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June 26, 2001     (512) 463-0300

Senate Redistricting Holds Third Interim Hearing

AUSTIN - The Senate Committee on Redistricting continues its work on redrawing district lines for both the Texas Congressional districts and the State Board of Education (SBOE). At today's meeting on Tuesday, June 26, 2001, the committee heard from a parade of witnesses, almost all of whom were members of the education board.

Members of the committee include Senators Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, serving as chair, Mike Jackson of La Porte, Ken Armbrister of Victoria, David Cain of Dallas, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Rodney Ellis of Houston, Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay, Mario Gallegos of Houston, Florence Shapiro of Plano and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.

To open the meeting, Senator Robert Duncan laid out a proposed set of SBOE district lines which were immediately criticized by the SBOE members. Almost all of them said they preferred a plan submitted by board member Geraldine Miller. Senator Duncan said his plan was designed to draw support from the SBOE members who currently do not support the Miller plan. Currently, eleven SBOE members favor the Miller plan, while four are not committing or oppose it.

No one appeared to testify on Congressional redistricting. Chairman Jeff Wentworth submitted a plan of his own that says could form a basis for a coalition between African Americans, Hispanics and Republicans. This plan would lead to a Republican majority in the Texas Congressional delegation, but would create a new Hispanic seat along the Rio Grande and a new African-American seat as well.

Senator Judith Zaffirini questioned the validity of the plan, saying that to her eyes it does not meet federal guidelines.

As to the continuing question of whether a special session on redistricting would be called, Chairman Wentworth said that the governor's position remains unchanged, that the Legislature will not be called back to Austin unless there is a general agreement in place or at least a very good chance of passing a plan. Senator Zaffirini countered that the senators that are speaking to her continue to say that there's no way that the committee will pass out a Congressional plan and that means no special session. Even so, Chairman Wentworth says he remains hopeful that the committee can successfully complete its work.

The Senate Committee on Redistricting adjourned subject to call of the chair, with the next meeting tentatively set for July 5th or 6th.

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