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Boom!

The state's explosive growth during the past decade was fueled by a boom in its minority population, which accounted for 89 percent of the total, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics alone accounted for 65 percent of the state's growth over the last ten years.

The state's explosive growth during the past decade was fueled by a boom in its minority population, which accounted for 89 percent of the total, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics alone accounted for 65 percent of the state's growth over the last ten years.

Census officials said late last year that Texas grew 20.6 percent during the last decade, to 25,145,561. The new numbers released Thursday include data for counties, for cities, all the way down to the city block level. The widely anticipated decennial population numbers will be used to determine everything from federal funding for state projects to political redistricting to business decisions based on populations and demographics.

The state's Hispanic population grew 42 percent over the decade. The Black population was up 22 percent. Both outgrew the Anglo population in percentage terms and in raw numbers. The Anglo population grew by 4.2 percent. And while Texas added 464,032 Anglos over the decade, it added 522,570 Blacks and 2.8 million Hispanics. In 17 counties, the Hispanic population grew by more than 100 percent.

The Anglo population in Texas now accounts for 45.3 percent of the total. Hispanics make up 37.6 percent of the population, Blacks for 11.8 percent, and Asians for 3.8 percent. The voting age population is a little different: 49.6 percent Anglo, 33.6 percent Hispanic, 11.4 percent Black, and 3.9 percent Asian.

It’s not just the trend in Texas, but nationwide, according to Steve Murdock, a former U.S. Census director and Texas state demographer who's now at Rice University. Six of the first 11 states to receive data saw a decline in the Anglo populations and an increase it their Hispanic populations. The shift in demographics signal what he says is a necessary cooperation between the two groups.

"You have this aging set of Anglos, literally aging off the end of their life chart who are going to need assistance in terms of Social Security, Medicare and in terms of direct care. At the same time have a young population that is overwhelmingly minority that needs the financial assistance through taxes and other factors of the older Anglo population to help get the education it needs to be competitive," he said.

Don’t be surprised to see Texas experience growing pains, he said. The state recorded about a quarter of the nation’s overall growth, about 4.3 million of the country’s 17 million.

"We’ve had phenomenal rates of growth and we in Texas generally like that growth but we also have to prepare to pay for the implications," he said. "It means more infrastructure, more educational services. I worry a great deal, if we forget with our older Anglo population that younger population, because that younger population is the future of Texas," he said.

Where Texas Grew

Houston, with just under 2.1 million people, remains the biggest city in the state, followed by San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, and Fort Worth, which leap-frogged El Paso.

Harris County, with 4.1 million residents, remains the state's largest, followed by Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis.

Most of the state's largest counties kept pace with the statewide population growth rate of 20.6 percent, but Dallas County's population only increased by 6 percent, from 2.21 million to 2.36 million residents. The City of Dallas' population increased less than one percent, a fact that's likely to have implications for redistricting of urban seats in the Texas House.

Suburban and exurban areas around Dallas County, however, showed strong growth, following a trend seen throughout the last decade in the rolling Census sampling known as the American Community Survey. Both Collin and Denton counties grew by more than 50 percent, and Rockwall County lead all counties in the rate of growth (81 percent).

A similar phenomenon occurred in Houston, where the city population grew by just over 7 percent, despite the influx of Hurricane Katrina evacuees who fled southern Louisiana in the summer of 2005. The city's current population is less than estimates from a few years ago, when suspected population increase once sparked a fight over whether City Council districts should be redrawn because of charter provision. Then-Mayor Bill White fought the effort, saying he preferred to wait for the official hard count released after the 2010 Census.

But all around Houston, population spiked since 2000. Montgomery County to the north saw its population increase by more than 60 percent, while Fort Bend County to the southeast grew by more than 50 percent.

Seventy-nine of the state's 254 counties lost population during the decade, most of them clustered in West Texas. Another 97 counties grew less than 10 percent, and another 41 grew between 10 and 20 percent. The fastest growth, on a percentage basis, was in 37 counties that grew between 20 and 82 percent during the decade. Those are clustered in the Hill Country, the Metroplex, the Valley, and around Houston.

Drawing Battle Lines

Congressional districts have to be drawn as close to the same size as possible. With 36 districts in the state, each will have 698,488 people in it. That's four more congressional seats than the state has now. States that grew quickly, like Texas, gained, while states that lost population or that didn't grow as fast as the national average, lost. New York and Ohio are examples. Texas gained more seats than any other state in this Census. (The country grew 9.7 percent over the decade, to a total population of 281,421,906.)

