And so the Sunday drop-dead deadline has whooshed past with map in sight and the Lege adjourned until Wednesday. What a glorious mess this is.
Hardly any ink was expended on the reason for the Republicans' failure, since the reason hasn't changed since the get-go: Tom Craddick wants a Midland district, Robert Duncan doesn't, and never the twain shall meet. The big issue now is what to do with the primary date.
Secretary of State Geoff Connor has said that if a plan is not adopted by midnight today he will not be able to conduct a primary as scheduled on March 2. Connor, the state's chief elections officer, said the primary would have to be moved to March 9.
"I know the Senate was very determined to get this done before we had to change any primary dates," said Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, one of the Senate negotiators. "We have, in essence, missed that deadline."
Duncan said that if a redistricting bill is passed, the primary date will have to be pushed back for the new congressional district lines to be used in the 2004 elections.
"Right now, we don't have any choice if we want to move a redistricting bill forward," said Duncan.
But Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, leader of the House negotiators, said he does not believe that deadline is firm. He said once a redistricting agreement is reached, negotiators will ask Connor to reassess whether the primary date must be moved.
"I think there's a little bit of flexibility. I'm going to rely on the secretary of state," King said.
If a redistricting bill is passed, it would not take effect until 90 days after Gov. Rick Perry signs it. Connor's office then would need enough time to allow candidates to file for the races, print ballots and hold early voting.
The primary date was shifted from March 9 to March 2 under a bill approved during the regular legislative session. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said the primary was moved so it will not be held in the midst of the public school spring break.
Branch last week said he did not believe there were enough votes in the House to move the primary back to March 9.
King and House Speaker Tom Craddick said they have the votes to move the date. Duncan said he did not know whether the Senate could support the date change.
By moving to March 2, Texas joined some of the nation's largest states in holding a presidential primary on the same day. The other states include California, New York and Ohio.
"If the primary is moved from March 2, Texas Democrats will have no voice in who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party," said state House Democratic Chairman Jim Dunnam of Waco.
Dunnam said most candidates will have been winnowed out of the race either before or on March 2.
"I'd like to have a voice in who is going to oppose George Bush," Dunnam said.
Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, described moving the primary as un-American.
"That's something that happens in other places," Coleman said. "We don't move elections in the United States of America to make room for power grabs."
Once it became known that the committee negotiations had broken down again and that the Lege would adjourn, the real action from yesterday was set in motion.
With redistricting at an impasse, both legislative chambers had been out of action since Thursday. But they had to reconvene Sunday to avoid breaking a state constitutional requirement that prohibits either chamber from taking more than three consecutive days off during a legislative session.
So [Speaker Tom] Craddick called the House to order to hear a motion to adjourn until Wednesday. But just as he was slamming down his gavel to make the adjournment official, about a dozen Democrats shouted their objections.
If Craddick had not ignored them, the Democrats would have offered an amended motion to call off the session and send House members home. And it might have worked because almost none of the Republican members had shown up to vote it down.
"Our intention was to move to adjourn sine die and put an end to all of this," said Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, using the Latin phrase that translates roughly to "without a set date" and is legislative slang for calling it quits.
Democrats later accused Craddick of ignoring House rules and operating in a "dictatorial" fashion. Through a spokesman, Craddick, R-Midland, said that the Democrats were late in announcing their objection and that the gavel fell before their voices were raised.
"He didn't know what they were up to," said Bob Richter, the speaker's press secretary. "He knew there were certain troublemakers out on the House floor, and [House leaders] were expecting something, but they didn't know what it was."
Outnumbering the Republicans 12-2, the Democrats tried to turn a routine adjournment into a coup. They attempted to amend the motion to adjourn for the day and end the third special session over congressional redistricting.
But one of the two Republicans, Speaker Tom Craddick, would have none of it.
He gaveled the House to adjournment until Wednesday as the Democrats yelled their objections. The speaker then stormed off the House floor.
"He called us Chicken D's," said Rep. Rick Noriega, D-Houston, recalling Craddick's nickname for the 51 Democrats who fled to Oklahoma in May to stop a vote on congressional redistricting. "But I never saw anyone run as fast as he did. It was a complete act of cowardice."
The rare Sunday meeting had been called in case Senate and House Republican negotiators had resolved their differences over their versions of a new congressional map. They hadn't, so Craddick expected a routine adjournment in which only one member shows up to make the motion to adjourn.
Instead, Rep. Jim Dunnam, the leader of the House Democrats, had organized a dozen Democrats to be on hand to fight any attempt to make the House meet today, Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. Austin Reps. Elliott Naishtat and Eddie Rodriguez were among the dozen.
But when the Democrats realized they outnumbered the Republicans, they thought they'd try to end the special session altogether.
Dunnam said the speaker's quick gavel was another example of an autocratic leader with a Republican majority overrunning the Democrats -- even when the Republicans didn't show up. He said Sunday's brouhaha is likely to end up in litigation over a final map.
Craddick, through press secretary Bob Richter, said a speaker has two choices when there is no quorum to conduct business: put out a call for missing members or adjourn
So anyway, there probably won't be any further news until Wednesday. The special session has one week left to go - it expires on October 13.
Finally, Carl Leubsdorf of the Dallas Morning News takes a ride on the Hutchison for Governor bandwagon. Expect to see more of this if Perry is forced to call a fourth session.Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 06, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack