A bill that would carve Asheville into districts for the purpose of electing city council members passed its first committee Tuesday night. The controversial measure is opposed by most Asheville-area lawmakers, as well as city council members and the mayor. Its sponsor is Republican Senator Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville, who represents a small part of south Asheville. The bill mandates the city draw up 6 districts for electing council members. Voters in those districts could vote for only those running in their district. The mayor would still be elected at-large.
The bill's first stop was the Senate Committee on Elections, chaired by Spruce Pine Republican Ralph Hise. Edwards was there to present the bill and said he's hearing from voters who feel left out and the time had come for the General Assembly to govern. He dismissed recent moves by the city council to hold a November referendum asking whether voters want districts. The GOP-dominated committee passed the measure on a voice vote over the objections of Asheville Democratic Senator Terry Van Duyn.
The bill is similar to one filed by Edwards' predecessor, Sen. Tom Apodaca, also of Hendersonville. That effort failed in the House when a number of Republicans joined Democrats in objection. Lawmakers are rushing to get their bills passed in at least one chamber before the crossover deadline this week. The bill still needs to pass the full Senate.