Citizens Burn The Midnight Oil At Redistricting Hearing
by Alan Hunt
It was standing-room-only at Baylor Law School's Kronzer Appellate Advocacy Courtroom July 9 as hundreds of people attended a Texas congressional redistricting hearing.
The event proved to be a marathon session, lasting until midnight as elected officials and members of the public had their say on the redistricting plans. More than 100 members of the public signed up to speak after the presentations by numerous officials from the 10 counties that - all or part - comprise the current 11th Congressional District of Texas.
The Waco debate was the last in a series of hearings being conducted around the state to receive public comment and testimony on redistricting Texas' 32 seats in Congress. Members of the Senate Jurisprudence Committee heard the testimony, with the committee chair, Sen. Robert L. Duncan, R-Lubbock, presiding.
Several members of the committee praised the facilities of the Sheila and Walter Umphrey Law Center at the start of the hearing.
Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington and a Baylor Law School graduate, termed it "a unique structure" and one that "rivals anything that the Taj Mahal has to offer." A state employee privately expressed the opinion that the Kronzer Courtroom actually had a "calming effect" on members of the public.
"Once they walked into this magnificent building, it kept things from flaring as they prepared to discuss such a controversial issue," the employee said.
To accommodate the large crowd, an overflow room was provided in a nearby ground-floor classroom at the law center, with a live video feed of the proceedings from the Kronzer Courtroom. A free shuttle bus service also was provided by Waco Transit to the law center from the Ferrell Center.
This is not the first time the Kronzer Courtroom has been the focus of the state's attention. On April 3, 2002, a capacity audience packed the facility when the Texas Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases. It was the court's second visit to Baylor Law School since a 1998 constitutional amendment allowed the justices to convene for the time ever outside of Austin.
The Kronzer Courtroom also was in the national spotlight Aug. 13, 2002, when President George W. Bush held his economic forum at Baylor. The President, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cabinet members and business leaders and CEOs met to discuss economic issues.