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Yee-Haw!
July 28, 2003 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Cue Banjo Music Texas Democrats have again hauled ass across state lines, this time to New Mexico. Texas' governor and lt. governor have decided to hold a third special session of the state Senate, for which they will suspend the 2/3 supermajority needed for redistricting plans. via TPM
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly (37 comments total)

 
Jesus, those guys are a flight risk. I wonder how many will remain in office after the next election?

It has a very "I'm taking my ball and not going home, but leaving the state and no, you can't follow me because I'll hide real good" feel to it that you can only get in a group of cranky five year olds.
posted by mathowie at 3:37 PM on July 28, 2003


Good for them. If the GOP is going to break with centuries of precedent for their immediate gain, there's no reason for the Democrats to allow them to do anything at all.

A certain level of bipartisan cooperation is necessary in every democracy. Hopefully the GOP will take the lesson and quit trying to make these senseless power grabs.
posted by Epenthesis at 3:48 PM on July 28, 2003


and some say politics is boring
posted by poopy at 4:01 PM on July 28, 2003


I think when someone is trying to force-feed you your own liver you have the right to take the ball and go wherever you damn well want. What it reminds me of is when they would redraw the school district lines so that certain elementary school boys they had already scouted from peewee football would be going to the right high school in 4-5 years. In a two high school town there's usually a right one where all the really good players magically end up so they have a shot at State. Same game, only a lot more is at stake when they're redrawing legislative districts.
posted by lobakgo at 4:03 PM on July 28, 2003


I think you're right, mathowie, for the most part, but I don't know what else they can do. It seems pretty obvious that the Republicans are trying to subvert the process, but that only looks evil, whereas the running away thing looks stupid. How can the dems better respond?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:03 PM on July 28, 2003


It's Texas, let them shoot it out.

Warning, comment may contain gross generalisations about the state of Texas.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:31 PM on July 28, 2003


No, I'll flat-out say I think you're completely wrong, Matt.

This walkout was a result of Rick Perry calling a second special session to try to bring forward a vote on redistricting. The first ended when a Republican sides with the Democrats to refuse to vote a 2/3 majority to bring the issue of redistricting to the floor. DeLay and Perry responded by calling this second session, oh, but we're removing the rule that requires a 2/3 vote to bring an issue to the floor.

There is absolutely nothing else the Democrats can do here. The Republicans in Texas can, and are, making up the rules as they go along and changing them everytime the rules prevent them from winning. Any sense of tact and bipartisanship was bastardized weeks ago by the majority party.

The irony of your question "I wonder how many will remain in office after the next election?" is striking too, considering how the entire point of DeLay's scheme is to guarantee a takeover of six or seven seats from Democrats. The purpose of the Republican bill is to make the answer to your question "none of them." The Democrats seriously have nothing to lose by walking out on an attempt to remove half of them from power.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:33 PM on July 28, 2003


This walkout was a result of Rick Perry calling a second special session to try to bring forward a vote on redistricting.

That was the last one. The next would be the third special session! I really don't know why the dems come out looking more shildish than the republicans, but there it is.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 4:40 PM on July 28, 2003


The current redistricting plan splits my district into four. J.J. Pickle has to be turning in his grave.
posted by birdherder at 5:11 PM on July 28, 2003


It has a very "I'm taking my ball and not going home, but leaving the state and no, you can't follow me because I'll hide real good" feel to it that you can only get in a group of cranky five year olds.

Disagreement. It has the feel of people who are playing for keeps.

There's been an informal norm for eons about how redistricting works. Basically, the idea was that the majority would limit itself in redistricting. If there are new seats, they'll be drawn in ways that disproportionately favor the majority. If you're losing seats, you can be damn sure that it'll be a minority-party-dominant district that's axed.

But what you *don't* do is redraw all the districts to go after sitting minority-party incumbents.

The Republicans are doing that, and in doing so they're basically violating a long-standing truce. It should come as no surprise that when the truce gets violated, neither side feels bound to it.

