Redistricting Returns to Austin
In what he called the "Farewell Tour 2003" Chairman Robert Duncan today began the final series of hearings designed to examine the redrawing of Texas Congressional districts. Senator Duncan's Committee on Jurisprudence has traveled across the state, taking public testimony sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. Today, those hearings returned to Austin.
To begin the hearing, Senator Mario Gallegos moved that the committee not vote on any plan until noon on Tuesday. The Houston Senator said that all members should have at least that long to review the earlier testimony. "It would be disingenuous of us to proceed with this until all members of the Senate have had the opportunity to review the testimony at those (regional) hearings." The motion passed unanimously.
Senator Royce West of Dallas then brought up the issue of whether one particular lawyer from the Attorney General's office, who West said had been involved in partisan politics, should be representing the state in this matter. Chairman Duncan assured Senator West that while the attorney in question had offered advice, he not been sought out by the chair. West concluded by saying that the Attorney General needs to be sure that whatever he does in representing the state needs to be completely beyond reproach.
Today's meeting centered on public testimony from expert witnesses. The first witness was Jerry Hebert, who reiterated that more than ninety percent of previous witnesses had testified against doing any redistricting at all. "If you've truly taken the views of the people to heart, the plug would be pulled on this process...no to redistricting." He also spoke about recent court decisions regarding redistricting and how minority districts impact the voting process.
The committee also considered SB 10 by Senator Jon Lindsay of Houston. SB 10 allows both County Courts and District Courts in Harris County to hear condemnation proceedings.
The Senate Committee on Jurisprudence is chaired by Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock. Members include co-chairman Mario Gallegos of Houston, Senators Kip Averitt of Waco, Chris Harris of Arlington, Eddie Lucio, Jr., of Brownsville, Todd Stapes of Palestine and Royce West of Dallas. Also attending today's meeting were Senators Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio and Gonzalo Barrientos of Austin.
Chairman Duncan adjourned the committee subject to call of the chair. At 9:00 A.M. Monday the committee is scheduled to meet in the Capitol Extension Auditorium to further consider congressional redistricting.