State Capital Highlights


AUSTIN — In the final week before Tuesday, March 4, Primary Election Day, candidates put on final pushes in hopes of getting enough votes to be their party’s nominee for the general election in November.

A ruling by a San Antonio federal court on Feb. 26 moved a hot-button issue front and center, giving candidates a last-minute opportunity to delineate their stand. In a case brought by two same-sex couples, San Antonio U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia declared unconstitutional the Texas law and a related state constitutional amendment that prohibit same-sex marriage and the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.
On page 46 of his ruling, Garcia wrote, “Equal treatment of all individuals under the law is not merely an aspiration — it is a constitutional mandate. Consequently, equal protection is at the heart of our legal system and is essential for the existence of a free society.”

Right away, however, Garcia placed a stay on his order preventing the state from enforcing those laws, pending an appeal filed by the Texas attorney general’s office in the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

Gov. Rick Perry reacted, saying, “It is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens. The 10th Amendment guarantees Texas voters the freedom to make these decisions and this is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn’t be achieved at the ballot box.”

Texas Roman Catholic Bishops issued a joint statement expressing disappointment in the court’s decision.

There are “good, well-meaning people” on both sides of the issue, said Texas Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott. But, he added, “The Texas Constitution defines marriage as between one man and one woman. If the Fifth Circuit honors those precedents, then today’s decision should be overturned and the Texas Constitution will be upheld.”

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, in a statement released after Judge Garcia’s ruling, said: “The Texas Democratic Party believes that everyone should have the right to be with the person they love and we look forward to the day in Texas when everyone can marry who they love. This is a historic day for those persons. As Dr. (Martin Luther) King (Jr.) once stated, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’ Today, all Texans can celebrate that we are one step closer to justice and equality for all.”

Awareness day is proclaimed
Gov. Perry proclaimed Feb. 27 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Texas, saying the key “to preventing and ending this horrible crime is public awareness that millions still suffer exploitation around the nation and the world.”

He urged Texans to join him “in bringing awareness to this important issue as we continue to fight to bring justice to human trafficking offenders, and help to their victims.”

Schools achieve progress
State Comptroller Susan Combs on Feb. 26 called attention to the new “Financial Allocation Study for Texas” available at the website which shows an increase in school districts earning the highest ranking of five stars.

“FAST” was created by the comptroller’s office in response to 2009 legislation directing the agency to “identify school districts and campuses that use resource allocation practices that contribute to high academic achievement and cost-effective operations.”

“I am pleased to see more schools being better stewards of our citizens’ tax dollars while achieving better academic outcomes,” Combs said.

Chair lauds pipeline progress
Barry Smitherman, Texas Railroad Commission chairman and Republican candidate for the office of Texas attorney general, spoke in Beaumont Feb. 26 in a ceremony marking the “start of operation” of TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Pipeline Project.

“On behalf of the Texas Railroad Commission and the people of Texas, I welcome the Gulf Coast Pipeline project and look forward to hearing that the Keystone XL Pipeline, its northern leg, is approved as soon as possible in Washington, D.C.”

A presidential permit has not been granted to complete the project.

Interim charges announced
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Feb. 26 publicized interim charges for the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.
Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate and is campaigning to be the Republican Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in the November general election, asked the committee to study and make recommendations on “health within the prison system” and “jail diversion for mentally ill” before the next Texas Legislature convenes in regular session in January 2015.


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