- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2011

House Republicans and Senate Democrats in Virginia’s General Assembly on Tuesday will submit their respective plans to redraw the lines of the state’s political districts.

Often a source of partisan wrangling among state lawmakers trying to carve out districts most favorable to their party’s political chances, in Virginia, leaders in each chamber say they intend to stay within that chamber’s jurisdiction. That means the Republican-controlled House will propose only House districts and the Democrat-controlled Senate, only Senate districts, legislators say.

If the redistricting proceeds as it did a decade ago, when Republicans controlled both chambers, the House and Senate will approve their plans and then combine them for approval by the opposite chamber, House Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican, said. Then the plan will be sent to Governor Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican.

Delegate S. Chris Jones, Suffolk Republican, heads the drawing of the House map, Mr. Howell said. He said several members of the redistricting subcommittee are helping out, but he didn’t offer details about what it looks like.

Because federal law requires the process be complete before the state’s odd-year elections, scheduled for this fall, Virginia will be among the first to complete the constitutionally mandated process, which occurs every 10 years.

When complete, Virginia’s 100 House districts, 40 Senate districts and 11 congressional districts should more accurately reflect the distribution of the state’s population.

Eight public hearings on redistricting are scheduled across the state before the General Assembly convenes for a special session April 4 to approve the changes.

Once the special session begins, Mr. Howell said he expects that approving new House and Senate districts won’t take longer than a week. Approving congressional districts won’t begin until the state districts are complete, he said.

It is not clear whether the minority parties in each chamber will submit their own plans, although any lawmaker is allowed to submit a plan and amendments to other plans.

House Minority Leader Ward J. Armstrong, Henry County Democrat, said he doesn’t think it’s necessary for his caucus to submit their own plan, especially before a bipartisan redistricting commission formed by Mr. McDonnell submits its recommendation.

“I want to see what the commission does,” Mr. Armstrong said. “I think somebody should be paying attention to them. I also want to see what the governor comes up with.”

Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, Winchester Republican who sits on the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, said Senate Republicans won’t make a decision until after they see the Democrats’ plan.

“Is it a map we think everyone is happy with? Is it fair? Is it a map we’re open to amending?” Ms. Vogel said. “I think once we see the map, we’re going to know.”

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have said they don’t expect a lot of conflict throughout the process.

Ms. Vogel agrees.

“I think the House is going to introduce their [plan] and the Senate will introduce theirs, and there won’t be a lot of fireworks,” she said.

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