Color me skeptical of this.
The contours of an agreement might have emerged Monday as a special committee of the Texas House debated maps of congressional and legislative districts.
A Republican lawmaker and an attorney for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus said there was a consensus that minority groups would accept maps that create one to two more congressional districts in which Texas minorities hold sway and five to seven more seats in the state House.
[Jose] Garza, the lawyer for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said that if the Legislature does what Perry and Abbott want, it would make a charade of the fact-finding process that’s going on now. “It would be evidence of intentional discrimination,” Garza said.
In other hearings, state Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, has posed tough questions to witnesses advocating maps other than those supported by Perry and Abbott. But on Monday, he seemed more interested in what the price of peace with minority groups would be.
“We’re in 98 percent agreement,” Villalba said.
Garza said one to two additional seats in Congress and five to seven in the state House could be the basis for a deal.
“We’re not advocating maximization,” he said. “If we were talking maximization, it would be a much higher number.”
Some observers have said it’s in the interest of Republicans to make a deal with minority Democrats because if they leave map drawing to the courts, it will be done without regard to who is an incumbent.
Adding five to seven seats in the House puts us roughly in line with the original interim map drawn by the San Antonio court. That map was based on the pre-redistricting map, on the grounds that it was the last known map to have been pre-cleared, but then SCOTUS ordered the court to base its fixes on the legislatively-drawn maps, which had a smaller baseline for minority districts. By my count, looking at the 2008 election returns for Plan H302, Democrats would expect to win 59 seats, Republicans would expect to win 88, and there are three districts I’d classify as tossups – HDs 26 and 134, which lean GOP, and 105, which leans Dem. I don’t have 2012 numbers for this plan, and I’m counting HD23 as a Dem seat – it’s the same district as in the current interim map – so consider this to be plus or minus one or two either way. We could have skipped a whole lot of trouble if this is the endgame. That’s even before we get to the Congressional map, which I can’t even remember any more. I guess that’s why I’m skeptical of there being a deal like this that would be so much in the Dems’ favor, that and the feather-light sourcing of this story. I freely admit that anything is possible, but this would be a major departure from the Republicans’ party line, which is that the 2012 interim maps already fix everything that needed fixing.
All in all, I think the Trib insiders have it right, and that if anything happens it’ll be what Perry wanted in the first place, which is a ratification of the existing maps. Democratic amendments may get voted on, but if so they’ll be voted down, on straight partisan lines. I think Rep. Darby and Sen. Seliger may have had good intentions with the hearings and all, but having those hearings also served the Republican purpose of addressing the complaint about steamrolling the process and ignoring public input. The special session might provide the chance for the Republicans to do redistricting in a way that deals with reality and avoids more drawn-out litigation, but that’s a mighty selfless thing to ask any political party to do. And now that Rick Perry has thrown some red meat onto the agenda, all bets are off.