In Session

In Session

Cementing the Districts

Now that congressional redistricting has moved through the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate, a picture of 2012 is beginning to take shape. And it’s looking a whole lot like 2010. That’s when Democrats got shellacked, losing three seats in Virginia.

Since that time, the commonwealth’s congressional delegation has consisted of eight Republicans and three Democrats. And although Democrats hoped to use their control of the state Senate to create a competitive race against, losing control of the upper chamber last year gave the power to Republicans. One of the first accomplishments of this year’s session was to approve the congressional redistricting maps and send them to the governor’s mansion.

“This map essentially cements the gains from 2010,” said Kyle Kondik, political analyst for the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “It will be much harder for either of the parties to flip the seats.”

Kondik’s analysis of the new congressional districts is that Virginia now has seven safe Republican seats and two safe Democratic seats. That leaves Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) and Rep. Scott Rigell (R-2) as the only two incumbents in competitive seats, although Kondik was quick to point out that both of the seats are only marginally competitive.

“I would anticipate this map encourages the status quo of current representation,” he said, “unless there’s some major scandal or the presidential election influences the congressional races.”

Legislative Two-Step

Sometimes children who are in crisis have to travel all the way to Staunton, which is the location of the nearest crisis stabilization facility. Because these children are potentially a danger to themselves or others, Alexandria leaders say a closer facility is needed in Northern Virginia. That’s why members of the Alexandria City Council have identified funding for a regional crisis intervention facility as a priority for this year’s General Assembly session.

“It would be preferable for many of these children to be treated at a facility nearer to the community,” wrote acting City Manager Bruce Johnson in the city’s legislative package.

The effort has already made its way out of a subcommittee, but Alexandria legislative director Bruce Caton says it’s now been referred to the Appropriations Committee. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, he says, although it would have been preferable if the bill hadn’t been referred to a separate committee.

“Generally speaking, the fewer steps the better,” he said. “Sometimes a bill can make it through the Appropriations Committee and other times they’ll say there’s not enough money. You just never know.”

Undermining Labor

With Republicans taking control of the state Senate this year, conservatives finally have control of all the levers of power in Richmond. First on the list — attacking labor.

This week, House and Senate committees approved measures that will limit project labor agreements — collective bargaining agreements that establish terms and conditions for a specific construction project. Republicans have long targeted the agreements as too friendly to labor groups, increasing the cost of building infrastructure along the way. Democrats have typically defended the agreements as a way to increase accountability.

“We’re disappointed members of the General Assembly have disregarded an important tool to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on construction projects,” said Doris Crouse-Mays, president of the Virginia AFL-CIO.

On the campaign trail, former Sen. George Allen has called for the federal government to do the same thing.

“The reason you don’t want to have these is that they increase the cost of a project, on average by 22 percent," said Allen in a meeting with Connection Newspapers reporters and editors. "You have less competitive bidding."