To no one's great surprise, the Texas Senate declared the House redistricting map dead on arrival, though I confess I'm a bit surprised at how many Republican Senators have taken potshots at not only the map, but also at how the House arrived at it:
"It's a silly map. I can't support that," said Sen. Kip Averitt, R-Waco, whose home county of McLennan is divided into two congressional districts in the House plan. "I can't support splitting my county."
Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, said he opposed the House map, and Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, said it needed "tinkering." Sens. Mike Jackson, R-LaPorte, and Kyle Janek, R-Houston, said they had not studied the House map but expected the Senate to produce something different.
"It didn't seem all too radical to me, but we're not going to rubber-stamp the House map. We're going to come up with our own map," Jackson said.
Among the fence-sitting senators who are key to whether the Senate debates redistricting at all, the message was even clearer.
"I cannot vote for the House map, because it obliterates Northeast Texas, the part of the state I represent," said Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant. "Texarkana would be represented by somebody from east Dallas County."
Sen. Ken Armbrister, D-Victoria, said the map is dead and he would not vote for it.
Also now entangled in the process is House-Senate tension that grew throughout the regular session.
Though both chambers are controlled by Republicans, they are often poles apart, as are Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland.
"We're sending a signal to the House that we had asked to be involved in the process of the House drawing the map. We weren't included in that process," Dewhurst said, adding later that he was not complaining but just noting that Craddick must have been too busy to respond. Craddick's office offered no response to that.
There are several other themes in all of these stories. Dewhurst has suggested that as there are 31 state Senators and 32 Congresscritters, the current map of state Senate districts could be used as a starting point for a new Congressional map. Sen. John Whitmire (D, Houston) concedes that a map based on that would probably pass, though he'll still oppose it and suggests that his fellow Democrats would as well:
"This is a defining vote. You can't be a Republican and a Democrat on this. You've got to choose," said Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. "If you're a Democrat office holder and you vote for a Republican redistricting plan, I would think that Democrats in a primary would look very unfavorably toward you."
There's been concern from Democrats as well as from Sen. Bill Ratliff that a map may come out of a joint House-Senate committee. A map drawn in a conference committee would only need a majority vote, which is why House Democrats had been claiming all along that the various House maps were decoys. Ratliff has the same fears (from the Statesman):
Ratliff also said he fears a bait and switch.
It takes only 16 Senate votes to approve a map drawn in a conference committee, which leaves Ratliff uncomfortable about putting that process in motion in the first place by voting to suspend the rules requiring 21 votes.
Ratliff said he wants "some way of knowing that it's not going to come back from conference looking like the House map."
Dewhurst said he would not support any effort to increase the number of votes required to approve a conference committee map to 21. And he said that the Senate, which is almost sure to draw a map with major differences from the House version, won't leave much wiggle room for negotiating on the map and that he feels "very, very strongly" about preserving whatever the Senate does.
Ratliff said that he, too, might offer the same plan for congressional redistricting that he developed two years ago that would contain as many as 19 safe GOP seats. Ratliff said the current map favors Republicans and several incumbent Democrats continue to be re-elected by GOP-leaning voters.
But before he agrees to vote to bring redistricting to the Senate floor, Ratliff said he wants assurances that a map to his liking will not be replaced with a plan similar to the House's version when the two chambers reconcile their differences.
"I would need some very strong assurances from the right people," he said.
Various newspaper links from Byron, who was up way too late last night. For purposes of comparison, note the time of his permalink, then reflect on the fact that I get up for work at a little after 5 AM.Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 09, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack