Appellate court strikes down Texas voter ID law

AUSTIN — Texas’ voter photo identification law is racially discriminatory, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled July 20.

In striking down the law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011, the Fifth Circuit said it disproportionately and negatively affects African-American and Hispanic citizens’ right to vote.

Gov. Greg Abbott decried the ruling in Veasey et al. v. Abbott et al., saying: “The Fifth Circuit ... wrongly concluded the law had a discriminatory effect. Voter fraud is real and it undermines the integrity of the election process.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also reacted, saying: “Preventing voter fraud is essential to accurately reflecting the will of Texas voters during elections and it is unfortunate that this common-sense law, providing protections against fraud, was not upheld in its entirety.”

SB 14 required voters to present government-issued photo identification when voting at the polls. Acceptable forms of photo ID, as specified in the legislation, included: Texas driver license, Texas election identification certificate, Texas personal ID card, Texas concealed handgun license, U.S. military ID card, U.S. citizenship certificate and U.S. passport. Prior to the implementation of SB 14, a Texas voter could cast a ballot in person by presenting a registration certificate, a document mailed to voters upon registration.

The Fifth Circuit sent the case back to the federal district court in Corpus Christi and ordered the court to find an “appropriate remedy” to the discriminatory effects of SB 14 in time for the impending general election in November.

Abbott proposes legislation

Gov. Abbott on July 18 asked the Texas Legislature to pass the Police Protection Act in the 2017 session commencing in January.

“At a time when law enforcement officers increasingly come under assault simply because of the job they hold, Texas must send a resolute message that the state will stand by the men and women who serve and protect our communities,” Abbott said in proposing the legislation.

Abbott said that if enacted, the Police Protection Act would:

– Extend hate crime protections to law enforcement officers;

– Increase criminal penalties for any crime in which the victim is a law enforcement officer, whether or not the crime qualifies as a hate crime; and

– Create a culture of respect for law enforcement by organizing a campaign to educate young Texans on the value law enforcement officers bring to their communities.

“The recent (July 7) shooting in Dallas is not the first time law enforcement officers in Texas have been targeted. Our goal is to do everything possible to make it the last,” added Abbott.

Court blocks haze rule

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on July 19 ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency’s “regional haze” air pollution abatement rule.

The rule, Attorney General Paxton said, would have imposed $2 billion in costs “without achieving any visibility changes in the time period included in the Federal Implementation Plan.” Those costs, Paxton added, included “costly, unnecessary upgrades.”

Sales tax holiday is set

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on July 18 promoted the state’s Aug. 5-7 sales tax holiday, during which shoppers will save an estimated $92 million in state and local sales taxes.

The law providing for the annual tax holiday exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced below $100 from sales tax, saving shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend over that weekend. Lists of apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free can be found at TexasTaxHoliday.org.

Texas adds jobs in June

Texas added an estimated 171,100 seasonally adjusted jobs over the past year with the addition of 7,200 nonfarm jobs in June, the Texas Workforce Commission announced on July 22.

Also, Texas has added jobs in 14 of the last 15 months, and, while the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 4.5 percent in June, up slightly from 4.4 percent in May, it remained below the national average of 4.9 percent.

The Amarillo and Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Areas recorded the month’s lowest unemployment rate among Texas MSAs with a non-seasonally adjusted rate of 3.3 percent, followed by the Sherman-Denison and Lubbock MSAs each with rates of 3.9 percent in June.