It's also something that actually matters to them. It's not like some of them are Rangers fans and some are Astros fans and they're leaving town because the Rangers fans are snotty about it. From the point of view of the Democrats, it's a plan to fill the Texas delegation of the House with people who want bad things, and advocate bad policies, and who will harm the state and country. Sitting there and letting it happen by their presence would be complicity in harming the state and nation.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:16 PM on July 28, 2003


Why don't you guys have a Boundary Commission?

It's like, a fundamental part of representational politics, and you've been at it as long as we have.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:33 PM on July 28, 2003


It has a very "I'm taking my ball and not going home, but leaving the state and no, you can't follow me because I'll hide real good" feel to it that you can only get in a group of cranky five year olds.

Except they don't have the ball. The Republicans won't let them play.
posted by jpoulos at 6:25 PM on July 28, 2003


subvert the process, but that only looks evil, whereas the running away thing looks stupid

evil or stupid. never an easy decision.
posted by quonsar at 6:27 PM on July 28, 2003


What's lost in all this is the post-2000-census redistricting was completed in 2001-- by the court-- because the then minority Republicans wouldn't agree to a map.

Redistricting twice in an inter-census period is a major violation of long-standing tradition. Changing long-standing rules of the Legislature in order to get your way is just flat-out foul. Me thinketh these stinketh.

Thankfully my Senator and Representative have both participated in these walkouts. Now I know my votes weren't wasted.
posted by Cerebus at 6:40 PM on July 28, 2003


A little like recalling the governor two years into his term because the national economy has put your state's economy in the toilet. Anyone see a pattern here?
posted by palancik at 7:05 PM on July 28, 2003


Redistricting twice in an inter-census period is a major violation of long-standing tradition. Changing long-standing rules of the Legislature in order to get your way is just flat-out foul.

Exactly. And that is why the Dems are not only justified in the walkout...because the Republicans decided to change the rules of quorum, walking was the only option available. I say good on 'em.

The Republicans are the ones trying to skirt the law for their own advantage.
posted by dejah420 at 7:17 PM on July 28, 2003


I live in deep south Texas, an area of the state many locals feel has long been ignored and underrepresented in Texas government. According to the local newspaper, my county would be split in two, and the half in which I live would "join eight other counties on a journey 350 miles north to southeast Austin. That would be the equivalent of a representative of Richmond, Va., living in New York City." Kinda puts the absurdity of the GOP's intentions into perspective.
posted by thatweirdguy2 at 7:36 PM on July 28, 2003


mathowie: I think the point is exactly that many of them wouldn't remain in office anyways if the redistricting went ahead, because the republicans would be legislating unified democrat districts out of existence. Would they even be >1/3rd of the senate/etc after that?
posted by advil at 8:03 PM on July 28, 2003


advil: The districts in question are for the U.S. House of Representatives, not the Texas Legislature.
posted by Cerebus at 8:11 PM on July 28, 2003


What's lost on me is that the GOP has majorities in most of the US House districts right now. They have just failed to win in the previous election. I think the GOP needs to spend less time redistricting and more time actually finding candidates that can win.
posted by jmauro at 9:33 PM on July 28, 2003


Yee-Haw, indeed! Have fun in Albuquerque kids!

... via TimO: here is their first statement to the press.
And apparently, someone is picketing the Governor's Mansion with a sign that reads "Tom DeLay's Bitch Lives Here". If I wasn't so tired, I'd go take a picture ...

posted by whatnot at 9:52 PM on July 28, 2003


Why don't you guys have a Boundary Commission?

Short answer: because we have a federal system. The Constitution says that state legislatures do it. If a state wants to have a commission draw up district lines and then have the legislature approve them, that's fine. But nobody can make them, except their voters.

(Technically, the feds might be able to impose boundary commissions on most of the South under the Voting Rights Act. The VRA is seriously Big Medicine. But that's not likely.)
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:53 PM on July 28, 2003


thatweirdguy2: it would be hard to avoid having big squirrelly districts in Texas, with middling-large cities separated by vast expanses of 100% jack shit. My old district in the D/FW area used to run all the way to Amarillo.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:55 PM on July 28, 2003


thatweirdguy2: it would be hard to avoid having big squirrelly districts in Texas, with middling-large cities separated by vast expanses of 100% jack shit. My old district in the D/FW area used to run all the way to Amarillo.