The jockeying is already well underway. Republicans argue that the latest election results show that three of the four new seats ought to be conservative. But the demographics of the growth should be the first concern, according to others. "The Latino community should receive three of the new congressional seats or better and should be properly represented in the State Legislature and on the State Board of Education," says state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, a member of the redistricting committee.

Legislative districts can vary in size by as much as five percent, based on current law and recent court rulings. But the perfect sizes are 811,147 people in each of the 31 Senate districts and 167,637 in each of the 150 House districts. State Board of Education districts also have to be redrawn; each of those 15 districts will have 1,676,371 residents. Now that they have the numbers loading into their computers, state legislators will begin redrawing their own political districts and those for the state's congressional delegation and the State Board of Education.

The details will trickle out as data at the city block level is analyzed. But some general things are already apparent:

• Dallas County lost enough population relative to the rest of the state to lose two of its sixteen House seats. Every member of that county's House delegation is short of population, except for Democrat Helen Giddings.

• Tarrant County, on the other hand, could gain a seat to add to the ten it's got now.

• Travis, Bexar and El Paso counties should be able to hold the number of seats they’ve got now.

• Urban representatives in Harris County lost population, with the exceptions of Republican Ken Legler of Pasadena and Hubert Vo of Houston. A half dozen of that county's more suburban districts have more residents than they need. That county could lose one seat, but it's not a certainty.

• Of the 150 seats in the Texas House, 96 are short of population and only 54 have too many residents. Generally speaking, rural and built-out urban areas either shrunk or didn't keep up with the state's overall growth rate, and suburban areas outpaced the rest.

• Sixteen of the seats that stretch from the Texas border to the Panhandle in West Texas (not including El Paso) lost population equivalent to almost two seats in the Texas House. Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, has already shown some interest in running for the Railroad Commission, but that still raises the possibility that at least two members in that region will be paired when the maps are drawn.

The chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee, Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, says the numbers were about what he expected. "No real surprises. If there are going to be surprises, it will be in the concentration of minority populations," he says. The Legislature is just getting the numbers loaded into its redistricting programs, and the patterns of where people live — the concentrations he's referring to — will become apparent with further analysis.

In spite of the huge minority growth in Texas, Seliger says he hasn't seen anything in the numbers themselves that looks like a particular advantage to one political party or the other. The makeup of the Legislature is something else altogether. "If anything lends itself to partisanship (in the maps)," he says, "it's in the body, not in the numbers."

The Texas Legislative Council has already pulled together maps of the congressional, Senate, House and SBOE districts with numbers showing which districts are over- and under-populated. Those are on our website, here, here, here, and here. And that agency's comprehensive redistricting toolbox is here.

Inside Intelligence: School Finance

Our experts took on school finance this week and they're not optimistic this will have a happy ending. Lawmakers have proposed spending $10.4 billion less than the Texas Education Agency says it needs to keep things running like they're running now.

We started by asking whether that current level of services is sufficient for public education and two thirds said no, it's not.

Do they think the Legislature will close the gap? Yes and no. Twenty percent say the schools will end the session $10 billion short, while 70 percent say they'll end up less than $5 billion short. That left only 10 percent to split their votes among full restoration, more money than requested and don't know.

Then we wanted to know whether the experts think lawmakers should free local schools to raise their property taxes to make up for money lost to state cuts. Most — 70 percent — said yes, while 27 percent said no.

The open-ended question this week was "What areas of education spending should be on the cutting block?" The full set of answers can be found in our Files section, but here's a sampling:

• "TEA. Regional Centers."

• "Administrative costs."

• "Administration"

• "School district administration is bloated, and everything else is starved."

• "Administration; non-core programs; discretionary spending on curriculum, test preparation, consultants, public relations, etc."

• "We should be investing in public education, not cutting it to the bone."

• "Athletics."

• "The pensions of school teachers. They should have 401k plans like the rest of us and have to pay for their own healthcare."

• "Building stadiums; consolidating school districts;"

• "General administration, ridiculously expensive and counterproductive pension policies and practices, labor practices that reward retaining ineffective teachers, inefficiencies due to too many districts, local and state programs with no record of success in boosting student achievement, sports excesses, and inefficiencies due to inadequate use of technology"

• "Start with non-classroom expenditures. Next: support and administrative staffing has increased 20 percent since 2004, while student population has risen 7 percent. Moving from the current 1:1 teaching/non-teacher ratio to a 3:2 ratio would produce $3.25 billion in savings. Force a reduction in administrator pay and bonus packages. Abolish the regional service centers."

