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Legislative Liveblogging: The House Does Redistricting

The floor of the House is in something approaching "motion" right now. I'm just waiting around for the redistricting bills to come up and I'll be liveblogging that portion of the events. Trey Martinez Fischer will have some alternatives for different regions of the state. There's also a resurrected amendment that Hubert Vo offered in committee that my boss, Gene Wu, will be bringing up on the floor today. Don't be surprised if an amendment (or two) passes today.

10:33am ... Darby begins by laying out SB2. This is the Senate plan, so expect it to be the easiest bill to get out. Also, note that they're passing Senate bill versions, not the House bills. Though not an issue here, the approach is an outgrowth of the bungled HB3.

Darby makes an emergency motion to postpone SB2 until the end of the calendar. No idea why.

We move on to HB3. This is a dogfight. Somewhere in the world, TMF is limbering up. Darby's layout is technically a floor substitute, so it's officially Amd #1. I'll try to keep up the order for what follows.

TMF leads off, asking Speaker Straus if he's aware what time the House adjourned last night. He's trying to set up a point of order on the fact that 12 hours are needed for a floor substitute. The floor adjourned at 9pm last night. Straus notes that the Clerk's office was open until 10 to accept amendments and substitutes. A detail here is that the Clerk's office is not accessible to staff while the floor is in session. It's one of the buggier logistical features of the House, from a staff perspective. TMF is asking if the Chief Clerk's office was available in a timely manner. Straus is now repeating that the floor sub was filed at 9:11. It's a very insider-ey argument that TMF is fishing for in order to see if there's a point of order. Ultimately, no P.O.O. is made, though.

Amendment #2: Anchia. Anchia is out, so Villalba is laying this out. It's a tradeoff between Ratliff and Anchia that attemtps to sort out Farmers Branch and Carrollton more cleanly between the two districts. It's agreed to by Darby. Here's an overview (shaded is the boundaries in the amendment - lines are the existing boundaries).

Sidenote: one theory about TMF's earlier line of questioning was that he may have had a full floor substitute to offer, but couldn't get it in on time. A bit hard to believe. Somehow, I think there's a few dozen different plans stored in TMF's RedAppl account that are ready to go at the drop of a hat.

There's an inordinate amount of chattering going on up at the dais before the Anchia amendment gets a vote. No clue what that's about, but I'm all sorts of eager to see how this amendment plays out. The Wu/Vo/Murphy tradeoff amendment is another bipartisan one that I'm told is agreeable to Darby. So this upcoming vote is a barometer at least to me on the odds for the later one.

Darby comes up to give his take. He says it meets his criteria for accepting, and it's agreed to by acclimation.

Amendment #3: Wu. Hey, that's us. Murphy is standing right behind Gene. It's quickly adopted. Nice. Here's what the trade-offs look like:

Time-out: I'm trying to do some actual work in the midst of all this. Apologies for the drop-off in detail.

So far, I've missed out on a few things I know of:

- Raymond got his amendment (#4) passed that involved a little cleanup in Laredo.

- Keffer started some back-mic exchange that (as I'm told) deal with whether or not there are any issues with doing something that might be counter to the call made by the Governor. This is what Keffer started to broach when he was asking Hubert Vo about his amendment in committee. It's also a point that I'm sure TMF would love to point out the constitutional issues with.

- I totally missed Giddings, but here's Michael Li:

- I'm back in the middle of TMF's exchange on procedural matters. There are some rehashing of a number of issues: legal counsel, timeliness for getting amendments filed, why there was no floor rule proposed, etc. There's an Amd. #5 by TMF that is postponed in order for Darby to review.

Amendment #6: TMF. This gets interrupted by a good deal of interruption by GOP folks on procedural matters. Wish I had detail, but I've got my hands full trying to get one more amendment into the mix. I'm back in front of the Kindle as TMF lays out Amendment #6. This isn't a plan, it's on redistricting criteria and findings. Here's the PDF of it.

Craddick is up asking about the County Line rule. This is a big issue in his back yard since it runs into Sec. 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Craddick will win this on the floor, but it could get hairier if TMF wants to push it in court. Alonzo now at the back mic with a friendlier line of questioning. Larry Phillips follows Alonzo ... this will be less friendly. Recall that it was Phillips who grilled Luis Figueroa of MALDEF for three hours over what they wanted to do in West Texas. Darby cuts off the discussion at the end of TMF's 10 minutes. He's moving to table. TMF makes a fairly solid case for how the issues he's raising will come up in court. He's basically pointing out that proving that Sec. 2 issues cannot be accomplished legislatively, that it helps the court case. There's a decent line at the back mic for closing discussion. Time runs out pretty quickly, though. Phillips gets an extension of time to get in his questions from earlier. He asks TMF if he has case law to support the redistricting principles in his amendment and why that wasn't spelled out in the amendment. This is some good country-lawyering on Phillips' part - if the devil is in the detail and you can't find it, then go with the mere suggestion that the devil was intentionally left out. Worth pointing out that Phillips has his law degree from UH.

We get to a motion to table from Darby. Record vote and TMF's amendment goes down 48-93. We'll revisit all of this in court.

Amendment #7: Giddings - This is a minor tweak between HD109, 111, 112. Agreed to by everyone. Adopted. But not until Mrs. T lays down the law about the Attorney General for court proceedings.

Amendment #8: Burnam - I totally missed this due to a phone call. But it gets adopted.

