by Donna Garner
Remember the fire in the belly that we Texas voters demonstrated on election day, Nov. 2, 2010? Over two dozen new conservative Republicans were voted into the Texas Legislature with 101 Republicans voted into the House. That victory was not because of a particular party but was the result of grassroots citizens getting involved and showing their support for the conservative agenda.
Next after that dynamic 10.2.10 election came a "clarion call for conservative leadership in the Texas House," and grassroots voters began to demand a change -- a conservative Speaker of the House.
Way over 1,700 citizens signed a petition saying they wanted a conservative Speaker because we knew our conservative agenda would be hampered by a moderate-to-left-leaning Speaker since it is the Speaker's job to appoint committee chairmen and to decide which bills get scheduled for public hearings.
Unfortunately, Speaker Straus with his coffers of money (mostly made from his family's gambling interests) was apparently able to "buy votes" for his Speakership.
On 10.10.10, Rep. Bryan Hughes stated:
Today after much prayer and counsel, I formally withdraw my support for Speaker Joe Straus. I do this with no malice toward the Speaker or any other member.
Over the past several days I have heard from an increasing number of my constituents and supporters. Their unanimous voice has called for me to withdraw my support of Speaker Straus.
My decision, though not a light one, was made clearer after a phone call I received over the weekend from a member of Speaker Straus's leadership team. This member brought up the subject of redistricting and explained to me how that process would be used to punish those members not on Speaker Straus's list of supporters.
More specifically, this member told me that maps were already being drawn to get rid of Representative-Elect Erwin Cain (R-Sulphur Springs) and Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van), because they were not on the Speaker's list of supporters.
I was then told that I had nothing to worry about in redistricting, so long as I stayed on the Speaker's list.
This conversation first saddened and then disgusted me.
Using the redistricting process for retribution reminds us of all that is wrong with politics. The Speaker's race should be decided not based on threats of punishment and not on promises of power, but on principle…
Exactly what Rep. Bryan Hughes said about political retribution has indeed come to pass in the form of a personal vendetta directed toward the 17 House members who voted against Straus as Speaker.
The worst part is that it is affecting their ability to get their conservative bills passed. Out of the 17 heroes who voted against Straus as Speaker, only four of them have passed any of their legislative bills.
One of the conservative legislators told me that normally at this time in the legislative session, he has 20 or 25 that he has been able to pass. So far this session, he has passed zero bills because they either are not scheduled for public hearings or he cannot get them voted out of the "Straus-stacked" committees.
The Speaker and his lieutenants are holding the conservative agenda hostage even though we conservatives sent a magnanimous message on election night, 10.2.10.
THE ALL-IMPORTANT REDISTRICTING ISSUE
One of the biggest issues to come up in this legislative session is redistricting because the redistricting maps will determine who gets elected in Texas for the next ten years.
Rep. Burt Solomons is one of Straus' lieutenants and was appointed as the chair of the House Redistricting Committee. His redistricting map for the House (Plan H153) at most would help to elect 82 or 83 Republicans. Today Rep. Joe Nixon and the conservative Republicans submitted a much better plan that would help to elect 99 Republicans.
Solomons' plan would pair conservative Republicans against each other -- Rep. Perry vs. Rep. Landtroop. Both voted against Straus as Speaker. Because of the way Solomons' map is drawn, West Texas could lose three seats. Rep. Frullo of Amarillo, who voted for Straus, is protected on Solomons' redistricting map.
Solomons also paired two other conservative Republicans (East Texas) who voted against Straus as Speaker -- Rep. Flynn and Rep. Cain.
Rep. Driver and Rep. Burkett have also been paired against each other by Solomons; Rep. Burkett is a conservative who voted against Straus as Speaker.
The Democrats have one pairing with Rep. Hochberg vs. Rep. Vo. And Nueces County has a pairing that reflects its drop in population -- Rep. Torres vs. Rep. Scott.
Rep. Solomons' own district has been drawn to be safe for a Republican.
It takes 76 votes on the floor of the House to pass a redistricting bill. This is where we grassroots conservatives come in. We must convince the House members who represent us to vote for "Nixon Statewide House Proposal" because this map would help to elect 99 Republicans vs. 82. (Nixon's plan is also being referred to as Plan 155.)
We need to keep reminding members of the Senate and House Redistricting Committees that Section 5 of the U. S. Voting Rights Act (a.k.a., VRA) says that legislators are:
not obligated to produce a redistricting map that yields a racial quota of elected officials mirroring exactly the state's population. In fact, drawing districts to satisfy a racial quota is expressly prohibited…
The court does prohibit lawmakers from obliterating existing majority-minority districts. And courts may require the drawing of a majority-minority legislative district only if the population distribution meets the three factors in Gingles v. Thornburg: (1) geographically compact, (2) politically cohesive, and (3) a history of racially polarized voting…
The problem the Democrats are likely to run into in Texas is that the civil rights movement is finally beginning to achieve its stated goal – racial integration. Minorities are moving to the suburbs. (Will Lutz, The Lone Star Report, 2.18.11)
The House floor vote on the House Redistricting Map was set by the Calendars Committee tonight for next Tuesday, 4.26.11. Because of the Easter weekend, we need to make sure that we contact our House members this week.
Let's tell them that we do not understand why a Republican (Solomons) would construct a redistricting map ("Plan H153 House Redistricting Committee CSHB 150") that would make it easy for Democrats to be elected whenever the elections of 10.2.10 sent a clear message: Texas is a conservative Republican state, and we expect our Texas Representatives to vote for "Nixon Statewide House Proposal (a.k.a., 155)."
TO VIEW THE HOUSE REDISTRICTING PLANS
To see the House Redistricting plans, please go to: http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/
1. Click on the drop down list "Select Plans," and select "Base Plan."
2. Click on the drop down list "Plan Type." Click on "House."
3. To see Solomons' plan, click on "Plan H153 House Redistricting Committee CSHB 150."
4. To see the plan drawn up by the conservative Republicans, please go to "Nixon Statewide House Proposal."
I was told tonight that the slots and casino resort gambling bills are all going to be wrapped into one bill which will be pushed out of the House Licensing & Administrative Procedures Committee and sent to the House floor for a quick vote when members least expect it. Please warn your legislators that we grassroots voters do not want an expansion of gambling in Texas.
To read a well-documented report on the reasons we do not want an expansion of gambling in Texas, please go to my article published on 3.28.11 entitled
"Texas To Turn Into Nevada?" ---