After a roller-coaster day, the West Virginia Senate ended Monday essentially where it began as its quest to establish member districts for the next decade continued.
The Senate’s work on its new district map initially stalled last Wednesday. After about seven hours of work Monday, and with little progress made, senators called it a day at 6 p.m. in a two-minute session. The Senate will reconvene at noon Tuesday.
On the sixth day of a special legislative session to address redistricting and allocating federal pandemic relief funds, the Senate did complete legislation on the proposed House of Delegates district map on Monday.
If the House signs off on the Senate’s adoption of House Bill 301, the bill would then go to Gov. Jim Justice for his consideration. Already on its way to the governor’s desk is Senate Bill 3033, the redrawn congressional map the Legislature completed work on last week.
The House remains adjourned until Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, calls delegates to return.
In four choppy sessions Monday, the Senate adopted an amended map that failed to pass muster in a final vote, leading to long periods of private debate at the podium of Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and in a Republican caucus Monday evening.
Senators have been relatively mum about their redistricting efforts.
On Monday, Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, voiced his support for the map that ultimately was rejected, and for Redistricting Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan. He briefly referred to the last week’s events behind closed doors.
“I’m glad West Virginia couldn’t see it, because they would’ve been embarrassed,” Maroney said during debate. “We would’ve been embarrassed.”
The day began at 11 a.m., with Senate Bill 3034, which establishes the Senate district map, up for consideration. The map had remained unchanged since the Senate Redistricting Committee adopted it on Oct. 12.
The Senate said a prayer and the pledge of allegiance before taking a recess until 1:30 p.m. During the 1:30 p.m. session, senators considered an amendment first proposed by Senate Education Chairwoman Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, and Sens. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, and Patrick Martin, R-Lewis.
Rucker explained the amendment on the Senate floor.
Senators eventually adopted an amendment to Rucker’s amendment that had been proposed by Trump and Senate Majority Leader Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha.
Takubo and Trump’s amendment tweaked Rucker’s proposed map with focus on the southern coalfields — Lincoln, Logan, Boone, Wayne, Mingo and McDowell counties, in particular — and Kanawha and surrounding counties.
Takubo said there were three core districts among those counties that were being disrupted in the Rucker amendment, and they wanted to resolve that.
Takubo, who grew up in Logan County before settling in Kanawha, said Southern West Virginia has a core set of values that would be better reflected by a person from one of those counties.
“I think to myself often not so much what would I do, but I am the voice of the people I represent,” Takubo said. “For me to give the best voice to the people I represent, it is important that the collective body that I represent is unified.”
In particular, Takubo and Trump said they want to keep Kanawha County, which has a population of a little more than 180,000 people, with at least one district completely within its borders.
Trump noted that the southern coalfields lost substantial population between 2010 and 2020, while other counties, including Berkeley, Jefferson and Monongalia, gained population.
“There are places where you have to join counties together to make a Senate district,” Trump said. “Kanawha County has more than sufficient population to have at least one district that is just Kanawha County, where people from Kanawha County will choose who their senators will be from that district.”
The Senate adopted the Takubo and Trump amendment to the amendment in a 17-16 vote, with one senator absent.
When it came time to adopt the amendment as a whole, the amendment failed on a 19-14 vote, with one senator absent. After the amendment, the Senate still would have had to vote on whether to adopt the map altogether, but the map didn’t make it to the final vote. That meant the Senate was back to the original map the Redistricting Committee adopted on Oct. 12.
That led to at least the third conference at Blair’s podium among lawmakers, Senate staff and attorneys, before Takubo moved to recess until 4 p.m.
When it reconvened at 4 p.m., the Senate again recessed until 6 p.m. to allow for a Republican caucus. The Senate didn’t take any action on the map before delaying its consideration of the map another day.
For more information about the proposed Senate map and other proposed maps, visit the West Virginia Legislature redistricting website, www.WVLegislature.gov/redistricting.cfm.