Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Delegate Chicken-Heart

Delegate Steve Landes (R-Augusta) was one of four Republicans on a subcommittee of the House Privileges & Elections committee that killed SB 926. The bill would have created a seven member commission to, beginning in 2011, draw General Assembly and congressional districts without regard to political considerations. The bill was sponsored by Senator Creigh Deeds and had passed the Senate by a 39-0 vote.
It is quite apparent to anyone who has observed the redistricting process that when legislators draw their own districts, they do so with their next campaign foremost in mind. To hell with drawing commonsense district lines that respect communities. To hell with good government. To hell with democracy. Legislators primarily think in terms of protecting their own neck or screwing the other party.
Landes, sticking his head deep into the sands of partisanship, denied the current system protects incumbents (how do you spell POULTRY LITTER?). Landes then dodged talking about the issue:
"One of the problems I've had in the many years I've been here is the legislative branch more and more gives up its authority to other groups or the executive branch..."
By the way, Landes' assertion is absurd and he's either not being forthcoming or didn't understand the bill. The General Assembly would have retained final say on districts created by the commission. Sure there would have been pressure on them to accept the commission's districts, but legislators could override if there was broad support to do so.
Delegate Landes, always the partisan on steroids, was marching to the party line that wants to deny Senator Deeds, a gubernatorial candidate, any legislative successes. Playing politics is more important than good policy. It is more important than democracy. It is apparently more important than the GOP's beloved tax breaks - the House killed another Deeds' bill (SB 1216) that would have created a sales tax exemption for renewable energy systems like wind powered electric generators and solar panels. The partisan chickens in the House didn't even consider the merits of the bill - they killed it on a procedural motion.
Senator Deeds responded to the defeat of SB 926 by saying he wanted an end to "bitter partisanship" in the State Capitol. He continued:
"I think you'll come out with a more moderate form of government. You'll end up with a more problem-solving, focused legislature, whether it's Democratic or Republican."
Senator Deeds has been working on building a bipartisan consensus on this legislation for several sessions. It is ashamed that four partisans on a subcommittee can undo that good work - but such is the legislative process. Deeds promised that as Governor he would appoint an advisory panel on redistricting and use his veto/amendment powers to help craft a plan to remove partisanship from the process.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Steve seemed happier and more willing to represent other views when they were in a minority. I went to one of his meetings before the session. He seemed tired of it all.