Judicial Districts Examined By Senate Committee
One man, one vote isn't just a catch phrase used by legislators. The state's courts are supposed to have relatively equal numbers of people in each of the judicial districts so that courts aren't overloaded and justice isn't delayed. Today, Thursday, February 21, 2002, the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence looked into what changes need to be made in our judicial districts.
The judicial districts are normally redrawn every ten years, after each federal census. Judge B. B. Schraub, of the 3rd Administrative Judicial Region, said that it is important that the judges themselves be involved in any attempt to redraw the line. He also noted that ten years ago judges proposed only minor changes in the lines then in existance.
Jerry Benedict from the office of Court Administration told the committee that the current caseload needs to be more evenly spread out, not only in the urban areas but among rural courts as well. He also said that space has become a major problem in the urban counties. Alan Ware of the Texas Legislative Council explained the criteria his agency had used to draw up a set of proposed districts. Jeff Archer, also from the Legislative Council said that if an area is under served by its court system, then any backlog could be reduced by reapportionment.
The Senate Committee on Jurisprudence is chaired by Senator Royce West of Dallas. Members include Senators David Bernsen of Beaumont, J. E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Rodney Ellis of Houston, Mike Jackson of Pasadena, and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair.
Joint Committee On Higher Education Excellence Funding Convenes
One of the major questions facing the state in coming years will be how to best fund Texas universities. Examining the question is the job of the Joint Committee on Higher Education Excellence Funding. House Bill 1839 creates the Texas Excellence Fund to support and maintain educational activities including research and developing general institutional excellence. Today, the committee began examining how that is to be done.
Patrick Francis from the Legislative Budget Board walked the committee members through the Education Excellence Funding that comes through the appropriations process. Commissioner of Education Don Brown followed, speaking on non-appropriated funds.
President Larry L. Faulkner of the University of Texas and President Ray M. Bowen of Texas A&M University closed the invited testimony, saying that each of their universities supported additional funding for research into high tech and other related areas. Questions from the committee to both presidents centered on how the institutions are currently spending state funds. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair.