Should the AG be on the LRB?
Tue March 17, 2009 9:15 am

An interesting debate has been spun-off from last week’s Voter ID hearing:  Should the Attorney General serve on the Legislative Redistricting Board?

You will recall that Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott declined the invitation of Senate Democrats to appear before the Committee of the Whole to answer questions about Voter ID: in particular, his office’s investigation of voter fraud in Texas.  He reasoned that he shouldn’t appear as a witness taking sides in the debate, as his office would certainly be defending the state’s position in the expected court battle over the new voting rules.

Sen. Bob Duncan, who had the unenviable job of keeping order during the Committee of the Whole, said he agreed with Abbott’s position (though he denied published reports – based on statements from the AG’s office – that he instructed Abbott to stay away).  On Friday, he took that position a step further, and filed SJR 41, which would replace the attorney general with the agriculture commissioner on the Legislative Redistricting Board.

Duncan said he has always though the AG’s role on the LRB is “unusual” as it puts the state’s attorney in the position of defending a plan in which he or she is also a decision-maker. “What if the Attorney General voted against a particular redistricting plan and then had to defend it in court?” he asked. “It is an inherent conflict.”

Shortly after the Committee of the Whole debate, Duncan learned that Rep. Mark Homer had filed HJR 53 giving the AG’s spot on the LRB to the ag commissioner. “When I heard about that bill over there, I said I’ll carry it on the Senate side,” Duncan said.

Duncan said the bill is “very consistent with (his) philosophy,” and noted the added benefit that the ag commissioner would bring rural representation to the LRB.

I asked Duncan if the dust-up over Abbott’s appearance last week had influenced him, since it appeared the attorney general tried to blame Duncan for his failure to appear.

“No. I am not a vindictive person. I wish I had thought of this earlier,” Duncan said, adding that he advised the attorney general’s office of his decision to carry the resolution. “I don’t need to make my friend Greg Abbott mad. I don’t have time for stuff like that.”

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