AUSTIN (KXAN) – A conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers reached an agreement Sunday on plans to draw congressional voting lines in Texas. The deal will now require an additional vote by each chamber to move forward. The vote must come before Tuesday, when the third special session ends.
The report was signed by nine of the ten members of the conference committee. The lone Democrat on the committee, Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, did not sign the report.
The proposed maps toss out many of the changes House members made Saturday, when they added 14 amendments before sending the plan back to the Senate for approval. Hours later, senators rejected the House plan and requested a conference committee to work out the differences.
Redistricting only happens once every 10 years, and this decade, Texas gained two additional seats to the state’s delegation due to exponential growth. One of those seats will go in the Houston area, the other will be in Austin.
Much of the debate throughout the process has been on the racial makeup of the new districts. Census figures show 95% of the population growth in the state has come from non-Anglo Texans. But the two new districts as drawn both have a majority Anglo population.
State Rep. Chris Turner (D–Grand Prairie), took issue with how the two new congressional seats were added to the map. During Saturday’s debate, he and other Democrats said it does not accurately reflect where the state has grown.
“The requirement to equalize district populations, based on the 2020 Census, keeping political subdivisions together, keeping communities of interest together, preserving the cores of existing districts,” said State Rep. Todd Hunter, (R–Corpus Christi), as he began to lay out the bill Saturday evening. He said he believes the Senate’s map followed all of the rules in place for redistricting, set by the constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
“Although race cannot be the predominant factor in drawing maps, what we’ve referred to is Section 2 of that Act prohibits any enactment of any plan that restricts minority citizens from having an opportunity to elect their preferred candidate of choice if certain circumstances exist,” Rep. Hunter continued.
The state has faced legal troubles due to redistricting a decade ago.
“Since the legislature has been found to be intentionally discriminatory during the last decade by three different federal courts. What steps were taken to see that that did not occur again?” State Rep. Rafael Anchia, (D–Dallas), asked Rep. Hunter Saturday.
“We’ve had this discussion before and I do not agree with your statement, because I looked at the final decision of the US Supreme Court, five to four, which said Texas’ plan and proposals were correct,” Rep. Hunter responded.
If lawmakers pass the conference committee plan, the maps will head to Governor Abbott for approval.