Amendment #9: Miles - This is the Meyerland swap for Borris. I'll be happy to see this one go through, but there's some apparently heated exchanges between Borris & Darby going on in the background as the House catches up on announcements. Here's the idea of this one:

On the surface, this may get some pushback on retrogression. But it really doesn't impact the Afr-Am numbers in the district much. What it does accomplish is giving Borris back some turf that he represented in the previous map. I don't necessarily see a huge problem in the boxes that Davis would gain. Not sure how they performed in the 2012 State Rep contest, but the Meyerland boxes are pretty close to 50-50 or marginally GOP in their General Election behavior.

There's going to be a short recess ("about a minute") while an amendment gets finished being drafted. This turns into 15 minutes. Davis revisits her call for a lengthier break in order for members to do more amendments (denied). Mrs. T inquires about a lunch break (to which Ritter is not advised). Creighton announces a Republican caucus meeting during the recess. Borris and Davis are pointing and talking about something. Never a dull moment. We come back at 1:25pm.

By my clock (and slightly delayed video feed), it's 1:48pm when the House reconvenes. So we're slowly getting around to more amendment fun. The Borris & Sarah show awaits us. Borris lays out his case. Darby moves to table it. Darby says that it doesn't have agreement from Davis. Sounds like a weird turn of events. The amendment goes down 46-93.

Amendment #10: TMF - This is a re-introduction of Amd. #5 that was postponed earlier. This is purely a textual amendment that includes some findings of fact from the DC Court into the bill. Darby isn't going to take it, so the ensuing debate between the two is strictly aimed for the judges.

Darby is essentially saying that he doesn't know what it clearly knowable by anyone involved in redistricting. As the Lone Star Project points out:

Davis is now having a back mic exchange involving this:

And Michael Li captures my sentiments:

After much discussion and legal cases made against Greg Abbott, TMF's amendment goes down 49-93.

Amendment #11: Menendez - Menendez is doing his best to try and bolster Hispanic population in HD117, but this would go down on party lines and Menendez withdraws it.

Amendment #12: Y. Davis - This is her "swing for the fences" statewide plan. There are some Dallas fixes, HD54 sends Jimmie Don Aycock homein Presidential years, and Fort Bend gets a more Asian district. Oddly, it also includes Borris Miles' Meyerland swap that was voted down earlier. The discussion is going to be more important than the fact that this amd will get voted down. Davis closes. Darby motions to table. The amendment goes down on a 46-94 vote.

Amendment #13: Moody - this sounds like a minor tweak between Moody's and Marquez's districts. The PlanH346 isn't online yet, but Moody is basically describing some neighborhood fixes similar to what was described in the Anchia, Wu, and Miles amendments. This one has agreement between affected members. Nevertheless, Darby motions to table it. Suddenly, member-to-member swaps are bad?

The map is now online, so here's the trade-off:

That's a bit more than just a small neighborhood swap. Moody and Marquez are now fleshing this out on the two mics. Moody getting into the legal issues that were brought up in the court case. Moody's district has generally been a point due to it having more Anglo population. Flip side of that is that it is a more swing district than others in the area. So it could be argued that GOP leadership doesn't want to see it firmed up on Dem voting strength. The amendment goes down 49-89.

Amendment #14: TMF - This is a statewide plan, another swing-for-the-fences case. Love the fact that he highlights "an Asian-opportunity district" in Fort Bend.

Of some interest here is that Jimmie Don Aycock is making his voice heard in defending HD54 as it stands now. He's objecting to the fact that no single minority group comprises 50% of the population, but tries to extend that to "any two" ... a point where he loses on the facts, as TMF's district is 50%+ at the B+H level. Aycock is defending the current HD54 on the basis that you can't drive from one end of TMF's HD54 to the other. It's a curious defense. I might have to borrow it when it's convenient for me to do so. Darby concludes by hanging his hat on coalition districts not being defended by Sec. 2.

TMF rebuts saying that while coalition districts aren't compelled by Sec. 2, intentional fracturing is an act that leads to them being established. That's kinda what HD149 exists today. It goes down, 45-95.

That concludes the amendments on SB3. By a vote of 92-47, SB3 passes to third reading.

The Statesman notes one possible reason for the changes made in the Ratliff/Anchia map. For some reason, my boss comes up in it. And for the record, if Bennett Ratliff wanted to switch parties, I'd happily welcome him into the fold.

SB4 - the Congressional map is now up. I'm missing a bit of the early debate due to some cleanup work on what remains of SB3. Needless to say, Travis County is a bit of an issue. I feel for 'em, but I'm not as inclined to rehash a lot of the debate points that are pretty well known by now.

Speaking of work ...

For now, whether the amendments hold up after everything goes to conference depends on your level of partisan cynicism. Or realism. One of those two.

Stuff I've missed:

- SB4 passed 93-48
- SB2 passed 117-22

Worth noting that Senfronia was having nothing to do with the Senate map. There was some back & forth on the possibility of another coalition district, but no specific proposal. Historically, this could prove prophetic since Whitmire's SD15 exists only as a favor to him. It is entirely possible to create a true Afr-Am opportunity district by connecting Fifth Ward to Beamont (and maybe shifting SD13 to pick up Acres Homes). We'll have to wait until the first redistricting after Whitmire for that, however.

The House looks like they're done, save for some reading and referral of resolutions. Apparently, there are still a lot of precinct chairs in the world who have not had their ego stoked.

Peace out ...

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