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House Knocks Down Proposed Senate Redistricting Bill - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

House Knocks Down Proposed Senate Redistricting Bill

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There may be some hope in Richmond this week, amidst fears that partisan bickering might derail progress on some important state issues. After a procedural ruling in the House of Delegates Wednesday, a controversial plan to redraw the state's Senate district lines is dead for the year.

Speaker of the House Bill Howell spent the past two weeks reviewing an amendment to House Bill 259 proposed by Senate Republicans. He concluded Wednesday that the amendment was not "germane," or relevant, to the original text of the bill.

Senate Republicans say they are "deeply disappointed" by the ruling.

Senate Democrats, on the other hand, are breathing a sigh of relief. The bill had caused extreme tension along party lines during the past two weeks. Now, with it out of the way, they say the door is open for bipartisan negotiations on important issues like transportation funding.

"We'll work with the speaker, and we'll get something that everyone can live with," Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw said. "Everybody has to give a little."

House Bill 259 was originally intended to make "technical adjustments" to House district lines. But the Senate amendment, pushed through on a party line 20-19 vote on January 21, would have made dramatic changes to existing Senate districts.

Republicans said the plan was designed to correct "the egregious hyper-partisan gerrymander" redistricting measure passed by Senate Democrats in 2011. The plan also created a brand-new district in southside Virginia with a majority of minority voters. Senate Republicans argued that would prevent a possible lawsuit against the commonwealth under the Voting Rights Act.

But Democrats said Republicans' plan was designed as a "power grab," packing minority voters into a few Senate districts, and increasing Republican influence in others.

Though the measure failed, Senate Republicans say they are committed to seeing the plan through.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment said, "While the speaker's judgment today means that House Bill 259 will not be promptly enacted, we are confident that the districts approved by the Senate on January 21 will be the districts under which the 2015 elections will be conducted."

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