Notes & Noticias – Texans Deserve Fair Maps

Dear Friends,

The special session is under way, and redistricting remains the top order of business — though Perry has added other deeply divisive issues to the call.

This week’s Notes and Noticias focuses on the alternative redistricting plan I filed that addresses known problems with the Congressional map in Central and South Texas. The legislature should not simply rubber-stamp a set of interim maps that will only extend our expensive redistricting litigation in the courts.

Passing these interim maps as-is will do nothing to address the fact that they do not fully address minority population growth in Texas or remedy all of the Federal court’s problems with the maps passed during the 2011 session.

Read on for more about my plan and catch up on what’s good, bad, and ugly about the special session so far.

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Texans Deserve Fair Maps

During this special session, the Legislature has a choice. We do not need to simply rubber stamp bad interim maps that fail to address the fact that 90% of Texas’s population growth in the last decade was African-American and Hispanic. We can fix these maps and keep Texas out of the courts.

My colleagues in the House have filed a variety of alternative plans that would address the intentional efforts of Republicans to disenfranchise minority voters in Texas. These plans serve as a reminder that the Legislature has a choice and must consider alternatives to the interim maps.

Passing these interim maps — which are based on intentionally discriminatory plans drawn during the 2011 legislative session — will only keep Texas in the Federal courts for the foreseeable future.

I filed HB 53, otherwise known as Plan C245, to address constitutional and Voting Rights flaws in the current interim congressional plan. HB 53 is identical to the plan Senator Watson is proposing in the Senate, which makes changes to Congressional districts in Central and South Texas.

Click here for a larger version of the map, shown above right.

Specifically, the Watson/Rodriguez plan restores a constitutionally protected congressional district anchored in Travis County, which was previously represented by Congressman Lloyd Doggett. This district was destroyed when the federal district court in San Antonio decided to temporarily adopt the 2011 legislatively passed CD25 into the interim plan. Six months later, the D.C. court ruled that this map disrupted a protected crossover district.

This map adds CD34 as a new Hispanic opportunity district in Central and South Texas, which would run from Nueces County to Bexar County. The map also reverses some of the intentional discrimination displayed in the drawing of CD20, including the removal of historic landmarks and economic generators from CD20.

Finally, Plan C245 also supports CD23 as a Hispanic opportunity district by making modest improvements to the interim maps, which had already improved from the legislatively passed version.

Republicans have argued that the Legislature is forced to choose between restoring a constitutionally-protected district in Travis County or maintaining Latino opportunity districts in South Texas. The Watson/Rodriguez Plan proves that we can do both.

This plan provides a minimally disruptive change to districts in Central and South Texas while meeting the requirements of the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. This plan does not make changes to Dallas or Fort Worth. However, that should not be construed as a suggestion that the interim maps are otherwise acceptable, as many of my colleagues have introduced alternatives to the interim maps in that region as well.

Failure to pass maps that accurately reflect our state’s minority population growth — without which we would have not gained any of the four Congressional seats added in 2011 — will simply land the State of Texas back in Federal court.

The basis of our democratic government relies on fair representation. It’s time for Texas to pass fair, Constitutional maps that accurately reflect our population.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Here’s what’s good, bad, and ugly at the Capitol right now.

The Good: HB 5 Signed Into Law

After veto threats of the landmark education reform bill that creates more curriculum paths and reduces the number of high stakes tests from 15 to 5, the Governor signed HB 5 into law. I was honored to work on this bill as a co-author and member of the conference committee. The final legislation included two amendments I attached, both of which will better prepare our Texas kids for college or the workforce.

The Bad: No Blocker Bills In The Senate

The Senate special committee on redistricting already passed the interim maps and they’re headed to the floor. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst decided to depart from Senate tradition and did not allow a blocker bill, which requires 2/3rds of Senators to vote to bring up any other legislation. This procedural change will not be viewed kindly during future litigation over these maps, and allows Republicans to pass these maps with a simple majority.

The Ugly: Divisive Issues Added To Call

After a regular legislative session that was short on acrimony and long on passing many important bills, Rick Perry decided to add two highly divisive issues to the call for this special session, on top of the already contentious debate over redistricting. Texas women and children should not be political pawns in Perry’s potential Presidential ambitions.

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