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12Jun/139

The House Does Houston

OK, I'm about an hour late for the hearing today. Long story. So pardon me while I catch up on what I missed vs what's going on now ...

3:10 pm ... I arrive at the time that Rep. Garnet Coleman is laying out his amendment, which is a re-introduction of Plan H302. This was the original San Antonio district map that the Supreme Court vacated, telling them that they went too far to correct for issues that weren't ones they should have fixed. Coleman's case is that the legislature is the place to go to in order to make those fixes, since they were still needed and address many of the issues with retrogression in the plan passed by the Lege two years ago. The election math for H302 is all over the district pages at TXPoliticalAlmanac.com. It doesn't look like I missed much in the way of testimony since there's this timestamp available on twitter ...

I'm assuming there is some back & forth from the committee folk that I need to get some info on. In the meantime, I'll simply note that there are some good things and some not-so-great things about it. One terrific thing is what it does for HD26 and HD54. Not so good ... what it does for HD137.

Rep. Dan Huberty has some questions for Coleman. Unfortunately, he opens by suggesting that the Harris County delegation worked together with Rep. Wayne Smith. There's much more to it, though. There was a map that was agreed upon (w/ 25 districts) and then there was a surprise map (w/ 24 districts) that Smith offered afterward. The nature of the districts were obviously a shock considering that it paired Hochberg & Vo. Coleman does a pretty good job of owning the moment (and that's with no offense to Huberty). The H302 map does split up Humble, putting the majority of it into Senfronia Thompson's HD141. Valid concern. Coleman has a bit of luxury here. This isn't "his map" ... it's the court's original map. So he's not defending every aspect of the map, saying that there's definitely room for amendments to address those issues.

Sidenote: the partisan split for "howdy's" I've received thus far is even: 2 GOP and 2 Dem. Doesn't hurt that I'm on the back row with Harris County Tax Assessor Mike Sullivan.

We're off to public testimony now ...

- Andrew Patterson - against HB1. Wants more minority opportunity districts and has issues with procedures than anything else.

- Reece Blayer(?) - against HB1, 2, 3, 4. Prefers an independent commission. Says he ran for State Rep in 2010 or 2012 in Montgomery County, but I'm not finding him yet.

- Albert Cheng - for HB1. See Saturday's note. This is a repeat. He still doesn't get the concept of "candidate of choice."

- Shirley Isbell - Against HB13 and HB14. These are Yvonne Davis' bills for Congress and the House. She doesn't like her current representation, lives in Meadow's Place which is a small town in Fort Bend on the way to Sugar Land. She calls it "Mayberry." I've been there. Let's just say this is an exaggeration. She's represented by Reynolds in the House. She'd prefer to be represented by Rick Miller. Yvonne's bills keeps her in the same district. I'm a little lost on the logic.

- Kyle Longhoffer - Against HB1, 2, 3, 4. This is a repeat of Saturday.

- Yvonne Larsen - My good redistricting friend makes a cameo. She's against HB1. She raises the point of A.J. Pate's fair redistricting guidelines offered last time around. I ran into A.J. before the Senate hearing and wish he'd testified to some of the maps he drew up back then. Nobody may have love them because they weren't drawn for either "team" ... but he had some good points in his maps that were good for conversation. Apparently, Yvonne moved out of Houston since she's now testifying about how Stafford is divided into different House districts (among other towns in the suburban Houston area).

- Noah Horowitz - repeat of Saturday, except that I apparently heard his name as "Norman" then. Says that he wants Austin and Corpus Christi to have their own district anchored within their counties.

- Fred Lewis - against HB1. It's not the same Fred Lewis that runs Texans Together. This guy is against any conversation of race. Our spirit is the same color. Entertaining stuff. Says he learned about diversity from his dealings at the Republican State Convention. Write your own jokes. Senfronia Thompson addresses him in more of a stateswomanlike manner than he probably deserves. But that's why she's Senfronia.

