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The Brief: March 29, 2010

It’s easy as 1,2,3…yadda, yadda, yadda…25 million. So why aren’t more Texans doing it?

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THE BIG CONVERSATION

It’s easy as 1,2,3…yadda, yadda, yadda…25 million. So why aren’t more Texans doing it?

2010 Census forms have been sitting in the homes of Texans for weeks, and it’s about time they were filled out and mailed in. National Census Day is April 1.

The Tribune’s Matt Stiles reports that only about a quarter of Texans (of which there are predicted to be over 25 million) have filled out and mailed in their forms, which began arriving in mailboxes about two weeks ago.

“Texas ranks near the bottom in the rate at which states' residents are returning the questionnaire mailed to 134 million homes two weeks ago,” he writes. “As of Friday, we rank several percentage points below the national rate — ahead of only Alabama, New York, Alaska, Georgia and Florida, according to data downloaded from the bureau's website on Friday.”

Census information is especially important as the state stands to pick up as many as four new congressional seats based on the newly gathered numbers. Next year, political mapmakers will take the latest census numbers and use them to draw new congressional and legislative districts.

Because it fundamentally impacts the make-up of the Texas Legislature and Texas’ delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Dave Montgomery writes, “Redistricting will easily overshadow much of the work of the 2011 Legislature, complicating a session that will also be struggling with an $11 billion-plus budget shortfall, new healthcare mandates from Washington and a host of other contentious issues.”

Considering the magnitude of its impact relative to the simplicity of the task — filling out a quick survey and dropping it in the mail — state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, a House Redistricting Committee member, notes, “"We ought to be doing a better job of getting those returns in."

CULLED

• Some might think he’s trading up, although he was chair of the Calendars committee.  The announcement that retiring state Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano, is the new chancellor of Texas State University System is expected today. State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, was the runner-up for the job.

• In the battle between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and gay Jesus  — one of the stranger political showdowns in the state — it appears Dewhurst has won.  The lite gov took it upon himself to publicly condemn a Tarleton State University directing student’s class project — a staging of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi, which imagines Jesus and his disciples as gay men in small-town Texas.  Shortly after Dewhurst entered the fray, the play was canceled.

• Citing "an unprecedented level of obstruction in the Senate" and "partisan politics stand[ing] in the way of the basic functioning of government," Barack Obama announced the recess appointments of fifteen of his nominees — including Alan Bersin, his nominee for Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Just between you and me, coming in second out of 38 applicants, as I’ve been told I did, is not fun — but I wish you and the system well nonetheless.” — state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, in a letter to state Rep. Brian McCall, R-Plano

MUST READ

Eye on Austin: Health care likely to stir sessions — Amarillo Globe-News

Governor candidates spar over educationAustin American-Statesman

Texas GOP asks for Democratic House members' exchanges with consultantsDallas Morning News

Stage set for another Texas battle over redistrictingFort Worth Star-Telegram

The Gay Jesus PlaceThe Texas Tribune

Doc, lawyer solicitation ban tossedSan Antonio Express-News

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