Texas Lawmakers, Education Groups Respond to State Supreme Court Ruling – School Finance System is Constitutional

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ complicated school finance system is constitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday — a decision that handed a major defeat to the 600-plus school districts that sued the state more than four years ago.

The all-Republican court reversed a lower-court ruling that had sided with schools and called the funding set by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011 inadequate and unfairly distributed among the wealthy and poor parts of the state.

“This is a surprising decision after years of legal battles over how public schools are funded. It was the largest case of its kind in recent Texas history. But it means Texas lawmakers won’t have to devise a new funding system next session, although the court called on them to reform it,” said Capital Tonight Texas Anchor Karina Kling.

 

Watch Capital Tonight Texas at 7 p.m. on Time Warner Cable News for More on the Decision and Reaction

Major legal battles over classroom funding have raged six times since 1984, but the latest decision by the high court’s justices marks just the second time they’ve failed to find the system unconstitutional. It also means the Texas Legislature won’t have to devise a new funding system.

“Our Byzantine school funding ‘system’ is undeniably imperfect, with immense room for improvement. But it satisfies minimum constitutional requirements,” the court found in its ruling. “Accordingly, we decline to usurp legislative authority by issuing reform diktats from on high, supplanting lawmakers’ policy wisdom with our own.”

The state’s highest civil court disagreed with Democratic state District Judge John Dietz, who previously declared Texas’ system of school funding — a “Robin Hood” formula in which wealthy school districts share local property tax revenue with districts in poorer areas — inadequate and unfairly distributed. School districts rely heavily on property taxes because Texas has no state income tax.

At issue in the case was the $5.4 billion in cuts to public education and related classroom grant programs that the Legislature approved in 2011, when the state’s economy was still reeling from the Great Recession. That prompted more than 600 rich and poor school districts — which educate three-quarters of the state’s public school students — to sue, arguing they could no longer properly function amid Texas’ public school enrollment growth of nearly 80,000 students annually.

Exacerbating the problems, they argued, was the Legislature’s increased demand for student and teacher accountability as measured by standardized testing scores and tough curriculum standards.

Dietz’s first ruling in 2013 found the state’s system didn’t meet the Texas Constitution’s requirements for a fair and efficient system providing a “general diffusion of knowledge.” State lawmakers responded by restoring more than $3 billion to schools and cutting the number of standardized tests required for high school students to graduate from a nation-high 15 to five.

Dietz reopened the case to hear how that would impact schools, but didn’t change his mind before issuing his written ruling in August 2014, which the state appealed to the Texas Supreme Court. Last year, the Legislature pumped about another $1.5 billion into schools, but that wasn’t enough to cover the 2011 cuts when adjusted for enrollment growth and inflation.

The Texas Attorney General’s office has argued that, while far from perfect, the current system met constitutional standards, though it has refused to comment outside of court or related filings. Abbott was attorney general when the case began before becoming governor last year, but neither he, nor his successor, Ken Paxton, argued the case personally.

Above compiled by AP and TWC News Staff.

Here are reaction statements from lawmakers and education groups:

Gov. Greg Abbott:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for Texas taxpayers and the Texas Constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision ends years of wasteful litigation by correctly recognizing that courts do not have the authority to micromanage the State’s school finance system. I am grateful for the excellent work of the State’s lawyers at the Attorney General’s Office, without whom this landmark ruling could not have been achieved.” 

 

Texas State Teachers Association President Noel Candelaria issued the following statement:

“It is a sad day when the state’s highest court decides that doing the least the state can do to educate our children is enough. 

“Parents and teachers know that educating our children is not about ‘minimum constitutional requirements.’ It’s about right and wrong. 

“Texas spends about $2,700 less per student than the national average, and we continue to fall further behind. Today’s shallow ruling does not make it right to keep shortchanging our children’s schools and putting our future at risk. We will not rest until the state does what is right for our children.”

