from Texas Lege April 6 2017. Turner is from District 101
Basically, what Turner was asking for via amendment was that the Texas Attorney General not be allowed to continue to fight this case. This is the best thing I saw all day!
Turner: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the funds appropriated to the Attorney General's office are not used to appeal the US Western District Court's decision in the Perez v Abbott case. As you know, on March 10, a majority of a 3 judge federal panel determined that three congressional districts drawn by this legislature were discriminatory and minority voting strength had been diluted.
Anchia: Thank you for bringing this amendment. As I correct that the current redistricting cases pending here in Texas involve claims by Texas citizens that their rights, their voting rights specifically, are being violated under the US Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
Turner, Yes, Rep Anchia, that's correct. The State House, State Senate and Congressional boundaries were all challenged after being redrawn in 2011 by both Hispanic and African American Texans claiming violations of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act had occurred. All 3 maps at various times have been ruled by the Federal Courts to violate the Voting Rights Act and the United States Constitution. The Voting Rights claims against the Senate map were settled after the State was forced to remove the discriminatory features a few years ago. While the House and Congressional plans were slightly reconfigured by the Legislature in 2013, our state leadership failed to make the significant changes needed to remove voting rights violations so legal claims against the state have persisted and continue to this day. Late last month, the 3 judge federal court with jurisdiction over the case again ruled that the Congressional plan drawn in 2011 violates the rights of minority Texans and confirmed that many of these illegal features persist in the current map that we're under today. And we're expecting a similar ruling to be issued by the court very soon on the State House map as you know. If the Attorney General continues to relentlessly resist this ruling, file appeals and other motions that drag out the litigation, our citizens will be the ones that continue to bear the burden of the high court cost. Moreover, millions of Texas citizens will continue to have their voting rights violated.
Anchia: Mr chairman, am I also correct that in the most recent court ruling related to the Congressional map that you just alluded to, the court found that not only did the congressional plan have a discriminatory effect against hispanic and african -american Texans, but the plan was adopted by the Legislature with an intent to discriminate.
Turner: Yes, unfortunately, that's exactly right. The court found violations of the Federal Voting Rights law in several parts of the state and then reinforced the severity of those violations by ruling that they were the result of an intentional effort to undermine the voting rights of minority Texans. In fact, the recent ruling on the congressional redistricting plan marks at least the 4th time, the 4th time, the the federal court has ruled that the redistricting plan or a voter id law adopted by the Texas Legislature and signed by the governor since just 2011, the last 6 years, 4 times, has intentionally violated the voting rights of Texas citizens. And it is quite possible, after we see a ruling from the court on the statehouse map that we'll have 5 of those shameful rulings. Sadly, no other state in the nation has been found by the courts to have intentionally discriminated against the voting rights of its citizens over the last 5 years than Texas. We have been the worst of the worst, unfortunately.
Anchia: Thank you for raising that, Mr Chairman. And just so I understand what your amendment does, it seeks to withhold funds from the Attorney General to file and pursue appeals against adverse rulings by Federal Courts and redistricting. Now, given that the courts, as you have correctly pointed out, have consistenly ruled redistricting plans violate both in effect and intent the voting rights of hispanic and african-american Texans, isn't it true that appeals filed by the Attorney General and other legal maneuvers to resist the rulings by these courts amount to the use of state funds to protect and perpetuate, not only discriminatory effect but discriminatory intent against Texas citizens who the AG has a duty to protect.
Turner: You're exactly right. and this is the exact purpose for my amendment. For more than 5 years now, the State Attorney General's office, under 2 attorney generals, former general Abbot and current general Paxton, have expended millions of taxpayer dollars to protect and defend redistricting laws, voter id laws that courts have ruled violate the basic voting rights of Texas citizens under the Constitution and the voting rights act. Even court findings of intentional discrimination have not been enough to convince this attorney general to drop his appeals and end his defense of these discriminatory laws. The legislature unfortunately already bears the scars of these federal rules of intentional discrimination. A yes vote on this amendment is an action to begin healing those wounds and perhaps to begin to fade those scars from past actions. Conversely, I want to make sure members understand what a no vote means. A no vote worsens those wounds and reinforces the mistakes of the past. Make no mistake, a no vote on this amendment will signal to the attorney general that he has the approval of this legislature and support of our state house to continue to defend discrminatory laws that hurt millions of Texans, our constitutuents.
Anchia: And we're not talking about trivial matters here related to a budget, we are talking about fundamental voting rights that are the cornerstone of our democracy and we, we're still arguing in court about illegal maps that were adopted originally in 2011 and today it's 2017. Is that not correct?
