Who the heck is Bill Howell? He is the current Speaker of the House of Delegates of Virginia, a multiple term Republican politician with a reputation for being a bit of a partisan b*****d. But yesterday he surprised a bunch of people including me. He took a look at a bill that he had originally sent to the State Senate on fine tuning a couple of technical details on the redistricting measure from 2011. The State Senate went nuts on it, and rewrote the whole redistricting plan in order to get rid of a Dem seat and thereby break a tie and take over the State Senate, much to the outrage of Virginia Dems, who already took losses from a redistricting that followed the census in 2011. Howell thought it over, and invoked the tradition of the House of Delegates to rule the new bill out of order, because it had wandered away from a very minor technical issue into the region of Naked Power Grabs.
Here is the background. Virginia politics in the short term is totally subsumed into the issue of improving highway transportation. We are simply not putting enough money into it to keep our roads in usable condition. At the same time, voters are extremely resistant to actually paying for road repair. They seem to want someone else to pay for it, even though there is NOBODY else left to do so. Obviously, in the current financial situation, Congress is not going to write a big check to Virginia.
Rational Republican politicians are now looking to salvage something from Governor Bob McDonnell's failed transportation bill. Governor Bob wanted to get rid of the Gasoline tax (really- he wants virginia to become the ONLY state without a gas tax) and shove the cost into the state sales tax- which obviously is paid by lots of people who do not even own a car. That is not really popular in the General Assembly. He also wants to slap hybrid car owners with a tax of $100 per year. That one is not really popular either. He also wants to build new road tolls. Virginia drivers hate tolls.
Bottom line, Virginia Republicans are realizing that they may be in political trouble if they continue to focus on Naked Power Grabs to the detriment of actual legislation. Unfortunately, it took them too long to realize this thing. And even though Dems appreciate Howell having a rare nonpartisan moment, they are going to needs years to forget about what the Senate Republicans tried to do them. In Virginia, we expect the dominant party to seek benefit from the redistricting process every 10 years. But doing it every two years, just because the last one did not cheat your opponents out of enough seats to guarantee your remaining in power? No, ridiculous.
Do not crap where you sit, that is the lesson of all this.