Gov. Bob McDonnell said Thursday morning that the deal between Senate Democrats and Republicans on new state legislative boundaries indicated “progress’’ on the legal issues, but that he is still waiting to hear from senators whether it will be supported by both caucuses.
McDonnell (R) said on his monthly radio show on WRVA that he was briefed on the plan Thursday morning and is waiting for a review by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s (R) office.
“I think there’s been progress on the legal issues,’’ McDonnell said. “I expected to see some bipartisan cooperation between the Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats on coming up with a plan that was equitable. I don’t have full feedback from both caucuses yet on that but given where we were 12 days ago, which was we’re not changing a period or a comma, we’ve come a long way.”
McDonnell vetoed the first redistricting bill, saying legislators had sent him maps that might violate state and federal laws, and that split too many counties, cities and towns. He also faulted the Senate for sending him a bill that had no Republican support.
Senate Democrats and Republicans reached the deal Wednesday after Republicans negotiators agreed that the Hampton Roads area would lose a senator because of population loss and Democratic negotiators agreed a new district that had been drawn in the Richmond region would shift to the west.
The Senate and House expect to vote on the bill Thursday afternoon.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said Democrats have signed off on the plan, as did five Republicans who helped negotiate the proposal. But he said there can be no “technical deal” until leading Republicans get other GOP members to sign off.
“We’re okay,” he said of his caucus. “I think they’ll be okay,” he said of Republicans, but he said he awaited word.
He said he believed the proposal would give Democrats the chance to retain their 22 to 18 majority in the chamber, but noted elections are unpredictable and no map guarantees a party an advantage.
“Each side wanted more and we had to settle halfway,” he said. “They gave up some. We gave up some. That’s what it’s all about...Both sides did okay.”
After initially presenting the plan to other Republicans, Sen. John Watkins (R-Chesterfield) said, “We’re still negotiating. There is no deal--the caucus has not signed off.”
Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) said negotiations would continue into the night.
Several senators said members who have not been intimately involved in negotiations need more data about proposed districts--lists of precincts that will be included in each district, as well as demographic and past voting history--before they could sign off.
One question so far unanswered is how many Republicans must support the plan for McDonnell to agree it has sufficient bipartisan support for his signature.
There have been five Republicans closely involved with drawing up the proposal--Watkins, McDougle, Sen. Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) and Sen. Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City).
Saslaw said McDonnell told Democrats at a morning meeting Wednesday that he wanted to see a plan with “a modicum” of bipartisan support.
“It is the best interests of the citizens and the legislative process to create finality soon because we have a lengthy pre-clearance process and we have a primary date set for Aug. 23,’’ McDonnell said on WRVA. “We have to mail out absentee ballots. It’s critical we meet finality soon. I’m hoping to make an evaluation of that today.”