Yeah, but that's not the sort of thing that's being fought against here. I haven't seen the proposed plan, exactly, but what I've heard about it, they would do stuff like divide Austin into four regions and attach each one to a large rural area, so that the (presumably) liberal voters of Austin will, in each of their districts, be outnumbered by the (presumably) conservative rural voters. Obviously some districts are going to cover wide and sometimes oddly shaped areas of land, but splitting a city into four pieces for no legitimate reason?

Stuff like that-- obvious gerrymandering. Especially considering that Texas has already redistricted based on the 2000 census, this seems like a particularly vile attempt to abuse power.
posted by nath at 11:42 PM on July 28, 2003


Ignatius, you are incorrect. What convened today was, in fact, the second special session. The first convened on June 30. Prior was the 78th regular session of the Texas Legislature, which adjourned sine die on June 2 (though, it was hardly sine die, since a special session had been discussed as early as February).

I don't know anyone who is painting the Dems as angels through all this... every majority party takes their turn at screwing the other come redistricting. Cries of "gerrymandering is unfair!" would be disingenuous, to say the very least. It's simply how the game is played.

But calling two special sessions, to the tune of $1.7 million per, in the "off-season," a mere two years after "proper" redistricting was done, while destroying all manner of legislative tradition (and all hope of any bi-partisan cooperation in the future), simply because Tom DeLay wants to further gird the fortress, is where even Republicans start drawing the line.

(pun truly not intended)
posted by pineapple at 12:31 AM on July 29, 2003


Republicans. Democracy.

I understand what those two words mean, I just don't understand what they mean when you put them in the same sentence.
posted by zaelic at 1:29 AM on July 29, 2003


It's good that this kind of thing is being highlighted in Texas. This wave of redistricting/gerrymandering is a serious national problem that is sadly no way endemic to just Texas.

I'm really rooting for all of this to backfire in every state and blow up in the face of both parties.

This sort of silliness really should be prevented with some universal push to amend state constitutions. The old districts that have been wink/nodded across the country for the last chunk of forever need to be swept away. Start fresh, start right, and get on with having government. It would take a few electoral cycles, but eventually we'd probably get there.

That said. I tend to agree with mathowie's first comment. Redistricting is an ugly trend, but so is gaming the rules of the chamber in ways that were clearly not intended.

Anyway, why the hell does Texas require a super-majority to initiate debate? That makes absolutely no sense. Someone, clearly++, wasn't thinking when they adopted that.
posted by rudyfink at 3:23 AM on July 29, 2003


Cries of "gerrymandering is unfair!" would be disingenuous, to say the very least.

No, they wouldn't. You're presuming that we who oppose it would be silent if it were in our favor.

I, for one, would not be silent.

A local radio pundit in San Antonio remarked, "Turnabout is fair play, isn't it?" To which I can only respond, "Perhaps, but two wrongs don't make a right either."
posted by Cerebus at 3:59 AM on July 29, 2003


Yeah, but that's not the sort of thing that's being fought against here

Not defending anything here. Just pointing out that in Texas, *somebody* is going to end up in a couple-few districts that run for a jillion miles.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:49 AM on July 29, 2003


This sort of silliness really should be prevented with some universal push to amend state constitutions.

It's hard to codify stuff that would prevent this sort of silliness. You can't have a provision that says "But none of these rules shall be used for silly purposes," or "So-and-so shall draw up districts, but only districts that are fair and good."

The old districts that have been wink/nodded across the country for the last chunk of forever need to be swept away. Start fresh, start right, and get on with having government.

That won't end gerrymandering. Every possible set of districts is ``gerrymandered'' in the sense that it gives some people a political advantage and others a political disadvantage. There's fundamentally no such thing as a neutral set of districts.

Anyway, why the hell does Texas require a super-majority to initiate debate? That makes absolutely no sense. Someone, clearly++, wasn't thinking when they adopted that.

