The Brief: Top Texas News for May 29, 2013

The Big Conversation

The special session has brought the state's dormant redistricting fight back to life — but maybe not for long.

As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey writes today, lawmakers say they'll be able to finish debate on the issue in seven to 10 days, unless Gov. Rick Perry adds more items to the special session agenda.

Perry on Monday summoned legislators back to the Capitol for an immediate special session on redistricting. Attorney General Greg Abbott had signaled that lawmakers would likely be called back to approve the court-drawn maps currently in place for the Legislature and members of the U.S. House.

The original redistricting fight dates back two years, when the Legislature drew maps that Democratic and minority groups called racially discriminatory and challenged in court. Two separate legal battles unfolded, and a federal court in San Antonio drew interim maps that were used in the 2012 elections. The San Antonio court will hold a hearing today on the state of the maps.

Abbott wants lawmakers to ratify the interim electoral boundaries, which are thought to favor Republicans more than the maps Democrats could win in court if the legal fight continues. But Democrats are resisting Abbott's calls.

"It’s reasonable to conclude that blanket adoption of the interim maps, which maintain a lot of the elements of the legislatively enacted maps, which were found to be flawed, would result in retaining a lot of the problematic districts," state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, said Tuesday on the House floor. "It’s not a good idea for us to go and rubber-stamp these maps that were meant to be interim, not permanent."

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said he would file alternative maps that better reflect the state's minority populations. "During the first call of the special session of the Legislature, members of color will once again demonstrate that the Texas Legislature is pursuing a course to deny effective representation of racial and ethnic minorities and communities of interest," he said in a statement.

Legislative committees will hold their own hearings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Culled

•    Hillary Clinton PAC snags major donors (Politico): "The 'Ready For Hillary' super PAC, which seems to have particularly close ties to the Clinton universe, has in recent weeks been beefing up its operation, attracting some major figures in Democratic fundraising before there’s even a candidate. On Tuesday, the group announced the formation of its National Finance Council, with founding members … and Texas mega donors Steve and Amber Mostyn."

•    Senators Hope to Revive Plan to Fund Roads (The Texas Tribune): "Two senators are hoping the special session that kicked off Monday evening will be an opportunity to create a serious fix for the state’s transportation funding shortfall. Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, and Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, have filed a resolution that would ask voters to approve diverting some of the revenue that traditionally goes to the state’s savings account into the state’s highway fund. … State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, filed a bill that would require drug testing for Texas welfare applicants. State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, hopes the special session serves as a second chance for a measure to issue tuition revenue bonds to fund construction projects at colleges around the state. And state Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, filed a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks gestation."

•    Craddick Faults Nichols Over Texting-While-Driving Bill (TT): "State Rep. Tom Craddick, who authored a bill that would have made texting while driving a criminal offense in Texas, is pointing the finger at Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols over the measure's failure."

Quote of the Day: "I don’t think we should be acknowledging people who are voting against us in our hour of need." — U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., to BuzzFeed on his decision to boycott a Republican dinner headlined by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who voted against Hurricane Sandy aid earlier this year

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