 

Attorney General Ken Paxton:

“This is an historic ruling by the Texas Supreme Court, and a major victory for the people of Texas, who have faced an endless parade of lawsuits following any attempt to finance schools in the state. We have said all along that school financing must be debated and shaped by the Texas Legislature, not through decades’ worth of ongoing litigation in the court system, and I’m pleased the court unanimously agrees. I’m also grateful for the hard work of my legal team, whose dedication, knowledge and talent helped earn Texas this much-needed victory.”

 

Lt. Governor Patrick:

“Today, the Texas Supreme Court confirmed what we already knew. Texas’ school finance system, while imperfect, is constitutional.

“I will continue to look for ways to improve our state’s school system performance and quality, while developing options to expand school choice for students across the state.” 

 

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus:

“While I am grateful that the Supreme Court has found our school finance system to be constitutional, it’s important to remember the Court also said there is ample room for improvement. The Texas House will continue working to deliver value for taxpayers and provide an outstanding education for our students.”

Association of Texas Professional Educators Executive Director Gary Godsey said:

“It’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court has decided the minimum is enough for Texas public school children. As ATPE has done for years, we will continue to press lawmakers to take responsibility for crafting solutions that will make our school finance system not simply ‘minimally’ acceptable under the constitution, but in line with all of the state’s other expectations for our public schools. The burden is on the legislature to act, but it is also on voters to elect lawmakers who will have the fortitude to make the necessary decisions.”

 

Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, House Public Education Chairman:

“During the 84th legislative session there was much work done attempting to improve our school finance system. That effort did not come to fruition. While there was reluctance among legislators to deal with the issue, the real and perennial reason school finance is so difficult to deal with is the lack of consensus among school districts and their associations. Each district sees the issue differently and bands together in associations to defend their view.
Last session HB1759 was an attempt to simplify and improve the funding system. Even the proposed $3 Billion funding increase left districts divided about how to distribute the money. All wanted the dollars. None wanted the pain of the needed corrections. When added to those who wanted to wait for the court, and those who don’t support school funding in general, there was simply no way to get the bill passed. I was probably foolish to try. In the end schools got about half the $3 Billion and another (4th) “hold harmless”.

So what is ahead? First, the schools shouldn’t bet on extensive funding change in the foreseeable future. Second, if schools want to change the system THEY must come to a consensus before they expect the legislature to do so. Third, HB1759 was a bill for a moment in time. The money available, the court resolution and other factors will make it unwise to simply refile the bill. Fourth, legislators should continue to look for ways to work toward a simpler and improved funding environment. It will never be easy. For those interested I suggest you watch the HB1759 bill layout ( legislative archives, May 15,2015, hour 2:58 of the session). I believe the relevant issues are still unchanged.

Personally, it is pretty obvious that I am frustrated that after 10 years of trying to improve school finance there has been little progress. It is time for me to move on and encourage others to find new and better funding solutions for the 5.3 million texas school children.”

 

 

Louis Malfaro, president of the 65,000-member Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, commented today on the Texas Supreme Court ruling on school finance:

“Today the Texas Supreme Court abandoned its duty to defend the interests of Texas’ 5.3 million public school students, walking away from its responsibility to confront our broken school finance system.

The deeply conservative court has held that the state system of school funding meets minimum constitutional requirements, but facts are stubborn things, and the facts remain that Texas schools are underfunded, inequitably funded, and force an inordinate share of the cost of education onto local school districts and their taxpayers, while the state fails to do its full part.

The court hides behind a facile argument of judicial restraint. Past courts have seen the wide variation in access to funding between school districts as a violation of the constitutional requirement that the state support an efficient system of public schools. 

As the court acknowledged, “Few would argue that the State cannot do better.” The state got the benefit in this ruling of a court that viewed its role as being “limited to reviewing the constitutionality of the system under an extremely deferential standard.”

The burden remains on the Legislature to do its job of improving the chances of success for Texas schoolchildren. Students’ educational opportunity should not depend on their ZIP Code, and adequate and equitable funding is essential to overcome the many disadvantages a majority of our students faces before they ever set foot in our classrooms. “

 

Democratic Rep. Donna Howard:

“To say that I am disappointed in today’s ruling on school finance would be a great understatement, as it appears the Texas Supreme Court has set the lowest bar imaginable for constitutionality in this case.

“If there is any bright spot to this decision, it is the Court’s recognition that the current system is ‘imperfect, with immense room for improvement.’ On this point we can all agree, and it is incumbent on the Texas Legislature to better ensure that all of our students have access to an adequate and equitable public education.

“For far too long, the state has been neglecting its responsibilities, failing to pick up its fair share of the school finance tab, and pushing the costs down to overburdened local taxpayers. Last session, the Texas House took steps to remedy this through the infusion of an additional $3 billion to public education; unfortunately, the final budget saw this funding cut in half. As a member of the Article III Subcommittee for Appropriations, I will continue to push for additional dollars in the next session, and work to address our outdated funding formulas.

“It is time for lawmakers to move past partisanship, look beyond their local districts, and find a solution which works for all Texas children. The Legislature may no longer have the urgency of a court decision pushing us to address our school finance system. But the needs of our students and the future prosperity of our state demand it.”

 

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:

 

“Our children deserve the best education in the country. Period.  It’s unacceptable that Republicans continue to shortchange our children’s education. Years of court battles, research studies, and outcry from Texas parents and educators have been ignored.

 

“School finance may be complicated, but the fundamental questions at hand are simple: Do we believe our children deserve the best education in the country? Do we believe our children’s teachers should be fairly compensated? Do we believe our children’s classrooms should not be overcrowded? Do we believe our children should have the best tools, resources, and facilities to learn? And do we have the political courage to invest in our children’s future? Republicans have answered ‘no’ to each of these questions.

 

“It is clear now that Republicans do not believe every Texas child deserves a fair shot to achieve their God-given potential. Our children are the future of Texas and our economy. Not investing in them leaves both them and our economy behind. This Republican decision is dead wrong, but Texas Democrats will continue to fight everyday so that every child can get ahead.”

 

 

 

 

Cruz Out, What Now?

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz surprised many last night when he decided to officially end his presidential campaign. The sound of ‘boos’ and ‘no’ echoed among his supporters listening to his concession speech in Indiana. But the writing was on the wall, and Cruz saw it. With Donald Trump now the presumptive GOP nominee, what’s next for Cruz and the Republican Party?

 

The pundits, politicians and party leaders are all weighing in. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said they will support Trump and that other Republicans should too, in order for the party to unite around a candidate to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“Congratulations to my good friend Ted Cruz on a hard fought campaign,” Abbott said in a Facebook post Tuesday night. “Conservatives must unite to support the presumptive GOP nominee and prevent the Constitution from being destroyed by Hillary.”

In an interview on Capital Tonight on Monday, Patrick said he didn’t think Cruz should exit the race if he lost Indiana. But he did, and Patrick said he stands by his word to back the GOP nominee.

Whether other Texans who backed Cruz, or other candidates in the state’s March 1 Primary will follow suit, is yet to be determined. But one did not hold back.

Republican State Rep. Jason Villalba said in a TribTalk published today that “Donald Trump is a disgusting blight upon the American Experience. He is hateful and ugly and a disease to be eliminated. I will not vote for him, and I will work tirelessly to ensure that he is never the representative of the Republican Party that I stand for.”

The inevitable November match-up between Trump and Clinton will continue what’s been referred to as the craziest and most unpredictable presidential election cycle in history.

 

As for Cruz, here are a couple of takeaways from our political analysts Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi from last night’s show recapping the Indiana Primary:

On return to Senate:

Cook – “I personally think it’s dangerous for him to do that. I’m not sure it’s the best platform for somebody’s who’s strength is going around telling voters you’re an outsider.”

“I’m not sure, if he wants to have a future as a future presidential candidate, that’s the choice for him.”

Delisi – “In my mind, he’s got a really bright future but it all depends on what happens this fall. If Trump doesn’t win, I think the Senate does really nothing for Ted Cruz. Then at that point you do exactly what Mitt Romney did. You form a Super PAC, you run around to Iowa and New Hampshire, you help candidates up and down the ballot…you push out all of the national organizations that you built and you crowd out all of the type of people that could do the same type of thing.”

