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.
Some days u r extra thankful we still have the right 2 protect ourselves & the 2nd amendment-Today is 1 of those days #txlege
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) June 23, 2013
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 ...
Senate gavels in to take up House redistricting map. Adjourns for 15 minutes. Waiting on Rodriguez who's on his way. #txlege
— Aman Batheja (@amanbatheja) June 23, 2013
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 ...
— Peggy Fikac (@pfikac) June 23, 2013
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>
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).
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.
Amendment by Raymond (Plan H340) also accepted. Places all of Texas A&M International all in Raymond's district. #txlege
— Michael Li (@mcpli) June 20, 2013
- 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:
Giddings now up challenging Darby what he told her about amendments that would be accepted. #txlege
— Michael Li (@mcpli) June 20, 2013
- 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:
— Lone Star Project (@lsptex) June 20, 2013
Davis is now having a back mic exchange involving this:
— John Reynolds (@johnreynoldsqr) June 20, 2013
And Michael Li captures my sentiments:
If true about AG's office speaking to GOP caucus during break and saying no more amendments, wow. #txlege
— Michael Li (@mcpli) June 20, 2013
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.
Phrase you don't hear too often in #txlege: "Asian-opportunity district." Amendment from TMF would create one in Fort Bend County.
— Aman Batheja (@amanbatheja) June 20, 2013
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 ...
Rep. Keffer says Reps surprised that amnds allowed, now they're looking at accepting amnds to SB 3 on third reading #txlege
— Matthew Waller (@waller_matthew) June 20, 2013
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 ...
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.
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.
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 ...
Coleman is first witness - welcomes comm to his district; invites members to come over for dip in pool afterwards. #txlege
— Gene Wu (@GeneforTexas) June 12, 2013
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.
Ms.T reminding witness that when US Const was written, she would not have been considered a human much less allowed to vote. #txlege
— Gene Wu (@GeneforTexas) June 12, 2013
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.
This is going to be interesting. Court Reporter is clearly working for AG - who is not likely to turn over transcripts. #txlege
— Gene Wu (@GeneforTexas) June 12, 2013
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.
It's an action-packed day of Lege-watching today. For starters, the Senate is back in Austin today. There will be a Redistricting committee hearing that begins shortly and they all hit the floor at 1pm. Since there's a 2:30pm committee hearing for the Criminal Justice committee, I don't expect the floor activity to take very long. But what ground is covered in the committee that is soon to gavel in might hold a clue for some of the timeliness that redistricting gets acted on. I'll add an update here on any Senate activity and run a liveblog of the bigger show that hits Houston this afternoon: the House Redistricting committee. One bit of news on the House side is that the committee chair let go of the attorneys. The Houston hearing kicks off at 2pm, so I'll likely end up shutting down here around lunchtime in order to get to my alma mater for the local hearing.
- Looks like we're getting some new maps to look at, primarily for the Senate. Public testimony is closed. DistrictViewer is your friend for any real-time viewing. I'm sure that I'll drop some into a Google map later today if there's anything worth a closer look. But I'm expecting the House hearing this afternoon to block out a good chunk of time for that. Seliger starts layin' em out ....
- Seliger starts with the layouts on SB2 - the current State Senate map. There's no conversation about it.
- First amendment that comes up to SB2 is one by Zaffarini: identical for SB1-4; strikes section 2 of the bill, removing mention that the maps are "fair, legal". Per, a question from Sen. West, it's language that has never been seen in a redistricting bill, or any other bill. David Hanna is called as a resource witness. He says there may be something comparable in the 1997 court settlement and re-redistricting that resulted from it. Estes interjects as to whether there can be a "parliamentary inquiry" in committee, where there is no parliamentarian (yes, they can). Zaffarini picks up to ask Hanna if he wrote the language (he is the official drafter of the language) to address some legalisms about what the language means for the court proceedings (it is non-binding). Factoid for the day: when a bill is drafted, the drafter of the bill has attorney-client privilege with the person requesting the draft. Considering any legal impact of the language and Hanna's relationship to the court case and the committee, this isn't a great place for David Hanna to be.
