Things must be getting serious in GOP Land, because Governor Perry has finally deigned to a greater degree of involvement in the redistricting mess than just calling special sessions and declaring his hands to be clean. Today he proposed a compromise map which House Speaker Tom Craddick and House redistricting author Phil King have signed off on, but which still favors Craddick and Midland at the expense of Lubbock and Sen. Robert Duncan.
The Senate plan remains far different from the one adopted three times since June by the House, chiefly because it does not include a West Texas district dominated by Midland.
Craddick has insisted that he will not accept any plan that does not have a Midland district. Duncan, who chairs the Senate's redistricting committee, wants Lubbock to be the key city in that district.
Under the plan prepared by the governor's office and unveiled by Rep. Phil King, the Weatherford Republican who drew the House map, Lubbock and Midland would each have its own district.
Craddick and King offered qualified support for Perry's plan, which only draws six West Texas districts and leaves the rest of the state to be apportioned at a later date, but Duncan stopped far short of embracing it.
"While this plan is one option, it maintains some problems in West Texas and it doesn't take into account the progress we have made in drawing East Texas districts," Duncan said.
Duncan said he will continue to search for a compromise that both sides can embrace.
"Hopefully, by the time this process ends, we'll all be singing Kumbaya in West Texas," he said.
Under Perry's plan, West Texas would be carved by jagged, diagonal lines running southeast to northwest. Several Capitol staffers jokingly dubbed it the "lightning bolt plan."
One district would run from western Johnson County to Dallam County at the northwest tip of the Panhandle.
Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, said the map "needlessly dissects a community of interest in the Texas Panhandle."
[Perry's proposal] leaves Henry Bonilla's (R-San Antonio) district intact. Creates a new, open 11th district anchored in Midland. Another district will be anchored in Lubbock. Charlie Stenholm would find himself in a district that reaches from his home base in Abilene down into the Texas hill country including Bell and Coryell counties.
While the map is acceptable to Speaker Tom Craddick and House author Phil King (R-Weatherford), it is ripe with potential problems for Senators Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), Kip Averitt (R-Waco), Teel Bivins (R-Amarillo) and maybe even more.
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NO TAKERS FOR PERRY COMPROMISE ON WEST TEXAS - YET
Averitt, Duncan, offer varying degrees of hostility
The deadline for amendments to the Committee Substitute for House Bill 3 - the congressional redistricting plan from Sen. Todd Staples (R-Palestine) - came and went at 5 p.m. today without any Republican senator building on the "compromise" offered for West Texas by Gov. Rick Perry.
There were no amendments featuring the changes proposed by Perry, and supported by Speaker Tom Craddick and House redistricting bill sponsor Phil King (R-Weatherford), to districts 11, 17, 19, 13, and 12.
However, there has been some comment. Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) reacted angrily to Perry's suggestion that Bell and Coryell counties be separated from McLennan County.
"The map that was presented at today’s press conference decimates the voice of Central Texas and I am firmly opposed," Averitt said.
With the Democrats back and the clock running in the third special session, Republican quarreling could be the final obstacle.
Last month, Sen. Bill Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, prophesied the Craddick-Duncan dispute:
"One of them is going to have to lose that battle, and there is precious little middle ground. That would be the greatest tragedy of all, if we've all gone through this and we get to a conference committee and the Republicans can't even agree on a map."
On a side note, the Senate Administration Committee adopted a plan to punish future quorum busters.
The Senate Administration Committee recommended $1,000 per day fines for senators who intentionally break quorum.
The 4-3 committee vote was a reduction from the $2,000 per day proposed this morning by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio. A full senate vote is expected this week.
The amendment would take the money from missing senators' per diem expense payments. Once that money was exhausted, the fine would be deducted from missing senators' payroll account.
Wentworth said fines are needed because loss of seniority privileges — which include things such as first pick of office space, parking and desk location in the Senate chamber — is not a sufficient penalty.
"If you rank 25th to 31st (in seniority in the 31-member Senate) running away really doesn't punish you very much at all," Wentworth said.