AUSTIN - The Senate Committee on Jurisprudence opened hearings today, September 17, 2003, on the redrawing of congressional district lines and a proposal regarding the coming spring elections.
Senator Jane Nelson presented Senate Bill 9, which allows five days for overseas ballots to arrive after the election day. Several witnesses testified against the bill, saying that it could be later used as a vehicle to change the dates of the spring elections. In regard to a question from Senator Royce West, Ann McGeehan from the Secretary of State's office said there had been no analysis of any impact it might have on minority voting strength. The committee put off a final vote until a later date.
Senator Todd Staples then laid out Senate Bill 1, the redistricting bill. He called it "a fair and balanced map", saying it should pass review by the federal Department of Justice and that it has compact districts that follow the one man, one vote rule. He called it an improvement on other maps, saying that fewer counties would be split than under the current map. Senator Royce West closely questioned witnesses as to how these new districts might influence the voting strength of minority groups.
Also meeting today was the Senate Infrastructure Development and Security Committee. This committee examined Senator Steve Ogden's Senate Bill 8, relating to the construction, acquisition financing, maintenance, management and ownership of transportation facilities. It is designed to clean up differences between two highway bills that passed during the closing days of the 78th regular session. Public testimony was taken today. The bill is scheduled to be voted out when a companion bill from the House arrives at a later date.
The Finance Committee met later in the afternoon, to consider bills relating to government organization, the functions of certain state agencies and appropriations.
During today's session, the Senate referred House bills to various committees. There were also questions raised by Senators Gonzalo Barrientos and Mario Gallegos as to when the Senate might address the question of whether or how penalties applied against the senators who did not attend the second called session might be addressed.
The next session of the Texas Senate is scheduled for 11:00 A.M. Thursday morning.