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Opinion: Paxton lauds ruling against preclearance for redistricting maps

by | Jul 31, 2019 | Opinion

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded a federal court ruling allowing the state to proceed with redistricting legislation without asking the federal government’s permission.

The July 24 ruling by a three-judge federal court rejected plaintiffs’ petition to require the state to obtain permission from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court before redistricting legislation could take effect. 

After the San Antonio-based panel ruled on the ongoing voting rights case, Perez v. Abbott, Paxton said, “This court ruling is a win for our Constitution and the right of Texans to govern themselves.”

Paxton called the plaintiffs’ request for “bail-in” — that is, requiring proposed changes to voting laws and redistricting plans to be “precleared” by the Department of Justice — a “baseless challenge.”

The plaintiffs originally brought suit over redistricting plans Texas lawmakers adopted in 2011, claiming that plans were passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature to dilute the voting power of minorities. The Legislature repealed those plans in 2013 and adopted largely court-drawn plans. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 confirmed that the Legislature in 2013 fixed defects plaintiffs alleged to have existed in the 2011 plans.

Furthermore, notably, the high court in June ruled 5-4 that federal courts have no oversight role when redistricting lines are drawn to favor a political party.

Ballot order is drawn

Texas Deputy Secretary of State Joe Esparza on July 23 drew the ballot order for 10 propositions, the proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

At least two-thirds of the members of both the Texas Senate and the Texas House of Representatives approved each proposed constitutional amendment for Texans to vote on.

They will appear on the ballot in the following order:

—Prop. 1: “The constitutional amendment permitting a person to hold more than one office as a municipal judge at the same time.”

—Prop. 2: “The constitutional amendment providing for the issuance of additional general obligation bonds by the Texas Water Development Board in an amount not to exceed $200 million to provide financial assistance for the development of certain projects in economically distressed areas.”

— Prop. 3: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for a temporary exemption from ad valorem taxation of a portion of the appraised value of certain property damaged by a disaster.”

—Prop. 4: “The constitutional amendment prohibiting the imposition of an individual income tax, including a tax on an individual’s share of partnership and unincorporated association income.”

—Prop. 5: “The constitutional amendment dedicating the revenue received from the existing state sales and use taxes that are imposed on sporting goods to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to protect Texas’ natural areas, water quality, and history by acquiring, managing, and improving state and local parks and historic sites while not increasing the rate of the state sales and use taxes.”

—Prop. 6: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to increase by $3 billion the maximum bond amount authorized for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.”

—Prop. 7: “The constitutional amendment allowing increased distributions to the available school fund.”

—Prop. 8: “The constitutional amendment providing for the creation of the flood infrastructure fund to assist in the financing of drainage, flood mitigation, and flood control projects.”

—Prop. 9: “The constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to exempt from ad valorem taxation precious metal held in a precious metals depository located in this state.”

—Prop. 10: “The constitutional amendment to allow the transfer of a law enforcement animal to a qualified caretaker in certain circumstances.”

Voter registration urged

After the proposed constitutional amendment drawing ceremony on July 23, Deputy Secretary of State Esparza reminded all eligible Texans to register to vote in the November constitutional amendment election.

“The future of Texas is and will always be in the hands of Texans. This fall, voters will have the opportunity to directly impact the Texas Constitution, and I strongly encourage all eligible Texans to register to vote so that they can actively participate in shaping the future of the Lone Star State,” Esparza said.

Texans will have the opportunity to approve the amendments with a majority vote.

For more information and resources for voting in Texas, visit VoteTexas.gov.

Sales tax holiday is set

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar last week reminded shoppers they can save money on a number of items during the state’s sales tax holiday on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 9-11.

The law exempts sales tax on qualified items — such as clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks — priced below $100.

Apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free are listed on the Comptroller’s website at TexasTaxHoliday.org.

Texas’ sales tax holiday weekend has been an annual event since 1999.

For more stories like this, see the July 31 issue or subscribe online.

By Ed Sterling • Member Services Director, Texas Press Association

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