Senate Redistricting Committee
AUSTIN - The Senate Redistricting Committee met today, June 6, 2001, in its first public hearing after the 77th Regular Legislative Session adjourned May 28th.
Every ten years, the Legislature is supposed to redraw district lines for the Senate, House of Representatives, Congress and State Board of Education (SBOE) districts, to ensure equal representation based on the most recent census.
Although the Senate has a long tradition of working across party lines, redistricting is one of the most partisan issues to come before the Legislature. For example, during the just-ended session, the Senate Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 499, was approved by the Redistricting Committee but did not have enough support to be brought to the floor.
So, the task of legislative redistricting then passes to the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB). But Congressional and SBOE redistricting could be taken up again in a special session or go directly to court. The goal of the Redistricting Committee is to draw plans that are acceptable to the Senate and the House by the end of this month. Chaired by Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio, the other committee members are Mike Jackson (vice-chair) of La Porte, Kenneth 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.
During today's meeting the members agreed the SBOE redistricting would be a much easier task than redrawing Congressional districts, a highly partisan task. Committee members complained about receiving too little input from the congressmen. Only one of them sent them a proposal for his district map, and none of them showed up or sent representatives to today's meeting in Austin, although all of them were invited.
Showing his frustration, Senator Armbrister proposed giving the members of Congress a deadline for sending. He also said it would be redundant to keep having public hearings after the many already held during the 76th Interim and 77th Session and proposed they begin working from maps already approved by the House redistricting committee.