“There are a lot of people that it takes them more than one time to become the nominee of their party.”

On attacking Trump sooner:

Cook – “I think one of the few mistakes that Cruz’s campaign ever made was back last November when Cruz made the assumption that Trump would eventually fall apart, Cruz was going to shower Trump with kindness and therefore Trump’s supporters would gravitate toward Cruz.”

Delisi – “I bet he wish he hadn’t cozied up to him…But look betting on Trump to stumble, I think was a pretty good bet last fall. We’ve never seen anyone like Trump before in the Republican Primary.”

“In Cruz’s world, he played the best hand he played at the time.”

On why he didn’t win:

Delisi: “Something didn’t happen in South Carolina…Cruz didn’t make a case to evangelicals that the guy who’d been married three times, who’s from New York City, who’s a real estate developer, who kind of brags about his social playboy life, you can’t beat that guy in South Carolina, you’re not going to be the nominee.”

 

You can watch the full episode with Cook and Delisi’s analysis here:

http://www.twcnews.com/tx/austin/news/2016/05/4/capitol-tonight-may-3–trump-and-sanders-take-indiana–cruz-drops-out.html

Supreme Court Refuses to Block Texas Voter ID Law, For Now

The state’s controversial voter ID law will remain in place, at least for now. Friday morning the United States Supreme Court decided to temporarily leave the law on the books.

The decision comes after civil right’s groups asked the justices to step in during the ongoing legal battle. Since it became law in 2011, several courts have mulled over whether it’s discriminatory.

The law is the strictest voter ID law currently on the books in any state. In order to vote, you have to present a certain type of photo ID on Election Day.

Critics say it hurts lower income and minority voters from taking part in the process. Proponents maintain it protects the integrity of Texas elections.

The law was passed by the Texas legislature in 2011 and signed by then Governor Rick Perry. Since then it’s had a long and complicated history. After a district court ruled against the state in 2014, the law made its way to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. There a 3-judge panel agreed with the district court saying the law had a discriminatory effect.

Before the district court could offer a remedy, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked for a full panel review in the 5th Circuit.

In the meantime, the law has stayed in effect, prompting civil rights groups to ask the Supreme Court to step in.

After declining to do so Friday, Attorney General Paxton praised the decision and issued the following statement:

 

“Texas enacted a common-sense law to provide simple protections to the integrity of our elections and the democratic process in our state,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton. “We appreciate the Supreme Court allowing the law to remain in effect at this time and look forward to defending the merits of our case in front of the entire Fifth Circuit next month.”

 

The Supreme Court is putting pressure on the 5th Circuit to make a decision by July 20th to allow enough time for any changes before the November elections. If they don’t rule by then, the justices could reconsider stepping in.

The full 5th Circuit Appeals Court will hold a new hearing on the law next month.

 

Speaker Straus Warns Lawmakers of Budget Challenges During Oil Slump

Speaker Joe Straus sent this letter to House budget writers as they got to work this morning:

 

straus letter 1

straus letter to budget writers 2

Texas Supreme Court Ends Challenge to State’s First Legal Same Sex Marriage

The state’s highest court has tossed out an attempt to undo the union of the first gay couple to legally wed in Texas.

The court-ordered marriage of Austin couple — Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend — came months before same sex weddings were legalized nationwide. A lower court judge ordered the Travis County clerk to issue them a license under special circumstances because Goodfriend had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and her future health was uncertain. Attorney General Paxton challenged the marriage. But today, the Republican-controlled Texas Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s order and dismissed the state’s effort to overturn it. They say the challenge is moot because the US Supreme Court struck down the state’s ban on gay marriage last summer.

 

Feds File Fraud Charges Against Ken Paxton

Federal securities regulators hit Texas attorney general Ken Paxton with fraud charges Monday. Paxton faces civil charges for allegedly recruiting investors for a high-tech startup without disclosing the company was paying him.