Seliger says this guts the bill and that it should be voted down. West asks how it guts the bill, to which Seliger explains that it negates the intent of the bill. It wouldn't impact a single line in the map, but it would have a non-binding impact on the court proceedings. Yet it somehow guts everything. Clear as mud. Sen West puts on the record that this is going to go down by party line and that the vote is reflective of partisanship. Zaffarini motions for approval, the amendment goes down 6-7 on part lines.
- Sen. Estes "wants to discuss" an amendment that he'd rather bring up on the floor. He says that Armbrister v Morales asserts that adoption of the plan would not necessitate all Senators run for election. Nothing proposed for the committee right now. Sen. West suggests that the case in question was limited to the facts of that case.
- SB2 is left pending after some back & forth between Seliger, Uresti, and the committee clerk. Makes you wish the microphones were just a little bit hotter.
- SB3 is laid out for the House map. Seliger says that it is unusual for the Senate to make initial passage of the House map without input from the House. "Should the House make changes to the map ... that House amendments should be accepted." He wants to pass SB3 now and accept amendments on the floor. I'm guessing that this will be a point of conversation today at UH.
- There's a witness on SB3 - Gus Pena. He's against. Sen. Zaffarini offers up an identical amendment as before. It goes down 6-8 on party lines. Seliger then moves passage of SB3. It passes 8-6 on party lines.
- Seliger backtracks on SB2 and makes a motion to approve. It passes 10-4 and goes to the floor.
- Seliger lays out SB4 for the Congressional map. There's some testimony on this: Deece Eckstein spells out the objections that Travis County Commissioners Court has with the plan. Gus Pena is back with similar objections from his testimony on the House map.
- Zaffarini says that the usual procedure is to consider committee substitutes before taking testimony (that'll get a flag with DOJ/courts). With that, Zaffarini does serve up a sub, essentially the same as her previous two amendments. It goes down the same way: 6-8 on party lines.
Committee originally wasn't going to hear testimony today but Z & Waston asked it to do so. Z notes notice mentions testimony. #txlege
— Michael Li (@mcpli) June 12, 2013
— ProgressTexas (@ProgressTX) June 12, 2013
- Sen. Watson offers up an amendment. Plan C245 (Michael Li's post on that here). It is aimed at fixes to Central/South Texas as a least-change option to the interim plan. Expects there to w be other fixes elsewhere (Sen. Garcia's amendment, for instance). This'll go down, but it's a debate that isn't going away. Watson says there's a legal memo on this amendment and makes a Constitutional argument for crossover districts. In addition to "fixing" Travis County, it adds a Hispanic opportunity district that runs from Corpus Christi to Bexar County. The Travis County fix is interesting in that it retains some of the characteristics of the existing Travis-to-Bexar district, except that it cuts out Bexar and maintains more of a population anchor in Travis. It's not a perfect fix by most counts ... but it's one that looks designed to get a crossover vote or two.
Seliger asks why Nueces County needs to be cut into three districts, leaves the Constitutional issues aside. Follows up by asking about crossover districts, looking for definition. Watson quotes the court case (Bartlett) as being where white voters are known to cross over and vote for candidates of choice from minority voters. Justice Kennedy essentially says that *if* you have one, then the dismantling of one raises issues. Now Seliger wants to get into the Constitution - asks if Kennedy's opinion is a majority finding of the court (it was not). This is some fine legal quibbling. The decision in Bartlett was one where there were 3 judges writing the decision. There were then two concurring opinions.
Seliger asks is CD35 represents retrogression due to the drop in districts that were renumbers, saying that there is a removal of a Latino opportunity district into one that is now a crossover district. Misses that CD34 is a new Hispanic opportunity district.
