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Redistricting Reform, Civil Rights Restoration Among Amendments Killed by General Assembly Subcommittee

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More than 20 weighty ideas for state constitutional amendments were killed in one swift vote Monday morning by a Republican-led House of Delegates subcommittee, much to the chagrin of Democrats on the dais.

The amendments – touching on redistricting reform, restoring voting rights to felons, and term limit changes for the governor and General Assembly members – were rejected en masse on a 4-3 block vote. Del. Cia Price, D-Newport News, asked for each bill to get a recorded roll call vote. But Del. Randy Minchew of Leesburg, the Republican chairman of the House Privileges and Elections subcommittee, denied it.

Among the block of proposals passed by: five civil rights restoration amendments and five nonpartisan redistricting amendments.

Redistricting advocates thought they may have some luck with an amendment proposed by Del. Steve Landes, R-Weyers Cave, that says districts can’t be drawn to favor or hurt any party or incumbent legislator.

“This amendment represents the core component of redistricting reform. It is simple: If you think politicians should be able to carve out their political opponents, then you are for gerrymandering and the elimination of competition in our elections,” Brian Cannon, executive director of OneVirginia2021, said in an email. OneVirginia2021 advocates for change to redistricting in Virginia.

Only three proposed amendments made it out of the subcommittee:

  • Creating a property tax exemption for surviving spouses of disabled veterans, even if they move. HJ562, introduced by Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach.

  • Creating a lock box for transportation funds. The amendment says funds can be used only for transportation unless the General Assembly votes to borrow from the fund with a more than two-thirds vote. Funds would have to be paid back within four years. HJ693, introduced by Del. Dave LaRock, R-Clarke County.

  • Giving the General Assembly the ability to suspend or nullify any administrative rule or regulation. HJ545, introduced by Del. Chris Head, R-Roanoke.
Earlier this month, Minchew said only three or four proposals would get out of his committee. He didn’t want long ballots because voters tend to tune out with too many issues, he said.

The three amendments passed will go to the full elections committee and then to the House floor.

The Senate subcommittee on constitutional amendments has not made its recommendations yet.

Approving a constitutional amendment is a multiyear process. New proposals, known as “first resolutions,” are pitched in odd-numbered years. Those must be approved by both chambers of the General Assembly, then be considered again by legislators after a House of Delegates election.

They then must be approved by voters in November 2018.


This story originally appeared on PilotOnline.com.

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