The alleged violations happened before Paxton became attorney general. The SEC claims Paxton raised 840-thousand dollars in investment funds for Servergy and, in return, Servergy gave him 100-thousand shares of stock. Paxton, a Republican, is already under felony criminal indictment in Texas over allegations that he defrauded wealthy investors in the company in 2011.

In a statement this afternoon, Paxton’s attorney said the attorney general “vehemently denies the allegations.”

Here’s attorney Bill Mateja’s full statement:

“Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton understands that, earlier today, the SEC filed a civil lawsuit against him in connection with a company called Servergy, Inc.  While neither Mr. Paxton nor his legal team have reviewed the civil lawsuit yet, we understand that the civil lawsuit revolves around the same allegations charged in the Collin County criminal matter.  Like the criminal matter, Mr. Paxton vehemently denies the allegations in the civil lawsuit and looks forward to not only all of the facts coming out, but also to establishing his innocence in both the civil and criminal matters.  While it isn’t surprising that the SEC filed this identical civil lawsuit, because it happens almost all of the time, it is surprising that the SEC chose to file this civil lawsuit nearly a year after the Collin County Special Prosecutors filed their criminal case, particularly where the civil lawsuit mirrors the criminal case.”

 

Here’s the full press release from the SEC:

SEC: Company Misled Investors About Energy-Efficient Technology

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2016-65

Washington D.C., April 11, 2016  The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges against a Texas-based technology company and its founder accused of boosting stock sales with false claims about a supposedly revolutionary computer server and big-name customers purportedly placing orders to buy it.

Also charged in the SEC’s complaint is Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and a former member of the company’s board of directors for allegedly recruiting investors while hiding they were being compensated to promote the company’s stock.

The SEC alleges that Servergy Inc. and William E. Mapp III sold $26 million worth of company stock in private offerings while misleading investors to believe that the Cleantech CTS-1000 server (the company’s sole product) was especially energy-efficient.  They said it could replace “power-hungry” servers found in top data centers and compete directly with top server makers like IBM, Dell, and Hewlett Packard.  However, neither Mapp nor Servergy informed investors that those companies were manufacturing high-performance servers with 64-bit processors while the CTS-1000 had a less powerful 32-bit processor that was being phased out of the industry and could not in reality compete against those companies.

The SEC further alleges that when Servergy was low on operating funds, Mapp enticed prospective investors by falsely claiming well-known companies were ordering the CTS-1000, and he specifically mentioned an order purportedly received from Amazon.  In reality, an Amazon employee had merely contacted Servergy because he wanted to test the product in his free time for personal use.

Servergy has since cut ties with Mapp, who served as CEO.  The company agreed to pay a $200,000 penalty to settle the SEC’s charges.  The litigation continues against Mapp in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

“We allege that Mapp deceived investors into believing that Servergy’s groundbreaking technology was generating lucrative sales to major customers when it was technologically behind its competitors and made no actual sales,” said Shamoil T. Shipchandler, Director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office.

While serving in the Texas House of Representatives, Paxton allegedly reached an agreement with Mapp to promote Servergy to prospective investors in return for shares of Servergy stock.  According to the SEC’s complaint, Paxton raised $840,000 in investor funds for Servergy and received 100,000 shares of stock in return, but never disclosed his commissions to prospective investors while recruiting them.  Similarly, former Servergy director Caleb White allegedly raised more than $1.4 million for Servergy and received $66,000 and 20,000 shares of Servergy stock while never disclosing these commissions to investors.  White has agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying $66,000 in disgorgement and returning his shares of Servergy stock to the company.  The SEC’s litigation continues against Paxton.

“People recruiting investors have a legal obligation to disclose any compensation they are receiving to promote a stock, and we allege that Paxton and White concealed the compensation they were receiving for touting Servergy’s product,” Mr. Shipchandler said.

The SEC’s complaint charges Servergy, Mapp, Paxton, and White with violating Sections 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Servergy, Mapp, and White also allegedly violated Sections 5(a) and (c) of the Securities Act, and Paxton and White allegedly violated Section 17(b) of the Securities Act and Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act.

