August 08, 2003

Here's the wall-to-wall coverage of the dueling lawsuits over redistricting, quorums, the powers of DPS, traditional rules, and whether or not Governor Perry's harispray habit is accelerating the depletion of the ozone layer (okay, I made that last one up). The thrust of the suits is as follows, from the Chron.

The Democratic senators filed their own lawsuit in Travis County district court asking for an order barring their arrest by the Senate sergeant at arms. The legislative sergeants at arms historically have been charged with rounding up lawmakers who fail to show up at the Capitol, often enlisting state troopers to carry out the task.

The Democrats contend in their lawsuit that a provision of the state Constitution forbids the arrest of a lawmaker when the Legislature is in session except "in cases of treason, felony or breach of the peace."

The matter probably would only be relevant if the Democrats returned to Texas, since neither the sergeants nor the state police have jurisdiction outside the state.

The Democrats' lawsuit also contends that Perry did not have the power to call the current special legislative session on redistricting because it is not an "extraordinary occasion."

[Democratic attorney Reana] Hicks said the existing congressional district boundaries were upheld two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court, so congressional districts present no crisis that can be used as a basis for calling a special session.


Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Perry, the top Republicans in state government, filed their lawsuit in a Travis County district court and before the Texas Supreme Court. Attorney General Greg Abbott and Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz are representing them.

They asked the courts to order the boycotting senators back to Austin to establish a Senate quorum. Dewhurst said the Democrats face possible court sanctions if they do not respond.

"Obviously anytime anyone violates a court order they do it at their own peril and their own risk," Dewhurst said.

Perry said the lawsuit is necessary because two legislative boycotts in four months amount to "constitutional abuse." Fifty-five Democrats killed congressional redistricting in May by breaking the House quorum during the regular legislative session.

Perry said the latest walkout "illustrates the potential for a constitutional crisis whenever a minority number of legislators refuse to participate in the process on issues where they lack the votes to succeed."

"If the Supreme Court does not intervene, nothing will stop a handful of legislators from halting a vote on any difficult issue," the governor said.

The text of the Dems' lawsuit is here, and of the Repubicans' suit is here. Both links are PDF files. The rest of the coverage is in the Statesman, the Morning News, the Express News, and the Star Telegram.

A couple of side issues: Here's more on Rep. Dan Branch's bill to redefine a quorum as 2/3 of the members present in the state, rather than 2/3 of all members. I understand why this would be popular and would likely pass, but it's one of those things a majority party does without ever considering that someday it will be in the minority and maybe would have been better off if they'd not strengthened their majority-derived power. You know, like how the Democrats are surely wishing they'd passed Jeff Wentworth's bill to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission, a bill whose continued failure to pass is something I'm equally sure the Republicans will rue some day.

Finally, if you believe that in a state where one party controls the executive and legislative branches and where the last redistricting was done in a courtroom gives the controlling party the right to redraw the lines to reflect the state's voting trends, then you've just argued in favor of redistricting in New Mexico, where Democrats have only one representative in Congress. So be careful what you wish for. Via Polstate.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 08, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Agreed. Be careful what you ask for, because somewhere down the road it will likely come back to bite you on the ass.... ;o)

Posted by: Jack Cluth on August 9, 2003 7:16 AM