Redistricting commission advances

We know about Sen. Jeff Wentworth’s biennial efforts to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission for Texas. On Monday, those efforts advanced forward a step.

By a vote of 21-10, senators approved Senate Bill 315 that would create the nine-member commission — eight of its members named by the Legislature, four Republicans and four Democrats, with the ninth member to serve as a non-voting presiding officer.

The measure by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, would also designate the Texas Supreme Court as having original jurisdiction in all cases regarding redistricting.

Passage came after a bit of drama. Debate was stopped after it appeared that Wentworth might not have the 21 votes necessary to suspend the Senate’s rules to debate and pass the bill.

But after several minutes of huddling on the Senate floor, Wentworth went ahead and got enough votes.

State Sen. Mike Jackson, R-Lake Jackson, was among the 10 senators who voted against passage. During the brief debate, he said he had doubts that the commission could accomplish its intended purpose.

Wentworth insisted it would, noting that 12 other states use such commissions successfully.

Here’s the vote (PDF) on second reading:

Yeas: Averitt, Carona, Davis, Deuell, Duncan, Ellis, Eltife, Gallegos, Hegar, Hinojosa, Lucio, Patrick, Seliger, Shapleigh, Uresti, VanideiPutte, Watson, Wentworth, West, Whitmire, Zaffirini.

Nays: Estes, Fraser, Harris, Huffman, Jackson, Nelson, Nichols, Ogden, Shapiro, Williams.

That’s all 12 Dems in favor, and Republicans split 9 for and 10 against. I think this thing may just have a chance to make it through. Which means it’s a shame that it only covers Congressional redistricting and not also State Lege redistricting, which needless to say is as big and hot a potato as anything else. Maybe next time, if doing so could still put such a commission in place before the 2012 elections. Having said that, I can also see this thing getting vetoed by Governor Perry. As Patti Hart reported, the only opposition to this bill in the committee hearing came from the executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, which probably thinks that it can ram through what it wants again next session. If the activists think this is a screw job, you can be sure Perry will have their back. I’m not saying that will be the case – Dan Patrick voted for this, after all, so it’s safe to say that the base is not uniformly against the idea – but if it does get rejected I won’t be surprised.

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