Sen. Hinojosa picks up the questioning. Notes that Nueces is whole in the current CD34. Look for this to be an issue with how many friendly votes Watson can keep ahold of for his amendment. Hinojosa asks about what role communities of impact play in the map, but time runs out.
Sen. Williams asks if Watson had traveled to Corpus Christi for the field hearing (he did not). Says there was plenty of testimony there that approved of the current Congressional plan and that Watson's "clever argument" is just a veiled partisan argument for his districts. Oddly, no mention form Sen. Estes about how lucky Corpus Christi would be to have three Congressmen.
Sen. Seliger concludes the testimony, saying that the amendment isn't compelled by Sec. 2 of the VRA and that the Kennedy's Bartlett opinion doesn't necessitate since it isn't the majority finding. Sen. West withdraws the amendment. This will allow it get to the floor for further arguing.
- Amendment 3 is now up from Sen. Uresti. It's Plan C246. Worth noting that this splits up Neuces into two districts while having a similar anchoring of a Travis County district. Technically, there are two districts anchored in Travis - one GOP and one Dem. Uresti's argument has more to do with the discriminatory impact of the initial plans and process ... less to do with Constitutionality. CD25 is a bit of a beast: running from Hidalgo to New Braunfels. Also adds the second Harris County Hispanic district. Definitely does more to give minority voters more opportunity.
Seliger questions retrogression of a district from 59% HVAP to 47% HVAP. Notes that CD29 goes below HVAP majority. Wants to know why there is a requirement to do this. Uresti offers up a fairly weak response. I'm a little curious why nobody bothers to make the argument that VAP majorities are not decisive of anything. In other words, if a majority VAP leads to a plurality CVAP, why is a majority VAP determinitive? The Nueces issue comes up and Uresti notes that the existing testimony is not the final word.
Seliger is definitely demonstrating that he's a bit more prepared, saying that this amendment is retrogressive and a complete re-draw. It goes down 2-12.
- Sen. Garcia now up for the 4th amendment: Plan C243. She notes 73 testimonies at the Houston field hearing that requested districts that reflect the demographics of the area. She notes that it is limited to the Houston area (meeting one objection of Seliger's). States that minority population growth in the Houston area is the justification for the amendment. Expect this to get into a debate over requirement. CD36 is justified as undoing some cracking of surrounding minority communities. New population data is used to help justify this. The existing CD9, 18, 29 are justified on the basis that they still perform as funcitoning Afr-Am and Hispanic opportunity districts. One good case made here is that the current CD2 has 40% Hispanic population due, in part, to encroachment into inner-city Houston.
Sen. Seliger responds by questioning the necessity of a coalition district. Garcia notes that it is permitted. Seliger is looking for a hard "no." There's obviously no compelling anything to happen until there's a court case. He also claims packing of Anglo population into CD2 and questions retrogression in CD29 by making it a coalition district. This sets up Seliger's case: there's no compelling argument that he sees and any changes to maximize opportunity would be retrogression. Garcia says she does not find her plan retrogressive based on what happens in CD29's demographics. CD18's and CD9's AfrAm population are also raised as an issue, saying that if he issued this map, it would be met with outrage. Garcia answers with a "performance" defense. Oddly enough, Seliger's case is a good example of why Republicans have historically loved the Voting Rights Act - it gave them an opening to pack minorities and thin out overall opportunities. Seliger says that this plan is "fraught with problems."
Sen. Duncan has some questions, also. Wants to know the number of voters displaced by this plan. Garcia moves for adoption. It goes down 2-10.
Public hearings on redistricting don’t appear to have changed many minds in the Senate. So far, they’re uninterested in new lines. #txlege
— Ross Ramsey (@rossramsey) June 12, 2013
- Sen. Garcia serves up another amendment: Plan C244 ... this is the Jacinto City fix between CD9 and CD29. Affects fewer than 1500 residents. Garcia says that passage of this would give meaning to the field hearings. Garcia has an OK from Gene Green on this, but hasn't heard back from SJL after two calls.
