July 17, 2003
New maps, get yer new maps

Two new maps wee presented in the Senate today, one by Sen. Florence Shapiro and one by Sen. Jeff Wentworth.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, on Wednesday said the map being considered would create 18 Republican-dominated districts; 11 Democratic and three that would be a toss-up.

Austin's District 10, represented by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, would go from 60 percent Democratic to 60 percent Republican, based on how voters cast their ballots in the 2002 statewide elections. The district currently includes only the central and eastern portions of Travis County.

In the proposed map, District 10 would stretch to the east from northwest Travis County, through Lee County and southeast toward Houston. Almost half of the population would live in Travis County.

Travis County's other current district, 21, now encompasses western Travis County and the hill country. It's considered a 71 percent Republican district and is represented by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio. The redrawn district would stretch south from western Travis County to San Antonio.

District 25 would stretch from southeast Travis County to the Texas-Mexican border, taking in numerous counties including Caldwell.

The map was one of two presented Thursday.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R- San Antonio, represents portions of southern Travis County. He presented a map that would largely leave Travis County's districts unchanged.

"I believe that every urban county that can support a full congressional district should have one and not be divided," Wentworth said.

However, Wentworth appears in the Senate minority in that view.

The Legislature is meeting in special session because many Republicans want to increase their share of the state's 32 congressional districts. The Democrats now hold a 17 to 15 majority.

Wentworth said his map probably would produce 19 Republican districts and 13 Democratis ones.

The map leaves Williamson County whole in District 31that includes Bryan-College Station. Bastrop would be split between District 31 and a Gulf Coast district now represented by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Clute. U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and Paul would share Hays County. All of Caldwell County would be in Paul's District 14.

While he leaves Travis County virtually the same, Wentworth draws McLennan County north into a Fort Worth district. He would pit U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, against U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis.

Commenters on the Political State Report think that Shapiro's map violates the Voting Rights Act, while Wentworth's map is probably legal but less likely to satisfy Tom DeLay. I'm not an expert on the VRA, but I tend to agree that Wentworth's map is an underdog.

According to the Quorum Report, Dewhurst and Perry have said there will be no blocker bill in the next special session:

In a press availability this afternoon, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst laid his cards on the table.

Senate protocol and tradition will be honored meaning the 2/3s rule. But he was quite clear. If the Democrats use their numbers to block redistricting during this special session, the Governor will call another special session.

In the next special session, there will be no blocker bill. Referring to the "Bullock precedent", Dewhurst said that the redistricting bill would be the first one filed next time around. Responding to a court ordered redistricting in 1992, then Lt. Governor Bob Bullock put redistricting as the first bill in sequence. That meant that a 2/3s vote was not required to bring the bill up.

It appears, and the Statesman article I linked to above implies, that there is enough support among GOP Senators for this to be a viable threat. Meanwhile, as Byron noted earlier, Democrats are making their own threats:

State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who authored the [unalterable opposition] letter, said senators opposed to redistricting include both Democrats and Republicans, and they are in constant contact with each other to discuss strategy.

The situation in Austin is so tense, hand-to-hand combat could be a possibility, he said.

“I think as soon as a map is voted out of committee, they (Republicans) will find they do not have a quorum on the Senate floor,” Hinojosa said.

The statement implied that senators opposed to redistricting would stage a walkout, much like the one in the House during the regular session. A group of Democratic state representatives, now known as the Killer D’s, led an exodus from Austin to prevent a quorum on the House floor. As a result, redistricting legislation died in the regular session.

“DPS (The Texas Department of Public Safety) no longer can arrest a legislator,” Hinojosa said. “We would resist arrest. They would have to handcuff us and we would use physical force to defend ourselves, because they have no authority to do that (arrest a legislator).”

I think Sen. Hinojosa overstates when he says there are Republican Senators opposed to redistricting. There are clearly Republican Senators who are opposed to aspects of redistricting, namely chopping up their own counties, but I doubt any of them, even Sen. Ratliff, opposes the theoretical concept. This makes it hard for a specific plan to pass, as it's a near certainty that someone's constituents will be unhappy, but that's a much lower level of commitment than a walkout. Unless he's got Republican Senators in mind who'd walk out over the lack of a blocker bill, I've got my doubts about his assertion.

We're rapidly approaching a crossroads here. Something's got to give. I've had my moments of optimism this week, but I fear there are dark clouds rolling in. We'll know soon enough.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 17, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Cutting Austin into quadrants is just STUPID. It is beyond being either a Republican or a Democrat thing and passes into the land of La-La. I've always hated Gerrymandering, and this kaka map embodies the worst of it.

It's time to follow Iowa to sensible redistricing.

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on July 17, 2003 10:31 PM

No argument from me. Call Sen. Wentworth's office and offer him your support of his bill to create a nonpartisan redistricting committee.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 17, 2003 11:08 PM

The thing about the map is that if you solve one senator's issues with it, you're likely to raise issues in another senator's back yard.

And there's still no way for any Senator to feel confident that his district won't be sacrificed in the Conference Committee.

The gamesman in me wonders if the best thing for the Democrats wouldn't be a long, hard-fought, expensive defeat, especially if it involved a lawsuit and another special session sometime next year. We'll see.

Posted by: Michael on July 18, 2003 1:09 AM

Actually, what this is going to eventually involve is another special session followed by a lawsuit, followed by redistricting in the regular session in 2005, followed by a lawsuit, followed by redistricting in a special session, and then we'll be in 2011 redistricting trying to save Republican incumbents against the flood of Hispanic population growth (every Republican south of I-10 will be history, folks, including Ron Paul).

For the D's, the best tactic is to force the R's to make the move as publicly partisan-related as possible and to drag the process out. What have we got to lose--control of the Texas House? control of the Texas Senate? control of the U.S. House?

If the R's can elect the "nuclear option" as they have in California (denying the 2/3 majority necessary to enact a budget, thus forcing the state into default) we can do it here.

Posted by: precinct1233 on July 19, 2003 12:04 AM

Thanks for endorsing what I believe is the fairest solution for every Texan regardless of his or her party affiliation -- or lack thereof. And that is an eight-member independent, bipartisan citizens' redistricting commission appointed by the Legislature (with four Republican and four Democrat citizens as members). No elected officials allowed on the citizens' commission, and no political party officials either. Just regular Texans.

Posted by: Senator Jeff Wentworth on August 21, 2003 9:37 PM