• "The Target Revenue entitlement should be eliminated first (total elimination saves about $4.5 billion per biennium). Second, outside the system grants should be eliminated (saves about $2 billion). Delaying the July and August payments to districts moves another $3.7 billion into the 2011-2013 biennium."

• "Wrong question, Texas ranked in the bottom quarter of states in per capita student funding throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century. Given the demographic changes taking place Texas needs to step it up, not cut back."

• "Football."

• "Well now, that question reveals the conservative bias in the media! Do we just assume that we're getting overeducated in Texas, and it's time to trim it back a little? I know it's pointless to ask Who's taxes should be raised so that our kids are a little smarter when they get to tomorrow? But still! The arrogance of the assumption that, without question, some education should be cut back is just more than I can stomach."

• "Though a tough political choice, consolidation of the smaller districts is one way to bring huge efficiencies to a bloated mess. Incentives for consolidation - and disincentives for not consolidating - should be in play."

• "This is a no brainer. Consolidate school systems and drastically cut administrative expenses. If that doesn't do, fire teachers."

• "None. Our entire education system from pre-K to post-secondary has been on a starvation diet for far too long. After over a decade of Republican mismanagement, Texas is already seeing the fruits of a policy that is virtually guaranteeing the creation of an entire generation of poorly educated Texans who will be ill equipped to compete and contribute to our state's prosperity. This is the ultimate mortgaging of our future, and I fear we will discover too late that it was a subprime one."

Asking for Trouble?

Immigration legislation more in line with Gov. Rick Perry’s latest stance on so-called sanctuary cities in Texas is now in the files.

Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrollton, authored HB 12, which would prevent cities, counties and other incorporated districts in the state from enacting policies that prohibit peace officers from enforcing federal or state immigration laws. The bill would also prohibit policies that prevent peace officers from asking the status of someone lawfully detained or arrested, or from cooperating with federal immigration officers. Jurisdictions not in compliance could be denied state grant money.

On the surface, the bill appears as controversial as Arizona’s SB 1070 — and some state lawmakers have already stated their opposition to it. But it does contain a noticeable difference, specifically that it does not require peace officers make the inquiry.

Perry has said his stance against sanctuary city policies has been misconstrued and that he only wants peace officers to have discretion. He has also said he would oppose laws that mandate that they ask.

But one sticking point could be language that includes questioning a person who is detained and not necessarily charged or arrested. Democrats have said laws that grant broader powers to local law enforcement are not needed because Texas already participates in the federal Secure Communities program. The system allows jailers to run individuals' fingerprints against an immigration database to see if they can be held by immigration authorities and deported. Solomon’s bill could branch out and affect anyone detained. Look for opponents to focus on that language and allege that it leaves the door open to racial profiling.

Schoolyard Fight

The single biggest hurdle for charter schools in Texas, advocates say, is finding adequate facilities. This session, there's a push to fix that. Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, introduced legislation that would allow charters to access the Permanent School Fund to back facilities bonds. Her counterpart in the House, Public Ed Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, has filed a companion bill in the lower chamber.

There’s one problem: Traditional school districts aren’t so keen on the idea. The Texas Association of School Boards opposes opening the bond-guarantee program to charters, said spokesman Dax Gonzales. "They are generally deemed to be poor credit risks," he said, adding, "We've had around 280 charters awarded over the last few years. Out of those, 71 are no longer operating anymore. That's about a quarter of charters that have been abandoned or closed down. That doesn't show that they are going to be around for the state to recoup their investment."

Fledgling charter schools, like any other start-up business, have difficulty establishing credit. Because they must renew their charter with the state every five years, banks can view them as a risky investment. Without financing for purchase or construction of new facilities, charters are subject to the whims of the rental market, which can make budgetary planning difficult. And even as nonprofits, they must also pay property taxes on the building they rent.

David Dunn, director of the Texas Charter Schools Association, insists that the legislation is a "win-win-win." Taxpayers and students benefit because money is being spent on education rather than paying interest — and it comes at no cost to the state’s general revenue fund budget.

Schools would only be eligible for their proportionate share of the fund, he says, which, since they educate about 119,000 of the state’s 4.8 million public school students, works out to about 2.5 percent of its capacity. And only the most reputable of the schools — ones that could on their own receive an investment grade rating and have demonstrated financial solvency and academic performance over time — would be eligible for the fund’s guarantee.

"This should not in any way be detrimental to traditional school districts," he says, adding, "There's really absolutely no reason for anyone to oppose this bill."