Seliger opens up, asking for clarity that there was not a statistical reason to make this change. Garcia notes that there is no VRA need for this, just a Community of Interest argument for it. He continues that since SJL was at the hearing, why there wasn't any question posed to her about this change. Seliger asks Garcia to pull this down and contact SJL for input. He doesn't seem receptive to it as a legally required change, but does suggest that it could be offered as a floor amendment. Sen. Duncan suggests that every district is going to have issues like this and that it opens a can of worms. Of course, this is why Garcia made the point about this coming as a result of the field hearings, not just because legislators want to change a few things. Unfortunately, Seliger says he's inclined to agree with Duncan's objection. Garcia moves for adoption anyway. Huffman votes aye, Lucio and West vote no ... very interesting crossovers, but it goes down 5-9.
We now get back around to public testimony, where the four testifiers have been waiting patiently.
- Melissa Gonzales from Travis County is up next. She opens with an esoteric case for the flawed process. She also offers up the recent Annette Strauss Center for Civic Participation study.
- Mrs. Houston from Travis County - wants an independent redistricting commission with its own demographer. Says she has no voice in Congressional elections.
- Gus Pena from Travis County - trying to compose his emotions. Not a fan of Sen. Seliger.
Public testimony is closed and Seliger moves for passage of SB4. First, the committee "has to" round up Sen. Williams and Eltife. I can't help but wonder if that's legally required. Committee is waiting at a time when the present committee members are 6 Dems, 6 GOP. Wonder if we'll hear more about this delay when the bill hits the floor. Vote finally comes up and the bill passes 8-6. Estes and Seliger do a little bit of self-congratulation about how deliberative the process was.
That puts every bill on the Senate side ready for the floor in a few days. We may learn a little more today about how quickly the House intends to move bills forward. To the extent that the outcome in the Senate is any indicator, it's not a good one - amendments will be considered, heard, and then dispensed with.
— Michael Li (@mcpli) June 12, 2013
Here's Sen. Sylvia Garcia's answer for how to do two Hispanic Congressional Districts in Harris County:
Remarkably similar to the MALDEF map from 2011. And possibly to no surprise given that Luis Figueroa is on her staff. Again, one key selling point is that it would make Gene Green my Congressman. For that reason alone, it clocks in as a personal favorite.
I don't have election reports on this map right now, but the population reports show the new Northside-to-Alief CD29 as being 61.4% Hispanic voting age population and the "new" East End CD36 at 61.9% Hispanic voting age population. That means both of these are going to come in well under 50% CVAP majority. I don't doubt the ability for either district to perform much differently than expected, though. The only question I guess I have is what the primary electorate looks like in the 29th. There's plenty of strength on the Northside for those voters to get whichever candidate they prefer. But there's enough of a mixture elsewhere to give a lot of other candidates a good feeling about taking a chance in the district.
One bit of light that this map sheds anew is that, if you fast forward to what may or may not happen after Gene Green decides to hang it up, it's not difficult to see how these two districts could very well end up being represented by both Sen. Garcia (CD29) and Rep. Alvarado (CD36) at some point. But then again, our fair Sheriff also lives in this version of the 29th and I have to confess that's another great prospect for being my Congressman.
Just now getting the laptop opened here at Cemo Hall on the UH Campus. The committee is gavelled in. Reps. Gene Wu and Rick Miller are at the front table since they're from the area. Sen. Rodney Ellis also present as a non-committee member. Chairman Seliger notes that written testimony can be submitted to the committee and that it will count the same for the public record. The deadline for that is June 12th.
11:10 am ... Sen. Garcia opens up with a retelling of Texas' history with regard to the Voting Rights Act. She also states the case for another Hispanic Congressional district in Houston and DFW.
