Thursday, April 28, 2011

Texas House passes redistricting bill

It will soon go to the Senate.

The GOP-led Texas House approved a redistricting plan early Thursday that would all but guarantee a continued Republican majority — albeit a smaller one than the party has now.

The map was approved on a 92-52 vote after a marathon debate that dragged into the wee morning hours Thursday. It would pit several Republicans against each other, the natural result of an unsustainably large super-majority.

Some Republican members and activists wanted to make the map a much bolder grab for conservative seats and limit the number of losses. But House leaders easily beat back those attempts. Either way, there is only so much they can do given the constraints of federal anti-discrimination laws and shifts in population away from conservative rural areas and toward the suburbs that have seen explosive and diverse population growth.

The emotional and heated debate ended up dragging on for some 16 hours, the longest single session in the House so far this year and testament to the importance lawmakers place on their own futures. The map faces a final procedural hurdle before it can move to the Senate.

Once again, if you follow "Inside Baseball" on this sort of thing, then Greg (who live-blogged it yesterday) and Charles have been keeping you up to the minute. If you have only been keeping track via my executive summary, then you will note the following revision affecting one pair ...

Republican Reps. Jim Landtroop and Charles Perry, both from West Texas, would get separate districts under the proposal that would take a single seat out of the region for redistribution elsewhere. Perry and Landtroop called the new proposal a victory for the rural region.

There was some speculation that Charles Perry might try for the Senate against Robert Duncan, but this development likely negates that. Houston's Scott Hochberg, on the other hand, is getting as royally screwed as Kate Middleton.

Two Democrats would also be paired in the Houston area. One of them is Rep. Scott Hochberg, who said map drawers creatively split the 5401 Chimney Rock apartment complex, hoping for his demise. If the map became law, inhabitants of the complex could be in different state House districts depending on which unit they live in, Hochberg said.

I would prefer that Hochberg and Hubert Vo not run against each other; indeed, that one of them moves into Jim Murphy's district and knocks him out. We'll see. There's also the possibility that former state rep. Kristi Thibaut mounts another challenge to Murphy as well.

Paul Burka speculates that this map endangers Speaker Straus -- now, and in the future.

Once again, Straus’s speakership is at risk. This is what happens when you come to the critical moment of the session with no team in place, no plan, and brush fires of discontent among the members. I have to say, though I like Straus personally, he is sowing what he reaped. He has spent the entire session kowtowing to the far right, so that the inmates are running the asylum, and it has gotten him nowhere. He was never going to win them over, and now he has the worst appropriations bill in modern history to show for his efforts, and a potential redistricting revolt on his hands. His speakership is at risk–if not now, then in the Legislative Redistricting Board. Rick Perry will likely send redistricting to the board, probably with whispered instructions to draw a map that pairs Straus loyalists and insulates the conservatives from potential challengers. This could get really bloody.

And Scott at Grits notes that if incarcerated people were assigned accurately in the redraw, then Houston would not have lost a seat. Prisoners don't get representation? That's the Republican way.

Update: Via Eye on Williamson, both the Observer and the Tribune have more on last night's marathon debate.

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