WASHINGTON – While most of the country was focused on the presidential inauguration Monday, the Virginia Senate made an unexpected move that could have a big impact on gridlock in Virginia — on the roads and in the General Assembly.
With one Democrat absent, the state Senate — otherwise equally-divided down party lines — voted 20-19 to redraw Senate districts in favor of Republicans.
Virginia Sen. Henry Marsh, D-Petersburg, a former civil rights leader, was attending the inauguration when the Senate voted.
The move revised districting maps that were created in 2011, producing angry responses from Democrats.
“Unless the governor shuts this down, this session is basically over,” says Steven Farnsworth, a political science professor at the University of Mary Washington.
“If the governor wants a transportation bill, one of the first things he’s gonna have to do is say he’s gonna veto this bill if it gets to him.”
Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed a $3.1 billion transportation plan that would eliminate the gas tax and increase the sales tax to raise $500 million in each of the next ten years.
The plan was already in political trouble before the redistricting vote, but there had been discussions of a compromise.
The governor, who was caught by surprise by the redistricting move, says it was not a good way to do business, but he stopped short of saying he would veto it.
McDonnell fears a partisan meltdown in the evenly-divided Senate would doom his transportation reforms.
Democrats are promising a lawsuit. Senate Democratic leader Dick Saslaw has already called the transportation plan “dead”.
The 2013 General Assembly session is in its third week.