AUSTIN — With a $27 billion projected revenue shortfall boring a hole into the state’s fiscal years 2012 and 2013, it was generally assumed that both houses of the Texas Legislature would move with all possible speed to devise a budget to maintain state government functions on slimmer rations.
But the Senate put that task on hold last week and instead devoted the time to passing a voter identification bill, SB 14. Democrats lost a battle to keep the bill from advancing to floor debate, and lost again on a final 19-11 party-line vote. The bill was written by Troy Fraser, R-Marble Falls, and coauthored by the other 18 Republican members of the body. It passed with nine amendments and now moves to the House for consideration.
During the Senate floor debate, when pressed as to why voter ID should take precedence over the state budget this early in the 140-day session, the answer given by Fraser and other coauthors was that they consider the matter high priority because their constituents believe voter fraud is widespread and they wish to protect the integrity of the voting system.
Democrats argued that voter fraud is rare, that few if any cases of it have led to conviction and that enhanced identification requirements pose an unfair burden on the poor, the aged and on citizens who are not white. But no Republican senator was persuaded to change their vote.
SB 14 features a new public awareness campaign and other requirements, but in brief, it would require election judges to post a list of identification options outside of voting polls, and to vote, a citizen would be required to present their voter registration card in addition to a state-issued photo ID card.
The forms of official photo ID include these: an unexpired Texas driver’s license or Texas personal identification card, an unexpired U.S. military ID card, an unexpired U.S. passport, a certificate of U.S. citizenship, a Texas Department of Public Safety-issued concealed handgun carry permit.
List of Senate candidates grows
Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael L. Williams last week resigned from his seat and declared himself a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that will be vacated by Kay Bailey Hutchison. On January 13, Sen. Hutchison said she would not seek another term. Her current term expires on December 31, 2012.
Williams, who is a Republican and the fourth African-American to hold a statewide office in Texas, joins a field of other Republicans who would like to be Hutchison's successor, including Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones; Ted Cruz, a former Texas solicitor general; and Roger Williams, a former Texas secretary of state. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he is exploring a run for the Senate seat and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, reportedly has indicated interest in seeking the seat, too.
Hutchison, a former Texas state treasurer and state representative, has held the Senate seat since 1993.
DPS: Avoid travel to Mexico
Baptist missionary Nancy Davis, 59, was killed last week as she and her husband attempted to escape from gunmen in the state of Tamaulipas, about 70 miles south of McAllen.
The incident prompted the Texas Department of Public Safety on January 28 to warn against travel to Mexico, and Gov. Rick Perry to reiterate the need for increased border security.
DPS Director Steve McCraw said, "If violence does occur, we cannot guarantee that anyone will be brought to justice for those acts."
This was the fourth time in the past year, because of spikes in violence, that the DPS issued a warning against travel in Mexico.
AG promotes financial literacy
When most students graduate from college, the debt for years of tuition, books, fees and living costs comes home to roost in a big way. Even with a college diploma attesting to their fitness for an array of life responsibilities, how to pay off the debt can be a daunting conundrum.
That’s why Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was in San Antonio January 27 to provide credit card and debt education materials to the University of Texas at San Antonio.
This was a gesture in support of a new law that requires state colleges and universities to educate their students about personal financial management. The attorney general’s office developed the money-management materials.