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Editorial: GOP was out of line on remap

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The state Senate’s Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

Last Monday, GOP legislators in the Senate stunned their counterparts in the House of Delegates as well as Gov. Bob McDonnell when they approved a plan to redraw the Senate districts. This was done after the redistricting process was completed following the 2010 U.S. Census and without public hearings or input.

To make sure their move would succeed, the measure was voted on when a Democratic Senator, Henry Marsh, was at the presidential inauguration in Washington, giving the GOP a temporary majority in the chamber.

“That process is not the way legislation should be done in Richmond,” Gov. McDonnell said last week. We agree.

The Republicans’ desire to increase their power in the General Assembly was behind the move, as local party officials observed last week. Gaining control is “just how the game is played,” observed Jeff Williams, Martinsville’s Republican Party chairman.

He is right. The problem is, this is not a game. There are important issues on the table for this year’s General Assembly, and redistricting was not among them.

Politicians, said W.C. Fowlkes, chairman of Henry County’s Republican Party, are “just posturing themselves for the next election” instead of focusing on the public’s business. That business includes the governor’s proposals on transportation and education, plans he now fears will be jeopardized by the divisiveness caused by the Republicans’ redistricting.

Is it any wonder people become disillusioned by the political system?

The controversy this move created has overshadowed the changes adopted by the Senate. In this area, Henry County and Martinsville would be moved out of the 20th Senate District and into the 15th, which now is represented by Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville. Patrick County would move to the 40th Senate District, now represented by Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Galax.

The public needs time to scrutinize this plan, comment on it and have questions about it answered before it proceeds any further. Even if it survives that as well as a House vote, the governor’s signature and U.S. Department of Justice approval, it will always be synonymous with political shenanigans.

That is quite a legacy for Senate Republicans to have created.


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