Servergy and White neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s charges in their settlements.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Samantha S. Martin and Carol J. Hahn and supervised by Jessica B. Magee and David L. Peavler in the Fort Worth office.  The SEC’s litigation will be led by Matthew J. Gulde and Ms. Magee.

 

Here’s the response from Texas Democrats:

Texas Democratic Party Deputy Executive Director Emmanuel Garcia issued the following statement:

“Enough is enough. How many more investigations, criminal charges, and lawsuits need to be filed before Republican Ken Paxton takes responsibility for his lawlessness and resigns?

“First, we learned Ken Paxton was swindling his investors and fellow Texans. Then, he ran afoul of the Texas Rangers. All along, Paxton sought out white-collar treatment from Texas courts. He is already facing over 99 years in jail for felony fraud. But the lawlessness is not over, today, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a new civil securities fraud lawsuit against the Republican.

“Texas Democrats know that no politician should ever be above the law. We renew our call for Ken Paxton to spare Texas further embarrassment, take responsibility, and step down.”

 

———————–

We will have more on this story tonight at 7 on Capital Tonight.

 

Rick Perry’s Abuse of Power Case Officially Dismissed

Following a Court of Criminal Appeals decision that all but ended the case, the special prosecutor who secured the grand jury indictment against former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday said he will not pursue an amended indictment. The presiding judge, Bert Richardson, signed a dismissal of the case.

Perry’s legal team continues to say the case should have never happened.

“I told all of you from the beginning it would ultimately be dismissed,” Perry’s lead lawyer, Tony Buzbee, told reporters today. “It was dismissed today because it lacked merit on both facts and the law. I just wish it would have been dismissed sooner,” he said.

Buzbee also said he asked the judge to provide his team with a transcript of the grand jury proceedings. “We feel like Mr. McCrum must have said some things that are probably actionable to that grand jury based on the people we know testified and the facts as we know that and we’re going to explore that. So although this criminal case is over, our investigation into how this came about certainly is not,” Buzbee said.

Meanwhile, special prosecutor Michael McCrum said he is 100 percent confident he handled the case appropriately. He said the law guards the confidentiality of those proceedings for good reason.

“Mr. Buzbee should know that,” McCrum said. “I don’t know, he handles snake bites and car wreck cases.”

McCrum also said he considered keeping the case going by amending the indictment because he believes Perry committed a crime.

But he said he won’t because the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in the case ‘muddied’ the law.

“Am I sore about the fact that the law now is so muddied that it makes it difficult to prosecute any public official for their acts of threats and their use of power in an inappropriate way? Yeah, I’m sore about that. I’m disappointed. I’m upset,” McCrum said.

The case stems from the former governor’s 2013 threat to veto funding for a unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office unless its head step down following a drunken driving conviction.

She didn’t, and Perry’s attorneys said the former governor was within his rights to follow through on vetoing the funding.

Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint saying Perry went too far. The complaint led to the 2014 indictment of Perry. He was accused of coercion of a public servant and abuse of official capacity.

A lower appeals court tossed out the coercion charge last year. Then in February, the Court of Criminal Appeals threw out the remaining charge.

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Digest | April 4

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:

 

The U.S. Supreme Court handed Texas a victory today. It upheld the state’s system of drawing legislative voting districts based on everyone who lives there, not just registered voters. On the show tonight, we’ll bring you reaction from Texas leaders on both sides of the issue, including one of the plaintiffs in the case.

 

Plus, all eyes are on Wisconsin ahead of that state’s primary Tuesday. For the Republicans running for President, the Badger State could play a huge role in their paths going forward. Our LeAnn Wallace takes a look at what the Cruz campaign strategy involves in order to win the lion’s share of the state’s 42 delegates.

 

Tune to Capital Tonight on Time Warner Cable News at 7 for these stories and more. We also welcome Charles O’Neal to the show as our guest. He’s the president of the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce. He’ll discuss what his organization is doing to boost black-owned businesses in the state.

 

 

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Texas Districts

Texas was handed a victory Monday morning. The United States Supreme Court voted unanimously to uphold the state’s system of drawing legislative voting districts based on everyone who lives there, not just registered voters. Two rural Texans challenged the state’s method arguing their votes were diluted.

