SENATE TAKES ANOTHER LOOK AT REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE, COLLEGE BOOK SALES TAX HOLIDAY
(AUSTIN) — Senate committees considered two bills Monday that won Senate approval last session, but were casualties of House in-fighting in 2007. The first of these, SB 22, by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini, would create two 10-day sales tax holidays for textbooks purchased by college students, one for each semester. Zaffirini testified before the Senate Finance Committee that such legislation is needed to help students' pocketbooks. "This bill would provide much needed financial relief to college students who are struggling to meet the rising cost of higher education," she said. She estimated the average student would save between $67 and $100 each year.
The Senate State Affairs Committee took up another bill that passed the Senate last session, one that would create a bi-partisan redistricting committee to draw congressional districts. SB 315, by San Antonio Senator Jeff Wentworth, would establish the Texas Congressional Redistricting Committee, made up of eight members, four appointed by Republicans in each chamber, and four appointed by Democrats in each chamber. Wentworth said his bill would improve bipartisanship in state government. "[Redistricting] is divisive, it's partisan, it leaves bad blood in this body," he said. "We need to avoid it as best we can."
The committee would meet each year following the U.S. Census, beginning February 1, and would have until July 15 of that year to come up with a redistricting plan. If the committee is deadlocked, the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court would appoint a ninth member, and then the committee would have a further 40 days to approve a plan. Elected officials, party officials and lobbyists would be barred from service on the committee for two years, and the bill includes a provision to ensure rural representation in the group.
The Senate will reconvene Tuesday, March 3 at 11 a.m.