March 04, 2009
Is redistricting reform about to become a reality?

Patricia Kilday Hart reports that Sen. Jeff Wentworth's redistricting commission bill has a chance this session, thanks to the change in Speaker.

Wentworth, who presented his bill to the Senate State Affairs Committee, tells me he has confirmed pledges from six of nine Senate committee members to vote for his plan to turn congressional redistricting over to an independent commission. He gave a compelling -- if lengthy -- argument at State Affairs today for a new congressional redistricting mechanism, noting that lawmakers of both parties have been guilty of overreaching, vengeful actions that lead inexorably to expensive court appeals every decade.

He's optimistic about his chances in the House, since it died there last session since "Craddick personally killed it." Here's the story: Wentworth had pledges from more than a majority of the House committee, but chairman Joe Crabb told him Craddick had instructed him to sit on the bill. Wentworth then collected signatures form 20 House chairman in support of his bill, but Craddick wouldn't relent. Why? Wentworth says Craddick instructed him to go read "Craddick vs. Smith" -- a 30-year-old lawsuit over Craddick's mistreatment during redistricting at the hands of Democrats. (Wentworth's bill doesn't touch legislative redistricting, but oh well, ....)

Could Texas really go a less bloody form of congressional redistricting? There were two opponents at Monday's hearing -- the executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, and a witness purporting to represent the Republican County Chairman's Association (turns out his group hadn't actually taken an official position on the bill.) Still, things are looking up for Wentworth: Joe Straus was one of the signatures on his letter supporting the bill last session.

Wentworth also claims that Gov. Rick Perry "wants to sign this bill."

The bill in question is SB315. On the one hand, if this is ever going to happen, this session seems like the time for it - there's some balance between the parties in the Lege, the GOP can see that they're in trouble longer term and may want to do what the Dems probably wish they did back in the early 90s. On the other hand, this strikes me as the sort of thing politicians may want to give lip service to but not actually act on; both sides may hear it from their respective bases, as each may have reason to fear they'll lose ground under this kind of arrangement. That last sentence from Hart's report gives me pause, I'll admit. But we'll see. This ought to make for some interesting public hearings, if nothing else.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 04, 2009 to That's our Lege

Thanks for the post Charles. I wrote about this also yesterday and talked to Rep. Strama on Monday regarding it. I see it as the best way to get out of the quagmire we end up every time we redistrict. Hopefully we'll get further this sessions with Straus.

Posted by: RBearSAT on March 4, 2009 8:10 AM

Republicans are compromising on this and other issues such as the voter id bill because they see the writing on the wall-republicans must move away from extremism or they will be in the wilderness for many years to come.

Posted by: cb on March 4, 2009 11:36 AM

I missed the part where you explained how such a commission could ever be independent. Who would appoint it, God?

Posted by: Dale on March 4, 2009 5:20 PM
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