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House puts off redistricting again

It will be Thursday at the earliest before the House of Delegates takes up the controversial Senate redistricting plan pushed through the Senate last week by Republicans in that body.

The Senate plan was amended to a House bill, which means the House — and House Speaker Bill Howell — will have to decide whether that amendment is “germane” to the bill, and then if so, vote it up or down.

House Republicans have been putting off that decision for more than a week. Today they postponed the bill until Thursday, and could delay it further then.

Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania — sponsor of the original House bill — made the motion to put it off again today.

House Minority Leader Del. David Toscano asked why; Cole said the amendment is “under review” by himself and others, and that it will come up Thursday if that review is finished.

The Senate Republicans surprised the Democrats and most of Capitol Square when, on Martin Luther King Day, they unveiled their proposal to redraw all the state Senate districts. This is not typically a year in which lawmakers redraw districts, something done every 10 years after the census.

The Republicans’ move has angered Democrats and thrown into jeopardy passage of Gov. Bob  McDonnell’s priorities, including transportation funding reform.

McDonnell has said he didn’t like the way it was done — Republicans waited until one Democrat in the evenly split Senate was absent — but he hasn’t said whether he’d sign or veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

He continued to sidestep that question during his monthly call-in radio show on WTOP this morning. A caller asked whether he’d veto the bill.

McDonnell said he’s been “very critical” of the way Republicans handled the bill.

“I said that is not the way we do business in Richmond,” he said.

But at the same time, McDonnell said the process was “not unprecedented” and that he won’t judge the bill on the process it took to get to his desk.

“This thing’s got several hurdles, it still hasn’t cleared the House of Delegates … I’m not sure what’s going to happen in the House,” he said. “I’ll have to make a tough decision when and if” the bill gets to his desk.

McDonnell said he looks at bills “on substance and legality and constitutionality” and that he has begun to talk to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli about the merits of the redistricting bill.

He did reiterate, though, that the redistricting debate “just creates more challenges” for his other priorities.

“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.



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