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House committee bucks partisan norms

Members of the special House panel charged with reimagining the day-to-day of Congress are doing something unheard of Wednesday afternoon – sitting all together.

For many decades and without any apparent exception, Democrats and Republicans have sat on opposite sides of the dais at all committee meetings, one of the myriad symbolic signals of a Capitol where partisan tribalism is a first principal.

At this hearing, however, the six Republicans and six Democrats on the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress are breaking with longstanding tradition and bucking this partisan norm with a bipartisan game of "musical chairs," according to a spokeswoman for Georgia Republican Tom Graves, the committee's vice chairman. The seats for the 12 lawmakers were arranged on the rostrum alternating Democrats and Republicans, so that no lawmakers have to even "reach across the aisle" in search of bipartisan collaboration.

The committee ended its separate Twitter accounts for each party this week. The accounts were merged into one — @ModernizeCmte — "in the spirit of bipartisanship," Graves' office said in an email.

At Wednesday's hearing, the committee is hearing from six former House members in its search of ways to improve the rules, procedures and policies of the lower chamber. The panel has until year's end to come up with changes that can muster endorsement by at least two-thirds of its members.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Gov. Ralph Northam used his executive authority to restore voting rights for felons, noting that Virginia is among the states that permanently strips such rights after a felony conviction.

Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

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