I wouldn't bet my car on this, but: lots of the current Texas constitution, which dates to ~1875 or so, is a reaction to their last bit of occupation / carpetbagger government under one Edmund Davis. Davis and company were by all accounts some seriously Bad Men -- up to the point after Davis lost a governor's election and had to be forcibly removed from office by the Texas Rangers, so when people gathered to fix the state constitution, Goal #1 was to make sure that This Never Happened Again by weakening and constraining all of the branches of gov't.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 AM on July 29, 2003


There's fundamentally no such thing as a neutral set of districts.

No, but there probably is such a thing as a neutral process for drawing districts.

A computerized map would go a long way toward the goal of a neutral process-- i.e., some kind of geographic information system (GIS) meshed with detailed census data, that automatically draws districts after each census.

This, however, is not an easy problem. I'll go so far as to say it's probably provably NP-complete. (This will be left as an exercise for the reader.) Complicating the whole thing is districts are usually drawn with an eye toward keeping communities of like interests together; IOW, lumping rural and urban centers together is bad, but so is luming a rural coastline with a rural inland farming communities.

But, just like pr0n, I know gerrymandering when I sees it.
posted by Cerebus at 7:15 AM on July 29, 2003


No, but there probably is such a thing as a neutral process for drawing districts

Nope. Apart from just randomizing*, there's no neutral method whatsoever of making any collective choice (of which districts are one example). They gave Ken Arrow a dump truck full of money and a nice medal for proving this back in the '50's.

A computerized map would go a long way toward the goal of a neutral process-- i.e., some kind of geographic information system (GIS) meshed with detailed census data, that automatically draws districts after each census.

They already use computerized maps and districting software. The ease of drawing new / alternative districts is part of why districting has become more of an issue.

*and even then, the question of how to randomize would be non-neutral
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:48 AM on July 29, 2003


No, they wouldn't. You're presuming that we who oppose it would be silent if it were in our favor. ...I, for one, would not be silent.

Cerebus, I fail to understand. Are you saying that you are a Texas Dem who is so opposed to gerrymandering (irrespective of the beneficiary) that you have fought it as long as you have been around? Because, the Dems have had the advantage in 2001, 1991, 1981, 1971, 1961...

ROU, I know what you're saying re: no way to codify good behavior, but I still believe that redistricting should not be in the hands of the legislators themselves. (Neither should their salaries, or term limits or election procedures, but what do I know?) Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, proposed an independent commission for the matter but was quickly struck down.

Edward Still is a Birmingham, AL, lawyer who maintains a blog on redistricting efforts nationwide. I don't know if it makes me feel better or worse to know that the crazy is happening in other states as well.
posted by pineapple at 7:53 AM on July 29, 2003


Cerebus, I fail to understand. Are you saying that you are a Texas Dem who is so opposed to gerrymandering (irrespective of the beneficiary) that you have fought it as long as you have been around? Because, the Dems have had the advantage in 2001, 1991, 1981, 1971, 1961...

I speak only for myself, and you understand perfectly.

In 2001 the court drew the boundary, and it was fair enough.

In 1991 I was living in Boston. In 1981 and 1971 I was living with my parents in upstate NY. Before that I can't comment.
posted by Cerebus at 9:27 AM on July 29, 2003


why the hell does Texas require a super-majority to initiate debate?

The supermajority is needed to consider bills out of order (i.e., not in order they were introduced). Traditionally, an inconsequential "blocker bill" is always first on the agenda and is never voted on. To consider other legislation, a 2/3 majority is needed to hear it out of order. It's a barrier to prevent the majority party from ignoring the minority party and -- up to now -- worked pretty well in preserving bipartisan cooperation in the Texas senate. Two ways to overcome the supermajority tradition: have the sponsors of all bills higher on the agenda withdraw them or call a special session with redistricting as the only issue.

Since the redistricting issue is so important to Texas Republicans, I wonder if they would agree to a compromise: they get their map, but the Democrats get to redraw Tom DeLay's district. How could he argue?
posted by joaquim at 11:34 AM on July 29, 2003


Update: now the Representatives are gone, too.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:35 AM on July 29, 2003


A true Texan.
posted by homunculus at 1:09 PM on August 3, 2003


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