New Senate District Lines Stir Controversy. And A Discussion.

“Bunkie! Where ya been man? I need to know about this trick the Republicans in the state senate pulled this week. What district will we be in now? Who will be our new senator? How about Chris and Rita, who live just across the line in Patrick County?”

Whoa. I had hardly stepped through the door before confronting that barrage of questions.

“Well, Clyde, if this thing passes the house, and is signed by the governor, and is approved by the justice department, you and I will tell Bill Stanley ‘happy trails’ and welcome Frank Ruff as our new prospective senator. Chris and Rita will also say goodbye to Mr. Stanley and get acquainted with another Bill. Bill Carrico from Grayson County.

“But let’s back up a minute. That lazy Rita here yet? I need some coffee.”

“I heard that Mr. Foley,” Rita said as she came out of the kitchen. “I’ll getcher damn coffee.”

As she set the cup in front of me she asked if I wanted her to ask Chris for breakfast.

“Yes, Rita sweetheart, please do.” I said in my sweetest voice. You never want a mad waitress, especially one with a boiling hot pot of coffee.

“Now Clyde, back to your questions. I ain’t no expert on this kind of thing, but it’s my understanding that this was all hammered out in a committee meeting back in November and has been in the senate since day one of this session. So for any Democrat to say it came as a shock and surprise is being just a bit disingenuous.

“I don’t know how this stuff works, but I do know they knew it was out there. Lurking maybe, but out there nevertheless.

“Personally, I don’t like the way it was done, waiting till the Democrats were standing with a short leg, but as a famous Democrat once said, ‘Politics ain’t beanbag.’ Would it have passed a 20/20 senate? Not likely, in spite of claims from the Democrats that they want ‘bi-partisanship’.

“I suspect that’s where the Governor’s opposition to it comes from as well. But it’s done now, and to be honest it results in a couple of things that can only be described as good things.

“Let’s face it. The current senate districts can only be described as a bi-partisan gerrymandered mess. Look at the current 20th as just one example. Nearly 150 miles from West to East, it starts off fairly narrow in the West, bulges up a bunch in the middle, narrows back down to mostly wrap around Danville, spreads up to capture Chatham, and then hugs the NC border for the rest of the way before ballooning back up again. It’s a real mess.

“The new proposed districts are more compact, more community relevant. Eliminating many split precincts in the process.And it creates a new minority-majority district. Who could argue with that?” I asked.

“Well then, what’s all the complaining about?” Clyde asked me when he brought more coffee, “I’ve heard one senator even said the Governor’s transportation plan is now dead on arrival. The Roanoke Times is whining as usual, but I repeat myself. The Times seems to have forgotten the complaints they lodged when the current lines were first drawn.”

I answered, “I think the major source of hurt feelings is in the way it was done. By waiting until the Democrats were one down they passed it without having to worry about Democrat opposition or a now unknown Lt. Governor.

“At any rate, it’s done. As my friend and Bearing Drift colleague Shaun Kenney said the other day; ‘The Democrats have argued rather well over process, and I could not agree more.’ He goes on to say that the house should must pass this thing. Then he adds this.

The House of Delegates has a responsibility to look at their own lines as if it was separate legislation, compartmentalize the House lines, and vote up HB 259. Why? Because that follows the process Democrats have held sacrosanct as of Monday, but did not follow during their reign of power in the 1990s and apparently are willing to discard in the near-future.

Shaun also lays out some interesting scenarios on how this will all play out.

“That seems to be where all the Democrat angst is coming from, while ignoring their own past history of sidestepping procedure. Including the 1998 shenanigans that re-elected Tom Moss as speaker.

“As usual Clyde, the breakfast was great. The coffee is getting better, and you and I tend to learn something everyday. See ya later.”

UPDATE: From Senator Steve Martin via Facebook;
“The redistrict bill has been on the calendar every day of this session. Passed by each day, unceremoniously. The democrats had to know something was amiss. We delayed the start of the session for one hour allowing time for all attendees to return from the festivities. All but one did return. We waited until the end of the legislative business day, providing even more time. DOJ said if we could creat an addition black district, we should. We did. The democrats could have, but do do so would have reguired them to follow the constitution dictate of compactness and like communities of interest. We unified towns, counties and precincts the democrats had split, making districts more compact and creating another black majority district. Sounds like a successfully effort. I would hate to be the democrat that went home to explain how they let education and transportation suffer because of a political loss. They had packed us. We undid their packing. They lost that battle. Now let’s handle the matters before us without concern for our political interests.”

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