Mon March 12, 2012
Justice Dept Opposes Texas Voter ID Law
The Justice Department's civil rights division has objected to the new photo ID requirement for voters in Texas, saying many Hispanic voters lack state-issued identification.
The department says the state has failed to show that the newly enacted law has neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect.
In a letter to Texas officials, the Justice Department says Hispanic voters in Texas are as much as 120 percent more likely than non-Hispanic voters to lack a driver's license or personal state-issued photo ID.
The department said that even the lowest estimates showed about half of Hispanic registered voters lack such identification.
The range was so broad because the state provided two sets of registered voter data.
In December, the Justice Department rejected South Carolina's voter ID law on grounds it makes it harder for minorities to cast ballots. It was the first voter ID law to be rejected by the department in nearly 20 years.
In response, South Carolina sued Holder; the state argued that enforcement of its new law will not disenfranchise any voters. Other states have moved toward photo ID requirements in the past year.
Alabama has a photo ID law, but it does not go in effect until 2014. Mississippi voters approved a photo ID law, but the state legislature has not yet adopted enabling legislation. The Justice Department has not yet reviewed the initiatives in either state.
The Justice Department has said it is reviewing voter ID laws in other states, but has not identified which ones.
Texas DPS ups anti-DWI efforts during spring break
The Texas Department of Public Safety has increased anti-DWI efforts during spring break. DPS troopers have added patrols through Sunday to crack down on drunken driving. The extra patrols are funded through a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.
DPS during 2011 spring break made nearly 1,300 DWI arrests. The legal drinking age in Texas is 21. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission on Monday reminded students of the so-called 911 Lifeline Law, which took effect last September. The law provides limited immunity for an underage person who calls for assistance because someone might have alcohol poisoning and who stays at the scene until help arrives.
DPS last week raised safety concerns about drug-related violence in Mexico and urged students on spring break to avoid heading south of the border.
Flooded Dallas County courts building reopens
A water-damaged courthouse in Dallas has reopened and an inmate who fled while on cleanup duty remains at large.
The Frank Crowley Courts Building reopened Monday morning. The Dallas County Sheriff's Department says the building had been closed since a water main broke Thursday in a first-floor electrical area. Several inches of water covered the first floor, affecting some electrical operations.
The building was evacuated and closed. Some inmates, including 17-year-old Juan Ramires, were assisting with cleanup when he walked out.
Ramires had been held on a misdemeanor charge of failure to identify himself to a Texas trooper. He's expected to face additional counts over his escape.
Federal disaster audit recommends Texas repay $9M
A federal audit has recommended that Texas repay $9 million in alleged overcharges related to administration of hurricane recovery funds. Hurricanes Dolly and Ike hit Texas in 2008. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has made $1.4 billion in grants available.
Gary Hagood with the Texas General Land Office says the state is negotiating with federal authorities over potential repayment. The Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday that the review determined the state improperly contracted with engineering firm HNTB to manage the grants.
The newspaper reports overcharges were billed by Missouri-based HNTB and paid in federal dollars. HNTB, in a statement Friday, said the company cooperated with the audit, has complied with terms of its state contract and that concerns identified in the review have been addressed.