State of Texas: Trade deal hopes and shaping the plan to draw voting lines


AUSTIN (Nexstar) – More jobs and more money; those are the hopes many Texans have after agreements on two big trade deals.

President Donald Trump signed an agreement with China that lays the groundwork to ease tariffs. It also calls for China to buy billions more in American exports over the next two years.

The week also brought passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, also known as USMCA. Both developments are raising hopes for farmers and ranchers in Texas.

“Basically, you’ve got back-to-back home runs for agriculture,” said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. He said the deals could open new opportunities for the state’s farmers and ranchers.

“Texas beef will start rolling to China any day now,” Miller said, referencing how the new agreement lifted restrictions that limited exports from Texas. Miller said the USMCA also opens markets for Texas producers.

“We’re going to get our wheat into Canada now, our milk products, dairy products, wine,” Miller said. “Everything in rural America will benefit from this.”

Texans and the impeachment process

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is ready to start, and Texans will play a role in the outcome. Houston Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia is one of the seven House managers who will make the case for impeachment during the Senate trial.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will preside over the trial. The Senators will act as the jury. Texas Republican Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz joined their colleagues to sign an oath book. It’s part of a promise to carry out “impartial justice” according to the Constitution.

But despite the oath to be impartial, many Senators have made it clear they’ve already made up their minds.

Senator Cruz made it clear where he stands on impeachment by posting a video on Twitter, taken as he rode a tram taking him to the Senate chamber before the oath.

“At the end of this process, after a fair trial, the President will be acquitted,” Cruz said in the video. “We will end this constitutional circus, this political farce that started in the House.”

Many Republicans claim the impeachment process is delaying important work in Washington. “We’ve got a bill out there for school safety that is sitting because of the impeachment effort,” said Rep. Roger Williams.

Williams, a Republican, represents a district that stretches from Austin north to the outskirts of the DFW metroplex. “When I go back home, people are very supportive of the President,” Williams said.

Reaching out to the public on redistricting

Redistricting will be one of the biggest battles in Texas politics in the next legislative session. The process of redrawing voting districts will take place after the results of the 2020 Census. But Texas lawmakers are already working on the process.

The week, the Texas House Redistricting Committee will hold two field hearings. One is on Tuesday in Plano, the other on Wednesday in Arlington. The goal is to get input from the public on how to shape voting districts.

“Different parts of the state have different levels of concern,” said State Rep. Sheryl Cole, a Democrat from Austin who serves on the committee.

“If you are losing population, you, of course, do not want to lose representation. If you are gaining population, you want more representation,” Cole said. “That’s going to be the most difficult thing.”

The redistricting committee started holding hearings around the state in the fall. Close to 30 visits have been scheduled. Cole said it’s important for lawmakers to get an early start.

“Once we begin the legislative session, there just will not be enough time to hear from a state as large and diverse as ours,” Cole said.

Democrats target ‘historic’ voter registration

Texas Democrats are launching a new effort to get people signed up to vote. The party announced what it’s calling the largest voter registration program in Texas history.

“We’re putting more resources, money, mail, people, behind the effort happening with the Democratic Party in Texas to register all of the voters,” explained Lauren Pully, Data Director for the Texas Democratic Party.

But it’s not just the scale of the effort that makes this plan different. The party is also putting an emphasis on gathering and interpreting data to target voters who could help Democrats.

We know there’s up to 2.6 million folks who, if they’re registered to vote in Texas, would vote Democrat,” Pully said. “We have a sense of which… the Democratic message might best resonate with so that we can make sure that our campaigns and why they should vote for us in November.”

Increasing voter turnout is a key part of the party’s strategy to flip the Texas House. “We flipped 12 seats in 2018, got nine more to go,” Pully said. She added that the party is looking at 18 districts where House elections were decided by 10 points or less. Many of those districts are in the Dallas and Houston areas, but Pully says the opportunities are statewide.

“The size and scope of Texas,” Pully identified as the biggest challenge to running the targeted voter registration program. “It’s just a massive undertaking and effort.”

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