Editorial: The actions of a leader
Kudos to Bill Howell.
Last week, the Republican Speaker of the House recognized the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 529 for what they were—a power grab, pure and simple.
Declaring the amendments "not germane" to the original bill, the Fredericksburg legislator went against members of his own party in the Virginia Senate who attempted to sneak in a radical redistricting plan, packing minority voters into a few select Senate districts, while increasing Republican influence in others. Redistricting is a deliberate process normally done after the decennial U.S. Census, not in a last-minute, opportunistic rush.
On Jan. 21, while Sen. Henry L. Marsh III (D-Richmond) was in Washington, D.C., attending the presidential inaugural, his Republican counterparts took advantage of Marsh’s absence to redraw Senate boundaries. Voting along party lines, they pushed through the measure 20-19, tacking it onto a bill originally intended to make minor technical adjustments to legislative districts.
"While I respect the prerogative of the Senate and its members to deal with issues before that body, this legislation is in violation of House rules and the principles by which I have led this body over the last 10 years," Howell said, following his decision.
"It is my hope today that we can refocus on the issues facing the commonwealth. Jobs, K-12 education and transportation will require all of our attention and energy over the final weeks of this legislative session."
Howell’s decision, and his respect for colleagues on both sides of the aisle, may go a long way toward bringing a divisive General Assembly together to come up with lasting solutions to those and other pressing issues.