Redistricting: Will Rural Interests in Texas Be Devastated?
Texas' suburbs and exurbs are some of the fastest growing places in the country. Many of its rural counties are shrinking. Does that mean rural interests will lose political clout when the lines are redrawn?
One of the big themes I expect to come out of this round of redistricting is the declining political power of rural America. Population growth is fastest in suburban and exurban areas, so those areas will have more representation when the lines are redrawn.
Nowhere is this theme more evident than in Texas, which has some of the fastest growing places in the country, but which also has a lot of rural counties that are shrinking. Will redistricting devastate rural interests in the Texas legislature over the next decade?
Speaking at a session on rural caucuses here at NCSL's Annual Meeting, State Rep. Sid Miller, who used to chair the Texas House's Agriculture and Livestock committee, said he has reason to hope it won't. Miller's point was that many members from suburban and exurban places still have rural parts to their districts. Much of the growth in Texas is in recently rural places, where there's still something of a cultural orientation toward the country. "We don't have but five or six truly rural members left," Miller said, "but we don't tell them they're not rural."
I think that's a good point, although it's important not to take it too far. Even with the legislature as it currently is composed, it's not as though Miller has been able to win on some of the quirkier (quirkier from the perspective of a city slicker, anyway) rural causes he's supported. Among Miller's measures that have stalled: his push to overturn the ban on the slaughter of horses for human consumption (in foreign countries) and his push to allow farmers to sell rights to aerial hunting of feral hogs on their land.
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