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Opinion Opinion

OPINION: We The People - Vote for good government

This report just in as of press time Thursday morning. Elections administrator Yvonne Ramon says absentee ballots by mail are pouring into the Hidalgo County Elections office in unprecedented numbers.

Those who know, say the reason is politiqueras who have previously been able to corrupt the vote through both absentee ballots and by “assisting” voters at the polls are focusing much more heavily on the absentee ballot due to the voter ID requirement. Voter ID makes it harder for the walking dead and other illegal voters to cast a ballot.


OPNION: State Capital Highlights - High court allows voter ID law for current election

AUSTIN — With early voting in Texas only days away, the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 18 let stand a U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals order, thereby allowing Texas’ 2011 voter identification law to remain in force for the time being.

Civil rights plaintiffs in Veasey et al. v. Perry et al. sought to have portions of the law declared unenforceable on constitutional grounds. In a Corpus Christi federal courtroom, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down the law and ordered the state to return to election law practices in place before the Legislature passed the law in 2011.

The law, Ramos wrote, intentionally discriminates against Hispanics and blacks in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and is tantamount to a “poll tax” because of the cost to acquire any of the various acceptable forms of photo identification that a voter is required to present at the polls, in addition to a voter registration certificate, in order to cast an election ballot. Ramos ordered the state to submit any proposed amendments to the election law to her. The State of Texas appealed and the Fifth Circuit granted the state’s petition to let the law stand. The plaintiffs then turned to the Supreme Court for redress, and were rebuffed.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion in support of the plaintiffs’ assertion of unconstitutional effects of the Texas law. Ginsburg was joined in her dissent by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Majority support of the Texas law, however, came from the other six: Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. But the six produced no written opinion in support of the State of Texas.

Abortion provisions on hold

In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 14 put a hold on two requirements of Texas’ 2013 abortion law that reportedly have resulted in the closure of 34 out of the 41 abortion-providing facilities in the state:

1. That abortion facilities meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers; and

2. Doctors who perform abortions at clinics in El Paso and McAllen need not have active admitting privileges at a hospital not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.

In taking this action, the high court temporarily suspends a two-week-old ruling by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed those portions to stand.

Meanwhile, the constitutionality of the entire 2013 Texas abortion law is under review in the Fifth Circuit.

Texas job growth sets record

 Texas Workforce Commission on Oct. 19 announced the Texas economy added 36,400 seasonally adjusted total non-farm jobs in September and over the last 12 months added 413,700 total non-farm jobs.

Also, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent in September, down from 5.3 percent in August and down from the 6.3 percent rate recorded in September 2013.

Furthermore, the agency noted, the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force population in Texas topped 13 million for the first time in September at 13,005,600 individuals.

Governor to appear Oct. 31

Gov. Rick Perry, through his legal defense team last week, said he plans to be present for an Oct. 31 pre-trial hearing in the courtroom of visiting State District Judge Bert Richardson.

Perry faces a two-count felony indictment for abuse of office and official coercion, relating to his threat to veto the funding of the state’s Public Integrity Unit if the unit’s director, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, did not resign after her arrest for drunken driving in 2013. Lehmberg ignored the threat and Perry vetoed the Public Integrity Unit’s $7.5 million budget. This prompted a criminal complaint against the governor that resulted in a Travis County grand jury indictment.

Judge Richardson allowed Perry to skip a scheduled pre-trial hearing on Oct. 13 because of a previous engagement: an economic development trip to Europe. Perry’s legal team is expected to present motions asking Richardson to quash the indictments at the Oct. 31 hearing.

October: ‘Hog Out Month’

Texas Department of Agriculture calls October “Hog Out Month” because it comes in the middle of the agency’s 2014 Coordinated Hog Out Management Program that runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30.

It’s a county-by-county, statewide, grant-supported effort to cut the feral hog population. Some 2.6 million of these wild swine cause an estimated $500 million in damage in rural and urban Texas each year, the Agriculture Department said.

OPINION: We The People - Vote wisely, this election matters

After conversations with friends seeking information about the upcoming elections, I was reminded that many people want to know who they should vote for. They need more information about the candidates – more than just their biographies and campaign slogans.

I will address two local races and Proposition 1 in this week’s column, and other offices next week.


OPINION: State Capital Highlights: Ruling prevents state from enforcing voter ID law

AUSTIN — An Oct. 9 ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzalez Ramos of Corpus Christi prevents the state from enforcing the voter identification law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 as Senate Bill 14.

In the case, Marc Veasey et al. v. Rick Perry et al., Ramos ruled the law was enacted with a discriminatory purpose and an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans. Ramos said the law places an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote that is, in effect, a poll tax. “Plaintiffs,” she wrote, “have thus demonstrated that every form of SB 14-qualified ID available to the general public is issued at a cost.”


opinion: State Capital Highlights: Frontrunning candidates appear in debate forums

AUSTIN — Texans interested in who their next governor and lieutenant governor will be witnessed major party candidates for those offices engage in live, one-hour broadcast debates last week.

Fellow state Sens. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and Dan Patrick, R-Houston, opponents in the race for lieutenant governor, faced off in Austin on Sept. 29. Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott competed on stage in Dallas on Sept. 30, each striving to succeed longtime Gov. Rick Perry as the state’s chief executive.


OPINION: State Captial Highlights: Top candidates debate this week with election on horizon

AUSTIN — A debate scheduled Sept. 29 pits Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, and Dan Patrick, R-Houston, two state senators who are vying to succeed David Dewhurst as lieutenant governor in 2015. Van de Putte, a pharmacist in private life, has served in the Senate since 1999. Patrick, a radio talk show host, was first elected to the Senate in 2009. Whoever wins will preside over the Senate.

On Sept. 30, a second debate between state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Republican Greg Abbott, Texas attorney general, gives voters another look at the two competing to succeed Rick Perry as Texas' next governor.


OPINION: State Capital Highlights: Texas, Mexico exchange words over military force at border

AUSTIN — While the governor and a group of trade-with-Texas promoters were in Japan and China last week, the 13th anniversary of the “9-11” terrorist attacks on the United States was broadly observed. Perry acknowledged the anniversary from afar and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who serves as acting governor when Perry is out of the state, also made a similar, solemn statement on Sept. 11.

Perry posted another statement in absentia, calling attention to the fact that some 1,000 National Guard troops, at his request, had taken positions at observation posts along the Texas-Mexico border to deter crossings of the Rio Grande by terrorists and drug traffickers. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reacted, criticizing the deployment of National Guard to the border as a less-than-neighborly act.


OPINION: State Capital Highlights: Judge rules revisions to abortion law unconstitutional

AUSTIN — U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel on Aug. 29 struck down two provisions in House Bill 2, legislation passed by the Texas Legislature in the second special session of 2013, amending the state Health and Safety Code to restrict access to abortion services. 

Yeakel wrote, “A state’s legislature cannot purport to act to abrogate the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution,” and concluded the following provisions in the law put an unconstitutional burden on women:
— That a physician performing or inducing an abortion must, on the date the abortion is performed or induced, have active admitting privileges at a hospital that is located not further than 30 miles from the location at which the abortion is performed or induced.
— That the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards adopted for ambulatory surgical centers.


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