The U.S. Supreme Court on January 20 struck down the interim redistricting plans for the state of Texas authored by a three-judge panel of the San Antonio-based U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas.
Last year, the panel was tasked with drawing state House, Senate and congressional district boundaries after the 82nd Texas Legislature’s enacted redistricting plans failed to be pre-cleared by D.C. Circuit Court. Texas’ maps must earn preclearance as required under Section 5 of the U.S. Voting Rights Act, a law meant to cure a list of states and other jurisdictions from their historical record of discriminatory practices in election processes. Texas gained four congressional seats largely due to a huge increase in the Hispanic population, as tabulated in the 2010 U.S. Census.
On January 20, the U.S. Supreme Court directed the U.S. District Court in San Antonio to follow the Texas Legislature’s intent but did not elaborate on a methodology to use moving forward.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott reacted, saying, “The (U.S. Supreme) Court made clear in a strongly worded opinion that the district court must give deference to elected leaders of this state, and it's clear by the Supreme Court ruling that the district court abandoned these guiding principles.”
In any case, a new set of redistricting plans, once drawn, must be submitted for preclearance. Meanwhile, the San Antonio District Court, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the court-drawn interim redistricting maps, set a scheduling order calling for a hearing on February 1.
But Abbott’s office filed a motion to reconsider because, Abbott said, the court's schedule appears to delay when Texas primary elections could take place. The primaries are currently set for April 3. Abbott’s office said it wants all legal matters settled in time for new maps to be issued by the end of this month.
Perry ends presidential bid
Gov. Rick Perry on January 19 publicly announced the decision he made to end his presidential campaign.
Perry, who was polling in single digits in South Carolina two days before that state’s January 21 Republican primary, immediately endorsed rival Newt Gingrich, an author, political consultant and former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (January 1995-January 1999).
With Perry’s departure, the GOP field of presidential aspirants is reduced to four: Gingrich, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
While Perry outperformed the field on fundraising, his performance in live, televised debates proved to be his weak suit. The Paint Creek native is in the second year of his third four-year term as governor. So far, he has served more than 11 years as Texas’ chief executive.
Jobless rate drops in December
The Texas Workforce Commission on January 20 reported Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in December, down from 8.1 percent in November and down from 8.3 percent in December 2010.
Also in its monthly report, the agency stated the civilian labor force grew by more than 17,000 in December, and now stands at more than 12.3 million Texans.
According to statistics published by the U.S. Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate is 8.5 percent.
Patterson at front of opposition
Earlier this month, the state’s General Land Office announced Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is leading an effort to unite 23 western states to oppose the federal government’s process for adding “birds, bugs, lizards and other critters to the list of protected endangered species.”
According to a Land Office news release, the Western States Land Commissioners Association, whose members manage about half a billion acres of public land and mineral rights for public education, passed a resolution urging Congress to alter the Endangered Species Act at its annual winter conference in Austin.
Flu vaccinations still urged
The Texas Department of State Health Services recently reminded citizens to get vaccinated against flu and said the flu season is near its typical peak. State Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey said, “We usually see a significant increase in influenza in Texas in January and February, so this is the time to protect yourself.”