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August 25, 2000     (512) 463-0300

Redistricting Hearings Continue

The Texas Senate Committee on Redistricting continued its series of joint public hearings with the House Committee on Redistricting Friday, August 25, 2000, at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. The two committees are holding a series of hearings around the state, gathering input from the public on how district lines should be drawn for both legislative and congressional districts.

Members of the Senate Committee include Co-Chairmen Senators Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay and Mario Gallegos of Houston. Also serving on the committee are Senators Mike Jackson of La Porte, Steve Ogden of Bryan, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Royce West of Dallas, Frank L. Madla of San Antonio, Florence Shapiro of Plano, Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville and Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin.

Members of the House Committee include Representatives Delwin Jones of Lubbock serving as chair, Bob Glaze of Gilmer, Fred Bosse of Houston, David Counts of Knox City, Jim Dunnam of Waco, Kent Grusendorf of Arlington, Bob Hunter of Abilene, Ken Marchant of Carrollton, Paul Moreno of El Paso, Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, and Ron Wilson of Houston.

After a welcome from the Mayor of Lubbock and Texas Tech Chancellor and former Senator John Montford, representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau briefed the committee on exactly how the population numbers they are working with were gathered. They said they were sure that the count of residents in poor areas, called colonias, along the Rio Grande was much more accurate than during the last census ten years ago.

Republican Party officials then spoke, asking for districts that are as contiguous as possible, and that cities not be split between districts unless absolutely necessary. Representatives from Brownfield County said they're very happy with their districts and want no changes.

D. B. Cook, from the Texas Independent Ginners Association said they were also happy with rural representation, saying that members of the Texas Legislature understood rural needs. Dr. Neal Pearson, a political science professor from Texas Tech University, criticized the current congressional districts, saying some are drawn so that people from varying parts of the state with little in common have the same representative in Congress. He called for all of Lubbock to be in one district. Numerous other representatives of agricultural organizations seconded his position concerning the need for primarily rural districts.

The Mayor of Big Spring, Russ McCuhen, also said that it was important that there be representatives who represent only the rural areas of Texas. He told the committees that larger West Texas cities simply have different interests than do other areas and that lumping small cities such as Big Spring in with larger cities such as Odessa, Midland and Abilene does them a disservice.

Alberto Cardenas of Lubbock's Chamber of Commerce, asked that minority populations be given the chance to stay within contiguous districts and not be broken up into several. Steve Beret, representing Plains Cotton Growers, complimented the current West Texas legislative delegation, saying they do a good job of representing rural and urban interests alike. He too asked that the districts remain as compact as possible. Lubbock City Councilman Victor Hernandez said that Lubbock is still effectively a segregated city, as is the rest of West Texas. He called for the new districts to be sensitive to the needs of the growing minority community.

Roger Cox of the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce reminded the committees that Amarillo and Lubbock are two entirely different areas and shouldn't be combined into the same district. James Henson, also from the Amarillo Chamber, reminded the members that differences between Panhandle communities are much greater than, for instance, the varying communities that make up the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Representatives from the Midland/Odessa area said they don't want to be split up between separate Texas Senate and congressional districts, not because they were dissatisfied with their current representatives, but that it would help to foster cooperation between the two cities. Midland County is currently divided into three different congressional districts. These comments were seconded by the chairman of the Midland County Democratic Party.

Both committees recessed subject to call of the chairs.

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