Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
Toll Free: 800-234-6575
2 delegates support Howell on redistricting
Thursday, February 7, 2013
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Two area delegates on Wednesday applauded House Speaker William Howell’s ruling that an amendment that would have redrawn Senate districts was not germane, or relevant, to the original bill.
The speaker said the amendment to House Bill 259 was outside the bill’s limited original scope, according to The Associated Press. His decision stripped the amendment from the bill and returned it to the Senate in its original form, the AP reported.
Senate Republicans had pushed the amendment through on a 20-19 vote Jan. 21 when Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh of Richmond was absent. Critics have said it was a move by the Senate Republicans to redraw that chamber’s districts to benefit the party’s interests.
Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, said Wednesday evening that he thought Howell made the right call.
“In my opinion, he kept the integrity of the House where it needs to be,” Merricks said. “I thought it was exactly right. ... I’m sure it weighed heavily on him.”
If Howell had not ruled against the amendment and it had come to the House floor for a vote, Merricks said he would have voted against it.
“To me, the system is set up for the system to work. Anybody who tries to circumvent the system, I don’t think that’s the wisest thing to do,” he said.
The redrawn Senate districts might have benefited this area, Merricks said, but “the bottom line is the system worked.”
Virginia has a “one-purpose rule” on proposed legislation, said Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville. Under that rule, something entirely different from the intent of an original bill cannot be tacked onto the bill.
For example, Marshall said hypothetically, a measure to increase teacher salaries could not be added to a bill to raise a highway’s speed limit.
The Senate “sent us (the House) back a bill that was vastly expanded” from its original aim, he said, adding “you can’t do that” in the General Assembly.
Marshall said he agreed with Howell’s decision, noting that the speaker “thinks the integrity of this institution needs to be upheld.”
“If we do things one way one week, they ought to be done the same way next week,” Marshall said.
He said he had not decided whether he would have supported altering the Senate districts.
“I wanted to hear both sides” of the argument before making up his mind, Marshall said.
Martinsville and Henry and Patrick counties now are in the 20th Senate District, represented by Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill. Under the Senate plan, Henry County and Martinsville would have moved to the 15th District and Patrick County would have moved to the 40th District.
Stanley, who voted in favor of the redistricting measure before the bill was returned to the House, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Alex Thorup, an aide to Del. Charles Poindexter, who also is a Republican from Glade Hill, said he thinks Poindexter had not yet made up his mind on whether to support redistricting.