The Big Conversation
A heated redistricting hearing on Thursday wasn't enough to keep frustration about the sluggish special session from mounting.
On Thursday, the House Select Committee on Redistricting traveled to Dallas for its first field hearing on the state's voting maps. As The Dallas Morning News reports, tensions flared over whether to ratify the court-drawn maps currently in place — as Gov. Rick Perry has demanded of lawmakers — or to heed Democrats' calls for an additional minority congressional district in North Texas.
A Senate panel will bring the debate to Corpus Christi today, Houston on Saturday and possibly Harlingen on Monday, while the House committee will travel to San Antonio on Monday and Houston on Wednesday.
But the pace of the special session — which was originally expected to take less than a week but may now hit its 30-day maximum — is testing some lawmakers' patience.
"This says everything about this special session," state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said of a lightly attended six-minute Senate meeting on Thursday at which senators voted to adjourn for six days, as the Austin American-Statesman reports. The House has recessed until June 17.
Though lawmakers have pressed Perry to add more items — including some controversial measures, like abortion restrictions — to the special session agenda, some legislators have grown pessimistic that they'll have time to pass anything after redistricting is finalized, according to the Statesman.
Meanwhile, as the Tribune's Jay Root reported on Thursday, lawmakers are collecting per diem payments that, in addition to the cost of holding redistricting hearings around the state, could push the special session's price tag for taxpayers past $1 million.
Some lawmakers, however, have chosen to forgo their per diems when they're not at the Capitol. As state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, told the Tribune: "I’m not telling anybody they have to do it. I’m just telling them I’m doing it. I’m going to be home or fishing, and I don’t think I need to get paid for that."
• Gov. Rick Perry might veto bill reducing tests (El Paso Times): "There is growing chatter in the Capitol that House Bill 5, which restructures Texas' high school curriculum and slashes the number of standardized tests, will be vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry before the June 16 deadline."
• U.S. House approves amendment that could affect 'DREAMers' (Austin American-Statesman): "Almost every Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday for an amendment that would end funding for the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals Program. The amendment, in part, aims to end the funding for a policy from President Barack Obama to allow so-called 'DREAMers' to stay legally in the country."
• Racism allegations hit Texas parks agency (The Associated Press): "Racism and discrimination allegations are troubling the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which has spent $100,000 on reports that have so far found employees lamenting 'a legacy of intolerance' and is now faced with a second federal complaint from a black game warden-in-training."
Quote of the Day: "Pretty P.O.'d." — Fire Chief Jimmy Baker, describing the mood of the residents of Barnhart, a small West Texas town that ran out of water this week
- Jury acquits escort shooter, San Antonio Express-News
- After Blast, West Fights To Keep Its Residents, The Associated Press
- Republicans Play Defense in Texas, The American Prospect
- Was swallowed evidence destroyed, or only concealed?, Austin American-Statesman
- Tom Lea portrait of Benito Juarez presumed lost recovered in D.C., El Paso Times
- West Texas Oilfield Town Runs Out of Water, The Texas Tribune