Greg's Opinion Greg's big blog of whatnot


Strike One for SB5

So, something happened last night ...

» Chron: Abortion bill dies after late-night chaos, confusion
» Statesman: Dewhurst declares abortion bill dead, blames 'unruly mob'
» Quorum Report: Senate Tonight Was Craddick Redux From 2007

I'd intended to have the final 4 hours or so running as background noise. Everyone knew that the GOP Senators would try to snag Wendy Davis up on points of order, so the only parts really worth watching were when the filibuster was being broken up. By 10pm, though, things were a little more real.

It was then that Sen. Donna Campbell called the third point of order on Sen. Davis. For some strange reason, all hell broke loose after that. The Senate rule that became operative here was as follows:

The point of order having been raised for the third time that a Senator who had the floor was filibustering and not confining his remarks to the bill before the Senate, the chair requested the Senate to vote on the point of order. It was sustained and the Senator speaking yielded the floor (44 S.J. Reg. 1780 (1935)).

The issue, of course, was that Sen. Davis had only had two points of order raised against her due to germaneness - the final one being that sonograms had nothing to do with abortion. The rules were completely ignored. That's a sign of desperation, not that you're in control of things. If the new normal for the GOP Senate is going to be that the rules are whatever the chair says the rules are, then just remember: tables turn and memories last.

I'm more enamored with the process that unfolded than I am with the issue itself. I'm pro-life and I think it's perfectly fair for the state to regulate medical facilities (I believe it was Sen. Deuell who pointed out that this was something the state already does quite extensively). But when you deal with any issue that affects people the way this issue does, it's also a fair question on the motives and methods by which you want to win ... if not what really constitutes a "win" in the first place. However anyone defines that win, I'd rather see it accomplished with a great deal more compassion than has ever been exhibited by the Texas GOP on the issue.

Politically, I think Kuff nails this on the head here.

I really have to wonder what Dewhurst et al were thinking. Everyone knew they were ultimately going to win – it was just a matter of how long it took and how they got there. Imagine if at 6 PM or so, after Davis had been talking for seven hours, instead of trying to stop her via ridiculous points of order, they simply announced that SB5 had been withdrawn, brought the other measures to a vote, and adjourned. Then, while everyone who had been Standing With Wendy began to celebrate, Rick Perry announced that Special Session #2 would begin tomorrow, and abortion restrictions would be the only agenda item. Sure, that would take another week or so to get done, but it would have avoided last night’s clusterfsck, kept Davis from becoming a national icon (while also preventing Sen.s Watson and Van de Putte from raising their profiles as well), and completely crushed the energy and spirit of Davis’ supporters. Now they have to have a second session anyway, and the Republican leadership looks like a Keystone Kops tribute band. Tell me that wouldn’t have been a vastly better outcome for them.

Dewhurst just made Wendy Davis the biggest thing in Texas. Her upcoming campaign finance just might be worth watching on July 15th. Even if SB5 had succeeded last night, that was accomplished well in advance of 10pm. I'd have to think that Wendy is going to have to put some serious thought into running for Governor in 2014 rather than for re-election to her Senate seat. Nothing changes in this state during this decade until the Governor's office changes. If SB5 was a battle worth waging even if it was a lost cause, then I'd have to think that the Governor's mansion ranks one notch higher. Otherwise, you have this process repeating every two years. Or, as another possible contender for the office states:

ADD-ON: Somewhere down the list of folks getting some appreciation over their actions on this fight is this:

As many primaries often can get with so many people running and a need to distinguish an individual candidate from their opponent, the campaign got heated. Of the most lingering attacks made, Gene Wu’s opponent stated that Gene Wu was not a Democrat. It was a question that would plague his campaign until the election concluded: “As a former prosecuting Attorney, how could he logically be a Democrat?”

Gene Wu was relatively new to the scene in Houston politics and it was easy for many to believe his opponent’s opinion. His opponent had a deep connection to many organizations and easily secured many endorsements, while furthering the belief that Gene Wu was just not a Democrat and if he was, he wasn’t Democratic enough.