Darby notes that the House system does not have a process for accepting written testimony. There is a means of storing data for litigants, but not as part of the committee documents. A) this is messed up. B) Have fun with the points of order on all of Darby's conflicting statements while chairing this committee. There's ample back & forth over this mini-bombshell. TMF is setting up an argument that will definitely land in front of the courts about the process, asking for Darby to invite the Attorney General to testify. TMF points out that the committee can vote to compel that testimony. Again, points that are going to go to court as evidence that the committee did the least they could possibly do to get maps finalized.

Holy crap, TMF just made a mutiny move. He wanted to make a motion for the vote to get the AOG to testify. Darby said that he would not recognize him to make that motion. TMF then appealed the move, which made Darby no longer the chair. That new chair would be Yvonne Davis. We're going to stand at ease for 5 minutes. Oughtta be fun. Congrats to Chairwoman Davis in the meantime.

This is taking a bit more than 5 minutes.

Five minute break looking more like a lunch hour. We're back in action at 5:04pm. Darby is saying that the committee will get all of the transcripts in the same format as the AG gets it. This staves off TMF's mutiny. Todd Hunter is now asking whether anyone doing video recording needs to disclose whether they are involved with any litigant. Texas Organizing Project is among the ones doing the video taping. Hunter then turns his inquisition to the guy recording for the House.

- Rogene Gee Calvert - against HB1, HB3. Repeat of Saturday. Restates the case for putting Pct. 311 (Sharpstown) into HD137.

Darby notes that House committees do not allow filming, and asks those doing any filming to cease. He says there will be an official record available. Funny thing is, I've seen news cameras film in committees. Senfronia once more proves why she's Senfronia by diplomatically stating the consistency of the rules. This is really addressed at TOP, so she could have just left Darby out to look like a hard#$$, but she didn't.

- Carl Vinson - Resident of Pct. 281. Doesn't want his Pct. in HD134. The precinct used to be in HD146. It's an Anglo Jewish precinct - oddly, marginally GOP-friendly.

- Larry Boals(?) - For HB1.

- Marvin Rich - Another Meyerland representation, but unfortunately, a no-show.

- Tiffany O? - with the Texas Organizaing Project. Says this should have taken place during a Regular session, that the process is rushed in a Special Session.

- James Caldwell - Another TOP representative, against HB1.

Sidenote: I know that Rogene got her witness card submitted after I arrived, which was pretty dang late. So I can't imagine that there's much more testimony to go.

- Michael Dixon - For HB1. Dixon is the Fort Bend County GOP Chairman. He's a bit of an antidote to witnesses who know what HD26 can be vs what it is. Rep. Rick Miller is probably feeling a little better now. Oddly enough, he's making a solid argument for community of interest districts. But he goes on to say that HD26 is presently a minority opportunity district - neglects that an old white guy beat out the Carribbean and Indian candidates in the GOP Primary, which was designed to win that seat. The reason: GOP primaries there are still controlled by white voters. It wasn't by accident that I had consulted statewide organizations before the primary that Rick Miller would be the eventual nominee.

- Maria Gonzalez - English teacher at UH. Wants a complete statewide redraw, saying that the current one doesn't reflect Texas' diverse demographics.

- Pastor Willie Davis - MacGregor Park Baptist Church. For HB4. Also offers a statement on behalf of SJL that "we should leave things as they are." This pretty much puts the stake in any hope of the Jacinto City fix and also any remaining hope for a second Hispanic Congressional district. Undaunted, he then goes on to say he supports an additional second Hispanic seat. This is a complete dumb#$$ery. I just don't have a better term for it than that. So far, we have this testimony and unofficial (aka: non-SJL-authorized) testimony that in order to not retrogress CD18 would involve putting in more of Montrose ... which would retrogress the Afr-Am population of the district. It's been a remarkable couple of days. Darby ends by asking for clarification that he is "for" HB4 ... Davis says "no" ... so Davis' position gets changed ... which means that the official position of SJL is NOT what this guy just testified to (ie - "leave things as they are"). I'm stunned.

