State Capital Highlights

By Ed Sterling, Texas Press Association —

AUSTIN — The U.S. Department of Justice on Aug. 22 announced it would
file a lawsuit against the State of Texas over the state's voter photo
identification law, passed as Senate Bill 14 in 2011.

In filing the lawsuit, the federal agency said it seeks a
declaration that SB 14 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act
(non-discrimination requirement) and the voting guarantees of the
Fourteenth (due process and equal protection) and Fifteenth (right to
vote) amendments to the United States Constitution. According to a news
release by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, head of the Department of
Justice, “The United States' complaint contends that SB 14 was adopted
with the purpose, and will have the result, of denying or abridging the
right to vote on account of race,color or membership in a language
minority group.”

Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott reacted with releases of their own.

Perry said, “The filing of endless litigation in an effort to
obstruct the will of the people of Texas is what we have come to expect
from Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama. We will continue
to defend the integrity of our elections against this administration's
blatant disregard for the 10th Amendment.”

Abbott, on behalf of the state government, has filed 25 lawsuits
against the Obama administration over a variety of issues such as voter
ID, redistricting, environmental protection and the Affordable Care Act
which some refer to as Obamacare.

Within a much longer statement, Abbott said,”Voter IDs have nothing to do with race and they are free to anyone who needs one.”

Perry sets voting date

Gov. Perry took the official step of proclaiming Nov. 5 as Election
Day for the nine proposed constitutional amendments approved by
legislators last spring.

Texans who go to polls with proper identification in accordance with
the state's voter identification law will be able to vote “yes” or “no”
on amendments dealing with topics ranging from property tax exemptions
and municipal charters to funding for the state water plan and judicial
conduct.

Job count grows in July

Texas Workforce Commission on Aug. 16 reported the Texas economy
added19,900 seasonally adjusted total non-farm jobs in July for a total
of293,000 jobs added since July 2012.

Also, Texas' seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady in
July at 6.5 percent. Texas' unemployment rate remained below the
nation's July unemployment rate of 7.4 percent.

“As of July,” said Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Andres
Alcantar, “Texas has maintained a positive annual growth rate for 39
straight months.”

Testing scores improveEducation Commissioner Michael
Williams on Aug. 21 announced that 2013 composite score for all Texas
students taking the ACT college admission test hit a new high of 20.9
according to the testing company.

In addition, the composite scores for Texas White, Hispanic/Latino
and African-American students are at all-time highs, matching or
exceeding national composite scores in each of those student groups.

“Our state's ongoing commitment to rigor in the classroom is clearly
evident in these national results,” said Commissioner Williams. “In the
coming years, the challenge will be in maintaining this momentum which
has provided a strong foundation of success for all students, while also
offering all students greater flexibility to make course choices.”

Measles alert is issuedTexas Department of State Health
Services on Aug. 16 issued a health alert and announced six cases of
measles had been confirmed in the last month,bringing the total to 11
cases confirmed for the year.

State health officials have asked health care providers to be on the
lookout for potential exposures, particularly in the North Texas area.

While no measles cases were reported in 2012, six cases were
reported in 2011, the agency reported, and said, “vaccination even
shortly before or after exposure may prevent the disease or lessen the
symptoms.”

DPS to increase patrols

Texas Department of Public Safety last week announced a planned
increase in patrols through Sept. 9, including the Labor Day holiday
weekend.

DPS troopers will focus on high-risk locations at times when alcohol-related crashes are most frequent.

During the extended Labor Day law enforcement period last year,
troopers made 1,879 DWI arrests, 24,779 speeding citations, 3,890 seat
belt/child safety seat citations, 4,062 no-insurance tickets, 1,238
fugitive arrests, 895 felony arrests and 889 drug arrests during routine
patrol operations.