Senate and House committees tapped to work on redistricting during the special session Tuesday released times, locations and dates for field hearings around the state.
The Senate will hold two field hearings, one in Corpus Christi and one in Houston.
- – Friday, 5 p.m. at Texas A&M University, HRI Conference Center, 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi.
- – Saturday, 11 a.m. at the University of Houston, Michael J. Cemo Hall, 4800 Calhoun Road, Houston
- – The Senate will wrap up hearings with one last session in Austin on June 12.
The House will hold three of its own, one each in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.
- – Thursday, 2 p.m., DART Headquarters, Board Room, 1401 Pacific Ave., Dallas
- – Monday, 2 p.m., VIA Metro Center, Terry Eskridge Community Room, 1021 San Pedro Ave, San Antonio
- – June 12, 2 p.m. - University of Houston, Michael J. Cemo Hall, Room 100 D, 4800 Calhoun Rd., Houston
It’s probably too late by the time you read this, but Sen. Sylvia Garcia is holding a community breakfast briefing on redistricting today from 8 to 9 at her East Aldine district office – 5333 Aldine Mail Route Road, Houston, TX 77093. For more information about the hearings, see Texas Redistricting.
It’s a short time frame for hearings, but it’s more than we expected going into this special session. It’s unclear at this point if the Lege can get maps approved in the time they will have. And even if they do, as this AP story reminds us, we’re still nowhere close to a resolution.
The two Republican committee chairmen responsible for redistricting, Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo and Rep. Drew Darby of San Angelo, have promised to consider amendments and even alternative maps, if they’ll make the 2012 maps “more legal.” They have scheduled hearings next week to consider all alternatives.
Considering any changes, though, could blow up the special session. Two federal courts heard hundreds of hours of testimony and reviewed thousands of pages of documents to determine that the Legislature’s original maps were unconstitutional. Introducing all of that evidence to argue for changing the 2012 maps could take months and a special session is limited to 30 days.
Perry was also very specific in his call, saying he only wanted lawmakers to adopt the existing maps. And even if the Legislature and Perry were to agree on new maps, there is nothing to stop additional lawsuits or court reviews.
The three judges in San Antonio did not give any indication of whether they thought the adoption of new maps, either drawn by them or created by lawmakers from scratch, would end the lawsuit. But when ordering Texas to use the 2012 maps, the court explicitly said the maps were “not a final ruling on the merits of any claims” of discrimination.
Quite likely, whatever the Legislature does in the next three weeks, the product will become just another tool in the ongoing fight over Texas’ political maps. If past decades are any indication, redistricting will be settled in 2017. Just three years before the next census in 2020, after which the whole process will begin again.
Indeed, the 1996 and 2006 elections included newly-drawn Congressional districts, the result of SCOTUS finally settling the legislation that followed those redistrictings. We could have different maps for each of the first three cycles.