Virginia’s General Assembly session carries forward; however, this week we have seen the Senate re-tread issues of the past. Earlier this week, the Republicans in the State Senate manipulated their close numbers to force an issue through that Virginians already thought was settled for the decade — redistricting.
Normally, redistricting occurs once every 10 years after the census is completed. Districts are redrawn as populations change. Redistricting is an issue that we dealt with in 2011 after the 2010 census. Unlike more volatile democracies, the United States has not allowed political parties to eliminate their opposition through tactics like gerrymandering year in and year out based on which party has the majority at the moment — slim as it might be. While political parties may try and favor their membership during the process, there is also public input and extensive debate.
What occurred in the Virginia State Senate was not anything like the normal redistricting process. It was rushed, with limited debate. Most importantly there was no chance for the public to register their opinion. On Monday, we saw a naked power grab by Senate Republicans — on a purely party line vote when one Democratic Senator was absent. By cutting off debate and trying to qualify their actions as a technicality, Senate Republicans redrew district lines for the House of Delegates and the State Senate in every part of the Commonwealth. This means that a few state senators will decide who represents people for well over the next decade — they want this to be their Commonwealth, a Commonwealth for the few.
There are many important matters on which the General Assembly needs to spend its time. We have upcoming debate on transportation issues, promoting job growth, and protecting the environment. Instead, from the majority party we are still seeing divisive issues that are social and political in nature, in place of real solutions. There are important debates we have not yet had — like whether to lift the ban on uranium mining or how to improve our public schools.
I intend to vote no on this blatant power grab. My goal is to move our conversation back to the important issues that are affecting people in the Commonwealth, instead of issues like this redistricting, which is on dubious constitutional ground.
I do look forward in the upcoming weeks to have news that we have worked hard to solve the challenges facing us—transportation, education, and being good environmental stewards. In the meantime, I will continue to loudly champion a Commonwealth that is for all of us, not a Commonwealth for the few.
Charniele Herring (D-46) represents Alexandria City in the Virginia General Assembly and serves as the House Minority Whip. For more information, visit www.charnieleherring.com or on twitter @c_herring.