AUSTIN (KXAN) - On Saturday, the House Select Committee on Redistricting wrapped up its second of two scheduled public hearings after just an hour of testimony - four people. The Senate panel had its own hearing on Thursday.
What comes next? Many had thought this matter would be wrapped up by the end of next week, but that may not be the case. Today, sources say House committee members learned there would likely be public hearings outside the Capital City next week - maybe Dallas, Houston and San Antonio on Wednesday through Friday - in order to allow people who could not travel to Austin a chance to testify. There was an indication that meetings might be held in low-income areas of those places to make it even easier for those groups to take part.
Some Democrats have pushed for hearings in other places affected by the redistricting legal controversies - perhaps El Paso - though no word yet if that will occur. Critics have said Republicans should hold the future hearings on a weekend when more people could speak, instead of the work week.
At this point, it seems the interim Texas Senate maps pass legal muster, while there are still questions about the interim Texas House and U.S. House maps. Gov. Rick Perry called the special session directly after the regular session ended in order for lawmakers to consider adopting all three temporary maps drawn by the courts as permanent. The court-drawn maps came after minority groups said the maps drawn by the Republican-led legislature in 2011 were discriminatory. The Supreme Court could address that matter in June.
Perry's special session idea was that the map adoption might have made an impact on future legal decisions and prevented Texas from pushing back its 2014 primary election from March. In 2012, many felt that primary change greatly affected voter turnout and ultimately the outcome of the election - perhaps namely the primary race for U.S. Senate, which Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ended up losing to former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who went on to claim the seat in November and become one of the most outspoken conservatives in Washington, D.C.
Texas Democrats are behind a renewed push for newly-drawn maps, even filing bills with new plans during the special session. So far, those bills have not been scheduled for testimony by either of the Republican chairmen of the two chambers.
Legislative schedules now suggest the special session could continue for at least another two weeks. The Senate Select Committee on Redistricting has posted notice of public hearings at the Capitol for June 6 and 12 both at 9 a.m.
The hearings are set to address legislation regarding adoption of temporary voting maps drawn by a court for the Texas Legislature and U.S. House. Of course, the chairman can cancel meetings, if he sees fit. The House panel has yet to post additional hearings.
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