3-judge panel issues state redistricting maps

AUSTIN ‘ Unless the matter is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas redistricting process is over for another decade. Even if the high court takes it up, any ruling it made likely would not affect the 2002 elections in Texas. Most maps chart existing geography, but the maps approved Nov. 28 by an appointed panel of three federal judges will redefine Texas’ political landscape. The effort began during the 77th Legislature, when lawmakers armed with 2000 Census data tried to handle the redistricting process themselves. When that effort died of partisan politics, the issue went to the Legislative Redistricting Board. When lawsuits were filed after the board released its maps, the issue went to the three-judge panel for resolution. This is how is sorts out: Made up of two Democratically appointed judges and one Republican, the panel left the proposed Senate map untouched. Of the 31 Senate seats, 19 could go Republican based on the redrawing. As it stands now, the Senate has 15 Democrats, 15 Republicans and one vacancy. The judicial panel did tinker a bit with the House redistricting map. Of the 150 seats, 88 could end up in the hands of the GOP. Presently, the House is the only body still controlled by Democrats. Seventy-eight of its members represent the party that once controlled the state, with 72 members being Republicans. The plan approved by the three judges pits 37 incumbents against a fellow House member. Even more significantly, the plan threatens the political future of House Speaker Pete Laney of Hale Center, the state’s highest-ranking Democrat. When the legislature meets again in January 2003, three Republicans will be running against Laney: Tom Craddick of Midland, Edmund Kuempel of Seguin and Brian McCall of Plano. Laney has said he still intends to seek reelection. Mold ruling made After sitting through public hearings and reviewing staff recommendations, Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor has reached a decision on the contentious issue of mold coverage. Bottom line is that Texans will continue to be able to buy basic insurance for mold damage, but policyholders might have to start picking up the high cost of testing and clean up. Barrientos enters DWI plea State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos has pled no contest to driving while intoxicated and has been assessed one year’s probation. Austin police arrested the Austin Democrat Nov. 21. He refused to take a breath test. The senator paid a $500 fine and must do 40 hours of community service. In addition, he cannot consume alcohol for one year and must receive alcohol counseling. The breath test refusal netted him a 180-day driver license suspension as well. Indian casino update The Speaking Rock Casino in El Paso County can stay open while the Tigua tribe and the state continue their legal dispute over whether the gambling operation is lawful. That ruling, made Nov. 27 by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, will keep the dice rolling and roulette wheels spinning until the tribe’s appeal of a federal shutdown order has run its course. The Tiguas say the casino brings in some $60 million annually. The facility, located at Ysleta down the Rio Grande from El Paso, employs 850 persons, only 50 of them Tiguas.

Leave a Comment