11:15 am ... Sen. Zaffarini offers a shout-out to her fellow Coogs. Eat 'em up!
11:15 am ... we get going with the testimony.
- CJ Farley - echoes Sen. Garcia's arguments.
- Rey Guerra - more seconding of Sen. Garcia's arguments. Lays out some math for the second Hispanic Congressional seat, suggesting that not doing so is a Sec. 5 violation of the Voting Rights Act. Garcia asking some friendly questions about the need for a second Hispanic Congressional seat. Zaffarini asks from friendly questions to get him on record as being against SB4.
I missed the name of the guy after Rey. Joe Cardenas, III - a high school teacher, involved with LULAC, and Texas HOPE. Questions the sincerity of the process. One problem of the Senate hearing process is that names aren't shown on a display, as they are in the House. So I'm sure that I'll miss a few names.
Sidenote: I saw the stack of witness cards upon coming in. Looks like this hearing can be reasonable in length. This doesn't look like it'll last as long as the Dallas hearing. Fine by me - I need to be at church by three!
- Jim Vogas - Galveston County (unofficially) representing! Notes that of the two House districts, one is more Anglo (mainland) and another is more minority (island). Wants to see HD23 drawn to represent more of the low-income, minority population of the county. Hitchcock, and to a lesser extent Dickinson, is offered as being misplaced in HD24.
- Albert Cheng - half-Mexican, half-Chinese, lives in a Jewish neighborhood. Making the case that he does not feel discriminated by the lines of the current maps. Says its racist that he needs to be represented by someone who is Chinese or Hispanic. He's missing the point by a mile of what it means to be a "candidate of choice" by pointing out the Gene Green issue with minority opportunity districts.
Witness doesnt get "Minority Opportunity District" fails to realize that choice of minorities is what matters not race of politician #TxLege
— Thaddeus Scott Woody (@ThaddeusScott) June 8, 2013
- Erica Lee - member of Harris County Board of Education. Opposed to SB1, 2, 3, & 4 on Section 5 grounds. Also puts a marker down as being against retrogression in CD18. Seliger pounces on the topic of retrogression in CD18. Not sure that Lee knew where she was going with that point. It's tough to create African-American districts with the growth of Hispanic population. That's retrogression. Lee offers that cutting out Montrose is retrogressive to the district.
- Marty Kerner - Sharpstown representin'!!! Notes that two precincts are missing from HD137. It was in the district that Hochberg represented and Hochberg had testified that the new district was drawn to favor him over an Asian candidate. Opposed to the House map on those grounds.
- Paul Simpson - in favor of the four plans on grounds that it would be more efficient for the election process. Stability of the process is his main point. Second point is the same misunderstanding of minority opportunity districts, suggesting that only a member of voters' race is what the law protects. It is not. That's a fundamental misunderstanding of the law.
- Joseph Tijerina - Going off on a tangent about ethics law. Somehow comes back around to making some of the standard arguments for minority opportunity districts around the state.
- Kyle Longhoffer - Fort Bend county representing! Opposed to all four maps. Notes the fracturing of population there. Good to hear this! It's not necessarily a partisan argument, though, as he notes the splitting of Congressional lines in the county to help Al Green.
- Carolyn Mata - President of League of Women Voters Houston Area. Also ... a constituent of HD137! Her case is the standard LWV argument for fair process and fairness for minority populations.
- Daniel Box - Houston Org. of Public Employees. Accepting current maps is "lazy". Texas should lead the nation in how to do redistricting fairly given our diversity.
- Shelia Jackson Lee arrives and is given the opportunity to address the committee. Afterward, Sen. West asks her about the possibility of a second minority district.
A little news breaking during the hearing:
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) June 8, 2013
- Tanya Dubose - Texas Association of Nonprofit Organizations and resident of Independence Heights. Opposed to all maps, in favor of new minority Congressional district and protection of existing minority districts.
