From the General Assembly

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Delegate Bill Howell

House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell has shot down the plan to redraw state Senate districts that was narrowly passed by the Senate two weeks ago.  Senate Democrats say it’s now time to move forward … and that their focus is on developing a transportation funding plan and hammering out a budget.

The redistricting plan had been lying dormant since last year, and was brought to the Senate on the day of the inauguration, which Democratic Senator Henry Marsh was attending. This gave Republicans a one-vote margin. The new plan was attached to a House bill and created a new minority-majority district and an advantage for some Republicans.  Democrats were appalled and hoped that House Speaker Bill Howell would toss the plan out.  He did.

“I think that the, a responsible upholding of the honor and integrity of the House and of the institution of the Speaker requires that I be consistent in my rulings and therefore, I am going to rule the Senate amendments are not germane and out of order.”

Senator Dick Saslaw and other Democrats had argued it’s unconstitutional.

“The small technical changes that the House has made would pass constitutional muster. Where you run into problems is if you did a wholesale redistricting which is what occurred here.”

Senate Republicans said they remain committed to creating a sixth majority-minority district as required by the Voting Rights Act, and said they’re confident that those new districts will be the ones under which the 2015 elections will be conducted.

–Tommie McNeil

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