Friday, February 3, 2017

A Story of the Good and the Bad in House P&E

This morning the House Committee on Privileges and Elections met for the last time before crossover. The VEA was there for a couple of reasons. 

First, we wanted to make sure the full committee did not pick up Delegate Bell’s HJ629, the Constitutional Amendment on Charter Schools. The subcommittee laid the bill on the table last week, but since it was “on the table” it could still be picked up and passed by the full committee. That action would have kept the bill alive. Second, we had heard the full committee would pick up Delegate Landes’ HJ763 which would prohibit the drawing of any electoral district in a way that would favor or disfavor any political party or incumbent legislators. The subcommittee had voted to lay HJ763 on the table in subcommittee, so the rumor of it being picked up by the full committee was really exciting for those of us who believe in a fair redistricting process and the end of political gerrymandering in VA.

So the good… the Charter School Constitutional Amendment was not picked up and is, for all purposes, dead. So we will not face this amendment this session or next session. Really good news!

The bad and, frankly, the ugly. The full committee quickly adjourned before taking up the redistricting bill. I haven’t seen an adjournment and a run for the door by members of the House so quickly in a while. The room was packed with Virginians who support a fair redistricting process. Our partners at Virginia 2021 have done a great job organizing and mobilizing on this issue. To say there was anger and frustration in the room is an understatement. We must continue to fight this fight, but we are literally trying to get legislators to pass a bill that might make their race for re-election competitive, and that isn’t something elected officials, on either side of the aisle, want to do. Easy re-election is their preference. It is not ours, and we will stand with Virginia 2021 and with all of those who agree that political gerrymandering in VA must end.