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Date published: 1/23/2013
Gov. Bob McDonnell said Monday's redistricting bill from Senate Republicans was a surprise to him as well--and not a welcome one.
"I certainly don't think that's a good way to do business," McDonnell told reporters Tuesday after speaking to a business group in Richmond.
McDonnell said his legislative priorities are his transportation funding bill and education legislation. Democrats in the Senate have said the Republican redistricting effort annihilates their incentive to vote for Republican transportation reform.
"I would prefer nothing else get in the way of those significant reforms," said McDonnell, who has not said if he'd sign or veto a redistricting bill if it got to his desk.
On Monday Senate Republicans used the absence of one Democrat in the 20-20 chamber to push through an amendment that would redraw state Senate district lines, creating a new majority-minority district but also lumping two senators together and making changes to other districts that Democrats say would favor Republican candidates.
While the amendment was clearly in the works for some time, as Republicans provided to the press a full bill and a map of the proposed new districts, Democrats--and the governor--were unaware of the plan until it was introduced as a Senate floor amendment.
It was amended onto a bill from Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, who said Tuesday that he hadn't read the Senate's new plan and had no comment.
House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, said early Tuesday that he hadn't seen the Senate amendment yet. But later in the day it had been placed on the House calendar and could be debated today.
Sen. Henry Marsh, D-Richmond, a civil rights attorney whose absence Monday--to attend the presidential inauguration--provided Republicans with a chance to pass the bill, issued a statement Tuesday saying he was "outraged and saddened" at the Republican redistricting effort.
"Allowing this to stand would mean that the people of Virginia could be subjected to ten different redistricting plans in a decade," Marsh said.
The situation dredged up past hard feelings in the Senate, where senators spoke of the power struggle and budget battle that raged there last year after the chamber was split evenly between the two parties.
Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico, took to the Senate floor to criticize the Republican plan, saying that it "packs" black voters into majority-minority districts (the Republican bill creates a sixth majority-minority district, in Southside Virginia).
"It was done under the guise of being good to black folks," McEachin said. "That is plantation politics."
He said Senate Republicans were less open to majority-minority districts in 2011 when they declined to create a second majority-minority congressional district.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City County, said the Democratic outrage was disingenuous, reminding Democrats of the partisan motivations behind the redistricting maps Democrats themselves drew in 2011.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028