The Big Conversation:
Today, the Texas redistricting chaos may begin to clear.
A federal panel will meet today in San Antonio to help clear up the uncertainty left when the U.S. Supreme Court threw Texas' 2012 elections into disarray over the weekend.
The high court on Friday froze the state's congressional and legislative elections, blocking temporary maps the San Antonio panel had drawn while the state's original, Republican-backed plans awaited approval in Washington, D.C. (A federal panel there announced Monday it will hold hearings on the maps from Jan. 17 to Jan. 26.)
Lawyers will argue before the Supreme Court court on Jan. 9.
The move has left the state without U.S. House, state House and state Senate districts, and has ginned up considerable confusion about primary dates and filing deadlines.
Attorney General Greg Abbott has suggested moving the legislative and congressional primaries from March 6 to May 22, while lawyers from the other side have said all primaries should be held on a single date. The prospect of such a split primary (the presidential primary, for instance, would stay in March) has raised concerns about cost and low turnout.
"This decision will result in a great deal of unnecessary confusion, waste of taxpayer money and risks additional disenfranchisement of voters," Steve Maxwell, the chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party, wrote an email to his members this weekend.
The San Antonio panel may address the primary-date issue, as well as concerns like filing fees, as the Austin American-Statesman notes.
- Comptroller Susan Combs announced Monday that the state's finances have fared better than previously believed, with stronger-than-expected sales and automobile sales taxes having added a projected $1.6 billion to the state's coffers for the 2012-13 biennium. Combs cautioned, though, that economic sluggishness in the rest of the country still threatens stability. "The overall picture is one of slower-than-normal recovery with above-average risks of a new recession," she wrote in a letter to state officials.
- Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Austin today to voice concern over voter ID laws and the state's redistricting plans, which fail to account for a growing Hispanic population, he told The Washington Post. "We are a better nation now than we were because more people are involved in the electoral process,’’ Holder said. "The beauty of this nation, the strength of this nation, is its diversity, and when we try to exclude people from being involved in the process … we weaken the fabric of this country."
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has rejected Texas’ request to run a family-planning program that excludes certain providers, like Planned Parenthood. But federal officials approved the state’s request for a waiver to expand Texas’ Medicaid managed care program statewide. Gov. Rick Perry called the decisions "one step forward" and "two steps back." "I am concerned the Obama Administration is playing politics by holding women’s health care hostage because of Texas’ pro-life policies," Perry said in a statement, "sacrificing the health of millions of Texas women in the name of their pro-abortion agenda."
"He is right now." — Mitt Romney to Politico on whether Newt Gingrich is now the Republican presidential front-runner
- The man behind the Ron Paul ads, The Washington Post
- Romney’s role: The Hillary Clinton of 2012?, Politico
- Dean's Ouster Raises Questions About Foundation Money, The Texas Tribune