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The House speaker placed fairness ahead of Republican desires.
Friday, February 8, 2013
Virginia House Speaker William Howell restored some sanity to the General Assembly on Wednesday when he blocked an ugly power grab by the Senate. He, at least, can stand before the commonwealth with a clean conscience.
Senate Republicans sparked partisan outrage and mocking on national television a few weeks ago when they exploited President Obama’s ceremonial inauguration to sneak through a new electoral map that benefited the party. Since then, their scheme has cast pallor over everything else in what was supposed to be a productive legislative session.
After putting off action repeatedly, Howell unilaterally killed the Senate plan on Wednesday. He ruled that the big changes in it were not germane to the minor technical boundary adjustments in the original House bill to which they were attached.
Gov. Bob McDonnell must have been pleased with this outcome as it allowed him to avoid dealing with a messy situation himself.
Disagree with Howell about policy and the legislation he shepherds out of the House, but let no one question his integrity and propriety today. The Senate scheme ignored tradition and damaged whatever comity survived in Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol.
If only that were the end of it. According to news reports, members of the House GOP caucus were not at all pleased with Howell’s decision. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans insist that their map will return, and they still plan to have it in place for the 2015 election.
Even a voice of moderation cannot stem the will of those hellbent on placing partisan electoral gain ahead of the good of the commonwealth.
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