- Associated Press - Monday, January 26, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The state Senate on Monday approved constitutional amendments that would establish a bipartisan redistricting process and enable the Virginia governor to seek a second term. But both measures face long odds in the House of Delegates.

The redistricting measure from Republican Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel of Fauquier County and Sen. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth would establish an independent commission to redraw General Assembly and congressional district lines after each federal census. It passed on a 27-12 vote.

The redistricting process is now controlled by the majority party in each chamber.

Turning the job over to an independent commission was a key recommendation of an ethics advisory panel appointed by Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe last year. Critics say the current system results in bizarrely shaped districts that are designed to protect incumbents and preserve the majority party’s power.

Defenders of the current system argued that the Vogel-Lucas measure would make things worse. Sen. George Barker, a Fairfax County Democrat, predicted it would produce a legislature that is even more partisan and parochial.

The measure allowing the state’s governor to run for a second consecutive term, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Garrett of Louisa County, was approved 24-15. Virginia is the only state that does not allow the governor to seek re-election.

That makes a Virginia governor “a lame duck upon arrival in the Governor’s Mansion,” Garrett said. It’s time to join the rest of the nation and “take a leap of faith into the 21st century,” he said.

Opponents said the current system has served Virginia well. Once elected, the governor can concentrate on governing rather than getting re-elected, said Sen. Chap Petersen, a Fairfax County Democrat.

Measures similar to both proposed constitutional amendments have passed the Senate in the past, only to die in the House.

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