The Big Conversation:
A Senate slice-and-dice unveiled Wednesday by Republicans has big changes in store for Austin, Fort Worth and San Antonio — and Democrats aren't pleased.
Under the new redistricting maps, which will receive their first Senate committee hearing this morning, Travis County, currently composed of two districts, would be split into four; San Antonio could lose a senator, Judith Zaffirini; and Fort Worth's Wendy Davis, a Democrat, would be pushed into a Republican-friendly district.
The redrawn map would likely give Republicans 20 members in the upper chamber, up from the 19 they currently hold in the 31-member body.
Zaffirini's current district includes Laredo and parts of San Antonio but under the new map would stretch from Laredo to East Austin, bypassing Bexar County. She told the Austin American-Statesman she felt "Doggett-ed," alluding to a 2003 redistricting proposal that would have extended Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett's district from Austin to the border.
"I think the people of Austin will not be happy because their first question will be what community of interest is there with Laredo,” she said, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Along with Zaffirini, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, blasted the plan for toying with minority constituencies. "This is about Travis County and Austin, and whether they're best served by four senators instead of one," Watson said.
But the strongest rebuke came from Davis, who earlier in the week called the proposal a "shameful partisan attack" that violates the Voting Rights Act, and said she was planning legal action."I will not allow the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of constituents in Tarrant County to be trampled to satisfy the partisan greed of the Senate leadership," she said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Sen. Ken Seliger, the Amarillo Republican who chairs the Senate's redistricting committee, said the map was fair and satisfied legal requirements. "I believe this plan will withstand scrutiny, yes," he said. "I know there are some members who are not happy, including Sen. Zaffirini. … In her case, I am confident those areas of Austin will be exceptionally well represented."
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- The House on Wednesday said no to cockfighting, yes to spanking in public schools and, on a slightly more conventional note, no to federal health care reform's insurance mandate.
- As the Trib's Reeve Hamilton reports, some see politics at play in the recent surprise retirement of Texas A&M System Chancellor Mike McKinney
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- Tobacco chewers could get tax cut, San Antonio Express-News
And in this week's TribCast: the House meltdown, sanctuary cities and the ongoing higher education debate