Redistricting lines, education cuts pass Senate

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Despite opposition from every Senate Democrat, Republicans approved their congressional redistricting lines and a plan to permanently reduce some teachers’ salaries and furlough others Monday.

Both bills passed on an 18-12 vote along party lines and will now go to the House for consideration.

Minority leaders stood strongly against the redistricting map, which many legislators claimed does not fairly represent the state’s changing demographics and is unfair to the population.

“Minorities throughout the state will be offended by this plan,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. “We know what the vote will be, 18-12, but we rise because we represent not only minorities but all Texans in our districts … also because this [map] does not comply with the Voting Rights Act.”

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said the map inappropriately discriminates against minorities in Travis County because more than 50 percent of the county’s growth has been Hispanic, but the map divides the minority population into five separate districts; all Republican-leaning.

“This map systematically silences the voice of Travis County,” Watson said.

Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, authored the bill and said he believes it is legal and fair.

The Senate also passed a bill Monday that gives school districts the authority to permanently lower teachers’ pay and impose unpaid furloughs.

Senate Bill 8, authored by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, did not pass during the 82nd regular session. Because of the $4 billion cuts school districts are possibly going to face, Shapiro’s legislation offers flexibility for school boards to deal with the loss.

Democrats made efforts to put a 2013 expiration date on the bill, but Shapiro said the Legislature would re-establish the bill in two years if it was made temporary.