TWO BIPARTISAN SENATE REFORM BILLS KILLED IN HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE

Richmond: The Virginia State Senate has passed several bipartisan legislative proposals endorsed by OneVirginia2021 to create an ethical and impartial redistricting process. The House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee on Elections took up two of those bills (SB 824 and SB 1000) today and killed them both on a 5 – 2 vote. Delegates Cole, Ransone, Landes, Minchew and Fowler voting against ending political gerrymandering. Delegates Sickles and Futrell voted in favor of these reform measures.

The House Subcommittee met at 7AM this morning in a room packed with supporters of redistricting reform. No comments were allowed on SB 824, Senator Miller’s bill to include a referendum question on the November ballot so voters could weigh in on establishing an independent commission. Delegate Landes made the motion to kill the bill and it was dispensed with in just three minutes. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Senator Lewis’s SB 1000, which would have given map drawing responsibility to the Division of Legislative Services, under the supervision of an Independent Advisory Commission, was also defeated, although many individual citizens and civic organizations spoke in favor of the bill. Several citizens gave longer testimony in favor of the bill, and Delegates Sickles and Futrell also spoke to it’s importance and asked that it be passed on to the full Committee for an in-depth discussion. Ann Laurence Baumer, a graduate student at the Frank Batten School of Leadership at the University of Virginia, spoke in favor of the bill calling it a “conflict of interest that politicians get to pick their own voters.”

Greg Lucyk, President of OneVirginia2021’s Board, said “the House subcommittee voted today in favor of political gerrymandering and against common sense, bipartisan reform that overwhelmingly passed the Senate.” Speaking to the larger issue before the House, Lucyk said, “We must create a process in which we remove the conflict of interest politicians have when drawing their own district lines.”

The House Privileges and Elections Committee, Chaired by Delegate Cole, still has two opportunities to support reasonable, bipartisan redistricting reform. Senator Watkins’ SB 840, setting forth specific and well-defined redistricting criteria, is scheduled to be heard next week in the same subcommittee. And Senators Vogel and Lucas’ SJ 284, creating an independent redistricting commission with nonpartisan criteria to draw the maps, is yet to be assigned to a subcommittee, but could be heard on Monday by the House Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments.

OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting is a group of Virginians from across the political spectrum who believe that congressional and state legislative districts belong to the citizens of the Commonwealth, and not to any legislator, political party or special interest.

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