I think we all know after Sunday night that any question of Gene’s Democratic credentials is hogwash. I am so thrilled that my gut instinct about him was correct, so grateful that he would fight tirelessly in the face of certain defeat, that he would fight, even if it was fruitless against such a destructive bill as Senate Bill 5.

Next time, perhaps we can help him not fight as hard to prove that he’s worth our support. He’s definitely earned it after Sunday night, and I thank him for standing up for Texas women.

And I will have those walk-lists ready in 3 ... 2 ... 1 .... Seriously, though, my thanks to Bethany for the recognition of Gene's efforts and work.


A Quick Look at SB5 Voting

While the rest of Texas spins and burns over the implications of the just-passed SB5, I'm sticking with a more quantitative view of things. There were 16 votes cast for both second and third reading. And while there were only a small number of breakaway votes, I think the end result shows a few items of interest. Spreadsheet is here. Feel free to identify any peculiar voting patterns that I may have missed.

- A fair amount of attention is paid to the Dems who voted for the bill on either second or third reading: Pickett, Guillen, Herrero, Munoz, Martinez (Martinez absent on third reading). But Sarah Davis was a consistent 16-0 in voting with the Democratic majority and J.D. Sheffield batted 7-9 on all votes, with his 7 Dem-majority votes being for amendments only. John Davis and Tom Kleinschmidt cast one vote each with the Dem majority - that being Senfronia Thompson's amendment to except rape and incest.

What's interesting out of this is that Herrero is one of the Dem's best and brightest floor generals and committee wonks. He's one of the few that successfully navigate being a committee chair under Straus while also being an effective, if low-key, opposition leader on a number of issues. His name was up for Dem caucus chair at the beginning of this session. And while I'm not sure what led to him losing out in the voting process, it should prove interesting to see how much of a role his votes on this bill come into play the next time he aims for caucus chair. In Sarah's case, I can't help but think that her votes here solidify her standing back home. There may certainly be some upset constituents in her own wing of the party. For November voters, however, it helps her make the case that she's got at least a little bit of an independent streak.

Sheffield's votes are interesting in this regard: he's cast a fair number of votes against his party's majority this session. There are rumors that being a State Rep isn't all it's cracked up to be for the good Doctor after making a run against incumbent Sid Miller for two cycles and that maybe he's not running for re-election. That doesn't necessarily square with his GOP-majority vote on final passage, however. Maybe what you see is what you get. We'll see soon enough. But Dr. Sheffield's votes have been among the most interesting during both the Regular Session as well as this Special Session.

- Twenty-four Dems cast a perfect 16 votes with their party's majority. Eighty-two Republicans cast a perfect 16 votes with their party's majority. Seven members were absent for every vote (counting Speaker Straus, who traditionally does not cast votes, and Linda Harper-Brown, who presided for much of the voting during the first half of debate). Of the remaining thirty-seven members, seven split their votes somewhere along the way, while the other thirty were split between voting and absences.

- I'd also like to point out the fallacy of using Poole-style vote analysis to determine liberal-ness or conservative-ness of individual members. There may certainly be some obvious coincidental voting patterns that can called whatever anyone wants to call them. But the methodology only identifies cohesiveness, nothing else. In the version that Mark Jones did for the Texas Tribune, for instance, the analysis showed that Beaumont's Joe Deshotel was the most "conservative" House member. Yet in the instance of voting on SB5, Deshotel was a perfect 16-0 in voting with the Democratic majority. Likewise with Senfronia Thompson (rated as 5th most conservative Dem). Again, there are definitely some coincidental features that can be interpreted as suggesting liberalness or conservative-ness. Sarah David certainly ranked "among" the more independent Republicans and the pro-life Dems ranked "among" the more independent Dems. But I think that it's more instructive to read the results for what the measurement is designed to tell you rather than just blindly assume that there exists a highly-interpretative philosophy behind the metric.


Sunday Special Session-ing

If it's Sunday, we must still be doing some redistricting. On today's agenda is that the Senate may or may not consider the House-passed SB3 for the State House maps. Of course, there's also a boatload of abortion activity that both chambers will look at today and somewhere in the world, Jonathan Stickland is already thinking he'll have to shoot a few of the pro-choicers expressing their displeasure in the hallways. It really makes you wonder what one has to do to make the "10 Worst" list by Texas Monthly.

