June 8, 2020
As the Governor expands the list of businesses and institutions that can reopen after the shutdown, there is one glaring omission from the list: the Texas Legislature itself. Both the House and Senate started postponing public hearings back in February, and neither have released a plan for how hearings will proceed given the ongoing public health crisis.
While the Legislature is currently out of session, there is still important work that must be done in order to prepare for the next legislative session, like the work of the State’s Legislative Budget Board and the House and Senate Redistricting Committees. While the COVID pandemic has put a significant strain on our state, the government must remain functional, and the public has a right to be a part of the policy-making process. We cannot let public access to meetings and information about government business to retrench.
As such, a broad group of organizations have come together to urge House and Senate leadership to develop a contingency plan to allow for public hearings to continue with virtual accommodations in order to prioritize the health and well-being of our residents.
By Ashley Lopez, KUT,
June 8, 2020
In response to the letters that we sent to the House Redistricting Committee (found below), the Committee decided to double the number of public input hearings from 14 to 28, agreed to post notice of the hearings 30 days in advance, and agreed to post hearing notices in both English in Spanish. Fair Maps Texas is now requesting your help notifying the public and other community groups about these hearings.
Members of the Fair Maps Texas Coalition, along with partnering organizations, communicated with the House Redistricting Committee in regards to the location and organization of public input hearings that are to be held before the next round of redistricting in 2021. We were deeply concerned that some of the same mistakes that were made during the 2011 Field Hearings were being made once again.
Some of the concerns discussed in these letters were also cited as shortcomings of the 2011 redistricting effort by U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez during the recent hearing in which the Federal District Court for the Western District of Texas reviewed evidence for the bail-in provision of Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. Judge Rodriguez asked if the Attorney General’s office could guarantee that Republican lawmakers will not repeat abuses the court had criticized in the 2011 redistricting effort, such as, “hearings in hard-to-find locations with little notice” and “no maps visible for the public.”
Fair Maps Texas would like to make these letters available for everyone to review.