Senators report progress in developing a new plan to redistrict the chamber that might get bipartisan support — but say a final deal might not be ready for a vote Wednesday as they had hoped.
Sen. John Watkins (R-Chesterfield) said he thought that there was a “better than 50/50” chance of a deal soon but there is no “white smoke” yet.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) was somewhat less cheery, saying he “couldn’t even begin” to say how likely a deal will be.
“It’s going slowly,” Saslaw said.
But Saslaw agreed that a group of Democrats and Republicans have been meeting “off and on” for hours since Monday evening, closely examining computerized maps.
The goal is to come up with new boundaries for the Senate’s 40 districts that won’t be vetoed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). McDonnell has already vetoed one plan, proposed by Democrats that emerged from the chamber on a party-line 22 to 18 vote.
Watkins said he thinks Democrats and Republicans have largely found agreement on how to handle the Virginia Beach region, an area of the Democrats’ now-defunct map that had caused Republicans particular heartburn.
“We think we have a solution,” he said. “I think we can come to agreement on it.”
In that area, Democrats had Republicans Frank Wagner and Jeff McWaters into the same district and had left only one senator whose district was included only portions of the populous city.
Watkins would not provide details on the Virginia Beach proposal, however. He said conversations continue about another area of disagreement — the southwest Virginia area where Democrats had proposed collapsing the districts of Sen. Steve Newman (R-Lynchburg) and Sen. Ralph Smith (R-Roanoke).
“We have been meeting and talking with each other over the last 30 hours,” Watkins said. “I think everybody’s committed to making it work. If it takes another six hours or it takes another 30 hours, we'll stay on it.”