Turner: That's exaclty right. We are 6 years into this decade, it's more than half over, and we are operating under maps that have been found to be intentionally discriminatory to african-american and hispanic voters across the state of Texas. It's time that this legislature take action and say, we are no longer going to tolerate this and correct the wrongs of the past.
Phillips. I move to oppose this bill and to quickly move to table. I voted for those maps, I didn't intend to discrminiate, I want the Attorney General to still fight. For those of us that felt like we were doing the right thing for Texas under the constitution, under the law, and join me in showing that we did not discriminate, we didn't intend to, I disavow that, did anybody intend to discriminate against minorities when we voted that. .. I want the Attorney General to continue to fight for that.
Nevarez: Larry, do I have to bring the emails that the Federal Judge perused to come to a ruling so we can talk about what the intent was by the authors and the people working on the bill. I"m not speaking to you specifically but if you want to make a general accusation or a general charge about what discrmination is and isn't with respect to this litigation, if we need to pore over and get these emails and talk about this amendment more, we can bring 'em down here, and we can put 'em up here, Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C regarding intent to discriminate, do we need to do that?
Phillips. You can do what you want to, Rep Nevarez. There was no intent by me to do that and I don't think the other good people of this body.
Anchia: Rep Phillips, I want to make sure I heard you correctly. When you suggested that this body was being told that there was intentional discrimination, what you were really talking about are the federal judges that were both appointed by a Republican and a Democratic president, right, because they're the ones who issued the ruling.
Phiillips: I'm not going to get into debate about the judges and what they did or didn't do, I said that's what y'all were saying and I don't want to say that we shouldn't have our attorney generals stand up and do their job
Anchia: Do you deny that a Republican appointee and a Democrat appointee said that there was intentional effect and intent in the drawing of the maps. Again and this is not chairman Turner and me saying this, let me finish, because to lay the proper predicate, we were not *telling* this body that there was discrimination, we were simply articulating what now 4 courts have said about the Texas legislature, Republican and Democratic appointees. I want to make sure that when you are talking about being told, you also mention that you are being told by Federal courts.
Phillips. What the courts said speak for themselves in the opinions. So they say what they say. I'm teling you I want the attorney general to fight for what I believe was the truth, there was not that intent, certainly not by me, certainly not by the good people who voted for that bill on this floor, it's not a partisan issue and that's what we're continuing to make it.
Anchia: I agree that it is not partisan because ?? is not a partisan organization with successful plaintiffs in that litigation and both a republican and a democratic appointee have made that point so. I just want to say, we're not telling you anything other than reporting what federal courts have said and I hope you would acknowledge that and, if you disagree with the federal courts, that's fine,in fact, do you disagree with them, I imagine you do.
Phillips well, let me just say this, Mr Anchia, so we don't continue this on, we've got a long night. I believe the Attorney General has a constitutional duty to defend what we passed. And I just want to continue to fund that. That's it.
Anchia. Okay. Do you not agree that the Attorney General has the constitutional duty to protect the voting rights of Texans? Is that not his constitutional duty? OR is it simply to protect the discriminatory intent of the legislature as articulated by the federal judges?
Philliips. Mr Anchia, I just moved to table , can we have the vote.
On March 10, 2017, a panel of three federal judges ruled 2-1 in a case known as Perez v. Abbott that the Texas Legislature “acted with an impermissible intent to dilute minority voting strength or otherwise violated the 14th Amendment” when it drew boundaries for the 23rd, 27th and 35th congressional districts of Texas back in 2011, and that minority voters in those districts “are still being harmed by the lines drawn as the direct product of these violations.”
It took the majority 165 pages to document the full nature of the Legislature's willful violation of the constitutional and voting rights of minorities in those congressional districts, but the court was able to state its conclusion rather succinctly: “The configurations of CD23, CD27, and CD35... are therefore invalid.”
On March 15, five days after the majority ruled in Perez, I wrote a letter to State Rep. Cindy Burkett, chairman of the House Committee on Redistricting, asking her to convene a formal meeting of the committee so that we could be briefed by legal counsel on the implications of the ruling and to schedule hearings immediately regarding the three congressional district maps that were invalidated by the court. I copied Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on the letter. After a week without a reply from either of them, I sent a second letter reiterating my request.
As of April 3, 2017, neither of them had answered either letter.
The redistricting committee has not held a single meeting or hearing this entire session, actually, despite the fact that taxpayer dollars presumably are being used to pay for a committee staff and to maintain a committee office in the Texas Capitol. Word in the halls of that Capitol is that the House Republican leadership's plan is to wait and see how some related redistricting litigation progresses before acting...