BELTON — State Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, expects the Legislature to be called back for another special session — this time to tackle the state’s congressional map.
Monday evening at the Central Texas Tea Party’s monthly meeting, Buckingham discussed federal judges invalidating two Texas congressional districts and the recently concluded special legislative session.
Prior to the Tea Party meeting, the senator spent Monday touring Bell County, stopping in Salado, Belton and Killeen to discuss issues with residents and local officials.
Last week, a three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled that two congressional districts violated the Voting Rights Act and the map must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court, according to the Texas Tribune. Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court to maintain boundaries for District 35, which includes parts of San Antonio and Austin, and District 27, which includes Corpus Christi, Bay City and areas east of Austin.
The appeal, the Lakeway Republican said, would hold the current congressional district lines until the next time the state redraws the map after the census in 2020.
Whether Gov. Greg Abbott calls another special session hinges on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, Buckingham said.
If the nation’s highest court upholds the lower ruling then the Legislature will be back to address the map, the senator added. And it’s a very sensitive issue, too, she said.
“When you touch one, it touches the line next to it and it touches the line next to it,” Buckingham said. “You’re touching a lot of lines when you’re doing that.”
On top of the congressional districts, Buckingham thinks state House districts will get swept into a possible redrawing. Legal challenges to the state House map were not addressed by the federal judges, the Tribune reported.
“I’m guessing we’re heading back for that,” the first-term senator said, adding it’s up to Abbott to call a special session and what lawmakers will legislate. “He’s in charge of specials. He can call them when he wants them.”
Buckingham also addressed the controversial bathroom bill that would have regulated bathroom use for transgender Texans.
The bathroom bill arose, the senator said, because former President Barack Obama told public schools that transgender students can use the bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their identity.
“If you have a sexual predator who just says ‘Today I identify as a woman,’ then he can walk in and stay in that bathroom for as long as he wants and you can’t get him to move,” Buckingham said.
The bathroom bill, she said, would have only addressed public school bathrooms. The bill would have required people to use the restroom based on the sex listed on their birth certificate, Buckingham said.
“If you needed an additional accommodation, which is how these kids have been dealt with for a long time, there’s the nurse’s bathroom, there are teachers’ single-stall bathrooms, something that can accommodate those children who don’t feel comfortable for whatever reason in the normal facility,” Bell County’s senator told the audience of Tea Party members.
Ultimately, the bill died because of fierce opposition from the state’s business community — including major corporations such as Google to the NFL — and law enforcement.
“It really was a storm,” Buckingham said
To get out of that storm — and others like it that are created from a “loud minority” — the senator would often go visit constituents in her district.
“You don’t forget it’s nice to get out among the voters — our normal people — and realize y’all still feel the same way,” Buckingham said. “It didn’t change because of what we hear in the Capitol.”