By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - After speaking with the Bell County Commissioners Court on Monday, Baylor University law Professor David Guinn gave a public presentation on redistricting at the Central Texas Council of Governments in Belton.
This was the third event in a four-part series hosted by the Bell Freedom Foundation.
"Bless our fine men and women in Austin," Guinn said in his opening remarks about redistricting, which is known for being a long, complicated and heated issue.
Guinn, who is considered a leading scholar on redistricting, shared Texas' growth statistics and projections for the next 20 years.
He cited University of Texas at San Antonio data that predicts in 20 years, the Texas population will reach 41 million people. The demographics will shift to be predominately Hispanic and about 30 percent white.
"Boy, is it gonna get more interesting in the future," Guinn said.
Such a large population could also put a strain on the state's resources - especially water.
"Water will be the most valuable natural resource," Guinn said.
This decade, Texas gained four seats in the U.S. House of
Representatives based on 2010 Census numbers, making it the fastest-growing state in the nation. Now, the state Legislature must choose where to draw new district boundary lines.
While some argue the seats should go to geographic locations with the most growth, others argue that since the Hispanic population saw a 70 percent increase, they should get the seats.
"You think they have their work cut out for them?" Guinn asked. "Bless their hearts."
Harker Heights resident Michael Johnson attended the lunchtime presentation because he said it's an interesting topic and it sets the state's future.
"I want to see representative districts that are geographically and demographically concise and compact," Johnson said.
He also said he hopes that on the local level, neighborhoods and communities can stay together.
"There should be no district where the opposite side of the street is a different district."
Redistricting will continue at the very least until May 27, which is the deadline for the Legislature to approve new boundaries. From there, the state constitution outlines what must be done next.
The Bell Freedom Foundation plans to host one more presentation about the redistricting process as political events dictate.
For more information about redistricting, go to www.bellfreedomfoundation.org.