I'll be updating if it looks like the Senate takes up SB3 ... or if Sticky goes all Dirty Harry on everyone. Otherwise, it'll turn into a nice day for catching up on some reading. As things stand, the Senate was supposed to gavel in at 1pm. Which means that at 1:20, there's still an empty house in the upper chamber.

1:26pm ... Dewhurst, freshly tanned from his French vacation, gavels the Senate in. Worth noting that SB3 isn't on today's "Regular Order of Business". Not that the Senate has any hard & fast rules that they follow. Still, they matriculate out of Special Session on Tuesday, so there's only so much time to move stuff along to the Governor's desk.

Early word is that SB3 will indeed come up ...

1:47pm ... We're back up. Seliger is recognized for a motion to concur with SB3 as amended. He's outlining the 5 amendments, one of which is the Vo, Wu, and Murphy swaps. The Ratliff/Anchia change is also mentioned. Waiting to see if that brings up any discussion. Sen. Rodriguez rises first with some questioning. He leads off with the lack of Hispanic opportunity districts given the population growth over the previous decade. He touches on the HD117 issues and the loss of a district in Nueces County. He concludes that with some objections to the inability to get approval of the Moody/Marquez swap in El Paso County.

Seliger's point is that the issue in front of them is "the House's business." Had that amendment been approved, he would similarly be proposing that the Senate concur. That's pretty much where things will end, but Rodriguez states his intention to not support the bill due to the El Paso issue.

Roll is called at 1:56pm. SB3 passes 18-11 and it heads to the Governor's desk. That'll be another important step to see whether Perry signs off or leaves the House map as-is until the court decides it. I'd have to think that he'll sign it, though. It's probably the last best map that the Texas GOP sees in a long, long time. Better for them to try and say "there, we did it right" and hope that it stands up in court rather than leave it for the courts to draw something that's less favorable for the GOP going into 2014.

The Senate stands in recess until 7pm. He's not promising that there will be any activity, but it's a "just in case" if there are any matters that come over from the House later today. Expect the House to be blowing up with abortion bills at any moment.

NON-REDISTRICTING UPDATE: A moment of sanity from a 2008 NYT Mag article on fetal pain.

UPDATE 2.0: After what seems to have been the lengthiest point of order in the House, we get this ...

Everyone's back to their battle-stations at 6:30pm tonight to discuss how to lethally inject 17 year olds, how to pave over more of Texas with roads, and some trifling bill involving uteruses and whatnot. Not sure if there are many people that care about the latter. </sarcasm>


Third Reading for House Redistricting

The House is looking to pass the Redistricting maps on third reading today. There are reports that there may be further amendments for the House map. It seems as if not everybody had consistent information on whether amendments were allowable, preferred, desired, or what have you. There were also reports from yesterday that the Attorney General's office instructed the House to stop passing amendments after a caucus meeting. This came after a few different amendments had already passed and other members seemed to be caught by surprise that they were acceptable to the author.

For whatever it's worth, here's what HD137 looks like as of today (unofficially, that is). The shaded is the "new" map in process, and the outline is the version that was used in the 2012 election. There is one more change that we're seeking to make on third reading and it probably remains to be seen how that process will go today. And, of course, there's some cynicism warranted that these changes will make it out of conference as the House and Senate have to agree on a final product. For what little it's worth, Sen. Seliger did mention early in the process that the Senate would continue it's practice of accepting House amendments to the House map, just as they might expect the House to agree to Senate amendments to the Senate map.

View HD137 - Plan H350 in a larger map

I'll add any updates that are warranted or liveblog the debate if the going gets good. Michael Li has a good overview on the debate as a whole.

I just got back in front of my Kindle at about 1pm as Gene was laying out an amendment to put Pct 311 back into HD137. Unfortunately, the other affected member isn't agreeing to it and I think Darby is trying to stave off further amendments. So it gets withdrawn, but not until Gene works in some of the testimony that Scott Hochberg had introduced to the 2011 Redistricting Committee and San Antonio court.