- Albert G. Gonzales - offering a lay-person's testimony. Suggests that anyone talking about racism/values doesn't know what he experienced in post-war San Antonio.
- Richard Murray - representing himself. Serves up some historic perspective of minority opportunity districts represented by non-minorities. This is contrasted with current examples and court testimony that demonstrates treatment that the VRA is designed to protect against. Properly notes that the Voting Rights Act does not mean a Hispanic opp. district needs to be represented by a Hispanic. Same for any other minority. It is about those voters having the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. Also goes on against packing of minorities into a minimal number of districts. Notes that gerrymandering isn't always racial - it can also involve packing or cracking. Interesting hearing the Doctor speak favorably on the need to use new American Community Survey data. Can't help but wonder if that'll be consistent in the lawsuit over the County Commissioner map here in Harris County.
- Carlos Duarte - Ft. Bend rep from Mi Familia Vota. Opposed to SB1, 3, & 4.
- Congressman Al Green is recognized as "Gene" by Chairman Seliger. Al is now addressing the committee. Notes the diversity of the 9th district and introduces a letter from the Congressional Black Caucus to put on public record. He's not seeking changes to his district.
- Donald Bankston - More Ft. Bend representing here. Member of State Democratic Executive Committee. Opposed to SB1, 3 & 4. Thanks the committee for their work, but doesn't think it needs to be done. Wants to see the courts continue their work. Serves up some detail on Ft. Bend County, namely HD26. Goes into some detail on the outcome of the GOP primary in that district. Rep. Miller is here, so maybe there'll be some good back & forth. Also goes into retrogression of CD27.
- Bernice Owens - Houston-area activist. Points to treatment of Jacinto City in the Senate map. The town is split in half on the Senate map and apparently has some issues in the Congressional map. I think they're going to fix this just to make Mrs. Owens leave them alone. Good Community of Interest argument here. For the record, chairman Seliger turned the gavel over to Sen. Uresti before this. Probably a smart move on his part.
Sidenote: Sen. Zaffarini notes that there are 30 more witnesses, with 20 gone through so far.
- Rebecca Reyna - Greater Northside Management District.
- Robert Tomlinson - "Concerned citizen" ... doesn't understand why we need courts to draw maps. Wants lege to do it fairly. Doesn't see how it's so hard.
- Kim D. - representing Jacinto City and Songroad neighborhood. Opposed to the JC split. Here's what the divide looks like on the Senate map:
The demographic coding indicates why the city was split. The two areas of Afr-Am CVAP majority are in black - they are outside of SD6 and also in CD18.
- Rogene Calvert - Representing the Texas Asian-American Redistricting Initiative, raising the point about Pct 311 in HD137 again. Here's the nut of the argument for that precinct. Testimony by Hochberg, plus resolutions by Sharpstown civic leaders in 2011 were offered.
Sidenote: Michael Li blogs on the meaning of "candidate of choice".
— Michael Li (@mcpli) June 8, 2013
- Kenneth D. -
- Sue Mlot - Dem. precinct chair of Pct 41 on Harris/Mont. county line near the new Exxon Mobile development. Notes her Afr.-Am. development being split in half to accomodate Ted Poe's new CD2.
- Cesar Espinoza - not present. Committee taking a 10-min break.
- Lori Flores - Suggests that her heavily Hispanic precinct should not be represented by Afr.-Am. leadership.
- Robert Gallegos - representing himself, wants a "fair" Congressional map that protects existing minority districts. Current map doesn't represent the overall growth in minority population around the state. New minority districts in Harris and DFW are mentioned.
- Charles Meyer - Lawyer from Lumberton, business interests in The Woodlands. Was a write-in candidate in CD18 in 2010 and for the GOP nomination in CD36 in 2012. Reluctantly in favor of all four bills, but isn't a fan of the Congressional map b/c of CD36. He wants the state to stop spending money needlessly. Also opposed on grounds that he expects Sec. 5 of VRA to be partially undone in the Shelby case, which would likely lead to even newer maps.
