Redistricting Committee Hears Testimony in Joint Hearing
AUSTIN - The Senate Redistricting Committee today held a joint hearing with the House Redistricting Committee to take public testimony. More than 100 people attended the hearing, with most of them registering to testify.
The Legislature will draw districts for 31 state senators, 150 state representatives, 30 U.S. representatives and 15 members of the State Board of Education.
Today's hearing focused on congressional and education districts.
The Texas Legislature redraws district boundaries every ten years, following the U.S. Census. This year, the process is made more difficult by the vast demographic changes that have occurred in Texas in the past ten years.
Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio is the chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee. The policy of the committee is take as much public testimony as possible. Today is the second time during tihs legislative session that the committee has held a large hearing with numerous people providing public testimony. The committees traveled throughout Texas during the 76th Interim to hear from the public in various cities.
Elsewhere at the Capitol, Gov. Rick Perry today signed the first bill passed by the 77th Texas Legislature. The Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 3, authored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan, puts in place procedures for the preservation and use of DNA evidence and post conviction testing. CSSB 3 is the first bill Perry has signed as governor of Texas. He declared the bill an emergency early in this session.
In other committee action, the Health and Human Services Committee heard public testimony on Senate Bill (SB) 8, a measure authored by Dallas Sen. David Cain addressing gender bias in healthcare reimbursement and SB 43, a bill authored by Laredo Sen. Judith Zaffirini that would simplify the application and eligibility process for children's Medicaid.
The Natural Resources Committee was scheduled to take up a pair of bills. SB 2, authored by Lake Jackson Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown, would put in place a statewide water management plan. SB 1541, authored by Lubbock Sen. Robert Duncan, deals with the permanent management of low level nuclear waste.
In other Senate news, Dallas Sen. Royce West spoke at a morning press conference announcing a statewide program aimed at preventing underage drinking.
"It is my hope that this new campaign will continue to raise awareness of the dangers of underage drinking," West said.
The program, dubbed 2young2drink, is sponsored by the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (TCADA) and is funded by a $1 million grant from the Criminal Justice Division of the Governor's Office. 2young2drink features regional youth events and an advertising campaign targeting teenagers across the state.
"It will take community involvement at the local level, parents, civic leaders as well as law enforcement," West said. "But most of all, we need young people to be leaders among their peers."
According to TCADA statistics, alcohol is the most widely used substance among students in Texas, with 71 percent reporting that they have used alcohol. TCADA executive director Jay Kimbrough said alcohol kills more teenagers than all other drugs combined.
After session, San Antonio Sen. Leticia Van de Putte spoke at a press conference where the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) released new statistics about the prevalence of rape in Texas.
TAASA's report says the FBI Uniform Crime Reports overlook more than 80 percent of sexual assaults in Texas. While the FBI reported 7,614 rapes reported in Texas, the TAASA report found that only seven to 18 percent of rapes or attempted rapes are reported to police. In 2000, 104,516 adults and 226,438 children were sexually assaulted in Texas, according to TAASA statistics.
"Looking at this report, I'm fearful for my two daughters who are now college age," Van de Putte said. "Particularly if you look at the statistics that 80 percent of the victims are under the age of 25, it seems that we need to redouble our efforts. There are many efforts in the Legislature, by different bills and measures, that would provide the environment so that victims feel safe and comfortable in reporting."
The Senate stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday.