- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A three-judge federal appeals panel yesterday dismissed a lawsuit filed by Democrats in the state Senate who had hoped to derail a new round of Republican-led congressional redistricting in Texas.

The Democrats argued that Senate rule changes by Republicans to further the redistricting effort violated federal law. The judges, who listened to two hours of arguments Thursday in Laredo, dismissed those claims.

The ruling represented another setback for Democrats who have been fighting for several months to thwart Republican efforts to redraw the state’s congressional map. They say it would hurt minority representation in Congress.

Democrats have a 17-15 majority in the current congressional delegation in Washington and fear the redistricting plan could end up giving Republicans as much as a 21-11 advantage.

“We said before the ruling that whatever happened today was just one more step in a long and challenging process and there are many unresolved issues that lie ahead,” said Democratic state Sen. Judith Zaffirini.

Republicans said the decision reinforced their belief that the Legislature, not the courts, should decide redistricting.

“The Democrats have exhausted all their legal options, and now it’s time to get back to work,” said Mark Miner, a spokesman for Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the state Senate.

Eleven Democratic senators fled to New Mexico on July 28, shortly before Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, called lawmakers back for a second special legislative session to deal with redistricting. The senators went across the state line so Texas law officers could not arrest them and force them back to the Capitol.

The boycott brought the Senate to a standstill because not enough senators in the 31-member chamber were present to make a quorum, killing the redistricting effort.

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