State Capital Highlights

By Ed Sterling, Texas Press Association —

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry on June 26 summoned lawmakers back to Austin
for a second special session of the Texas Legislature to begin July 1.
Perry ordered lawmakers to write and pass legislation to do three
things:

• Regulate abortion procedures, providers and facilities.
• Fund transportation infrastructure projects.
• Establish a mandatory sentence of life with parole for a capital felony committed by a 17-year-old offender.

Perry’s
first called session ended on June 25 with Sen. Wendy Davis,?D-Fort
Worth, filibustering SB 5, legislation to increase state?regulation of
women’s health care and access to abortion services in?particular.
Davis’s 11-hour filibuster was augmented by motions and?questions of
parliamentary procedure by Sens. Leticia Van de Putte of San?Antonio,
Judith Zaffirini of Laredo, Kirk Watson of Austin, John Whitmire?of
Houston and other Democrats.

A crowd filled the gallery and
corridors in support of Sen. Davis’s?filibuster, chanting loudly enough
to create confusion on the Senate floor?as midnight approached. Lt. Gov.
David Dewhurst, who presides over the?Senate, called SB 5 to a vote
just before midnight, but the 19-10 vote?apparently was not finalized
until after midnight. The filibuster —nonstop?talking with no breaks —
and the slowed-down vote had eaten up the clock,?causing other
legislation on the brink of final passage to die at midnight?along with
SB 5.

Davis’s success in temporarily stopping SB 5 drew
national and world?attention, but Perry, determined to push through his
agenda with the?long-held advantage of a Republican-controlled
Legislature, reissued his?call for lawmakers to take up to another 30
days to pass the same set of?bills that had just withered.
Ruling triggers voter ID

On
June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling in Shelby
County,?Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General et al., a case calling into
question?the constitutionality of Section 4 of the federal Voting Rights
Act of?1965, a formula for determining which states or jurisdictions
are held to?a higher degree of scrutiny because of their history of
racial?discrimination.

Texas and other covered jurisdictions,
as a result of the ruling, are no?longer required to obtain federal
judicial “preclearance” of election?laws. Attorney General Greg Abbott
hailed the ruling, saying the Texas?voter ID law and the redistricting
maps passed by the Texas Legislature?during the first special session
and signed into law by the governor on?June 26 immediately go into
effect.

“Today’s ruling does not abolish the Voting Rights
Act,” Abbott commented.?”All states, including Texas, continue to be
subject to Section 2 of the?Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution,
which prohibit racial?discrimination nationwide,” he added. Meanwhile,
Texas’ chief elections officer, Secretary of State John Steen,?said
photo identification will now be required when voting in
Texas?elections.

A voter must show one of the following forms
of photo?identification at the polling location before being permitted
to cast a?vote: a Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of
Public?Safety, a Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by
DPS, a Texas?personal identification card issued by DPS, a Texas
concealed handgun?license issued by DPS, a U.S. military identification
card containing the?person’s photograph, a U.S. citizenship certificate
containing the?person’s photograph, or a U.S. passport.

With
the exception of the U.S. citizenship certificate, the
identification?must be current or have expired no more than 60 days
before being?presented at the polling place, Steen added.

Supreme Court remands UT case
In
a 7-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 sent Fisher
v.?University of Texas at Austin et al. back to the Fifth Circuit Court
of?Appeals in New Orleans for reconsideration.?The high court ruled the
Fifth Circuit erred in its granting summary?judgment to the university
and attorneys for the plaintiff argued that the?university’s use of race
in its student admissions policy violated the?”equal protection” clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Crime rate drops in 2012
Texas
Department of Public Safety on June 26 announced that the overall?major
crime rate in Texas has dropped, while the actual number of
violent?crimes committed in Texas increased. Statistics in the agency’s
2012?uniform crime rate report show the number of crimes per 100,000
people in?Texas decreased by 3 percent in 2012 compared to 2011 but the
actual?number of crimes compared from one year to the next reflect a 1.2
percent?increase in violent crimes over the same period.