AUSTIN - Texas’ top officeholders spoke out in response to two hot-button cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
In District of Columbia v. Heller, the high court on June 26 struck down a law that banned private ownership of handguns in the District of Columbia.
“Texans have long held that it is a fundamental right of every law-abiding citizen to keep and bear arms,” Gov. Rick Perry said. “Affirmation from our country’s highest court should unquestionably cement this right for future generations of Texans and Americans.”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said: “I applaud the Supreme Court for affirming our fundamental Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. This decision is a victory for law-abiding Americans who own guns for self defense, or for hunting and recreation and preserves an important thread in America’s history.”
In another case, Kennedy v. Louisiana, the state of Louisiana charged a man with the aggravated rape of his then-8-year-old stepdaughter. He was convicted and sentenced to death under a state law authorizing capital punishment for the rape of a child under 12. The Supreme Court ruled on June 25 that the law violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, because the crime did not result, and was not intended to result, in the victim’s death.
Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst commented in opposition to the ruling.
“In my opinion,” Perry said, “laws should be strong enough to deter these unspeakable offenses or, in the least, prevent these lowest of criminals from harming any child again.”
Dewhurst said he was disappointed with the decision. “I believe, and the vast majority of Texans agree, that the death penalty is an appropriate form of punishment for repeat child molesters. Our top priority remains protecting our most precious resource: our children. Fortunately, our law here in Texas was carefully crafted to give prosecutors the option of seeking life in prison without parole in the event a court invalidated the death penalty provision.”
Commission picks I-69 developer
The Texas Transportation Commission on June 26 picked San Antonio-based Zachry American and ACS Infrastructure to develop the Texas portion of Interstate 69 stretching from Brownsville to Texarkana.
Also competing for the bid was Bluebonnet Infrastructure Investors, composed of the Spanish firm Cintra, Citigroup, Earth Tech, Blanton & Associates, Maunsell, Othon and W.W. Webber.
The Texas Department of Transportation will negotiate a contract with the developer.
TxDOT Executive Director Amadeo Saenz said the highway department would use existing highway facilities wherever possible.
The project includes the development of local toll road projects in south Texas and work on a number of connecting highways in the I-69 corridor.
Commission Chair Deirdre Delisi said the project would have “limited” and “innovative” tolling. The proposal can be seen at www.keeptexasmoving.com.
Comptroller gives revenue report
The revised state franchise tax produced about $4.2 billion in revenue May 1 through June 24, the office of the Texas comptroller reported June 25. That is $1.7 billion short of the projected intake of $5.9 billion.
Late filers have until Aug. 15 or Nov. 15 to pay, based on the amount of tax owed. Of the 133,000 businesses in Texas that were required to file, 46,000 were granted extensions after the original April 15 deadline.
The Legislature created the revised franchise tax in May 2006. The expected increase in revenue was intended to help offset a reduction in property taxes collected by local school districts.
State Representative West dies
State Rep. G.E. “Buddy” West, R-Odessa, died June 25. He was 71. West was elected to the House in 1992 to represent Ector, Rankin and Winkler counties. He served eight terms. Texas flags were lowered in the Capitol Complex and at all state buildings, installations and institutions in West’s District 81.
Ex-Supreme Court justice dies
James A. Baker of Dallas, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, died June 22. He was 77.
Then-Gov. George W. Bush appointed Baker to the Texas Supreme Court in 1995. Baker was elected to a full six-year term in 1996.