Gov. Bob McDonnell was dismayed with the way Republicans rammed an unvetted Senate redistricting plan through the evenly divided chamber last week.
But McDonnell, who once advocated bipartisan redistricting, said this morning that he won’t take the ambush tactics into account if he has to decide whether to sign the bill.
In an appearance this morning on Washington, D.C. radio station WTOP, McDonnell reiterated that he wasn’t happy when Senate Republicans exploited the absence of a single Democratic senator to force through a dramatic redrawing of state Senate districts on a 20-19 vote. Senate Republicans forced through the redrawn map without holding any public hearings or committee deliberations, and did so outside the normal once-a-decade process for reapportioning legislative districts.
But while McDonnell found the process objectionable, he said it won’t determine whether he would sign the bill of it reaches his desk.
“For a governor to look behind the process of how the sausage is made – there’s a lot of things that happen in the General Assembly with process . . . that I can’t look behind and I don’t necessarily like,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell had been an advocate for bipartisan redistricting. In 2011, he created an independent, bipartisan commission to review and recommend redistricting plans before the General Assembly approved new legislative and congressional district boundaries that were supposed to be in effect for a decade.
“I don’t look at bills, generally, on process,” McDonnell said. “I look at them on substance and legality and constitutionality, and that’s the decision that I’ll have to make if and when I get the bill. But I have not done that analysis on the constitutional questions. I’ve begun to ask the attorney general some questions about this bill itself on the merits. But I agree that it’s not the way to business.”
Because Senate Republicans attached their redistricting plan as an amendment to a bill that makes minor changes to House of Delegates districts, the House must approve the Senate GOP’s handiwork before the bill could get to McDonnell’s desk. It’s possible that House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford County, could rule that the Senate amendment isn’t germane to the underlying House bill, a move that could kill the Senate plan without a House vote.
“This is solely within the province of the speaker,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell said he remains concerned that the partisan firestorm will detract attention, and perhaps support, from his push for education reforms and transportation funding.
“Dealing with redistricting or power struggles or committee assignments or parliamentary maneuvers that get one side or the other ginned up to take them off of this focus is very troubling to me,” McDonnell said.
– Michael Sluss