Tag Archives: Texas

Texas Voters Now Have Equal Access to Ballot in Major Voting Victory

Today, in a major victory for voting rights advocates nationwide, a federal district court entered an order to ease Texas’s strict photo ID law — and allow voters without ID to cast a regular ballot this November.

The Texas requirement, as written in 2011, is effectively struck down. Approximately 600,000 registered voters did not have acceptable ID required under the original strict law.

The full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found Texas’s photo ID law racially discriminatory last month. Today’s agreement addresses the discriminatory effects of the law — and will help ensure all Texas voters can cast a ballot that counts this fall.

The original Texas law required voters to show one of a very limited number of government-issued photo IDs to vote, such as a state driver’s license, a passport, or concealed carry license. Under today’s agreement, any voter without these forms of photo ID can sign a declaration stating they have a “reasonable impediment” to obtaining one, show an alternative form of identification, and vote a regular ballot. Voters who have one of the acceptable photo IDs must still show them to cast a ballot.

Many additional forms of ID are acceptable under the “reasonable impediment” alternative, including a voter registration certificate, driver’s license or personal ID card from any state (regardless of expiration date), utility bill, government check, paycheck, or any other government document that displays the voter’s name and address. Texas also agreed to spend $2.5 million on voter education efforts to let residents of the state know about the new changes before Election Day.

The Texas ruling is part of a string of recent court decisions — in Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Wisconsin — rolling back or striking down voting restrictions ahead of the November election. Across the board, courts ruled that states passed restrictive laws with “surgical precision” to exclude certain voters, including minorities, students, and the elderly.

Still, 15 states have new restrictive voting laws in place for the first time in a presidential election in 2016. Texas remains on that list because the voter ID requirement remains more burdensome than what was in place for the 2012 election.

Three federal courts have found that Texas’s ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by denying African-American and Latino voters an equal opportunity to cast a ballot. The law was also previously blocked under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. It was implemented in 2013, immediately after the Supreme Court gutted a core provision of the Voting Rights Act.

The Texas State Conference of the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives (MALC) challenged the law in September 2013. That case was consolidated with other similar cases and is now known as Veasey v. Abbott. The attorneys representing the groups include the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the national office of the NAACP, Dechert LLP, The Bledsoe Law Firm, the Law Offices of Jose Garza, the Law Office of Robert S. Notzon, and the Covich Law Firm, P.C.

“The terms of the interim remedy order will help address the discriminatory effect of Texas’s law — the most stringent voter identification law in the country — as voters go to the polls this November,” said Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Voting Rights Project. “Texas must now do everything possible to educate voters and to train election officers to ensure full access to the polls during the general election cycle.”

“No American should ever lose the right to vote because they don’t have a photo ID,” said Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “This agreement in Texas and other decisions nationwide mark a meaningful turning point. As we approach this November’s elections, courts are stepping in to block discriminatory laws that prevent certain people from participating. Today is a tremendous victory for our democracy and our country, with real benefits that will be felt by Texas voters this fall.”

“Hundreds of thousands of Texans, who would have been stopped from voting by the old law, will now be able to cast a ballot in November, and exercise the most fundamental right in American democracy,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP and an attorney with the Bledsoe Law Firm. “This hard-fought victory is good news, and a big step in our continuing fight to push back against discriminatory laws that have no place in the Lone Star State. We applaud those judges from both parties who have put politics aside to give true meaning to our Constitution and laws.”

“The state’s discriminatory voter ID law is an example of bad public policy. The law has suppressed Texans’ ability to exercise their right to vote, while the perceived problem of in-person voter fraud is a fantasy,” said Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of MALC. “Fixing the law required changing it to such an extent as to render it ineffective. Unfortunately, it took three years and millions of taxpayer dollars to spoil this cheap ploy to disenfranchise African-American and Latino voters. We cannot rely on the courts to protect our voting rights or trust that the campaign to disenfranchise Texas minorities has ended — too much damage has already been done. Instead, we must make ourselves heard at the ballot box and use our collective voice to call for a restoration of the Voting Rights Act.”

“This settlement really does take the bite out of Texas’s voter ID law,” said Amy Rudd of Dechert LLP, pro bono counsel for the NAACP Texas State Conference and MALC. “It is particularly significant in this presidential election year that Texas voters have many additional options for identifying themselves and casting a regular ballot at the polls.”

