With the Virginia General Assembly’s 2020 session coming down the home stretch – it concludes on March 7 – one major issue whose outcome remains uncertain is redistricting reform. The options, basically, are either a constitutional amendment (SJ306/HB71), along with so-called “enabling legislation”; or Del. Marcia Price (D)’s HB1256, which would “[establish] the Virginia Redistricting Advisory Commission (the Commission), a statutory legislative commission tasked with proposing districts for the United States House of Representatives and for the Senate and the House of Delegates of the General Assembly that adhere to certain constitutional and statutory criteria and that will be submitted for consideration and adoption by the General Assembly.”
The pros and cons of the amendment have been debated for months now. Here at Blue Virginia, we’re not particularly fans. Why not? See Democrats Should Vote NO on the Flawed Redistricting Amendment to Virginia’s Constitution by Luke Levasseur; The Proposed Virginia Redistricting Amendment Is a Bad Deal That Needs To Be Rejected. by Chris Ambrose; and Video: Del. Mark Levine Explains Why He Believes Current Redistricting Amendment “Is Worse Than Current Law.” Also note that House Republicans are pushing hard to pass the amendment – see here, here, here, here, and here, for example – which in and of itself should raise major warning signs. And why does the head of 1VA2021 keep going on Trumpster Radio, where the host and him are in strong agreement on passing the amendment – and where the host calls him a “great friend of mine!” Again…what’s the deal here?!?!?
Thankfully, there’s an alternative – HB1256 by Del. Cia Price – which would accomplish redistricting reform by way of legislation, not a flawed constitutional amendment. So far, Price’s bill has passed the House of Delegates, 54-45, and is now in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee. See below for video from yesterday, as Del. Price presents her bill, which is ultimately “passed by temporarily” for more discussions. Key points:
- Committee Chair Creigh Deeds (D) says, “The reason I wanted to put it on the docket today was to make sure we have…some reform, because I still don’t know what the House is going to do with the constitutional amendment, I want to make sure that we get something passed.”
- Del. Price explains the differences between her bill and the amendment, mostly revolving around: *mandating* – not just *considering* – racial/geographic/gender/etc. diversity on the redistricting commission; having seven public hearings and “a level of transparency where the public meetings have to be recorded [and]…put online”; could start July 1, as opposed to the amendment, which would have to pass a November referendum; “requir[ing] a bipartisan supermajority of 12 people voting for a map before it got to the General Assembly, addressing some of the concerns about a bad-acting minority – two people stalling the process and sending it straight to the courts.”
- After Sen. John Bell (D) proposed “passing by” HB1256 for the week, Del. Price responded, “If I were a Senator, I would not want to do that, but as a Delegate, I’m happy to comply with that.” Sen. Deeds said his “concern” is that the constitutional amendment is still in the House, and he wants it to get “good consideration.” The bill was then passed by temporarily.
So what’s going on here? Seems like most everyone wants to do *something* about gerrymandering, the question being…what exactly. Clearly, the amendment alone was fatally flawed, but is it ok now with “enabling legislation?” Or, is Del. Mark Levine correct that “enabling legislation” can’t “bind” the Virginia Supreme Court? Does this need to be in the constitution at all, or can it be done by legislation? Oh, and why do people refer to this as “non-partisan redistricting reform,” when it is most certainly *not* “non-partisan?” And finally – again – why are Republicans (and Trumpster Radio) pushing so hard for the amendment (which they wrote, by the way)? Think about that one.