But the high court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument saying representatives serve all residents, “not just those eligible or registered to vote.”

The decision excited Texas Democrats the most. That’s because it likely boosts the voting power of the state’s booming Latino population.

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton became an unlikely ally of Democrats on the issue.

He supports his state’s system for drawing districts and applauded the justices’ ruling.

 

 

We’ve compiled a list of state leaders reaction to the decision:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today released the following statement regarding the 8-0 victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in Evenwel v. Abbott:

“We are pleased with the unanimous decision of the Court.  My office is committed to defending the Constitution and ensuring the state legislature, representing the citizens, continues to have the freedom to ensure voting rights consistent with the Constitution.”

 

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa issued the following statement:

“Today, in a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court reaffirms that every single person in America deserves a voice. Our elected representatives should be responsive to every one’s needs, not just those that can bring them to power. Every person matters.

“This is a victory for our democracy and every Texas family. For decades, the democratic principle of ‘one person, one vote,’ has ensured everyone in America, regardless of who they are or where they live, is entitled to equal representation. Evenwel threatened a returned to darker days when certain people were easily left behind by their government.

“Texas Democrats know that our democracy is stronger when everyone has a seat at the table. To strengthen our communities we should be encouraging more people to join us. We pray that Tea Party Republicans finally drop their efforts to make it harder to vote, silence the voice of voters, and weaken the power of Texas’ diverse communities.”

 

Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle statement:

“Today’s unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court turned back a direct attack on one-person, one-vote. It is an enormous victory for Democratic and American values.  “It’s no accident that this case originated in Texas. The forces that filed the suit and pursued it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court reflect the dark and dangerous view that power should be concentrated in the hands of a very few. Keep in mind that current Texas leaders adopted and have spent millions of dollars defending discriminatory redistricting and Voter ID laws. Their recent actions have created an environment that encourages and accommodates those who hold basic civil and voting rights in contempt.”
 

State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, Chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, issued the following statement:

“Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court is a victory for voting rights, and I am proud that MALC’s work helped the High Court reach this important decision.

“‘One person, one vote’ is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is simple: when we ensure equal representation, we ensure that every single voice matters.

“Eliminating non-voters from the drawing of election lines would have had a devastating effect on Texas and on the Latino community. While we cheer today, voting rights remain under attack in America. It is time for Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act. It is time for Texas to make it easier to vote, not harder.”

 

ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro said:

“This decision is a victory for the principle of representative democracy. There is a reason that every state has chosen to apportion its state legislative districts based on total population. Government actions affect everyone, not just eligible voters. The argument that states are forbidden from treating everyone equally for redistricting purposes never made any constitutional sense and was properly rejected today by a unanimous Supreme Court.”

 

Read the full decision here:

http://www.twcnews.com/tx/austin/news/2016/04/4/scotus-rejects-evenwel-v-abbott.html

Daily Digest | March 31


Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:

 

State lawmakers have been busy this week holding interim committee hearings. Today we checked in on the joint hearing of the International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs and the Agriculture and Livestock committees exploring the impact that an open US-Cuba trading relationship would have on Texas.  Hear from business owners on Capital Tonight at 7pm.

 

Black business groups say the state can do more to provide better opportunities for black entrepreneurs.

A 2014 survey done by the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce says there are less than 10-percent of black owned businesses in the state.

And black-owned businesses on average employ only ten people.

Today, the group hosted Governor Abbott for their Black Business Day event at the State Capitol.

They say Abbott has been more responsive to working with black business owners compared to former Governor Rick Perry.

“I want to see the state of Texas succeed, that is my goal. The state of Texas is not going to succeed if anybody gets left behind,” Governor Abbott said.

Abbott said to create that success, he also wants to keep raising high school and college graduation rates among black students in the state.

 

We are also taking a closer look at Higher Education in the state tonight. Our guest is Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes. Hear why he thinks Texas isn’t doing enough to prepare kids for college and what he wants to see put in place.