Texas politics has seen its share of backroom deals, but for sheer brazenness, it’s hard to top the recent play by nineteen Democratic senators that effectively repealed the brand-new Senate redistricting plan and substituted their own creation—a nifty feat, considering that the Legislature was not in session at the time. The senators, led by Bob Glasgow of Stephenville (the same fellow who orchestrated a backroom deal last spring that legalized beer sales at Texas Stadium), offered their revised plan as a settlement to a lawsuit flled by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. MALDEF contended that the plan adopted by the Legislature did not comply with the Voting Rights Act. In the settlement MALDEF got two new districts that could be won by Hispanics. All this was done with the cooperation of attorney general Dan Morales, who was supposed to defend the bill that had been passed by the Legislature and accepted by the governor. Instead, he agreed to the settlement.
The issue, of course, is not the result—the legal issue of whether Hispanics were entitled to more representation was a close call—but the motive for the backdoor process. The settlement gives Glasgow a dis- trict with fewer Waco Republicans—a timely change, since he faces a reelection challenge from Republican senator David Sibley of, yes, Waco. A lobbyist for plaintiff’s lawyers attended key meetings to discuss the settlement; that could explain why the new plan imperils the reelection chances of two Democrats who often voted against plaintiff’s lawyers, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Bill Sims of San Angelo. Another senator whose district was obliterated by the settlement, San Antonio Republican Cyndi Krier, just happens to be regarded as an archenemy by Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock.
So the Democratic senators were able, by signing a letter, to push through a plan that they could not have passed on the Senate floor. A bill must have the support of two thirds of the Senate (21 votes) in order to reach the floor for debate; that margin was impossible due to Republican and conservative Democratic opposition. Unless the plan is tossed out by the Justice Department (unlikely) or a federal court