RICHMOND – The three-week political tempest stirred up by a partisan redrawing of state Senate district lines appears not to have created any groundswell of support for a less partisan system.
The redistricting plan muscled through by Senate Republicans on Jan. 21, which would have created an electoral map more favorable to the GOP, infuriated Democrats and arguably hampered progress on key legislative initiatives such as transportation funding.
The tension eased last week when Republican House Speaker William Howell bucked his own party and killed the Senate plan with a procedural move.
The furor over the Senate electoral map was a needless distraction from the legislature’s business, Sen. Creigh Deeds told a House subcommittee today, and illustrates yet again why Virginia should move to a less partisan method of redistricting.
Deeds, D-Bath County, proposed a constitutional amendment (SJ303) establishing a 13-member commission to redraw legislative district lines after each decennial census. The commission would have six members appointed by each of the two major parties. Those 12 would then select the 13th member or, if they couldn’t agree, the state Supreme Court would do it.
Redistricting is now controlled by the majority party in each chamber of the legislature.
“As long as we draw the lines, there’s a built-in conflict,” Deeds told the panel.
But his pleas fell on deaf ears. Both Deeds’ measure and a similar bill (SB742) from Sen. John Miller, D-Newport News, were killed on 6-1 votes with no discussion. The Republican-controlled panel killed a similar House measure last month.
Del. Algie Howell, D-Norfolk, was the only member of the subcommittee supporting the concept.
-Bill Sizemore, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot