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Texas Redistricting: The Field Hearings Are Among Us

Yesterday marked the kick-off for legislative hearings around the state for the current go-round of redistricting. Yesterday's Dallas hearing by the House committee took much longer than I anticipated - around seven hours. Houston gets a date tomorrow morning with the Senate over at the University of Houston. There's a more opportune time to address the State House map on June 12th at the same location. Although that hearing is set to begin at 2pm, there seems to be decent reason to believe it might go on until people actually get off from work.

The full, statewide calendar of dates is as follows:

The Senate will hold two field hearings, one in Corpus Christi and one in Houston.

– June 6 (2 pm) - Dallas - DART Headquarters [House]
– June 7 (5 pm) - Corpus Christi - Texas A&M University [Senate]
– June 8 (11 am) - Houston - University of Houston [Senate]
– June 10 (2 pm) - San Antonio - VIA Metro Center [House]
– June 12 (9 am) - Austin - Texas State Capitol [Senate]
– June 12 (2 pm) - Houston - University of Houston [House]

There was talk at the Senate hearing yesterday of a hearing in Harlingen on the 10th, but that was contingent on enough Senators letting Chairman Seliger know if they planned to attend so that a quorum could be present. A quick call to Seliger's office confirms that there will not be a Harlingen hearing, however.

That the Dallas hearing took up so much time might have been expected given that there is still some opportunities to improve on opportunity districts for Hispanics while maintaining CD33 as a more distinctly African-American district. In short: there are still some major problems with DFW.

Houston, I'll be curious to see what comes out of the hearing. There was some talk about creating a second Congressional District back in the day ("the day" being 2011). Here's a reminder of how MALDEF saw this configuration work. I'm not sure if this argument will be revisited Saturday, but I will say once again that I will not complain if Gene Green is my Congressman anytime soon.

Still, the biggest issues with the Houston area are twofold: the treatment of Harris County House districts and the possibility of tweaking HD26. There may even be some commentary on how minority populations in Galveston County are divided up. I'm not sure how much commentary that will incite tomorrow, especially since the Senate isn't likely to draw a House map ... despite the fact that SB3 continues to get laid out at every Senate hearing so far. SB1 also codifies the permanence of the House, Senate, and Congressional maps all at once. So if half the bills laid out deal with the House map, I see no reason to leave that part of the discussion off the table for Saturday.

As far as end-games go, there are still two weeks after the conclusion of field hearings to get any maps/bills out of committee and then moved to the House floor. That's still quite a bit of time for Dems to have to run out the clock if they want to see nothing done in this Special Session. Sen. Zaffirini brought up a point in yesterday's Senate hearing about why they don't just adjourn sine die for this special session, hold field hearings, and then return for a special session later on. That would certainly be a cost-saver, I think. But it's kind of a moot point as the field hearings are scheduled through the 12th and the Senate doesn't convene again until the 12th while the House doesn't do so until the 17th.

I'll happily be on campus of my alma mater for both hearings here in Houston and I'm debating heading to San Antonio for the hearing on the 10th. I'll be live-blogging Houston, for sure. Michael Li's twitter feed is also a good place to check for current updates if he's making the rounds for more hearings.

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