Rep. Stickland is up afterward, trying to help Matt Rinaldi beat Bennett Ratliff. Curious to see if the Anchia/Ratliff tradeoff survives this process. After some general overall testiness, SB3 passes 93-46. House goes into recess for an hour (or so).

Post-Lunch Update: After the lunch break, the remaining business is much cleaner ..

SB4: No extra discussion. It passes 93-47
SB2: No extra discussion. It passes 109-30

We're adjourned until Sunday at 2pm. Look for some debates on transportation and lady parts. Maybe some mention of conferees to sort out the House map (SB3).


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 ...


A Very Formal House Redistricting Liveblog

The House committee members are getting to their seats as I type. I expect the level of official action to be lower than those actions that might shed some light on either the floor fight or court case for redistricting today. We'll see when we see ...

9:10 am ... roll call. Darby begins with the three bills that the Senate passed previously. He also gets around to explaining the 9 votes for the House plan. Darby is saying that it neither passed nor failed. But he makes a motion to reconsider it, nonetheless. Senfronia objects with a point of order. Darby then moves on to SB3, which is the Senate bill of the House plan. There's a roll call, members are voting. Darby catches that he needed to rule on the point of order (which he over-rules). The bill finally passes 11-5.

SB4 (Congressional plan) is up after that. It passes on the same 11-5 margin.

SB2 (Senate plan) comes up after that. This one passes 15-1.

Not much in the way of extracurricular activity today. From what I could make out of the House's lackluster RealPlayer video and some semi-attentiveness to the roll calls, it didn't look like Trey Martinez Fischer was in attendance today.

Committee is adjourned. Expect the votes to happen on the floor this Thursday.


House Redistricting Hearing: The Final Liveblog? (of 2013)

What I believe will be the final committee hearing in the House on redistricting is about to begin. So be forewarned that there will be live-blogging ....

There is literally not a whole lot of anything going on yet in the committee room (at least via the live video feed). So I'll take the time to point out one of the amendments I'm watching with keen interest: Plan H318 by Vo. There are some tradeoffs between Gene Wu's HD137, Hubert's HD149, and Jim Murphy's HD133 ... all agreed to by the respective members. Like the rest of the amendments, I'm not expecting this to get approved since the bar for GOP approval is set at an impossible level. A lot of this has to do with cleaning up boundaries so that they align more closely with specific neighborhoods. Along those lines, we looked at working in our own Pct 311 fix as an amendment to this amendment (so to speak), but the Hispanic numbers would end up below a majority, meaning that it would just get shot down courtesy of GOP votes and leadership that doesn't understand that VAP numbers really mean a lot less than they think it does. Particularly in SW Houston.

Committee members are discovering their seats and roll is being called as I type. So this kangaroo court is moving into second gear.

1:12pm ... Darby leads off with some legal cleanup, getting the transcripts added to the minutes of the field hearing. Done ... on to pending business.

HB2 laid out first - no amendments to the Senate map. Motion to pass. 17-0 in favor. On to the floor.

HB3 - the House map. Bring on the amendments: (remember, DistrictViewer is your friend for this)

Amend. 1 (Yvonne Davis) - Plan H312, changes to Bell and Dallas counties. This is, I believe what Yvonne Davis filed in the Regular Session. I forget what changes there were to Dallas, but the Bell county change to Jimmie Don's district probably makes this one a non-starter. It's a decent legal argument-starter, though. According to Davis, Dallas' HD101 was more compact in previous iterations. Court made it look funny, splitting the town of Mesquite into four districts. Balch Springs is also repaired. Darby notes that it pairs HD107/HD108, creating a new HD107 and asks whether it addresses deviations, saying that the court notes overpopulation in GOP districts, underpopulation in Dem districts. Davis says her plan doesn't do that, saying that "it doesn't have a deviation different from anyone else's." Darby turns to asking wither the coalition HD107 is required under Sec. 2.

Senfronia Thompson up with some friendly questioning, clarifying deviation issue - that it is within legal compliance. Davis notes that the plan is within +/-4. Not sure if that's just Dallas Co. or overall.