“The fight is not yet over, but we have secured an important expansion of the franchise for the Latino community,” said Jose Garza, legal counsel at MALC. “Eligible Texas voters with an inability to secure one of the limited forms of ID acceptable to the state can still vote.”

“There is a great sense of relief here in South Texas and the Corpus Christi community that thousands of voters need not worry about their ability to vote on Election Day,” said Daniel G. Covich of Covich Law Firm LLP.

Background

A federal court in Washington, D.C. blocked Texas’s voter ID law in 2012 under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, finding that the law would have a disproportionate negative impact on minority citizens in Texas. In June 2013, however, the U.S. Supreme Court (in a separate case) ruled that the formula used in the Act for specifying the states covered by Section 5 is unconstitutional. As a result, Texas is not currently required to comply with Section 5. Just hours after the Supreme Court’s decision, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced the state would implement the voter ID law.

At the September 2014 trial, the Texas NAACP and MALC, among others, presented evidence showing the state’s ID requirement would erect discriminatory barriers to voting. At trial, experts testified that 1.2 million eligible Texas voters lack a form of government-issued photo ID that would have been accepted under the new law — and minorities would be hit the hardest. For example, the court credited testimony that African-American registered voters are 305 percent more likely and Hispanic registered voters 195 percent more likely than white registered voters to lack photo ID that can be used to vote.

Read more on the case here and here.

Texas Football Highlighted In Exclusive ‘My All American’ Trailer

Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) wants most in the world is to play football. Deemed too small by the usual athletic standards, his father trains him hard, and Freddie brings a fight to the game that ultimately gets him noticed — by none other than legendary University of Texas coach Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart). Awarded a scholarship and a chance to play for the Longhorns, Freddie sets off to Austin with his loving high school sweetheart Linda (Sarah Bolger), determined to make the team. Alongside his old teammate Bobby Mitchell (Rett Terrell) and new pal James Street (Juston Street), Freddie is put through the paces of a grueling practice schedule, but the boys’ camaraderie off the field translates into solid playing on it, and they rise up the depth charts, giving the Longhorns a real chance to turn around their losing record. But just when they’re reveling in the success of the season, Freddie suffers an injury that leads to a shocking diagnosis and the biggest challenge he will ever face. From the writer of HOOSIERS and RUDY, MY ALL AMERICAN tells the true story of a boy who became a hero and what it truly means to have the heart of a champion.

September 1, Schools & Other Public Employers in Texas Must Provide Breastfeeding Accommodations to Employees

Starting on September 1, a new Texas law will require all public employers in Texas – including school districts, public colleges, local governments, and state agencies – to provide basic accommodations to employees who pump breast milk at work.

 “By ensuring that more mothers have the support they need to continue breastfeeding, the new law takes an important step forward for the health of Texas babies,” said Alice Bufkin, Early Opportunities Policy Associate at Texans Care for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving state policies for children. “Research shows that breast milk provides significant health benefits to babies, including boosting their immunity, reducing the likelihood of diabetes and infections, and reducing the number of hospital readmissions for preterm babies.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for infants until approximately six months of age and continued breastfeeding through the first year or longer, as long as the mother and infant desire. However, many mothers have difficulty continuing to breastfeed when they go to work, particularly if they do not have a supportive employer. The new law, established by Representative Armando Walle’s House Bill 786, addresses that challenge by requiring public employers to provide breastfeeding employees with a private space and adequate breaks to express breast milk.

In addition to supporting maternal and infant health, the new law will also help employers. The accommodations will help recruit and retain a talented workforce. By improving children’s health, the law will reduce the number of days that employees have to stay home with sick children.

Private businesses are not covered by HB 786, but they are covered by federal law requiring all employers to provide breastfeeding accommodations to employees that are paid hourly. The federal law allows companies with less than 50 employees to apply for an exemption.

Numerous resources exist to help businesses find easy solutions to make their workplace more mother-friendly, including the resources provided here by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health.

“Whether you’re a public school teacher, a city librarian, or a police officer, state law now requires your employer to provide support so you can continue breastfeeding your baby,” said Ms. Bufkin.

