Sen. Jeff Wentworth’s redistricting commission bill, which has passed the Texas Senate twice, has a fighting chance this session since Tom Craddick’s no longer speaker. Wentworth, who presented his bill to the Senate State Affairs Committee, tells me he has confirmed pledges from six of nine Senate committee members to vote for his plan to turn congressional redistricting over to an independent commission. He gave a compelling — if lengthy — argument at State Affairs today for a new congressional redistricting mechanism, noting that lawmakers of both parties have been guilty of overreaching, vengeful actions that lead inexorably to expensive court appeals every decade. He’s optimistic about his chances in the House, since it died there last session since “Craddick personally killed it.” Here’s the story: Wentworth had pledges from more than a majority of the House committee, but chairman Joe Crabb told him Craddick had instructed him to sit on the bill. Wentworth then collected signatures form 20 House chairman in support of his bill, but Craddick wouldn’t relent. Why? Wentworth says Craddick instructed him to go read “Craddick vs. Smith” — a 30-year-old lawsuit over Craddick’s mistreatment during redistricting at the hands of Democrats. (Wentworth’s bill doesn’t touch legislative redistricting, but oh well, ….) Could Texas really go a less bloody form of congressional redistricting? There were two opponents at Monday’s hearing — the executive director of the Republican Party of Texas, and a witness one purporting to represent the Republican County Chairman’s Association (turns out his group hadn’t actually taken an official position on the bill.) Still, things are looking up for Wentworth: Joe Straus was one of the signatures on his letter supporting the bill last session. Wentworth also claims that Gov. Rick Perry “wants to sign this bill.”
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