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June 18, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Witnesses Testify in Legislative Redistricting Board Public Hearing

AUSTIN - Nearly fifty witnesses testified Monday, June 18, 2001 before the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB). The board is in charge of doing what the Legislature was unable to accomplish during the 77th Regular Session, drawing new legislative districts using 2000 census figures.

The LRB has 60 days to agree on a plan. If that deadline is not met, the courts will take over the job.

Attorney General John Cornyn chairs the board. Other members include Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff, House Speaker James E. "Pete" Laney, Comptroller of Public Accounts Carole Keeton Rylander and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst.

Mayors, commissioners, judges, members of chambers of commerce and other organizations, and the general public presented oral and written testimony, together with proposals on what they think their local districts should look like.

Most witnesses asked for compact and fair districts, and to maintain communities of interest. Some citizens from rural communities asked that they not be mixed with urban areas.

Other witnesses begged board members to not divide their districts, but the board also heard that gerrymandering is so evident in the current districts that they are in need of a major overhaul. Still others suggested that the current lines could be adjusted to reflect trends in population growth.

Most witnesses demanded fair and effective representation for the people of Texas, but that meant different things to different people. Some asked that their districts be kept intact for the benefit of incumbent legislators, some said districts do not belong to incumbents but rather to the people. Most witnesses said there should be more competition in the elections, and that voters should be presented with competitive political ideas.

Representatives of the African-American, Asian and Hispanic communities also testified. As communities of interest, they want to be kept together, to be able to increase their political representation. Based on their numbers, they said they are not fairly represented.

The Legislative Redistricting Board adjourned until June 26 at 9 a.m., when it will hear testimony and proposals from legislators.

The tentative schedule for future meetings is as follows:

July 10: presentation of plan by LRB member/s to the board.
July 16: public hearing about presented plan.
July 24: formal adoption of LRB plan.

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