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West Virginia Senate Redistricting Vote Delayed Again

State Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, scolds the West Virginia Senate for the delay in voting for a new senatorial district map. (Photo Courtesy of W.Va. Legislative Photography)

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia state Senate delayed action Monday on a bill that would create a new redistricting map for its 17 districts, making it the fourth time Senate Republicans have put off a vote on the bill.

Senate Bill 3034, dividing the state into senatorial districts, is on third reading when lawmakers gavel in at noon today.

The bill was first originated by the Senate Redistricting Committee one week ago after hosting several weekly meetings since the end of September and the first draft maps being posted Oct. 6.

SB 3034 made it to third reading Wednesday with amendments pending, but lawmakers laid the bill over three times until lawmakers took up amendments to the bill Monday afternoon.

After recessing twice and with Senate Republicans caucusing to discuss its next moves, the Senate voted to lay over the bill again Monday evening.

The map approved by the Senate Redistricting Committee had the least number of county splits, with seven total. It also gave Monongalia County its own two-member senatorial district solely within the county’s boundaries due to the population growth in the county and in the Morgantown metropolitan area.

Part of the reason for the delay in selecting a senatorial district map was division within the Republican caucus over which map to support. Several Senate Republicans began floating a map last week that split up as many as 13 counties that typically share a senatorial district, as well as split up major cities.

That map didn’t make it onto the Senate Redistricting Committee’s website until Wednesday night and without a name of a senator attached to it. By Monday morning, the amendment to the Senate Redistricting Committee’s map had public sponsors, including state Senators Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson; Mike Azinger, R-Wood; Eric Tarr, R-Putnam; Donna Boley, R-Pleasants; and Patrick Martin, R-Lewis.

“This amendment … is a conglomeration of trying to take into account all of the considerations, all of the input, all of the information that we have been provided,” Rucker said. “Is it a perfect map? I don’t think such a thing exists … it is impossible to have every criteria considered to a perfect degree, but this map tries to balance. I believe that this map is the best representation of balancing all of the needs.”

Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, offered an amendment to the Rucker amendment. Their new plan reduced the number of county splits and kept communities of interest together.

“I think our amendment to the amendment is a better solution,” Trump said. “This amendment to the amendment would be a modification to the amendment offered by (Rucker) that would improve it immensely.”

The Takubo/Trump amendment would have kept counties together that the Rucker amendment broke apart, such as keeping Lincoln, Boone and Logan counties together along with a sliver of southern Kanawha County; keeping most of Cabell County together; and keeping Fayette, Greenbrier, Summers, and Monroe counties together, combining them with Pocahontas County.

“This is tough. If it were easy, we would have been done last week in a day or two and been out of here, but it’s not,” Takubo said. “At the end of the day, I have to vote and offer, especially for those that I represent what I feel is right for them, because it’s not about any of us individually, but it is about the people we represent.”

The Takubo/Trump amendment to the Rucker amendment was adopted in a narrow 17-16 vote. State Sen. Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, was the lone member absent. Nelson left for Europe last week in a pre-planned trip and was still out of the country this week.

The Takubo/Trump amendment to the Rucker amendment had the support of all 11 Democratic senators and six Republicans. Once amended, the Rucker amendment failed in a 14-19 vote, with 18 Republicans and state Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Wayne, voting no.

With the failure of the Rucker amendment and no further amendments, senators will be voting today on the plan approved by the Senate Redistricting Committee last week unless a senator makes a motion to reconsider Monday’s amendment votes. State Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, criticized his fellow senators for how the process has unfolded over the last seven days.

“As this process unfolded, I was excited for this redistricting,” Maroney said. “I’m glad West Virginia couldn’t see it because they would have been embarrassed. We would have been embarrassed.”

Unlike the Senate, the House of Delegates approved its new 100 single-member districts map Wednesday, with the Senate signing off on the delegate district bill Monday and completing action on the plan. Both the House and Senate passed a new congressional redistricting map going from three to two districts by Friday.

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