The Brief: Top Texas News for May 31, 2013

The Big Conversation

So much for lawmakers acting quickly on redistricting this time around.

On Thursday, at the first redistricting hearing of the special session, Kel Seliger, the head of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting, said lawmakers likely wouldn't vote on a bill for another two weeks.

After the end of the regular session on Monday, Gov. Rick Perry summoned legislators back to the Capitol for an immediate special session on redistricting, tasking them with approving the court-drawn maps currently in place for the Legislature and members of the U.S. House.

Though lawmakers were expected to ratify the maps within a matter of days, Seliger, R-Amarillo, said he would hold at least three more hearings to ensure an "open and transparent process."

"Ratifying those maps could settle some of the litigation now … but there’s going to be litigation on any maps that are approved," Seliger said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. "Everybody’s got politics and opinions, but our decision has to be based on law. It’s not going to be done in two to three days."

Democrats, who say the interim maps dilute minority voting power, complained that Perry's special session instructions — to pass the court-drawn boundaries — meant lawmakers would be kept from proposing alternative maps. A parliamentarian ruled on Thursday that it wouldn't, and in a small victory for Democrats, Seliger said he would consider amendments to the maps in question.

But "I believe the proposals before us are legally sufficient," Seliger added, according to The Dallas Morning News. "Clearly there is some debate and disagreement about that, and that's what the hearing process is for."

The prolonged schedule has also sparked speculation that Perry will now have more time to push for additional, and possibly controversial, special session measures like abortion restrictions.

House hearings on redistricting are scheduled for today and Saturday. Additional Senate hearings are planned for June 6 and June 12.

Culled

•    Davis declares victory in Texas redistricting conflict (Fort Worth Star-Telegram): "State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, declared victory Thursday in a two-year legal battle over redistricting, saying state Republican leaders have agreed to end their attempts to 'dismantle' her Tarrant County senatorial district."

•    Lawmakers ready if Perry adds campus buildings to agenda (The Dallas Morning News): "The Senate’s ready to dump a load of bricks and mortar on state campuses, if Gov. Rick Perry will just let lawmakers consider construction bonds in the special session, two leading senators said Thursday."

•    Torres: I am running for Texas Comptroller (Rio Grande Guardian): "Raul Torres, a certified public accountant and former state representative from Corpus Christi, is running for Texas Comptroller in 2014. Torres, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for the Texas Senate against Democratic state Sen. Juan Hinojosa in 2012, says he will make an official announcement in the coming days. … In an interview with the Guardian, Torres said it is long overdue for a well-qualified person from South Texas to be holding one of the top statewide offices."

•    TribLive: Patrick on His Plans for 2014 (TT): "At Thursday's TribLive conversation, state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, addressed the rumors that he's considering a run for lieutenant governor in 2014."

Quote of the Day: "I think the atmosphere, unlike when I tried it, is better, maybe for the wrong reason. The right reason is it's important to reform a broken system. I'm not sure a right reason is that in so doing we win votes." — Former President George W. Bush on immigration reform, in an interview with The Huffington Post

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