House of Delegates members learned about—and questioned—details of the proposal to submit amendments to the bylaws that would realign AVMA districts.
The Executive Board approved the proposal at its November 2000 meeting, but it will not be implemented unless the HOD approves a bylaws amendment this July. The HOD discussed the matter at its Informational Assembly, held Jan 6-7 in Chicago, during the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference.
Redistricting has been discussed several times in past years. AVMA president Dr. James E. Nave initiated the current redistricting discussion in his July 2000 address to the HOD.
The proposed plan, crafted by immediate past president Dr. Leonard F. Seda and modified by an ad hoc committee of the board at its November 2000 meeting, would redefine several of the districts in two phases, starting in July 2002. The final structure would be in place in July 2006. The phases are designed to coordinate with the ends of board members' terms, allowing present board members to serve out their terms representing the states that elected them.
Dr. Nave and other proponents argue that this change is necessary because the geographic distribution of AVMA members has shifted since the present districts were drawn in 1957. There are now a mean of 5,909 voting members per district, but under the current system the number varies widely among districts.
District III, the largest, has 11,002 members, 86 percent more than the mean; the smallest, District VI, has 2,779 members, 53 percent fewer than the mean. District III comprises seven states, plus Puerto Rico. District VI contains only two states—Iowa and Minnesota.
The proposed redistricting would leave the largest district, District II, with 7,734 members, and District XI, the smallest, would have 4,465. Each district would have a maximum of seven states, and a minimum of three. This would facilitate travel by board members to all the states in their constituency and also give residents of each state a more equal opportunity to be elected to the board.
The proposal also took into account present state alliances, geopolitical similarities, and the number of veterinary colleges per district.
No major objections to the idea of redistricting were voiced in the main HOD informational assembly, but a number of specific geographic concerns arose from some delegates. Many wondered why California, with its 5,745 voting members, could not be a district by itself. Currently, California is in District X with Arizona, Hawaii, and Nevada. Under the new plan it would remain in that district, but with only Hawaii and Nevada—Arizona would move to the new District IX.
Executive Board members said that although they had considered letting California stand on its own, in the end they decided not to have single-state districts.
"I happen to believe that when multiple states come together, all win," Dr. Nave said. "I really do believe if you look at the broader picture, California gains by being part of the district."
In addition, if California were the only state in a district, there would be a board member from California elected every six-year term. Under current bylaws, a district cannot elect more than two consecutive board members from one state unless there are no nominees from the other states in the district.
Several other delegates said they were worried about how the new district boundaries would affect local associations. For example, Kansas City, Kan, would move to District IX, severing it from Kansas City, Mo, in District VII.
The Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah associations, which share an executive director, are already split in the current system: Wyoming and Utah together in District IX and Idaho in District XI. But in the new plan, Wyoming would move with Idaho in District XI and Utah would remain in District IX.
These changes may be difficult to adjust to, but in practice, it shouldn't matter too much which district a board member represents, said Executive Board member Dr. Leonard M. Tinney, addressing an HOD reference committee. Although board members serve as carriers of information between their constituents and the governing body, AVMA bylaws stipulate that they are obligated to serve the profession nationally, "without bias toward region or individual interests."
"When it comes to making the decisions, our constitutional responsibility is to identify what is the best decision for AVMA—not Texas, and not Ohio, and not West Virginia—but what's best for the AVMA," Dr. Tinney said. "That's the constitutional burden that we have to bear."