Senator Marsden Comes to NOVA

State Senator Marsden's district and NOVA's Annandale campus.
State Senator Marsden’s district and NOVA’s Annandale campus.

Virginia State Senator Dave Marsden visited my Geography 210 (Cultural Geography) class on Wednesday, March 16. He talked about the life of a state senator and the importance of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2016. He also mentioned that members of the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates would return to Richmond to deal with any bills that Governor McAuliffe amends or vetoes.

One of Marsden’s bills, SB 49 (Senate Bill 49), makes it a felony for a person under a protective order for family abuse to possess a firearm. Marsden noted that state senators from western and rural Virginia usually oppose any gun safety measures; but this bill was passed as part of a compromise, ultimately passing the Virginia Senate 40 to 0. Governor McAuliffe signed it into law February 26.

Geography students listening to Senator Marsden.
Geography students listening to Senator Marsden.

Marsden also discussed gerrymandering—the manipulation of voting districts to favor a political party. For example, Virginia’s 3rd congressional district was drawn in 2011 by Republicans in the Virginia legislature to be 56% African American, packing the urban black vote, spanning 100 miles from Richmond to Norfolk, in just one district (see district 3, map below left). Challenged in court as an “unconstitutional racial gerrymander,” the redrawn 3rd District is geographically centered on the urban areas of Hampton Roads (see map, below right).

Change to congressional districts in southeastern Virginia.

The 4th District was also affected by the boundary changes and now includes Richmond and Petersburg. This change to the 4th District is seen as an opportunity for Democrats to pick up this seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2016. Marsden added that his colleague, Senator McEachin, recently decided to run for the 4th District seat; the Republican incumbent, Representative Randy Forbes, decided in February to run for the 2nd District seat, which has more Republican-friendly voters.

Finally, there was good news for education in the budget approved by Virginia’s General Assembly, with an additional $104 million going to higher education and $56 million more allocated for financial aid to college students.