Not understanding the legislative process

Published 1:29 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2019

As we tried to end the session on time, there was a computer glitch that delayed wrapping up the budget adjustments in the final hours. This placed us in a bad situation. We could not get the budget on everyone’s desk in time for them to review it for 48 hours, which is part of the rules we follow. A rule that can only be changed by a two-thirds majority. Because everyone was aware of the major issues, 24 hours should have been plenty of time to review the changes from one year ago.
Those in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, agreed that 24 hours was fine. However, the House Democrats, with a new leader this year, decided that they would not agree to that. They, in fact, were insistent that they would not agree to anything.
They would not agree to ending the session on time with a twelve-hour review.
They would not agree to a twenty-four-hour extension.
After multiple meetings that lasted hours, with Senate Democrats begging their House counterparts to agree to something, someone asked them if they understood that, if at least 16 of them did not agree to vote for the budget or extending session, the session would end with no new adjustments to the budget. All the work on the budget would be for naught this session. When they finally understood, they backed off and allowed a vote. More responsible leadership would have simply encouraged House members to read the budget.
One theme that many have followed this session and the last several is how can we better redistrict the state’s legislative districts after every 10 year census. If there is one common denominator in the process it is this: It is fair and responsible when it suits the needs of those who draw the districts, and it is irresponsible when it does not. Likewise, it is only well drawn if it puts every community in the state in the very center of a district. Something that is impossible. A perfect example after the 2000 census, many from Fluvanna were upset that they were not in the same district that included nearby Charlottesville.
In fact, the 15th District, which now stretches from across the river from Jamestown to 20 miles west of Danville, previously stretched from the North Carolina line to just east of Charlottesville.
After the 2010 census, the Democrats controlled the process in the Senate and the Republicans in the House. Both the Senate Democrats and the House Republicans did the exact same thing. They drew districts that gave their party the advantage in their respective bodies. It has been interesting that most of the contempt and posturing has been blamed on the Republicans, while the Democrats are not criticized nearly as much by the media and special interest groups. While both the House and Senate were questionably drawn, no one challenged the Senate redistricting in the federal courts.
Hopefully, this year we reached a bipartisan solution that will end making the redistricting such a political process. It will follow a process that will avoid splitting up communities of interest whenever possible. I believe this will better serve our constituents. In that same vein, our goal next year will be to get politics out of both the redistricting process as well as the election process. All over the state, we are learning more and more that the election process has become too political. We need elections that are free and all citizens believe that their voice is heard.
Frank Ruff represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is