Capital Tonight: Battle lines drawn over redistricting

Battle Lines Drawn

Despite calls for swift action, the special session call for redistricting could drag on.

The House Select Committee on Redistricting took up the issue Friday, a day after Senate lawmakers did the same. Gov. Rick Perry wants the legislature to act quickly to adopt interim court-drawn maps that were used last election, but so far, it looks like lawmakers have different plans.

Call Confusion

While the interim maps are the only issue lawmakers are tasked with dealing with in the special session, even that is causing some confusion. Reeve Hamilton of the Texas Tribune and Ben Philpott with KUT’s Agenda Texas joined us to help sort things out.


Plus, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul joined us in the studio.
Click the image below to hear his thoughts on the progress Washington is making on immigration reform and border security.

Capital Tonight: Battle lines drawn over redistricting

Hearings Begin

A day after a three judge panel convened to update the status of the state’s redistricting legal battles, a Senate committee met Thursday to take up the issue.

The governor called lawmakers back to ratify the interim maps that were drawn by the court just in time to hold the 2012 Texas primaries, and the author of the bill was originally set on not accepting any amendments to those maps. But it looks like that has changed.

Statewide Shuffle

With Susan Combs out of the 2014 picture, Republican candidates are coming out of the woodwork. Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, joined us to look at how it could all shake out.

Transparency Check

Transparency was the buzzword at the start of session, but is the window on state government staying shut?

We spoke with Jay Root of the Texas Tribune about whether those efforts led anywhere.

It’s official: Lawmakers called back for special session

Just moments after adjourning Sine Die, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced Senators would be called back for a special session at 6:00 p.m. A short time later, Gov. Rick Perry confirmed speculation that lawmakers would be asked to take up redistricting. Perry is asking lawmakers to adopt the court drawn interim election maps used last session.

He issued this statement:

“We can all be proud of the responsible steps made this session to invest in our citizens, fund water infrastructure, and build an even stronger foundation for the future of our economy and Texas families. By lowering taxes on job creators, opening the door to more higher education opportunities in South Texas, investing in a skilled workforce and keeping our state government efficient and accountable, hardworking taxpayers have freedom, opportunity and peace of mind. However, there is still work to be done on behalf of the citizens of Texas.”

House Speaker Joe Straus announced that the House would be called into special session at 11 a.m., Tuesday.


Texas appeals redistricting ruling

Texas is appealing a district court ruling rejecting the state’s redistricting maps. The Attorney General’s Office formally filed the appeal to the Supreme Court, Friday.

Among its arguments, the state claims there is no evidence that the state intentionally drew discriminatory maps. Attorney General Greg Abbott accuses the court of relying on circumstantial evidence focused on party affiliation, rather than race. The brief also argues there is "no direct evidence" the Texas legislature was motivated by "a discriminatory purpose."

Under the voting rights act, Texas is required to have any changes to election law precleared by either the Department of Justice, or the district court. Abbott opted to submit the maps directly to the court, rather than the DOJ. The brief filed today also includes a request that the court consider the constitutionality of Section 5 of that act.

The Supreme Court will now have to decide if it will hear the case. In the meantime, interim maps drawn up by a three-judge panel in San Antonio will be used in the November 6 election. If Abbott’s appeal is granted, the maps drawn up last session will be used until the next census. If it is denied, the state legislature will take up redistricting once again when the session convenes in January.

Attorney General Abbott released this statement, today:

"The State of Texas is appealing this case because the lower court improperly extended the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits imposed by the Constitution and created new standards that have never been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. The maps enacted by the Texas Legislature satisfy all necessary legal requirements, so the judges in Washington, D.C. simply created new requirements in an attempt to justify their rejection of Texas’ maps. In order to ensure the Texas Legislature’s maps apply to the next election cycle, the State is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and override the lower court’s flawed decision during the Court’s current term."

Here is the full brief:

Abbott: We were offended by the court’s decision

YNN’s Paul Brown caught up with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott after speaking to the Texas Delegation Wednesday morning.

Abbott commented on the decision made by a federal appeals court in Washington D.C. Tuesday to reject the most recent legislative district maps.

“We were offended by yesterday’s decision because it goes beyond the outer bounds of where redistricting law had been before, and we believe it actually contradicts what the U.S. Supreme Court said earlier this year,” he said.

Abott says he believes the Supreme Court will overturn the decision made by the three-panel judge but says he doesn’t think it will have any effect on the upcoming general election.

“I don’t think anyone has to be concerned about either elections or districts right now because the elections this November will take place based upon the interim maps,” he said.

As to Abbott’s political future, he said he’s focused on the campaign to elect Mitt Romney because he said this election will not only affect us but also the next generation.

He said Wednesday’s crowd was, “fired up to vote Mitt Romney in and get Barack Obama out.”

Check out the video above to see what more Abbott had to say.