State Republicans pass amendment while Dem. senator on holiday - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

State Republicans pass amendment while Dem. senator on holiday

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

In the General Assembly, Senate Democrats are furious after Senate Republicans used the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and inauguration to pass a controversial new redistricting amendment.

The move impacts at least 7 different senators and voters in the area.

There are 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans in the Senate. But that all changed Monday when Democratic Senator Henry Marsh headed to the inauguration. This is where, he says, the political tricks began.

While much of the country turned it's eye to the presidential inauguration, Virginia Senate Republicans set their eyes on re-writing last years redistricting plan.

"This is the first time I have ever seen anything like this," said Marsh.

When Marsh went to the inauguration, the way was clear for Senate Republicans to pass the new plan along party lines in a 20 to 19 vote.

This causes a massive shift for Marsh's district. What was a mainly Richmond/Prince George district now cuts out most of Petersburg and includes Charles City County.

Republicans note the amendment adds a 6th majority-minority district in line with federal civil rights laws, but much of that new district is cut out of Marsh's old district.

Senator John Watkins brought the bill and says his intentions were pure - even as he acknowledges the bad optics.

"No, it doesn't look good, but its part of the process," said Watkins.

A process that Marsh claims is unconstitutional, setting the stage for legal battles.

"If they don't reverse themselves, there will be," said Marsh, when asked if he would take legal action.

This now heads to the House for approval. If approved, the changes would not take effect until 2015.

When asked to comment, Governor McDonnell said this is not the way to do business.

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