2012-02-01 / Farm & Ranch

Abbott sues to speed approval of Voter ID law

STATE CAPITOL HIGHLIGHTS

AUSTIN - Attorney General Greg Abbott on Jan. 23 filed a lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to push the U. S. Department of Justice to approve the voter I.D. law enacted by the Texas Legislature last spring.

The law has not been given the required preclearance by the Department of Justice. Abbott said his intent is to spur a ruling that would allow the new law to take effect. The lawsuit dovetails with the state’s efforts in the U.S. Supreme Court and the D.C. Court to have the Texas Legislature’s contested House, Senate and U.S. congressional redistricting maps pre-cleared under Section 5 of the U.S. Voting Rights Act in time to meet deadlines for the April 3 party primaries.

On Jan. 20, the Supreme Court said the U.S. District Court Western District of Texas in San Antonio erred in its remedial redistricting plans created last year and ordered the three-judge panel of the San Antonio court to revise the plans. The San Antonio court on Jan. 27 asked opponents in the redistricting cases to work together and present them with agreed-upon solutions in hopes of speeding the process.

Texas is among several states and other jurisdictions subject to Section 5 because of a history of discriminatory election practices.

Texans, if the law takes effect, would have to show a government-issued photo I.D. along with their valid voter registration card in order to cast a ballot, and those who do not have a driver’s license, passport, military I. D. card or other approved form of identification can get a state-issued voter I.D. free of charge from the Texas Department of Public Safety. And anyone who is disabled or over 65 can vote by mail, a method that does not require photo identification.

Supporters of the voter I.D. law said during the legislative process that it would help stop election fraud. Opponents said the legislation, if passed, would discriminate against minorities, the disabled and citizens who live in rural areas of the state.

Abbott last week said the law is not discriminatory and to support his position quoted a U.S. Supreme Court ruling: “ The inconvenience of making a trip to the (Bureau of Motor Vehicles), gathering the required documents and posing for a photograph surely does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote, or even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.”

Several other states passed voter I.D. laws last year, but more than 30 states do not have voter I.D. laws. Comptroller unveils info site

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs on Jan. 25 announced the launch of TheTexasEconomy.org, a website featuring state revenue and spending data, and more than a dozen economic indicators.

Combs said the site uses infographics, video interviews, tables and snapshots of key data to present information on an array of topics, such as Texas industries and jobs, the effects of drought on the economy and the impact of obesity on businesses and taxpayers. Grain indemnity fund is goal

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples on Jan. 26 said a discussion on grain warehouse failures and what can be done to avoid them was the focus of the first meeting of the agency’s newly appointed Texas Grain Producer Indemnity Board.

Bryan Black, a spokesman with the Texas Department of Agriculture, said that the word “failures” in this context means bankruptcies caused by grain market volatility. The board is looking at ways to set up a grain indemnity fund that would help cover loses for producers caught up in a warehouse bankruptcy, he said.

A grain warehouse operator who is unable to cover the open contracts he or she has purchased can get caught in margin calls. “With the amount of grain some of these warehouses trade, one or two big margin calls can sink them pretty fast,” Black said. More reward money is offered

Gov. Rick Perry on Jan. 25 announced his decision to increase rewards for the Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders program to $2,000, with some rewards reaching up to $5,000.

Managed by Texas Crime Stoppers and the Texas Department of Public Safety, the rewards are meant to encourage citizens who have information to bring it to the attention of law enforcement.

Previously, any person who provided information that led to the arrest of one of the listed sex offenders received $1,000 cash. According to the DPS, since the Texas 10 Most Wanted Sex Offenders program began in July 2010, 12 arrests have been made, with seven arrests coming from tips, and the governor’s office has paid out a total of $13,300 in rewards.

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