Jim Keffer asks about HD54, wants to know about the impact to neighboring districts.

TMF asks for a resource witness from the AG's office to discuss this map. Here we go again! There's nobody from the AG's office there and Darby doesn't intend to call anyone. TMF asks how it is that the committee can get legal advice, to which Darby says that the Lege Council has legal counsel. This brings up David Hanna. Hanna mentions that he has not looked at this plan, to which TMF asks for another resource witness. That was one quick minute for David Hanna. TMF is obviously setting up some points of order for the floor fight. Given the way the committee has tried to argue that changes that are "legally required" are the only ones they will be open to, this sort of approach by TMF looks to be aimed at the courts, also. Bottom line: "legally required" is purely the discretion of whoever wants to take a stab at defining it on the committee. While Darby goes fishing for someone else to offer legal advice, TMF essentially holds the floor by asking a question of Davis. (Jeff Archer of the Lege Council shows up as this is going on)

Senfronia follows up with Davis, asking about communities of interests in Davis' plan, beefing up the Sec. 2 argument for her plan. Raymond also follows up with Davis, asking about further amendments, such as Vo's. This is to confirm that they do not conflict with anything she proposes.

TMF turns his attention to Archer, asking if there are legal issues seen in Davis' map. Archer notes that the plan is within the committee's "discretion." This is pretty much what TMF wants to hear. Senfronia has some questions for Archer, affirming his redistricting bona fides, which leads TMF to follow up with questions to affirm his legal bona fides re: redistricting. He then turns his back & forth with a point that it is the Att. General that ultimately defines those legal points on behalf of the state. He's trying to back Archer up to a point where Archer can't offer the answer TMF is fishing for. Archer says he's "not trying to pass the buck ...", but he seems to realize the corner TMF is trying to paint him into. TMF notes that there is a limit to the advice that Lege Council can give, which builds from Archer's own statements. He's building the new court case for MALC pretty well. There are points in this line of questioning that are pure genius to observe. Archer is doing his best to just not break down and say: "Yeah, you need to talk to the Att. General's office about that."

TMF is done with Archer for now. Davis follows up by asking Archer about Sec. 2. This is going to be her strongest case for her plan being "legally required." Ultimately, that definition comes down to the mood of the chair, the barometric pressure, and a number of other issues having nothing to do with law. But it's a good marker for her to put down on this plan. Davis is exasperated with his analysis, saying he's not being helpful to the committee by not giving any solid yesses and nos. The nut of this is that Archer's position with the Lege Council isn't an advocacy position, it's a non-partisan role. With that, Davis picks up on TMF's bigger argument - that this isn't helping the committee determine what is legally required. It's coming across as picking on Archer a little (something that TMF avoids in his questioning). But this is aimed at the court, not Jeff Archer.

For the record, Davis' HD54 is identical to the San Antonio court's initial HD54, seen here with 2008 and 2010 election data. And on two unrelated sidenotes: the battery on my Kindle just gave out, so I'm switching my viewing to the laptop ... and I clearly made the wrong decision to wait until after the committee hearing to have lunch. TMF's inquisition almost makes up for the latter, however. (Followup: I have no clue why this is, but viewing RealPlayer video on my laptop is a million times worse than on my Kindle or my phone.)

Villalba takes a turn with Archer now, touching on some friendlier topics to the majority. He's putting his own marker down that the courts already looked at a lot of the information that Davis is looking to fix. Villalba also posits a weird bet - that the courts would have more issues with new fixes involving Sec. 2 in a House map. This is what separates Villalba from TMF ... the latter got Archer to say what TMF wanted him to say - Villalba just raises a polemic point and hopes that Archer will agree with it. Of course, Villalba's understanding of the legal decisions on the 2011 plan or redistricting law in general may not be helping. Fortunately for him, he's got more friends elected to the House than TMF. That's kinda where all this ends anyway. Also a point of difference between TMF and Villalba - Archer concludes by stating that Davis' plan highlights where some of the legal vulnerabilities of the existing map are. Not exactly ending on a high note.

