Vol 29, Issue 13 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The state’s law requiring that voters furnish a photo ID before casting a ballot won’t be in effect for the May 29 primary. Stakeholders expected as much, but the decision was solidified when a U.S. District Court in D.C. set a July 9 trial date for a case in which Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit to have the law implemented immediately. That lawsuit was filed in January, but Abbott recently amended the petition to directly challenge the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which mandates that the Department of Justice or the federal courts review laws that affect voting practices in 16 states. Texas filed its petition for preclearance in July but was denied the request earlier this month. The department ruled that the state did not submit enough information to prove the bill would not infringe upon the voting rights of minorities, mainly Latinos and blacks.

A group of lawmakers and law enforcement officials have banded together to ask the Department of Defense for surplus military equipment. As troops are drawn down oversees, massive amounts of equipment need to be shipped and either sold or stored. Border officials think some of that equipment could be put to good use in their skirmishes against drug cartels and in preventing spillover violence from Mexico. U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble, introduced a bill in the House that would direct the Department of Defense to make 10 percent of the equipment returned from Iraq available for patrolling the southern border. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and 17 sheriffs from the border regions of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona expressed support for Poe’s proposal.

The Daily Texan was drawn into the national conversation about the death of Trayvon Martin when it published a controversial political cartoon on Tuesday. Stephanie Eisner, the cartoonist, who drew a mother reading to her child, “And then ... the big bad white man killed the handsome, sweet, innocent colored boy,” said she had attempted to point out that coverage of the event had become sensationalized. The editorial board was inundated with criticism and complaints and offered a statement saying that while it did not agree with the artist, it was the board’s policy to publish the varying views of its cartoonists and columnists.

Response to a study published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution analyzing school standardized test results has been tepid in Texas. The Texas Education Agency responded to the questions about cheating by questioning the methodology of the study and stating that the agency’s policy is to let individual districts investigate allegations of cheating. Houston and Dallas Independent School Districts, as well as several border districts, showed scores that were suspiciously high. The Atlanta newspaper has conducted similar studies in the past and uncovered patterns that led to the discovery of widespread cheating in Atlanta. Officials in the Houston and Dallas districts detailed the steps they were taking to ensure that no cheating occurred.

The King Street Patriots are not a non-profit corporation, according to a state district judge in Austin, but are instead an unregistered political action committee that has been aiding Republican poll-watching efforts. The group was challenging several of the state's campaign finance laws; Judge John Dietz upheld the laws, ruling in favor of the Texas Democratic Party. KSP will appeal. 

Gov. Rick Perry came out in favor of Pink Slime, traveling to Nebraska to show his support for a meat company that manufactures that "lean finely textured beef" that is used to stretch hamburger and other meats while lowering their overall fat contest. The product has been under attack, with the company losing customers, since publicity about it went viral this week.

Political People and their Moves

Comptroller Susan Combs hired Lauren Willis as communications director for the that office. Willis most recently served as director of public affairs for Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter.

Longtime Texas state Sierra Club director Ken Kramer announced that he is retiring July 31 after 30 years. He's the only director the regional office has ever had, holding that office since 1989 after working as a contract lobbyist for the organization.

Gov. Rick Perry was busy filling posts this week. He appointed:

Don Minton of El Paso as judge of El Paso County Criminal District Court No. 1. Minton is an attorney in private practice and a former criminal district court judge.

A. Cynthia “Cindy” Leon of Mission to chairwoman of the Texas Public Safety Commission. Leon is retired regional director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Toby Baker to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Baker was a policy and budget advisor to Perry and used to work for Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls.

• Andres Alcantar of Pflugerville to chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission. Alcantar is currently commissioner of the Texas Workforce Commission, a position he has held since his appointment in August 2008. He is former deputy director of the Governor’s Office Budget, Planning and Policy Division.

• Dr. Vincent Di Maio of San Antonio to chairman of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. Di Maio is a board-certified anatomical, clinical and forensic pathologist, and a private forensic pathology consultant.

Michael Cooper Waters of Dallas as chairman of the State Library and Archives Commission. Waters is a senior healthcare consultant and former CEO of Hendrick Health System.

• Harold Berenzweig of Fort Worth to the Correctional Managed Health Care Committee. Berenzweig is a physician and vice president of medical and information management at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital.

Billy Bradford Jr. of Brownsville chairman of the Texas Water Development Board. Bradford is a certified public accountant and partner at Hales-Bradford LLP.

• Seven members to the Specialty Courts Advisory Council. Sabrina Bentley of Georgetown is a senior DWI and drug court officer for the Williamson County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. Denise Bradley of Cypress is judge of the 262nd Criminal District Court in Harris County and a former assistant district attorney there. Keta Dickerson of Richardson is a program manager for Dallas County Divert Court. Amy Granberry of Portland is director of organizational development for Charlie’s Place. Patrick McCann of Richmond is an attorney in private practice. Leon Pesek Jr. of Texarkana is judge of the 202nd Judicial District Court. Raymond Wheless of Allen is judge of the 366th Judicial District Court and former judge of Collin County Court at Law No. 4.

 Elizabeth “Christy” Jack of Fort Worth and Leo Longoria of McAllen to new terms at the Office of Violent Sex Offender Management Governing Board. Jack is chief prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. Longoria is retired chief of police for the City of Mission Police Department.