After much deliberation that lasted into the early morning, the House passed its redistricting map around 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 28 with a 92-52 vote. Legislators’ emotions peaked and the debate was heated as many of them fought to keep their legislative seat. The new maps turned several Republicans and a few Democrats against each other by pairing some of the current districts, which means two current legislators will be running against their colleague for one seat in the next election. More can be read about the long redistricting debate at The Texas Tribune’s website. The new House redistricting plan protects most of the Republican two-thirds majority, yet some Republican members want the map to increase conservative seats and limit the number of losses. However, Republican leaders have so many seats to defend that they cannot draw enough safe districts to protect every incumbent in future elections. Empower Texas has more details on the House redistricting maps.
In the other Texas chamber, the Senate Finance Committee is struggling to gain the necessary votes it needs to debate its budget plan on the Senate floor. The main reservation is the provision to use an additional portion of the state’s Rainy Day Fund to pay for more spending. The Statesman’s website provides more detail on the Senate’s budget dilemma. Governor Rick Perry has already stated he will not support additional money from the Rainy Day Fund for balancing the state budget, and the House has already proposed using $3 billion from the $9.4 billion emergency reserve to pay for the left over deficit from last biennium. The current debate over using Rainy Day Funds centers around whether the next two year budget should use these funds. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has sent some mixed signals on the issue. His latest position seems to be that he supports using $3 billion for the budget, but only as a “contingency”. In other words, he’s betting that the news from the Comptroller will improve, and there will be no need to use these funds as the economy improves and more revenue flows into the state’s treasury over the next several months. The Senate has decided to postpone redistricting until it has passed its budget plan.