Rep. Keffer tries to turn Villalba's trainwreck into something more positive. His point is that whatever passes the House is going to go through DOJ and the courts anyway. So there will be a more determinative answer to the question of whether any voted-on map is legal or not. It's a simpler point, but one that Darby wishes his folks came out with instead of Villalba's shot in the foot.

TMF picks up his opening from Villalba's questioning, asking again whether Archer is the best person to testify. Let me repeat: Villalba not only extracted testimony from Archer that wasn't helpful to his side, but he also allows TMF to work in a further point about the inadequacy of Lege Council to be the ones offering legal advice to the committee. He also asks whether Archer would advise that there should be more minority-opportunity districts. Archer begins by answering that he "sees opportunities" but concludes with a "no." TMF is also asking more questions that sidestep whether or not he thinks Lege Council is the appropriate resource for the committee. This is some more impressive TMF-ery. If the state wants to make the case that Lege Council is perfectly valid and fine, then expect comments like "sees opportunities" to come back around in the courts. This is the grand pitfall of the Lege Council not being in a position to advocate for anything - Archer is obviously trying to be neutral to all sides, but the flipside of that approach is that they aren't going to say that the interim map is a solid slam dunk that doesn't need tweaking. It gives TMF the ability to take Archer's comments to court and get some kind of win (major or minor) regardless of whether the Att. General's unwillingness to testify is ruled significant. Seriously, this is better than Perry Mason reruns. Along the same lines as above, TMF asks Archer to clarify his comment about "minimizing risk" and "insulation of risk" by taking more legislative action on the map. This won't be the last time we hear those terms.

Raymond follows that up with some clarity on whether a plan passed by the Lege would have to get preclearance from the DOJ (Yes, it will). Raymond then replays some history by noting that the AG's office took the preclearance route of the DC Circuit court rather than DOJ last time. Archer notes that the AG has the same discretion of where to take preclearance this time around. Bottom line: I think we can expect this to go back through the DC court.

Davis moves adoption of her amendment. Darby doesn't give any instruction, as Seliger had done, just let's the committee decide. The amendment goes down 6-11 on party lines. Davis asks Darby that if the amendments are just going to go along party lines and no serious effort to determine "legally required", then why waste everyone's time. Senfronia "answers" this by noting that "we're here because the Attorney General wants us to be here." Davis is basically piggy-backing on her own argument that the process is a sham.

On to Amd. 2 (Menendez). Menendez is a no-show, so this is shelved.

Amd. 3 (Vo) - Plan H318. This is the SW Houston repair. Vo is laying it out, thanking Jeff Archer for his help on the plan. This is pure neighborhood cleanup. We would lose two precincts from Alief (503, 508) that are more Vietnamese than they are Chinese. We would gain part of the monster Pct. 620 and all of Pct 727. That's a mix of electoral performance for us to take on, but there are parts of those pickups that I really like. Hubert would also give Pct. 711 to Murphy, which aligns more closely to ISD and Super Neighborhood lines. It's not the biggest deal in the world, but a good demonstration of how serious the committee will consider "community of interest" amendments that don't substantively change a district's performance or demographics. The changes are fully agreed to by all affected Representatives.

Rep. Clardy leads off by questioning Vo about the desire by neighborhoods affected to see these changes. Darby asks about the number of affected residents. Vo goes into the deviations, instead. My ballpark is that there maybe not much more than 10k people impacted by the change. The beauty of this amendment is its simplicity. If Darby doesn't want this, he's going to have to state a rationale this time. If he wants to see it pass, it may end up being a good datapoint for him to show that they did take some ideas seriously. We'll see soon enough how this unfolds. There are some questions by other GOP members, but they don't seem to have a legal hook to grab onto yet.

Senfronia notes that this is a "language" amendment, as it brings in some of the Vietnamese population fracturing (Pcts. 503, 507). She asks if those voters had been part of his district. They were not - they were previously in HD133 in the 2001-era maps.

Keffer gets into a negative rationale - that if we did this change, we would have to do it for more districts. He also says "we need to look at the call", stating that it goes against Perry's intent to come away with a predetermined map. This is similar to what took down Sen. Garcia's plan to swap four precincts to make Jacinto City whole in the Congressional map.