 More at AAP.org

Texas Hospitals Closing and Cutting Back While Legislature Leaves Health Care Funding for Harris County on the Table

With more and more hospitals cutting back and closing across Texas — particularly in small towns and rural parts of the state — new data show that the state Legislature has a clear way to strengthen Harris County’s health care system. By accepting the state’s share of new federal Medicaid expansion funding, lawmakers in Austin would inject $935,251,060 in health care funding into Harris County, according to estimates calculated by the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and compiled by the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) Health and Wealth County Checkup.
Ten hospitals have closed in rural Texas in the last two years while larger hospitals, such as the Harris Health system in Houston, have recently eliminated hundreds of staff positions and made other cuts.

“If Texas leaders would accept the federal funds sitting on the table, it would ensure more Harris County residents have access to affordable health care,” said Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director of CPPP. “Accepting the federal funding available is the number one step legislators could take to provide long-term stability for Texas hospitals, health care workers, and patients.”

Other states have successfully supported their hospitals and patients by accepting new Medicaid funding from the federal government. Conservative states have negotiated deals with the federal government to use the funding for private market-based plans instead of traditional Medicaid. The funding is intended to replace phased-out federal funding for unpaid hospital bills, but Texas leaders have declined to take action so far.
The resources are intended to connect uninsured low-wage workers, such as cooks, home health aides, and child care workers, with either traditional Medicaid or private health insurance. If the Legislature accepted the money on the table, it would shrink the estimated $920,054,995 that Harris County taxpayers currently spend each year on medical care for uninsured county residents. Currently an estimated 226,910 Harris County residents do not receive insurance from their employers or have access to any insurance assistance programs but could obtain coverage if the Legislature took action.
Business leaders, including the Texas Association of Business and numerous chambers of commerce, have called on the Legislature to accept the health care funds, in part because of the opportunity to create new jobs. Economist Ray Perryman calculated that a plan would create 60,157 new jobs in Harris County.
In the absence of legislative action, Texas is expected to lose more hospital jobs and access to medical care. The Quorum Report, an online media outlet monitoring state government, reports “rural hospitals are closing at such an alarming rate in Texas that hospital administrators are beginning to fear wide swaths of the state may be left without the benefit of trauma care and some areas may have no hospital within 100 miles.”
Legislators have filed numerous bills in Austin to accept the Medicaid funding but state lawmakers have not taken action on the bills. The legislative session ends June 1st.

 

More at TexasWellandHealth.org

First Mexican American Studies High School Dual Credit Program in Texas Presented At Houston Conference

Recent research proves that Mexican American Studies increased the odds of Latino students passing math and writing courses in Tucson-where MAS was banned. As TUSD students take Arizona to court to overturn the law prohibiting MAS, students in Texas are spreading the courses here.

Students from Mission High School in the Rio Grande Valley are among the first to implement MAS as a dual credit course in the state. They and their teachers will join hundreds of scholars, writers, activists, and policy makers at the National Association for Chicana & Chicano Studies Tejas Foco February 26-28, at Lone Star College-North Harris, in Houston, Texas.

The 80+ panels will cover everything from how to implement and teach Mexican American Studies-to the Tejas Foco Literary and Community Awards. The awards luncheon will feature internationally acclaimed writer Dagoberto Gilb-who is banned in Arizona. There will also be a presentation by cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, whose cartoon BORDER TOWN is scheduled to premiere on Fox TV this year.

The conference kicks off Thursday, Feb. 26, 6pm, at the LSC-NH Fine Arts Center with Aztec Dancers, followed by a panel titled “Houston’s Role in the Chicano Renaissance” featuring Dr. Tatcho Mindiola, co-founder of the Center for Mexican American Studies, UH; Dr. Nicolás Kanellos-founder of Arte Público Press, the largest publisher of books by and about Latinos, and Dr. Grisel Cano, founder of the Houston Community College Mexican American/Latino Studies program. The panel is hosted by Tony Diaz, El Librotraficante, Director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College-North Harris and Chair of the conference.

The conference culminates Saturday, Feb. 28, 2pm-3:15 pm, with a panel featuring policy makers who will discuss getting Mexican American Studies into 100 Texas school districts. Confirmed panelists include Ruben Cortez, Texas State Board of Education; Dr. Adriana Tamez, Houston Community College Board of Trustee, and Art Murillo, Lone Star College Board of Trustee, and Juliet Katherine Stipeche HISD School Board Trustee, among others.

Diaz said, “This conference will establish the Chicano Renaissance in a big way. We are convening high school students and their families with the leading thinkers, writers, and policy makers. This is what our education should look like, all the time. We will expect no less from now on.”

