in Houston, Texas
Texas AG Greg Abbott and his Republican counterparts amass power, challenge federal authority
Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012, 10:53AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Greg AbbottGreg Abbott

Texan Greg Abbott is one of the commanders of a new legion of Republican attorneys general in defiance across a broad front of federal legal authority.

Doubling their number to 24 since 2000, these tightly knit Republican AGs have over the past two years coordinated challenges to ObamaCare, its contraception mandate and the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a penetrating analysis today by Reuters.

"There seems to be, in addition to the size, an intensified cohesion and collegiality among the (Republican) AGs," Abbott told Reuters. "Part of it is based on personality. Part of it is based on sense of purpose."

On March 26 Abbott won an appeal of the EPA’s rejection of the state’s permitting process for some power plants. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the EPA had exceeded its authority in making its ruling.

The state’s top attorneys have pushed back against federal challenges to voter identification laws and redistricting maps passed by their legislatures.

The Reuters story singles out Abbott for his role in questioning the validity today of a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that forces Texas and other southern states to have all changes to their voting district maps approved by the federal government.

While the Supreme Court did not directly address the issue, the court voted unanimously that the lower federal courts had overreached in redrawing district maps passed by the Texas Legislature.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of the Washington Monument on the National Mall by flickr user davidpc_, used via a Creative Commons license.

Competitive Congressional race in West Texas emerges following redistricting squabble
Thursday, Mar 01, 2012, 11:50AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Capitol

Barring a final disgruntled pitch in a fourth court, Texas has the maps it needs to get through at least this next election cycle.

The San Antonio panel is expected to release its written rationale for the map changes it made, finalize the primary date now set for May 29 and issue candidate filing rules and dates sometime before the end of Friday.

And for all of the purported injustices committed against both political parties, a fight that went all the way to the Supreme Court produced exactly one competitive race for Congress between a Republican and a Democrat, according to a nice analysis of the new maps by the Washington bureau of the Dallas Morning News.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, who has for 21 years represented the 39,000 square miles of West Texas that is District 74, is going after Republican U.S. Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, who has a little more than a year in representing much of the same territory in the 48,000 square mile Congressional District 23.

The race is expected to attract national campaign money.

The Morning News surmises that of the other 35 congressional districts (Texas added four by population growth) 24 are pretty solidly Republican and 11 cozily Democratic.

State Attorney General Greg Abbott, who argued in court that the Legislature and not the federal government has the responsibility for creating the state’s political districts, praised the newly approved maps.

“As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous, clear direction to the district court, these new interim maps more accurately reflect the decisions of elected Texas legislators,” Abbott said in a statement.

As expected, Abbott’s general satisfaction was not shared with the parties that took the original maps approved by the Legislature to court. “This was a total devastation for the Latino community across Texas,” Luis Vera, attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens, told the Washington Post.

The story goes on to doubt whether yet another appeal might be filed after the panel of three judges in San Antonio that rejected the Legislature’s maps approved the latest iterations.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of U.S. Capitol Building by flickr user Glyn Lowe Photos, used via a Creative Commons license.

Supreme Court rejects San Antonio panel’s redistricting maps, favors those drawn up by Texas state Legislature
Friday, Jan 20, 2012, 10:16AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
gavel

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning rejected voting district maps drawn for Texas by a federal judicial panel in San Antonio and directed the panel to create a map closer to one approved this summer by the state Legislature.

Bloomberg sent out this blast just a few minutes ago.

The high court’s unanimous decision comes as a panel of federal judges in the District of Columbia completes its first week of testimony in a hearing to determine whether the Legislature’s redistricting discriminated against minority voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

The hearings are scheduled to continue through Jan. 26 with final arguments to be made on Feb. 3.

The Supreme Court on Jan. 9 heard arguments from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who challenged the map drawn by the San Antonio panel and by supporters, who said the Legislature’s maps would disenfranchise minority voters. Abbott's office issued this statement Friday.

As the case makes its way through three courts, Texas voters wait to see when the state’s primary elections will be held. The current April 3 date delayed the primary by a month because of the legal wrangling.
 
Note: This post was updated at 10:54 a.m. Friday, Jan. 20, with a link to Abbott's statement.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.
 
Photo of gavel by flickr user s_falkow, used via a Creative Commons license.
Federal panel hears arguments today in Texas redistricting case
Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012, 10:03AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
gavel and texas

A panel of federal judges in the District of Columbia today will begin hearing testimony for and against the maps of new voting districts passed last June by the Texas Legislature.

The three judges are expected to decide in hearings continuing through Jan. 26 whether the state’s redistricting violated the federal Voting Rights Act and discriminated against minority voters, according to story today by the Houston Chronicle.

The panel set Feb. 3 to hear final arguments in the case, which was argued before the Supreme Court Jan. 9.

The timing for decisions in the two court cases will dictate when Texas can hold its primary elections. The March 6 primary has already been pushed back to April 3. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn is unhappy because he thinks the primary will probably be pushed back again, an Associated Press story today says.

Today’s hearing was made necessary because the Department of Justice in a pre-clearance review found the Legislature violated the Voting Rights Act. Texas is among the states the voting act singled out for its history of minority voter discrimination, requiring them to get federal approval for any changes made to their voting procedures.

The Department of Justice called on a three-judge panel in San Antonio to draw a new map, which Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott challenged before the Supreme Court.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Graphic by flickr user Truthout.org, used via a Creative Commons license.
Why the judicial back-and-forth over Texas redistricting matters
Friday, Jan 06, 2012, 11:48AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
gavel

The overture to a judicial minuet that may or may not clarify primary elections in Texas begins with the Supreme Court on Monday.

Lawyers for the state of Texas will have an hour to make a case before the high court that a map drawn by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio meant to supplant one passed by the Texas Legislature is legal.

In eight days after that, a federal judicial panel in Washington, D.C. will take up the dance, convening hearings through Jan. 26 over the legal standing of the Legislature’s map. The panel will hear final arguments Feb. 3.

Those rulings and the timing of this choreographed judicial interplay will determine whether or not it was enough for the state to push back its primary to April 3 from March 6 and extend the filing deadline for candidates to Feb. 1.

At center stage is Section 5 of the sweeping Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to make illegal practices that disenfranchised minority voters in America. Section 5 required states like Texas with an established history of such practices to obtain from the federal government pre-clearance of changes, including district maps, made by state legislatures.

While Texas applied for pre-clearance, the Department of Justice found the Legislature’s map discriminatory. A D.C. district court ordered the federal judicial panel to rectify the imbalance with a new map, leaving enough time for the state to prepare for its March primary.

Dissatisfied with a map that shifted political advantage from Republicans to Democrats, Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott asked the Supreme Court to decide.

On its face, the Supreme Court’s purview in the case is whether or not Texas must go ahead and use the map created by the judicial panel. Experts are split about the importance of the case, some saying it will have little impact upon the integrity of the Voting Rights Act

Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional expert and law professor at the University of California, Irvine, in an American Bar Association essay, says the high court isn’t ruling on whether or not the Section 5 pre-clearance law is Constitutional.

The Supreme Court upheld Section 5 in 1980 and 1973 challenges, he says. And Congress voted to extend the section for another 25 years in 2006.

The case does, however, raise again the issue of federal intrusion upon state prerogatives. In a 2009 ruling, the Court expressed doubts about a section of a law pertaining to a pattern of discrimination in voting that is now generations old and may no longer be valid.

In the meantime, Texas awaits a decision in one court that will give direction to another in the hope of giving some direction to Texas.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of gavel by flickr user s_falkow, used via a Creative Commons license.
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