House Speaker Bill Howell ruled that the Senate’s amendments to HB 259 that substantially changed the Senate district lines and could have given the GOP a sizable majority in the upper house presented a “vast rewrite” of the technical amendments presented in the original House bill and, in order to preserve the “integrity” of the Speaker’s chair, and the House as a whole, the amendments were not germane.
In short, the Senate’s redistricting bill is dead.
Wasting little time, the Senate Republican Caucus issued the following statement:
“The entire Senate Republican Caucus is deeply disappointed by Speaker Howell’s unilateral ruling today. We considered potential objections
related to germaneness prior to acting on House Bill 259, and found previous precedents, including the passage of House Bill 5005 in 2011 and House Bill 1427 in 2004, to be definitive and on point.
“In the two weeks since a germaneness objection was raised, we consulted with constitutional law experts and outside counsels familiar with the legislative process and precedent in the Virginia General Assembly. All have confirmed that our original determination regarding germaneness was correct, and that the Senate substitute to House Bill 259 is indeed germane.
“In this instance, however, it is not our judgment or reading of precedent that determines the fate of House Bill 259. Making this decision is solely
the Speaker’s prerogative. And although we may consider this decision to be in error, we have no choice but to respect his authority to make it.
Howell’s office released the following statement:
“The Senate Amendments presented were not germane to the original legislation. House Bill 259, as unanimously passed by the House of Delegates last year, made technical adjustments to House legislative districts. The amendments offered by the Senate, however, made substantive and far-reaching changes to Senate legislative district lines.
“As Speaker, I have consistently ruled amendments or substitute legislation which significantly departs from, changes or alters the purpose and intent
of the original legislation as non germane, in accordance with the rules of the House of Delegates.
“While I respect the prerogative of the Senate and its members to deal with issues before that body, this legislation is in violation of House rules and the principles by which I have lead this body over the last 10 years.
“This is not a decision I made lightly. I am committed to upholding the honor and traditions of both the office of Speaker, the institution as a whole
and the Commonwealth of Virginia.