Texas House approves new district lines


Lawmakers in the Texas House approved new district lines for the 150 districts in the chamber early Wednesday morning. 

House Bill (HB) 1 from Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), the chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, was approved by members in an 83 to 63 vote largely along party lines according to the unofficial vote tally. 

Democrats who supported the final passage included Reps. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Bobby Guerra (D-Mission), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), and Sergio Muñoz, Jr. (D-Palmview). Republicans who opposed the final passage included Reps. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) and Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio).

The proposed map bolsters partisan support for most incumbents while shuffling the partisan leanings of a few seats, notably those currently held by Reps. James Talarico (D-Round Rock), Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton), and Jeff Cason (R-Bedford).

Several changes were made to the map during the debate on the floor, while many other amendments were shot down.

Bipartisan delegations from heavily populated areas such as Dallas and Harris County agreed to amendments for their parts of the map that they say would work better for their communities than what Hunter originally proposed.

Though negotiations within the delegations could have been tense behind the scenes, those amendments were adopted without much controversy on the floor and in public view.

Tensions did arise, however, when Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) offered an amendment that would make one of the districts in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) more competitive.

Lozano said that amid the retirement of Rep. Eddie Lucio, III (D-Brownsville) and rumors that Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville) could be exploring a run for Congress, several individuals from Harlingen who urged him to advocate the amendment.

Instead of splitting Brownsville into two districts, the border city would be largely packed into one — where Lucio and Dominguez would both live — while Dominguez’s current district would shift to be anchored primarily in Harlingen where Republicans have performed better.

Dominguez and Lucio both opposed Lozano’s amendment, as did the other Democrats.

When criticized by Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) for offering an amendment to districts without consulting the members of the RGV delegation, Lozano pointed out that Anchia had offered similar amendments, even a statewide proposal that would have paired dozens of lawmakers together without consulting them.

The initial vote on the Lozano amendment was close, but after a verification vote to ensure that all votes were counted properly, the change was adopted with two votes to spare.

Another controversial spot on the map that is sure to come up again is in Bell County, where its two districts have been referred to as the “donut” since House District (HD) 54 completely surrounds HD 55.

The Democrats who opposed the district argued that it unlawfully splits a “community of interest” in the city of Killeen, which has a high Black Voting Age Population (BVAP).

But Republicans in the legislature rejected that argument and voted against an amendment from Rep. Yvonne Davis (D-Dallas) that would keep most of Killeen in the same district.

Later in the evening, Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas) referenced the rejection of that argument to point out hypocrisy by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake).

Capriglione had been sharply critical of an amendment by Cason that would have made Cason’s own district safer for reelection as a Republican.

Despite voting against Davis’ amendment to keep Killeen together, Capriglione’s primary argument against Cason’s amendment was that it would split communities of interest such as school boards and cities in Tarrant County.

Cason claimed that he had a discussion with other GOP members in the Tarrant County delegation about whether they should try to keep the partisan split with eight Republicans and three Democrats, or if they should shift one seat toward the opposing party.

He said that the group — which accordingly included Capriglione — agreed to shift one more seat to Democrats: that of Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), who is leaving the legislature to run for Texas attorney general.

But as Cason brought that claim up, an irate Capriglione ended his line of questioning.

Republicans and Democrats in the House overwhelmingly voted against Cason’s amendment, which failed in a 17 to 119 vote.

One other notable last-minute change to the map was redrawing the boundaries of HD 45 to place Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) back in a Democratic-leaning district instead of the Republican-leaning seat she was drawn into.

With the House now finished with its map, HB 1 will move to the Senate for further consideration. It is customary for each chamber to rubber-stamp the map of the other.

HB 1 is the first bill that was approved by the House during the current special session, which is set to come to an end on Tuesday, October 19.

The chamber still needs to consider and approve the other maps for the state Senate, the State Board of Education, and Texas’ congressional delegation, as well as any other items that Gov. Greg Abbott has placed on the special session agenda that they wish to pass.

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