For more information, and a full line up of all 90 panels visit: www.TejasFoco2015.org.

The Tejas Foco is continuing efforts to raise funds to defray the costs of attending the conference for Mission and local high school students.

The Tejas Foco is also raising 100 copies of the book Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement to provide class room sets of 25 for 4 Librotraficante Under Ground Libraries in Texas. The book is banned in Arizona.

International Rubik’s Cube Competition at Rice University!

World-class “speedcubers” from the United States and around the world will gather at Rice University Oct. 18 for a World Cube Association-sanctioned Rubik’s Cube competition. Various styles of competition with the colorful cubes will lead up to the final rounds, which begin at 2 p.m. The fastest puzzle solvers will receive prizes. Presented by the Rice Cube Club at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, the event is free and open to the public.

Who: More than 50 to 60 “speedcubers” — people who solve the puzzle as quickly as possible — from the U.S. and around the world.

What: Rubik’s Cube competition, hosted by the Rice Cube Club.

When: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Oct. 18.

Where: Rice University, McNair Hall, Shell Auditorium, 6100 Main St.

This is the first such event to be hosted at Rice, according to Cory Thigpen, a Jones School MBA student and president of the Rice Cube Club.

For more information about the competition, including the schedule of events, visit www.cubingusa.com/RiceUniversity2014/index.php.

Houston Latino Elected Officials & Community Leaders to Formally Endorse Davis, Van de Putte

Houston Latino elected officials and community leaders held a press conference at to formally endorse Senators Wendy Davis and Leticia Van dePutte and highlight the contrasts in this race. Houston Latino leaders will work to make sure that their communities know the clear difference between Davis and Van de Putte’s commitment to all Texas families by investing more in our schools to ensure that children are better prepared for the future, and Abbott and Patrick who will allow standardized tests on four year-olds and jeopardize the Texas Dream Act.

Houston Children’s Charity Gives Wheelchair Vans to Nine Disabled Houstonians

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Houston’s Children’s Charity and AMS Vans, Inc. have partnered together in support of the nonprofit’s “Chariots for Children” program to give nine lucky Houston individuals and agencies a free wheelchair conversion van. Each of these individuals suffer from multiple handicaps that make their everyday life a challenge for them and their families.

These deserving recipients will receive a wheelchair van that provides families with special needs mobility freedom, unlocking opportunities of transportation and travel. With dealerships expanding across the nation, AMS Vans accommodates wheelchair users and their families with a side or rear wheelchair ramp.

WHO: Laura Ward, Houston Children’s Charity Executive Director
Dallas Crum, AMS Vans, Inc. General Manager/Community Relations Manager
Rachael Gordon, Texas Mattress Makers Official Spokesperson
Tilman Fertitta, Houston Children’s Charity Board Member and CEO of Landry’s, Inc.

Images and interviews will be available with each of these admirable Houstonians and agencies who receive a wheelchair van and have their lives dramatically enhanced.

WHY: With the substantial deduction in cost from AMS Vans, this event will be the most vans Houston Children’s Charity has ever awarded in one year. With so many applicants, the nonprofit’s focus has become to award these vans to individuals and agencies with the greatest need and impact in their lives moving forward.

Through “Chariots for Children”, Houston Children’s Charity has awarded 89 passenger vans, 21 handicapped accessible vehicles, three box trucks, one car and two vehicle modifications to 93 agencies and 21 individual families, at a cost of $2,850,698 over the past 17 years.

Additional event sponsors include: Texas Mattress Makers and Silver Eagle Distributors. During the event, Texas Mattress Makers will also make a surprise announcement with donating 200 beds as well as reveal they are the new Bed Partner of Houston Children’s Charity. For over 35 years, Texas Mattress Makers has been producing high quality mattresses with materials purchased exclusively from US based companies with no outsourced labor. They are the experts in the art of making mattresses, knowing which mattress best fits each customer and guarantees sleep satisfaction.

WHEN: Friday, October 10 from 2 PM – 4 PM
3 PM – signature photo opportunity for van giveaway

WHERE: Willie G’s – Post Oak Room
1605 Post Oak Blvd.
Houston, TX 77056

MORE INFO: Houston Children’s Charity is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for Greater Houston’s underprivileged, abused, and handicapped children who have been otherwise left behind. The scope of our support is limited only by the availability of resources. Their goal is to let no legitimate request for assistance go unanswered.