reside in the districts they are seeking to represent for at least one year before Election Day.

Election Day in 2012 is Nov. 6.

"It would have to be done by Nov. 6, 2011," Speranzo said.

Massachusetts is losing one of its 10 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives because of overall population shifts announced earlier by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Legislature has to redraw Massachusetts' Congressional districts every decade following the release of the federal census. The committee is also in charge of redistricting the House and Senate seats in the state Legislature.

The U.S. Census Bureau released state and local data from the 2010 census on Tuesday, but Speranzo said that data has no bearing on whether the state loses a Congressional seat.

"They did the reapportionment at the end of last year," he said.

The committee has a series of public hearings on the redistricting process under way.

The first regional hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Van Sickle Middle School in Springfield.

Only seven hearings have been confirmed so far, but Speranzo said more could be added, with one possibly in the Berkshires.

"We've had an initial meeting to lay the groundwork," Speranzo said. "The regional hearings begin on Saturday. People will express their opinions, and we'll hear from elected officials and constituents. Once that's all done, the committee gets to the hard work of creating maps from the testimony that we receive."

The mapping process should be completed by the end of the summer.

"After the maps are created and the districts are set up, it will proceed through the legislative process," Speranzo said.

Berkshire County is part of the 1st Congressional District. Although it is the state's largest district geographically, it contains only one-tenth of its population. The 2nd Congressional District, which includes Springfield and its suburbs, also includes parts of Western Massachusetts.

Speranzo said it is to early to tell how redistricting will affect the Berkshires.

"Besides just population, I think there's a good argument to have two [Congressional districts] in Western Massachusetts," he added. "You have Springfield and its suburbs, then you have all the gateway cities like Pittsfield. They've existed as two. I think that's an argument you'll hear in all the Western Massachusetts hearings."

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.