MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS…

Cartographer’s Court

The battle over Texas’s congressional districts continued in a San Antonio federal court on Monday, where civil rights groups faced off against the state before a three-judge panel on the first day of a trial that could last all week. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against Texas in 2011 argued that the Republican-controlled Legislature illegally diluted minority voting rights by adopting a map that had been drawn by the court as a temporary fix in 2013. One former Democratic House member, Trey Martinez Fischer, who represented a district in Bexar County from 2000 to 2016, testified that he was part of the redistricting committee during the 2013 special session, and that Republicans rushed to permanently adopt the court-issued maps despite criticism that it was created as a quick fix and didn’t address all of the districts that were improperly gerrymandered. The state of Texas will present its case and call witnesses later this week.

Persian Gulf Parley

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Doha on Tuesday, where the former Exxon CEO and Wichita Falls native will engage in talks with Qatari officials in an attempt to mend the broken relationship between Qatar and its neighbors, according to Al Jazeera. Tillerson was in Kuwait on Monday, and the trip signals a more assertive role for the U.S. in the ongoing conflict in the region, with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt imposing sanctions on Qatar after accusing the nation of providing financial support for terrorists. As Reuters notes, Tillerson “forged extensive ties in the Gulf” while at the helm of Exxon, but he’s got a long road ahead of him if he hopes to play peacemaker there. Tillerson is also scheduled to meet with leaders in Saudi Arabia, according to the State Department. If it continues to escalate, the Qatar dispute would likely have a detrimental impact on the U.S.’s military presence in the region and on its counter-terrorism efforts.

Dropping Like Flies

The acting director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission unexpectedly resigned on Monday, the latest high-profile departure for the embattled liquor regulating agency that’s been embroiled in controversy since the Texas Tribune exposed its extravagant spending and mismanagement in March. With his resignation on Monday, Acting Executive Director Ed Swedberg became the sixth major departure since April. In a hand-written letter on Fridaynotifying the TABC of his decision to leave, Swedberg wrote that he was quitting because “my conscience will not allow me to take part in the termination of Amy Harrison from the commission,” according to the Tribune. Harrison, the agency’s licensing director, reportedly helped create a controversial illustrated flier that showed agency officials partying it up and drinking beer while on a flight to an expensive out-of-state conference. Swedberg had been leading the TABC since former Director Sherry Cook stepped down in May. In addition to Swedberg’s departure, the agency’s general counsel, chief of enforcement and head of internal affairs have also left in July.