Texas Senator Kel Seliger discusses redistricting process

Sarah White

Allegations that the new district maps produced in the 82nd state legislative session discriminate illegally are unfounded, said Kel Seliger, Texas Senator and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting.

James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project and UT Department of Government lecturer interviewed Sen. Seliger, R-Amarillo, about redistricting in Texas and other issues at the Texas Politics Speaker Series on Tuesday.

Seliger said the redistricting plans produced and passed under his leadership — in response to 2010 census data — were reviewed extensively by legal experts before they were submitted or voted upon and received bipartisan support in the Texas legislature.

“By and large, I think [the map] is a good product,” Seliger said, “I think it is a legal product.”

He said the attempt by a San Antonio panel of federal judges to implement a new map was an example of the judiciary overstepping its boundaries.

“In this kind of situation, there is an almost irresistible inclination to overreach one’s authority and be involved in the legislative process,” Seliger said. “However, separation of powers is fundamental to the operation of our government and should be upheld.”

He said there were some things that he would have done differently in the redistricting process if he was given the chance to repeat it, but it was a tremendously hectic time and legislators did the best they could.

Seliger also spoke about government budget cuts, water and transportation issues within Texas, and especially his experiences as a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education Funding. He said all functions of government need to be scrutinized for effectiveness and efficiency, but higher education has some inherent inefficiencies that make it hard to quantify its true value.

“People in Texas want value for their money, and Texans object to waste in all forms,” Seliger said. “The benefit of studying things like Eastern religion and philosophy is not immediately evident.”

However, he said it is important for students to learn how to reason and read effectively, and these types of courses can help students develop these skills even though they may not have a direct monetary value.

“We should be exposed to all things that motivate thought, ideas and philosophy,” Seliger said.

Jessica Rubio, government freshman and constituent of Seliger, said she was specifically interested in Seliger’s comments on higher education reform.

“I think that it is important to discuss whether an education makes students prepared to enter a career or makes them intellectually stimulated,” Rubio said. “Because of the economic downturn, a lot of people are focusing on making sure state colleges prepare students for a job, but I think both perspectives need to be considered.”

Rubio said she interned with Seliger last spring, and she was excited to have the opportunity to see him speak on campus.

“He is certainly an elected official who is concerned with making sure that his constituents are well informed,” she said. “It’s rare when you have a representative who actively reaches out to you like Sen. Seliger does.”

Henson said the organizers of the Texas Politics Speaker Series have tried to bring prominent elected figures from across Texas and the United States to the UT campus. He said this creates opportunities for students like Rubio to establish and maintain connections with their representatives and government.

“One of the purposes of this event is for students to have access to the speakers and to give them the opportunity to ask questions directly of policy makers,” Henson said.

Printed on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 as: Texas officials defend scrapping voting maps