78th Legislature begins Second Special Session
By DS Gands
Jul 29, 2003
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The First Called Special Session of the 78th Legislative Session of Texas adjourned Sine Die on the morning of July 28, 2003, without a quorum present in the Senate.  Fourteen members were not present, three of which had been excused.   They were not verbally identified.

At 3:15 p.m., a Proclamation was read by the President of the Texas Senate, issued by Governor Perry, which has to immediately call a Second Special Session of the 78th Legislature to begin on July 29th at 10am in the Senate. 

Senator Todd Staples made a motion to order the Senators absent from the Senate Floor to be called to the Senate Floor for the purpose of hearing the Congressional Redistricting legislation, and the motion passed without objection.  The Sergeant at Arms was ordered to lock the Senate doors, and the roll was called to verify the members present.  Senator Janek appeared at the Senate doors, was allowed to enter, and recorded as late, but present after the chamber doors were locked.  None of the other Senators that were absent appeared to be entered by the Secretary of the Senate as present on the floor.  All members present were given a written pass to leave the Senate Floor following a call to stand at ease in honor of Bob Hope.

House Bill 3 is the Bill regarding redistricting of Texas, filed in the First Called Session.  It was placed on the Intent Calendar of the Texas Senate on July 24, 2003, and was to be heard for third reading in the Senate on July 28, 2003.   The Bill was a Senate Committee Substitute, which was a modification of the House map issued with the original Bill.  House Bill 3 was killed on July 28, 2003.

Dewhurst remarked today on the Floor, that the legislature was to redistrict on the basis of the population statistics of 2000.  There was no mention of ‘voting trends’ in the session. 

The process of filing and passing Bills for legislation left pending will begin, again, through the House and Senate on July 29, 2003.  House Bill 1 of the 78th Second Special Session was filed 28 Jul 2003 - 11:20PM.   The caption reads: Relating to the composition of the districts for the election of members of the United States House of Representatives from the State of Texas.”

The last sentence of House Bill 1 reads: “If this Act does not receive the vote necessary for immediate effect, this Act takes effect on the 91st day after the last day of the legislative session.” 

House Bill 3 was to take effect on November 1, 2003.

State Representative Barry B. Telford (DeKalb) said the redistricting plan would severely damage the interests of rural Northeast Texas by lumping the region in with fast-growth areas around the Dallas suburbs.   Grayson, Fannin, hunt, and Rockwall expanded at a rate higher than the State average, and Telford felt that Red River, Cass, Bowie and Morris counties were being tied in with areas that were not sensitive to their needs.   The press release by Rep. Telford was issued on July 23, 2003, just before Map C1327, drawn by Senator Staples and his staff originally, was placed on the Notice of Intent for the Texas Senate.  The Map, 1327, was said to have been based on input from public hearings and input from colleagues, per Sen. Staples at the committee hearing on the day the map was issued. 

There was an arduous and tense exchange between Senator West and Senator Staples regarding the changes to Congressional District 26 during a committee hearing on the day that Senator Staples introduced the map in question.   The data showed that the District had been reduced from a 55% minority consideration to 27%.  For the duration of the banter, Senator West continued to ask, in various forms, why Senator Staples had reduced the minority consideration by more than half, but Senator Staples refused to name colleagues that had input into the map, and would not effectively answer Senator West’s question.

Once again, the issue of redistricting Texas is a hot subject.  A letter from the Governor regarding his disappointment with the results from the First Called Session did not focus on the redistricting issues.  The only issue in the proclamation for the Second Called Special Session was redistricting.  The Governor can add issues to the Session, as he desires.

There was tension and some uncertainty in the voices on the floor of the Texas Senate on July 28th.    With a Second Called Session, the citizens are now funding another Session of the 78th Legislature, for the purpose of passing the redistricting Bill, with more possible.  An additional Special Session is expected in the spring of 2004 for School Finance Reform.  Representative Suzanna Gratia Hupp has been named to the School Finance Task Force for the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI), which began work last week on the recommendations regarding school performance, accountability and results.  The Task Force will be looking into the critical issue of finance, which will include an intense overview of property taxes in Texas.

Copyright 2003 By DS Gands – All Rights Reserved