Thompson picks this up with Jeff Archer, stating that there are always a number of small pct. swaps to improve continuity. She says that this is not anything "out of the ordinary" in this amendment. She's laying down the legal marker on this. And quite well. Huberty chimes in to suggest that Murphy hasn't "completely" signed off on the change. Vo says that he had the conversation on the floor of the House with Murphy. This is basically the pushback. Vo withdraws the amendment, presumably to revisit the convo with Rep. Murphy. Wait and see if we see this again on the floor.

Senfronia does not know "what the hell the Governor/Att. Gen. was thinking, what the hell this call means ..." Keffer's comment is coming back around in record time.

Amd. 4 (Cortez) - Plan H320. This is aimed at adding Hispanics to HD117, which has been a swing district for at least since 2001. This is going to get some objection due to the number of districts impacted, albeit in a small way. And sure enough, Darby raises that point. There's also a question on agreement, to which Cortez notes that he distributed to the entire Bexar delegation and that it received no objection. Cortez is hanging his hat on the notion that interim maps aren't intended to be a permanent fix and that this is a fix to "help that along." Darby asks if he wants to bring the amendment down and get full consensus from the Bexar delegation. The amendment is withdrawn. I'll be a little shocked if it comes back on the floor, but HD117 is a big enough area that Dems would like to fix that maybe there will be something new to address it.

Darby is asked about amendments on the floor and Darby isn't shutting that option off. The initial question is over Yvonne Davis' amendment. TMF picks up on this to ask Darby to state his objection to the plan, which he spells out (namely: coalition districts). There's a motion to reconsider the amendment and Davis withdraws it in order to let it live for the floor fight.

Now we're getting to a big fight: TMF's Amd. 5 - Plan H321. The big changes I see on this one are Bell County, eastern Dallas County, Fort Bend's HD26, and some modifications to western Harris County (that looks to strengthen Hispanic population in HD132/HD135, a Coastal Bend tweak, as well as a West Texas district fix for Hispanic residents). TMF touches on his motif about getting good legal information by noting that the recent SCOTUS ruling on the National Voter Registration Act which lead to a 7-2 ruling that went against the opinion of the Att. General who had signed off on supporting Arizona's opinion that citizenship should be proven in order to register to vote.

TMF also takes aim at the objection over the scope of the call. He notes Jeff Archer's own words at the Houston hearing that the call does not limit the legislature (see how that's done!). He sets his marker on having a vote for this amendment here in committee. If it gets voted down, he'll have other amendments that do different things.

Villalba opens up the questioning for TMF, asking if it addresses "all" of his concerns. TMF notes that this is more of a compromise than he might prefer. There's a question over whether TMF would vote for the map if this amendment were attached (he would) and whether it would cease or prolong litigation (more complicated).

After a further exchange with Raymond over litigation, Clardy picks up on the map to review some of the details. In particular: the county line rule. This is an issue with West Texas. TMF notes David Hanna's presentation (which I blogged about here). That was truly a fascinating presentation. Worth noting:

Some great examples that Hanna offers: Hays County’s population warrants 93.7% of a full district, based on the ideal population size. If you combine it with Blanco County, you get within 33 people of an ideal district population. I think he just redistricted HD45. Ellis County needs to add population, but by adding any contiguous county, you go over the 10% deviation. Therefore, you need to cut any county added. He suggests that Dallas or Tarrant are not sacrosanct from being carved out to add to Ellis. That could be VERY interesting to see.

I think there's ample evidence from that presentation for someone to make a very substantive argument for overturning - or at least watering down - the county line rule struck down. Smaller jurisdictions routinely have "redistricting criteria". Those criteria typically are noted in the ways that they can conflict, not be allowed if they conflict with a federal law, etc... But the county line rule in Texas has thus far been treated more sacramentally. And there's no good reason to do so. It's a remnant of when southern states tried to work around one-person, one-vote. The district at issue in TMF's plan is HD81, which he draws to have a SSVR majority among 2012 registered voters and a near-majority in 2010.

