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Date published: 1/22/2013
But Democrats said Watkins' proposal was nothing but a bald-faced political move by Republicans to redraw the districts in a way that's more favorable, statewide, to the GOP.
Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, called it "the biggest railroad" in her time in the General Assembly.
Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, said he doesn't think it's legal for Republicans to try to redraw the maps now, in 2013, when he said courts have upheld laws referring to redistricting only in 2011.
Barker said Watkins' plan doesn't just shift Deeds and Hanger and make a new district--it moves the other districts' lines around as well.
"It's fundamentally changing district after district," he said.
Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, said his district would lose 20 precincts and gain 20 new ones.
Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, said he doesn't think it's legal either. But, he said, it removes any incentive for Senate Democrats to support Gov. Bob McDonnell's push to reform transportation funding.
"Transportation is no longer alive. It is gone," Saslaw said. "If they are going to play these kinds of games transportation is dead."
Watkins has been pushing his own transportation funding reform plan. He said if Saslaw doesn't want to support it now, "that's up to him."
Deeds--who beat Hanger years ago to win a House seat at the beginning of his career--noted that a lot would have to happen for the Republican's redistricting plan to take effect. The House would have to pass it, the governor to sign it.
But it has already ruined any effort to rebuild the Senate camaraderie that was damaged by last year's fighting between two parties with 20 Senate seats, he said.
"There's no comity," Deeds said. "It just rips asunder the fabric of the Senate."
Like Saslaw, Deeds said the redistricting proposal means Democrats have no reason to support Republican transportation bills. And, Deeds said, perhaps that's what some Republicans wanted.
"It throws into jeopardy everything they need that twenty-first vote for," he said. "This is a deliberate attempt on the part of those people to undermine our ability to get a transportation bill done."
In a statement, Hedrick said Bolling, too, worries that the redistricting effort "could create a hyper-partisan atmosphere that could make it very difficult for us to address other important priorities like transportation and education reform.