- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2003

From combined dispatches

Texas House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement in principle yesterday to redraw the state’s congressional boundaries, settling a dispute among Republican lawmakers, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said.

After days of closed-door meetings, legislators reached a deal after U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, met with state officials in the Capitol for three straight days this week. The final sticking point was over how to draw districts in West Texas.

“It is my hope that we can have a final map that we can show you tomorrow morning,” Mr. Dewhurst said.

Some details still need to be settled, but the agreement reached by the conference committee covers the entire map, a Dewhurst aide told the Associated Press.

A Republican aide told The Washington Times that, among other things, the final plan eliminates the district of Rep. Martin Frost, a Democrat who was a leading opponent of the redistricting. The map also changes the district of Rep. Lloyd Doggett so it would be nearly impossible for the Democrat to win, the aide told The Washington Times.

The Republican aide said his party expects to gain five or six U.S. House seats as a result of the redistricting.

The agreement still must be approved by the majority of the House and Senate. The chambers are scheduled to convene again tomorrow. Republican Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign the redistricting bill.

Lawmakers debated redistricting for months in what became a heated fight, first between Democrats and Republicans and most recently among Republicans working on a compromise between the House and Senate plans.

Republicans, who control the Texas House and Senate and hold every statewide elected office, say conservative voting trends show that the state should have more Republicans in its congressional delegation. Democrats, who control the delegation 17-15, want to keep the current district boundaries.

Democrats boycotted the Texas Legislature twice this year to block a quorum and kill redistricting bills. House Democrats fled to Ardmore, Okla., in May and stayed away for four days to block redistricting in the regular legislative session.

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