Perry: Extend the Margins Tax Exemption

Gov. Rick Perry wants to keep the small business tax break approved by lawmakers two years ago and that, without legislative action, will require more businesses to pay franchise taxes next year.

The 2009 legislation increased (to $1 million) the amount of money a company can bring in before it's subject to the state's corporate franchise tax, and was touted at the time a way to keep most of the tax income coming in while freeing thousands of businesses from writing checks. The big taxpayers who pay most of the taxes were still paying, but an estimated 39,000 taxpayers were set free, at a cost of $172 million.

The original exemption was $300,000, meaning a company could have gross revenues of that amount and still not owe the tax. The legislation passed two years ago raised that to $1 million for the first two years, but would drop it back down to $600,000 next year unless lawmakers act. The number of businesses that would be affected wasn't immediately available, nor was the amount of money that's in play.

Chisum on the Trail?

Put Rep. Warren Chisum on the "maybe" list for Texas Railroad Commissioner, if there is such a thing when the job comes open.

As a sworn-in state lawmaker, the Pampa Republican is ineligible for appointment to the commission spot opened up by Michael Williams' retirement. Williams is leaving in April and Gov. Rick Perry will appoint someone to serve until the next regular election.

Current lawmakers are boxed out of that appointment but can run in the election in 2012. And Elizabeth Ames Jones's term on the commission comes up that same year, so there could be two seats to fill.

Or just one. The Sunset Advisory Commission has recommended changes at the RRC, including replacing the three elected commissioners with just one. If that happens, there'll be one spot open in 2012, and the winner won't have to share power with others. Another recommendation would change the name of the agency to the Texas Oil & Gas Commission, and others have suggested the Texas Energy Commission as a more descriptive tag.

Chisum isn't committed, but he's interested. "It's a possibility," he says. "There was some talk about it. It's early, but I'll look at it." And, he adds, he's busy with the budget and everything else during the legislative session. The time to make a decision "is more like a year from now."

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Another count has been tallied in the Donna Howard–Dan Neil contest for House District 48. After an investigation conducted by Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, involving four days of testimony, Howard, a Democrat, was declared the winner. Keeping score by rounds? It was Howard by 16 votes on Election Day, by 12 votes in the recount, and now by four. As they say at the carnival, it only takes one ticket to win. Hartnett’s recommendation goes to a House committee, which will then make a recommendation to the full House, which has the final call. It's a slow walk from here to there; the first committee hearing is next week, the second isn't until next month.

As Texas officials struggled to define the battle over Amazon.com’s decision to leave the state over a sales-tax dispute, three House Democrats weighed in with an opinion of their own that was surprisingly similar to Gov. Rick Perry’s. Joaquin Castro, Jessica Farrar and Pete Gallego sent a letter to Comptroller Susan Combs protesting her treatment of the giant online retailer and lamenting the loss of jobs resulting from the company's decision to close a distribution center in Iring. Combs previously faced criticism from Perry, who declared he would have handled the dispute differently. Combs is sticking to her guns, maintaining that Texas law requires companies with a physical presence in Texas to collect sales taxes.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent was killed by gunshot while driving with another agent from Mexico City to Monterrey, prompting a strong reaction from U.S. officials. The incident is likely to inflame an already tense situation as fears of cartel violence spilling across the border grow. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had harsh words for the drug cartels, saying, "Any act of violence against our ICE personnel — or any DHS personnel — is an attack against all those who serve our nation and put their lives at risk for our safety."

Faulty instrumentation was the watchword as power company officials testified before a Senate committee about the causes of the rolling blackouts that hit Texans on Feb. 2. Executives said they were caught off guard by the unusual temperatures and demands on their plants, which were ill-equipped to handle the situation. The chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, was impatient with the testimony, warning plant operators that they needed to find solutions or the Legislature would be forced to act.

While the Legislature considers reforms to the eminent domain statutes, the Texas Supreme Court has agreed to weigh in on a dispute surrounding construction of a carbon dioxide pipeline. A district court judge granted Denbury Green eminent domain for a 320-mile pipeline and an appeals court agreed. Now, Texas Rice Land Partners and its tenant, Mike Latta, are appealing on the grounds that Denbury Green will not be a common carrier but will use the pipeline strictly for its own commercial purposes, violating the grounds for an eminent domain decision.

