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Date published: 4/25/2011
AP Political Writer
RICHMOND--Smarting from a governor's veto of their redistricting bills, the Virginia House and Senate return today from a two-week spring recess to determine whether the General Assembly or courts should decide how to carve up Virginia's legislative districts. The next few days could determine if Virginia legislators or a federal court will draw new boundaries for state legislative districts in time for the Nov. 8 elections.
In rejecting the legislative reapportionment plan lawmakers sent him earlier this month, Gov. Bob McDonnell criticized the state Senate redistricting plan devised by Democrats. The Republican governor said the plan's rambling, serpentine configurations sliced up too many communities of interest and, in some cases, even local voting precincts.
He was much gentler
"While the House plan keeps the number of split localities relatively static, the Senate plan significantly increases the number of times localities are split as compared to either other proposed plans or the current redistricting law," McDonnell wrote in an April 15 veto message.
Initially defiant, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw said the Senate would not "change one period or one comma." One week later, Saslaw had spoken to McDonnell and relented somewhat. He would not discuss specifics.
"There are some things the governor recommended that we can do and there are some things that we can't," Saslaw said in a Friday interview.
Jasen Eige, legal counsel and senior policy adviser to McDonnell, called Saslaw's softening "a good first step" toward averting a legislative meltdown that puts the judiciary branch in charge of the process.
"What the governor has been asking of the Senate Democratic leadership is to come to the table and work out a better plan with us. Sen. Saslaw has indicated he's willing to do that," Eige said.
Saslaw said that whatever he and senior Senate Democrats devised through the weekend would go before the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee early next week. As of last week's end, however, no committee meeting had been scheduled.
The full House convenes at 3 p.m. today, followed by the Senate two hours later.
The House Privileges and Elections Committee met early last week to do enough of the trimming and tightening that McDonnell had suggested to pass gubernatorial muster. The panel endorsed it on a unanimous, bipartisan 16-0 vote.