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McDonnell: Redistricting move ‘very troubling’

By Errin Haines,

RICHMOND — Gov. Robert F. McDonnell was asked Tuesday whether he would commit to vetoing the controversial redistricting legislation that Virginia Republicans pushed through the state Senate last week.

He stopped short of doing so, but said he found last week’s process in the Senate “very troubling.”

“This thing’s got several hurdles,” McDonnell (R) told WTOP during his weekly radio appearance, “Ask The Governor,” where he pointed out that the redistricting proposal has stalled in the House of Delegates for a week.

“I’ll have to make a tough decision when and if I get the bill,” McDonnell said. “I don’t look at bills on process. I look at them on substance and constitutionality.”

McDonnell said he has begun to ask Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli (R) about the merits of the bill. But he said he will not presume to tell House Speaker William J. Howell (R) how to do his job.

“He’s his own man, and he’s going to do what’s right,” said McDonnell, who added that he has spoken to Howell about when the House might take action on the bill, but did not elaborate. “This is solely within the province of the speaker.”

In his role as speaker, Howell (Stafford) could very well decide the matter on his own through a procedural move. He has given little indication of how he views the bill, and most House Republicans have been tight-lipped about the way forward.

With just days left to take action on transportation funding — perhaps the most important part of McDonnell’s legislative agenda in his final year in office — the governor said he is “absolutely” concerned about the effect the redistricting conversation is having on his priorities this session.

“I came in with a mission,” he said. “Anything that gets us off that is unacceptable.”

McDonnell also weighed in on Democrats’ comments Monday that they were willing to work with him on a compromise, saying that while he welcomed their input, he wondered where they’d been.

“Welcome to the fray,” McDonnell said. “We’re voting tomorrow. They’re a little late to the party. It’s late to be coming up with alternatives.”

Votes on the bill in the finance committees of both houses are expected this week. McDonnell said that while some parts of his plan are still negotiable, a plan that does not tap the general fund is a non-starter.

“You cannot say with a straight face we cannot use a little bit of the general fund for transportation,” McDonnell said. “What I think is important is that we fix the problem this year. I’m not interested in saying we tried.”

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