Darby reviews TMF's rationale for change, noting HD26, HD54, HD74. He mistakenly notes a pairing of Craddick & Lewis in the West Texas tweak, but there's no such pairing. Darby recovers by objecting to the "impact" of incumbent Republicans. Bohac's HD138 is raised as a further example. TMF goes over some Spring Branch-area neighborhood definitions like a pro to demonstrate how this is a neighborhood cleanup issue.

TMF makes a motion for approval. It goes down 6-11 on party lines. Keffer interjected the roll call by noting some low-key outrage over the violation to the county line rule, which led to some copying of his approach. I just note that as a curiousity.

Helen Giddings addresses the committee, noting that while the initial instruction was for amendments to be offered if they met a "legally required" threshold. Giddings said that she had a more minor community of interest fix that deals with Balch Springs. It sounds like a late entry since there's no map that I see for it. This sounds like a smaller version of what Yvonne Davis did with Dallas County in her amendment. Darby essentially instructs her to go get agreement from affected Representatives.

Darby makes a motion to approve HB3, which happens along a 9-5 party line vote. TMF notes that this is less than a majority of the committee. Raymond says that he would gladly leave it for a point of order on the floor (with much laughter). Davis notes that the motion failed. It sounds as if things are just going to chug along without clarifying that question. I'm doing my own check of the House rules.

We're up to 4pm and just beginning the Congressional map part of the discussion. And from the looks of it, there are enough amendments on this to warrant enough discussion to really make me regret the lack of lunch right about now.

Amd. 1 (Davis) - Plan C236 or C249, not sure. Biggest issue is a new minority-opp district in DFW and includes a SE Travis + Hays district to address the Austin issue. Not sure if I missed something, but there doesn't seem to have been a vote that I noticed (could be a tech issue). Either way, I missed something.

Darby makes a motion to approve HB4. The bill passes, 11-6. Darby makes a motion to stand at ease for five minutes.

In the meantime, here are some relevant rules that the House operates under:

Section 27. Vote on Motion to Report — Motions made in committee to report favorably or unfavorably must receive affirmative majority votes, majority negative votes to either motion being insufficient to report. If a committee is unable to agree on a recommendation for action, as in the case of a tie vote, it should submit a statement of this fact as its report, and the house shall decide, by a majority vote, the disposition of the matter by one of the following alternatives:

(1) leave the bill in the committee for further consideration;
(2) refer the bill to some other committee; or
(3) order the bill printed, in which case the bill shall go to the Committee on Calendars for placement on a calendar and for proposal of an appropriate rule for house consideration.

If I'm reading this correctly, it basically suggests that the floor can decide in this instance. Then again, we might see a reconsideration of this once they reconvene in order to remove any uncertainty.

Upon reconvening, we get a different move by Darby - he lays out HB1. Senfronia is asking some questions about what this move means. I'm curious if this is aimed at making it more difficult to get amendments on the floor since this is a separate measure. My thinking is that any amendment could be argued as "gutting the bill" since HB1 is significantly cleaner and simpler than the individual component bills. So maybe Darby could bring HB1 up instead of the individual plans for Senate, House, and Congress. Senfronia's point seems to be bigger: that this represents a constitutional problem with bringing up the same measure. This definitely appears to be a power play on Darby's part. What it fully represents may just be a point that we get once this lands on the floor. It's worth pointing out that the Senate did not pass their version of the "approve them all."

Darby ramrods a motion to approve, where the bill passes 11-6 on party lines. Darby announces a formal meeting on the floor tomorrow at 9am to consider Senate bills. This meeting is adjourned. There definitely seems like some issues will have to be sorted out before then.

It's Darby's contention that HB1 is a distinct and different bill than HB2, HB3, and HB4, then I don't see how his passage of this can work with SB2, SB3, and SB4. At a minimum, the House can work around their majority vote issue by approving SB3 tomorrow. Expect some clarity on all of this tomorrow. There's more to unpack from this hearing than I anticipated.


Fatal error: Call to undefined function xwp_footerx() in /nfs/c01/h12/mnt/4748/domains/ on line 18