RICHMOND (AP) — Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell has derailed the surprise power play by Senate Republicans to redraw Virginia’s 40 Senate districts to their advantage.
The Republican speaker ruled Tuesday that a Senate amendment making sweeping political changes was not germane to a House bill that made minor technical corrections to House districts.
The speaker’s procedural ruling clears away a major standing provocation to the Senate’s 20 Democrats. They had threatened to deny the Senate’s 20 Republicans the 21st vote they would need to advance key legislation this year, including transportation funding and the state budget.
In a statement, Howell said the amendments — passed two weeks ago by the GOP-controlled Senate when one of its Democratic members was at President Obama’s inaugural — were not germane to the original legislation approved in 2012.
“House Bill 259, as unanimously passed by the House of Delegates last year, made technical adjustments to House legislative districts,” Howell said. “The amendments offered by the Senate, however, made substantive and far-reaching changes to Senate legislative district lines.”
Democratic Party of Virginia chairwoman, Del. Charniele Herring, praised the speaker’s ruling.
“I commend Speaker Howell for falling on the right side of history and ruling the Senate redistricting power grab non-germane,” Herring said. “After over two weeks of political posturing from House Republicans it’s time we refocus all of our energy on creating jobs and passing meaningful legislation.”