Senate/House Redistricting Committees Hold Joint Public Hearing in Tyler
TYLER - The Senate and House Committees on Redistricting held public hearings together in Tyler at 1pm on Wednesday, September 27, 2000, at the Radisson Hotel. The committees have been meeting jointly around the state to hear from local officials and the public about the redistricting process. The Texas Legislature is required by law to redraw legislative, congressional and State Board of Education (SBOE) districts every ten years upon completion of the federal census. The new boundaries will be used to elect members to the representative bodies in the next election cycle. Districts must have equal or nearly equal representation and be drawn in a manner that does not have a purpose and will not have the effect of denying the right to vote on the basis of race or language.
Gilmer State Representative Bob Glaze welcomed the committees to the Tyler area. Glaze represents part of the Tyler area and surrounding counties. Glaze discussed the importance of the redistricting process to East Texas. Dallas Senator David Cain joined the committees for the proceedings and also addressed the committees about the important issue. Cain represents part of Smith County and several of the nearby counties.
Testimony began with Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap. Millsap praised his elected officials and urged the committees to keep Hopkins County in one district and to continue the historical practice of respecting the voters wishes. Paris State Representative Mark Homer testified in agreement with Judge Millsap about keeping similar counties together.
Tyler State Representative Leo Berman spoke to the committees and asked members to include all of Tyler in his district to increase the population totals in his district. Berman also asked the committees to put all of Smith County in the districts. He would like Tyler and Smith County to have one state representative, one state senator, and one congressional district. Smith County is currently represented by two state representatives, three state senators, and is included in two congressional districts.
Como Picton Independent School District (ISD) School Superintendent Joe B. Mintor urged the committees to make as few changes as possible to the districts. Mintor testified that Hopkins County had excellent representation in the state house, state senate, and congressional districts. He noted that persons of both major parties had been elected to represent the districts.
Tyler Mayor Kevin Eltife told the committees that he appreciated them coming to Tyler to hear from the citizens. Eltife believes Smith County is well represented but would prefer all of the county to be in one senatorial district. Tyler attorney, David Hudson, a former state representative testified that Tyler was well represented by its senators. Hudson noted that of the senators representing Smith County were Senate Finance Chair Bill Ratliff and Transportation Committee Chair David Cain.
Van Zandt County Commissioner Jimmy Don Wilson welcomed the committees and appreciated the to opportunity to be included in the process. Wilson spoke from the audience and did not approach the microphone.
Former Smith County Judge Kenneth Barron testified about his experiences with the redistricting process since 1971. Barron urged the committees to recognize the similarities and diversities of the population rather than just the county lines.
Smith County Commissioner Sharon Emmert testifies that she would like the county to have only one state senator but two state senators would be better than three senatorial districts.
Local merchant Joe Tew testified that Smith County was well represented by three senators and would like even more representation because of the agriculture interests of the area. Tew advised the committee of the important economic impact agriculture has on the area, pointing out that Cherokee County to the south is rated the 32nd county in the nation in horticulture production including bedding plants, poinsettias, and mums.
Brian Manley testified that he is very pleased with current representation and wants the lines changed as little as possible. Manley believes that the party in power will draw the lines and make decisions, but he does not understand why some only want one representative.
James Foreman, Van Zandt County Democratic Party Chair, believes voters are very happy with current representation. Foreman says the county is equally split between Democrats and Republicans.
Jim Nickerson of Pittsburg asked the committees to make only minimal changes regarding Congressional District 1. Nickerson expressed his concerns about rumors of partisan line drawing in the redistricting process.
Gregg County Judge Mickey Smith testified that he has happy with his current representation, but that his area will work with the state to do what needs to be done to continue the process in a fair manner.
John deNoyelles, Chair of Smith County Republican Party testified that Tyler and Smith County are the most divided area in the state which makes coordinating efforts are very difficult. He is disturbed that some are discussing drawing lines to protect ones jobs and urged members to not gerrymander districts. deNoyelles testified that angry citizens call him wondering who their representatives are therefore he keeps maps on his walls to help. He would like three things to be used while drawing the districts; compact geographic areas, common interests of communities and citizens, and districts that allow citizens to clearly identify who represents them.
Charles Thompson, Wood County Democratic Party Chairman, requested members to leave his county as is and leave it whole, except for SBOE which he suggests to take off bottom half and give them the top half due to a 200 mile stretch. Thompson would also like to make voting easier and give them a good place to go vote.
Margaret A. Griffin, a rancher in the southern part of Gregg County was there to reiterate happiness with their district and their elected officials. Griffin believes they are happy because they are educating their elected officials. Griffin's family is the sixth generation to live on their land.
Mary Jackson, from a farm just north of Tyler, thanked Representative Glaze for bringing the committees to town. Jackson appreciates multiple and diverse representation, and could not be more pleased with a senator like David Cain, Bob Glaze and the rest of the delegation.
Ernest M. Deckard testified representing the Tyler branch of NAACP. Deckard wants to see more participation at the ballot box, and hopes to have districts drawn to continue to have Smith County represented by both major political parties.
Douglas Flatt, a local small businessman and resident of Tyler for 43 years, testified that three senators are better than two.
Rains County Judge Bob Sisks testified that he likes his current representatives and state senator.
Grand Saline Mayor J. Ray Rucker testified about the effectiveness of his representative and state senator. Rucker believes if people care about enough they will remember who represents them. He urged the committees to follow the law and make as few changes as possible.
Olena Boner, Mayor of Enchanted Oaks in Henderson County, testified that she likes her representation as it is now.
Submitting written testimony were Cary Hilliard, Larry W. Jones representing Smith County Democrats, Fannin County Judge Derrell Hall, Texarkana City Councilman Derrick McGary, Royce Garrett, Ron Huffard representing the Texas Forestry Association, Albert Burns, DeKalb State Representative Barry Telford, and Jarvis Christian College President Sebetha Jenkins.
Counties included in the Tyler hearing were: Anderson, Angelina, Bowie, Camp, Cass, Cherokee, Delta, Fannin, Franklin, Freestone, Gregg, Harrison, Henderson, Hopkins, Houston, Hunt, Lamar, Leon, Marion, Morris, Nacogdoches, Panola, Rains, Red River, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Smith, Titus, Upshur, Van Zandt, and Wood.
Members of the Senate Committee on Redistricting include Senators Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay and Mario Gallegos of Houston serving as co-chairs, Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Mike Jackson of La Porte, Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville, Frank L. Madla of San Antonio, Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, Steve Ogden of Bryan, Florence Shapiro of Dallas, and Royce West of Dallas.
Members of the House Committee on Redistricting include Representatives Delwin Jones of Lubbock serving as chair, Bob Glaze of Gilmer, serving as vice-chair, Fred Bosse of Houston, David Counts of Knox City, Jim Dunnam of Waco, Kent Grusendorf of Arlington, Bob Hunter of Abilene, Kenny Marchant of Coppell, Paul Moreno of El Paso, Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, and Ron Wilson of Houston. Longview State Representative Tommy Merritt joined the committees for the proceedings.
The Senate Committee on Redistricting stands in recess subject to the call of the chair. The House Committee on Redistricting stand adjourned.