Full 5th Circuit to hear Texas voter ID case

The entire U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will review Texas’ controversial voter identification law.

A majority of the judges of the Fifth Circuit on March 9 voted in support of an “en banc” rehearing of oral arguments in Veasey v. Abbott, a case challenging the law. No date for the rehearing has been set.

The case stems from Senate Bill 14, a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011, which requires prospective voters to present an acceptable form of photo identification along with their voter registration card in order to cast a ballot.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the development, saying: “Today’s decision is a strong step forward in our efforts to defend the state’s voter ID laws. Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is a primary function of state government and is essential to preserving our democratic process. We look forward to presenting our case before the full Fifth Circuit.”

The plaintiffs, however, have argued that SB 14, passed by a Republican-dominated legislature, is a partisan move to suppress minority voter turnout. They contend that the practical effects of the law violate certain parts of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

En banc hearings are conducted with all judges of a court present and participating. The Fifth Circuit currently has 17 sitting judges. Previous hearings in Veasey v. Abbott were conducted before smaller judicial panels, and as recently as six months ago, parts of the case had been adjudged sufficient to merit consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Governor files appeal

Gov. Greg Abbott on March 9 announced his filing of an appeal with President Obama for “individual assistance” on behalf of Collin, Dallas, Ellis, Franklin, Rockwall and Van Zandt counties. 

On Jan. 26, Abbott requested a presidential disaster declaration to address damages sustained from severe weather in December 2015. Texas was granted public assistance on Feb. 9, but was denied individual assistance. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Individuals and Households Program has two provisions: housing needs and needs other than housing. According to FEMA, these provisions may be available to citizens if their property has been damaged or destroyed in a disaster declared for individual assistance and their losses are not covered by insurance.

“Since May of 2015, the State of Texas has experienced a continuing pattern of destructive storms, severe flooding and tornadoes, resulting in multiple fatalities and severe damage to hundreds of homes and businesses,” Abbott wrote. “In eight months, Texas has endured a major wildfire eligible for a fire Management Assistance Grant and three federally declared disasters. The assistance received as a result of these earlier federal disasters has been vital, but many of the same communities are still in the recovery process from these earlier disasters, and assistance is still needed.”

Hegar to 

send revenue

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar on March 9 announced his office would distribute $586.6 million in monthly sales tax revenue to cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts.

The total of local sales tax allocations for March is 0.7 percent less than in March 2015, he said. The allocations are based on sales made in January by businesses that report tax monthly.

“Energy-centric cities, such as Odessa, Midland, Corpus Christi and Houston, continued to see decreases in sales tax allocations,” Hegar said. “Other areas of the state helped to somewhat offset those losses, as cities such as Austin and Dallas saw moderate increases in allocations.”

Problem gambling

is focus of campaign

March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and the week of March 4-10 was recognized as National Problem Gambling Awareness Week.

The Texas Lottery Commission announced its participation in the effort to educate the general public and medical professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and to raise awareness about help that is available locally and nationally. 

In a March 8 news release, Anthony J. Sadberry, acting director of the Texas Lottery Commission, said, “If you believe that you or someone you know may have a problem with gambling, we strongly urge you to seek assistance.” 

System targets 

tobacco use

Representatives from each of The University of Texas System’s 14 institutions met last week in Houston for the “Eliminate Tobacco Use Summit” to discuss creating a “systemwide tobacco-free culture.”

According to a March 4 news release by the UT System, each institution developed its own comprehensive plan to improve tobacco control policies and strategies. Participants were tasked with bringing back to their institutions information “to facilitate discussion and seek adoption from campus leadership.”

 
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