At the conclusion of the Virginia General Assembly’s 47-day session in Richmond, Republicans ushered through some reforms to the Commonwealth’s government. The GOP tackled political redistricting, the State Board of Elections, the processing of “Governor’s Papers,” bookkeeping for local treasurers, and even expanding the sale of booze on Sunday.
H.J. 615, introduced by Delegate Mark Cole (R-Spotsylvania), would move to produce an amendment to the Constitution of Virginia and establish a 16-member redistricting commission to draw and alter legislative districts after every decennial census. The next time boundaries would change other than with the currently-contested districts would be in 2021.
Eight commissioners would be legislative members, four from the Senate and four from the House of Delegates. The other eight commissioners would be citizen members determined by the General Assembly.
Afterwards, the commission would create the district maps for both houses of the state legislature and U.S. House of Representatives districts, submitting those to the General Assembly. If the statehouse rejected the maps, the commission would redraw them, and if a subsequent plan failed a passing vote, the seven-member Supreme Court of Virginia would be tasked with establishing the districts. The bill was voted through both chambers in the legislature.
H.B. 1620, patroned by Delegate Margaret Ransone (R-Westmoreland), would increase the membership of the State Board of Elections from three to five members, increasing their staggered terms from four to five years. Equal representation would be given to each of the political parties having the highest and next highest number of votes in the Commonwealth at the last preceding gubernatorial election. Her bill was passed in the House and the Senate.
H.B. 2034, sponsored by Delegate John McGuire (R-Goochland), allows for the removal of a general registrar by the circuit court upon a petition signed by a majority of the members of the State Board of Elections or majority of members of the local electoral board. His legislation passed through both houses in the state legislature.
H.B. 1702, introduced by House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), would require the Library of Virginia to catalog and make accessible to the public all correspondence and other records by an outgoing governor within one year. The bill, however, died in conference.
H.B. 1731, patroned by Delegate Emily Brewer (R-Suffolk), would allow local treasurers to keep digital copies of records versus keeping a literal “well-bound book.” The commonsense, modern legislation has already been signed by the governor.
H.B. 1770, sponsored by Delegate Barry Knight (R-Chespeake), allows the Virginia Alcohol and Beverage Control Authority (ABC) to expand its hours and open earlier on Sunday. Stores would now open at 10:00 a.m.
Moreover, ABC would be required to pay a distiller that operates a store on its government licensed premises a commission of not less than 12 percent of the retail price of any goods sold. The bill was passed in both chambers of the General Assembly.