Hard budget discussions are still to come, but legislators debating their options are already floating ideas. School finance, always an issue, sparked Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, to reopen the idea of a statewide school property tax, which would change both the way the state collects and distributes education dollars. The state has historically struggled with the way it funds schools and has fielded lawsuits on the subject for years. But given this session's budgetary circumstances, legislators now may be willing to consider changing the way it’s done. Don't bet on the property tax, though. Duncan says it's just an idea, just like when his predecessors in the Senate, Bill Ratliff and Carl Parker, floated it a decade ago and a decade before that.

Political People and Their Moves

Benette Zivley is the new Texas Securities Commissioner, appointed by the board of that agency to replace Denise Voigt Crawford, who is retiring at the end of the month. Zivley has been at the agency for a dozen years, overseeing the inspections and compliance division since 2003.

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

Ken Wise of Humble as judge of the 334th District Court in Harris County. He's a partner at Fridge, Resendez and Wise.

Alan Sanderson of Missouri City to another term at the Veterans' Land Board. He's a CPA.

Delbert Horton III of Cooper as presiding officer of the Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority. Horton is an engineer and an assistant engineering prof at Texas A&M University in Commerce.

Patrick Robertson of Clarendon and Joyce Odom of San Antonio to the Texas Funeral Commission. He's a funeral director and a certified firefighter. Odom, who's being reappointed, is a flight attendant with Delta Airlines.

Sheri Sanders Givens of Round Rock to another term at the Office of Public Utility Counsel. She's an attorney.

Jim Parrish, deputy city manager of McKinney and Roel "Roy" Rodriguez, general manager of the public utility in McAllen and that city's assistant city manager, to the Texas Municipal Retirement System. Parrish is new; Rodriguez is being reappointed.

Deaths: Joe Greenhill, former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He was 96. Greenhill was appointed to the high court by Gov. Price Daniel in 1957 and remained there for 25 years, including 10 as chief.

Michele Kay, a writer for the Austin American-Statesman, for Texas Business magazine, and from time to time, for Texas Weekly, and a teacher who helped revive the journalism program at St. Edwards University in Austin, after a long bout with cancer. She was 66. Michele was a great reporter, serious and exacting in her work, brutal with fools, gentle and hilarious with friends, stern (with a twinkle in her eye) with students, and a perfect model of how to live without worrying about what everyone else thinks — a wonderful and refreshing thing in journalism, business and politics.

Quotes of the Week

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at a Capitol press conference on his two new bills he believes could save the state money on health care: "This isn't Obamacare. It's the furthest thing from it."

The Fordham Institute, a conservative Washington-based think-tank, in awarding a grade of "D" to the state's social studies standards: "Texas combines a rigidly thematic and theory-based social studies structure with a politicized distortion of history. The result is both unwieldy and troubling, avoiding clear historical explanation while offering misrepresentations at every turn."

First-term State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, a Republican, on the state's controversial curriculum standards, to the San Antonio Express-News: "We ought to hit the reset button. Go back through with teachers, experts, businessmen and women and do it right."

Sen. Mike Jackson, R-La Porte, one of several lawmakers who in hearings Tuesday wondered why cold weather could so easily knock so many of the state's power plants offline, quoted in the Austin-American Statesman: "I would be ready to file a lawsuit against whoever engineered a plant that goes down the first time it's 20 degrees."

Sen. Troy Fraser, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, issuing a plea to power companies during the blackout hearings: "I would prefer a free-market solution if we can do it, but, guys, we're here — we're governing."

Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, to Politico on the bill he's filed that would require presidential candidates to show their birth certificates to appear on the Texas ballot: "My colleagues love it."

State Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, quoted by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the subject of redistricting: "Ultimately what we wind up fighting over is who's going to be the defense and who are going to be the plaintiffs."

House Speaker Joe Straus, quoted in The Dallas Morning News: "How we govern matters. We will need collaboration; not hand-to-hand combat."

The crowd outside Gov. Scott Walker's office in the Wisconsin Capitol, protesting proposed benefit cuts for state workers (the day before a legislative walkout), quoted in The New York Times: "Come out, come out, wherever you are!" Walker, in the same article: "For us, it's simple. We're broke."

Contributors: Julian Aguilar, Ceryta Lockett, Ryan Murphy, David Muto, Morgan Smith and Matt Stiles


Texas Weekly: Volume 28, Issue 7, 21 February 2011. Ross Ramsey, Editor. Copyright 2011 by The Texas Tribune. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. One-year online subscription: $250. For information about your subscription, call (512) 716-8600 or email biz@texasweekly.com. For news, email ramsey@texasweekly.com, or call (512) 716-8611.

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