- Tomaro Bell - representing herself, but also VP of Houston's Super Neighborhood Alliance. Wants the committee to take their time to do the maps right. Also opposed to Greg Abbott spending state money to fight against the Voting Rights Act.
- Jeannette Sexton - just found out about the hearings a few hours ago. Ran against Robert Talton in HD144 in 2006. Making some standard arguments in favor of minority opportunity Congressional Districts, also favors independent redistricting commission.
- Alejandra - addressing the committee in Spanish. Sen. Zaffarini notes her testimony about the lack of notice for the hearing and the lack of information about what the interim maps do or don't do.
- Cody Ray Wheeler - Pasadena City Councilman, representing himself. He is the second Hispanic CM on Pasadena City Council.
- Rodrigo Carrellon - from Fort Bend County, pretty empassioned layperson's testimony about how the maps are not representative for minority voters.
- Lucille Martin - no show
- Lucy Moreno - President of a senior group in Houston, longtime community activist. A little unfocused argument that seems to support a second Hispanic Congressional district.
- Jesse Rodriguez - against the maps, encourages the committee to hire Dr. Murray.
- John Gorczynski - a shout-out to Rep. Gene Wu for taking time away from his pregnant wife. Echoes support for minority opportunity districts around the state, as well as enhancing CD23 extending west from San Antonio. Shares an endorsement from Corpus Christi Young Dems in favor of a better House district there.
- Norman Horowitz - opposed to all four bills, with particular problems with Austin Congressional district.
- Dorothy Olmos - Community activist in SD6 - also a frequent GOP candidate for a variety of seats. She's in favor of a new Hispanic Congressional seat in Houston, though.
- William & Lisa D - From Pct 550 in north Harris County. William kinda likes his country. He has an issue with his lack of representation in Congress. He is represented in a VRA-protected district forced to be minority majority - it's CD18. She says SJL lies and speaks against her country. Says SJL doesn't "give a flip" about him. Where's Sen. Estes to question this kid? Ultimately, he wants Pct 550 put in CD2.
- Brandon Capatillo - no show
- Stephen Brown - more Ft. Bend showing up here. Good to see these guys showing up. Stephen re-emphasizes the near-evenness of diversity in Ft. Bend - almost 25% Asian, Anglo, Afr-Am, and Hispanic. Really makes a good point for the Asian population having a better opportunity district in the county. Rick Miller has got to be hating this, but the district drawn in H302 is still marginally Republican.
- James Cargas - Dem nominee in CD7 in 2012. Urges district to look at Plan C236 for treatment of Harris County. This plan puts Montrose back in CD7, as well as Dem-friendly Pct. 222, where Cargas lives. Not sure that a lot of folks in Montrose are going to like that approach.
- Kevin Hoffman - re-emphasizes opposition to retrogression. Mentions the treatment of Montrose in the Congressional map, wants it included in CD18.
Sidenote: four of the nine senators on the panel are holding their heads up with a fist to their chin. Seliger looks to be intently chewing on his glasses. Tough draw to go through long hearings around the state - it's an aspect of the job I don't envy.
- Erica Ward - generally opposed to the maps. Sen. Garcia clarifies with a question - opposed to all of 'em.
- Gloria Cephus - Pct chair for 759 in Jacinto City. Proud to see the city of my birth being so thoroughly represented. Like the others, she's opposed to the split in the Congressional and Senate map. Worth noting that Mrs. Cephus is Afr-Am, which possibly plays a role in why the town is split.
That's it for actual testimony. Done by 2:15, pending some final comments from the committee. Want to add your own comments?
Written redistricting testimony must be sent to the Committee Clerk: firstname.lastname@example.org by the 12th. #txlege
— Gene Wu (@GeneforTexas) June 8, 2013
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.