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The Brief: April 28, 2011

After a 16-hour debate that stretched past 2 a.m. this morning, House lawmakers gave early approval to a map that would reshape their political districts.

Texas Capitol

The Big Conversation:

After a 16-hour debate that stretched past 2 a.m. this morning, House lawmakers gave early approval to a map that would reshape their political districts.

As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey reports, the vote, 92-52, followed a day of drawn-out wrangling that centered largely on the fate of minority districts.

"I recognize that some members are not going to be pleased with the results of the map," Rep. Burt Solomons, the Carrollton Republican who chairs the Redistricting Committee and drafted the proposal, warned members at the beginning of the day.

Republicans, who hold a 101-49 supermajority, voted down a number of measures that would have increased minority representation in the House, including plans presented by the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force and the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Black House Democrats fought hard against Solomons' plan. "I think it's very important for African-Americans not to participate in their own demise," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston. "We are not interested in being an ineffective group in the Texas House of Representatives."

Several Democrats also argued that the map didn't adequately represent demographic changes in Texas, where Hispanics accounted for about two-thirds of the population growth over the past decade. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, who presented eight different plans that would have increased minority representation, said he expected courts to intervene in defense of the Voting Rights Act. "This is exactly where we're going to go," he said.

An amendment supported by Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, and others that would have proposed a map even friendlier to Republicans than Solomons' was withheld.

In the end, three Democrats voted for the final bill; 10 Republicans voted against it.

Culled:

  • Debate in the Senate over the budget, expected to begin today, has been pushed back to Friday or later, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Wednesday. After a two-hour closed caucus meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, still hadn't corralled the two-thirds vote needed in the chamber to bring a bill to the floor. “The right foul line is, ‘Do not touch the Rainy Day Fund.’ The left foul line is, ‘We’ve got to have a tax bill to make this thing work,'” Ogden said. “What I’ve got to do is find the right formula to come between those two foul lines.”
  • Dewhurst's announcement came just hours after he sent a letter to senators asking them to support the budget bill, including a provision to draw $3 billion from the Rainy Day Fund, which earlier this week he said should be left alone. "As you know, I have preferred to use recurring non-tax revenue to balance the budget instead of the Rainy Day Fund," Dewhurst said in the letter. "But we have to put the needs of Texans first."

"The copy of the birth certificate that I saw today was certainly not 50 years old. … The paper was brand new." — State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, who said he still isn't satisfied with long-form birth certificate President Barack Obama released Wednesday. Berman also said it would take "someone like a Donald Trump" to really determine whether the president has "pulled the greatest swindle, the greatest hoax, in the history of the United States."

Must-Read:

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