Not much new to report that Byron hasn't already covered. The House map passed as expected, and now the battle is joined in the Senate. A commenter on Byron's latest Polstate posting notes that in addition to Bill Ratliff and Kip Averitt, now Sen. Robert Duncan (R, Lubbock) is unhappy with the House map. I can't find direct confirmation of that, but this story fills in some detail:
Based on what he heard in a June 26 meeting in Lubbock on redistricting, Rep. Carl Isett, R-Lubbock, offered an amendment to the new map that would have largely kept the three current West Texas districts' borders intact.
The amendment failed.
"When we were in Lubbock, we heard a lot of testimony" from representatives from Abilene, Lamesa, Big Spring and from Lubbock's Chamber of Commerce. "They wanted to keep the district the way it is," he said.
Isett said eh expected the House to send the bill on to the Senate late Monday night.
The amendment to undo the proposed changes to the West Texas districts can be revived on the Senate side. It's up to Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, to introduce the measure there, Isett said.
"I think the senator will know what we tried to accomplish over here," he said.
Mapmakers' options are limited when trying to redraw district lines in West Texas, Isett said. The districts can't move too far east without bumping into the Interstate 35 corridor or too far south without running into Henry Bonilla's protected minority district in San Antonio.
Under the new map, District 17 will be shifted east from Abilene, throwing that city into District 19, which will continue to be anchored by Lubbock.
Midland, Odessa and San Angelo will anchor District 11, which will shift west from Waco.
The new District 11 will represent energy interests to a large degree, but Isett disagreed with the notion that West Texas will lose a voice for agriculture in Congress.
"What it does do is move an anchor from one West Texas city to another," he said. "But (the new District 11) will include San Angelo, which has a lot of ranchland."
He said Charles Stenholm, D-Abilene, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee can run competitively in the new District 19.
"We will still have three true West Texas districts," Isett said, "just not the districts we're used to."
Sen. Robert Duncan, chairman of the Senate panel looking at congressional redistricting, has made his first public comment about the plan passed out of the House at midnight last night.
Speaking in Corpus Christi before flying to Dallas for the next Senate Jurisprudence Committee hearing, Duncan said he saw a couple of obvious problems with a map that would create five or six new Republican seats.
As well as noting the concerns of Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) over the split in McLennan County, Duncan said he could not fathom what the planís authors were doing with West Texas. He predicted changes in a plan that "pairs" freshman Randy Neugebauer (R-Lubbock) with veteran Charlie Stenholm (D-Abilene).
Democratic House members have done what they could, and now they're putting the burden on their Senate colleagues:
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Jim Dunnam of Waco said he is worried that a moderate redistricting map bill will be presented to the Senate to win Democratic votes for debate.
But he said any Democratic vote for debate on redistricting "would just let the genie out of the bottle," allowing Republicans to create a more partisan map in floor debate or through a conference committee.
"Anyone who votes to suspend is culpable for the final bill," Dunnam said.
It's a touchy subject in an increasingly racially polarized Legislature. Of the 107 Republicans in the Legislature, none are black, and only two (a Hispanic and an Asian American) are minorities.
Only 22 of the Legislature's 74 Democrats are white.
Finally, if nothing else, we did get a little comedy out of all this.
One of the lighter moments Monday came from the House gallery when members of the audience used white socks like hand puppets to mock the debate.
"The Republicans are puppets for (U.S. Majority Leader) Tom DeLay," explained David Lundstedt of Austin.