- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Legislature adjourned its second special legislative session yesterday without passing a congressional redistricting bill, as Senate Democrats blocked the measure by their self-imposed exile in New Mexico and Republicans fumed.

Yesterday was the final day of the 30-day session. Republican Gov. Rick Perry has indicated he would call yet another special session to try to get approval for new congressional boundaries. But he has not said when it would start.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said the Democrats who went to New Mexico on July 28 were prepared to stay away another 30 days if needed.

“This is long from over,” Sen. Royce West, a Democrat, said Monday from the hotel where the senators have been for nearly a month. “It’s probably the beginning of the second quarter, if you want to use a football analogy.”

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst sent a warning to the Democrats.

“Let me pass on a very clear message to our 11 colleagues out in Albuquerque. The mood in the Senate is changing. We’re tired. We’re tired of sitting here and waiting,” Mr. Dewhurst said. “It is in our 11 colleagues’ best interest to come back sooner rather than later.”

The Democrats have said the current map should not be changed, and that proposals before the GOP-dominated Legislature this year would have hurt minority representation.

Republicans, led by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, have said recent voting trends show Texas should have more Republicans representing the state in Washington.

Democrats have a 17-15 majority in the Texas delegation now. Lawmakers failed to draw the lines themselves during the 2001 legislative session, so the current map was drawn by federal judges.

Efforts to address redistricting have failed three times this year. During the regular legislative session, the bill failed when more than 50 Democratic House members fled to Ardmore, Okla., blocking a quorum in that chamber.

During the first special session, redistricting didn’t get to the Senate floor for a vote because 11 Democrats and one Republican told the governor they would oppose it, meaning the 31-member Senate could not muster the required two-thirds vote to even bring it up for consideration.

That two-thirds rule was dropped for the second special session, but the Senate still needed a quorum of two-thirds of its members to conduct any business. Without the Democrats, there wasn’t a quorum.

By going to New Mexico, the Senate Democrats avoided the possibility of being arrested by the Senate sergeant-at-arms and forced back to the Capitol.

In Albuquerque, Sen. Judith Zaffirini and two other Democrats watched on the Internet as the Legislature adjourned.

“It really is sad to see the Texas Legislature so divided and at the same time, we felt validated because we accomplished what we set out to do,” Mrs. Zaffirini said.

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