Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R)
Virginia Republicans spent Martin Luther King Day redrawing state Senate district lines in their favor, taking advantage of the fact that one of their colleagues -- an African-American civil rights activist -- was away from the chamber for the inauguration of the nation's first African-American president. They then adjourned in memory of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.
If the mid-decade, re-redistricting plan became law, the state Senate, currently an even split between Democrats and Republicans, would be heavily tilted in the GOP's favor.
But it wasn't entirely up to state Senate Republicans to stack the deck because their scheme had to also pass Virginia's House of Delegates. To the relief of Democrats, that didn't happen.
House Speaker William J. Howell effectively killed the GOP's surprise Senate redistricting plan Wednesday, taking one of the most contentious issues off the table in this year's General Assembly session.
Howell (R-Stafford) used a procedural move to scrap the proposed map.... Calling it a "vast rewrite of Senate districts," Howell ruled that the map was not germane to the legislation to which it had been attached. His decision rids the General Assembly of an issue that has heightened partisan tensions and threatened to derail Gov. Robert F. McDonnell's transportation funding overhaul.
Keep in mind, this wasn't redistricting; this was re-redistricting. The state Constitution mandates that district lines be draw after the decennial census, in 2011, that's exactly what Virginia policymakers did.
But since Democrats were in the majority at the time, Republicans don't like that map, and hoped to redo it.