- Joseph Lockett - Against HB1-4, 11, 13, 14, 17, 26. I already kinda like this guy. He follows that with a stemwinder about independent redistricting commissions, immediate runoff voting, and a few other tangents.

- Lenora Sorola-Pohlman - Local Dem activist. Wants back in CD18 after being put in CD2.

- Jill Moffitt - Another local Dem activist and HD146 voter, at that.

- Stephen Honore(?) - Against HB2, 17. Honore is a local retired muni judge from SW Houston (I want to say Westbury, but I could be wrong). Complaint is that several party leadership types had been redistricted into new Senate districts. I actually know a few folks who ended up in this situation. It's a bit of a sore point, but I'm not sure if it's persuasive.

- Bruce Bond(?) - for HB1. Lives in HD26, SD17, CD22. Here to defend HD26 in particular. Rep. Rick Miller is near the front row ... he's gotta be happy to have friends here. This guy admits that the district currently does look "a little funny" but because of a lot of the industrial area that's included. At the same time, the guy also wants to see Sugar Land more consolidated. Odd because it was Charlie Howard himself that cut out the biggest chunk of Sugar Land.

- Billie Kennedy - Against HB1. Says there's still racism in Texas.

- Ashaunta Richards - For HB17. Says that UH is not a place for public hearings, that people have to pay for parking, and that the new Cemo Hall is not on the map. Parking is free and I see it on Google Maps. Wants a hearing in Third Ward. Also against dividing large minority districts, says there isn't economic diversity in Sugar Land, and supports plan H302 put forth by Garnet Coleman. Guess she hasn't talked to Borris Miles about him taking on Gulfton. Darby clarifies with a request for the organizations she claims to represent.

- Jay Hamburger - Representing the Old Sixth Ward Civic Association. For HB4. We start off with some clarification over what it means to be "for" HB4.

- James Vogas - Galveston testimony back from Saturday. Since I'm sitting next to this guy's son, I'm obliged to say only nice things about Mr. Vogas. He rocks! There.

- Carol Wright - For HB17. Another local Dem activist.

Debra Kerner - Trustee with the Harris County Board of Education. Against HB1. Also another Greater Meyerland representative and Borris Miles constituent. Some nice turnout from SW Houston at these hearings. Moreso when you factor in Fort Bend turnout. Still, this is a pretty stock argument for the need of more minority opportunity districts. Kerner was also districted from SD13 to SD17 and would like to see that reversed. Also mentions the Meyerland boxes that were sent from HD146 to HD134. Precincts 14, 281, 315, 403 are now in HD134, would like them back in HD146. I walked almost all of those. Great boxes.

That's it for public testimony. HB1-4 are left pending. I would expect the 17th to be very busy in committee and on the floor.

Jeff Archer is called back as a resource witness. PDiddie catches us up on what I missed for the first hour. Archer is the state's legal advisor on the court case. TMF has questions about the findings of the DC Court. This is important since the DC court has expressed problems with the legislatively drawn map that the San Antonio court was not allowed to address by the Supreme Court. Remaining issues would mean some repair work is needed in the current plan that I would now have to say looks likely to pass unamended - just as the Senate passed their map. I hope I'm wrong about that, obviously.

TMF's questioning takes him to address issues with HD117. That's a district that very easily looks like it could swing back & forth between Presidential and non-Presidential years. And TMF raises a point that's similar to the issues faced in the old CD23 before the 2006 ruling that found areas where Hispanic populations were traded out between high-turnout areas and low-turnout areas to make the district nominally Hispanic-opportunity, but functionally not. TMF is clearly looking to get some not-so-hypothetical scenarios that would generally be part of a confidential conversation played out in public, asking how something like this would get fixed if one wanted to do so. Two ways to look at this: either it's a good head fake to get HD117 strengthened as a functional Hispanic opportinuty district in the current legislative process ... or it's aimed at getting some info on the process (or the time constraints that remain) sent to the Court.

I'm down to about half an hour of juice in the laptop, so I'm wrapping up for now. Will crack the box open again if TMF makes another mutiny-type move.

   

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