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Richmond Report: Redistricting Shenanigans Distract

From gun safety and uranium mining to electoral reform and redistricting, the General Assembly is dealing with a wide range of issues this year in our fast-paced 46-day session.

Constitutional Amendments

Three Constitutional amendments that I co-sponsored passed the Senate easily – to restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have served their time (passed 30-10), to establish a bipartisan redistricting commission (34-6) and to allow governors to serve two consecutive terms (25-15). I argued that a governor seeking reelection is more accountable to the voters who would evaluate whether they kept their promises. It could also provide for more continuity in budgeting, projects, and state agencies. The amendments will now be considered by the House of Delegates.

Redistricting

You have probably heard about the controversial redistricting measure (HB259) that was abruptly pushed through the Senate on Martin Luther King Day. Senate Republicans waited to vote on the bill until Inauguration Day when a key Democrat, Virginia civil rights icon Sen. Henry Marsh III, was attending the President's inauguration. What began as so-called "technical adjustments" to House districts unexpectedly morphed into legislation dramatically changing all 40 Senate districts, and it was shoved through the Senate without any public discussion or analysis. (In contrast, in 2011 Virginians had the opportunity to hear about and weigh in on the redistricting plans for over six months.) Furthermore, Virginia's Constitution clearly states that redistricting shall take place "in the year 2011 and every 10 years thereafter," and just last year the Richmond Circuit Court ruled off-year redistricting unconstitutional. I was shocked by the actions taken by my Republican Senate colleagues to redraw the district lines in such a blatantly unconstitutional and divisive manner.

My Legislation

On a bipartisan note, I am pleased to report that many of my bills are successfully working their way through the Senate. SB701, a bill codifying the state's nondiscrimination policy and include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, passed the Senate 24-16. SB871, dealing with asbestos worker safety, unanimously passed the Senate, and a modified version of SB965 regarding the reporting of lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement passed 36-4. My bill SB969 to repeal the Reconstruction-era law against unmarried adults cohabitating passed the Courts committee unanimously and now heads to the floor. While U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court decisions make it clear the law is unconstitutional, it still needs to be removed from the Code of Virginia. After all, the reality of today is not the reality of 1877.

Some of my other major bills are still in committee, like SJ319 (requiring adequate contributions to the Virginia Retirement System,) and SB1233 (allowing students approved for Deferred Action status by the US Department of Homeland Security to qualify for in-state tuition.)

To read more about what I’m up to, visit www.adamebbin.com. Your input helps me represent you better. Call my office at 804-698-7530 or email me at district30@senate.virginia.gov to share your opinion or if we can be of assistance.