Region needs better deal on redistricting

The Enterprise
The Beaumont Enterprise
June 8, 2010

There's a reason the two Republican state senators who represent Southeast Texas live somewhere else--Tommy Williams in The Woodlands and Joan Huffman in Houston. Both senators have narrow, wide districts that run east-west from the Louisiana border to the Houston area. In both cases, the bulk of the district's population lies at the western edge, where Republican voters dominate.

It's been like this since the 2001 session of the Legislature, when Texas districts were redrawn after the 2000 census by the party in power --the GOP. Next year's session of the Legislature will see another round of redistricting after this year's census is completed.

Several House committees are already beginning the preliminary work and will hold public hearings throughout the state later this year. The hearing in Beaumont is scheduled take place some time in October.

Southeast Texas deserves a better deal from this process.

For one thing Jefferson County is divided between two Senate districts. The county should be united in one district when the new lines are drawn.

Southeast Texas should have a district anchored right here, but Texas Republicans won't want to do that because that senator could be a Democrat. Hence the current setup in which the region is artificially linked to the Houston area--even though our interests sometimes conflict.

The best way to get around these problems is for district boundaries to be drawn by a neutral panel, as some states do now. If the Texas Legislature won't do that voluntarily, it shouldn't be surprised if the courts do it for them some day.