Articles

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today praised Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Senator Joan Huffman for their efforts in preserving Texas’ Voter ID law. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit identified two changes the law should include: free birth certificates to obtain Voter ID and a declaration for voters who do not have and cannot reasonably obtain acceptable photo identification. Last session, the Legislature unanimously approved Senate Bill 983 to remove any fee associated with birth certificates used to obtain photo identification. This session, the lieutenant governor reserved the priority designation of Senate Bill 5 for legislation to address the declaration, which Senator Huffman filed today.

“Election integrity is one of the most important functions of government, and Voter ID is an integral part of maintaining election integrity,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The updates to Voter ID that Senator Huffman proposes will make the changes necessary to comply with the Fifth Circuit ruling while ensuring the integrity of the voting process. The leadership of Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Senator Huffman are critical to Texas’ ability to use its Voter ID law in the future.”

Senate Bill 5, if passed, will make the following changes to the Voter ID statute:

  • Allowing voters to cast a ballot if they have an approved secondary form of identification and execute a declaration indicating they are who they say they are and do not have and cannot reasonably obtain approved photo identification for one of several specified reasons.
  • Allowing voters to use otherwise acceptable photo identification that is more than 60 days expired if they execute a declaration stating that they cannot obtain a new form of photo identification for one of the several specified reasons.
  • Establishing a criminal penalty for knowingly making a false statement on the declaration as up to a third degree felony.
  • Allowing voters over age 70 to cast a ballot using expired, otherwise acceptable, photo identification.
  • Requiring the Texas Secretary of State to establish a mobile program for issuing election identification certificates.

The bill is co-authored by state Senators Paul Bettencourt, Brian Birdwell, Dawn Buckingham, Konni Burton, Donna Campbell, Brandon Creighton, Craig Estes, Bob Hall, Kelly Hancock, Don Huffines, Bryan Hughes, Lois Kolkhorst, Jane Nelson, Robert Nichols, Charles Perry, Charles Schwertner, Kel Seliger, Larry Taylor and Van Taylor.

To view a copy of the bill, click here: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/epress/SB00005I.pdf?cachebuster:59

 

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Visits Rio Grande Valley Job Creators, Community Leaders, Law Enforcement

MCALLEN, Texas – On Friday and Saturday, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) participated in several events in the Rio Grande Valley, where he visited with agriculture leaders, business owners, and border mayors, and received briefings from U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) Rio Grande Valley Sector and the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS). He also participated in a USBP night patrol operation and a TxDPS marine patrol of the Rio Grande.

“The communities of the Rio Grande Valley are a crucial component to Texas’ economic strength and I’m glad to have had the chance to visit with law enforcement, with job creators, and with community leaders to see and hear firsthand the challenges they are facing, and what Washington needs to be doing to provide them the tools they need to thrive,” Sen. Cruz said. “We have an incredible opportunity before us to dramatically change the course of our country for the better. The new administration has shown the willingness to finally provide the tools needed to secure the border and enforce the law, and the motivation to rollback regulations and implement fundamental tax reform to unleash job creation and economic growth. I am optimistic that this Congress could be the most productive Congress we have seen in decades, and I for one will continue doing everything I can to ensure that we keep the promises we have made and secure a better, more promising future for Texans in the Rio Grande Valley and all over this great state.”

 

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Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Senators Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) and Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) commended Montgomery County officials for their unanimous resolution supporting much needed property tax reform and relief measures like Senate Bill 2, and two other measures filed by state representatives. Recognizing the pressing need of their constituents for property tax relief, Montgomery County Commissioners Court had already taken steps to cut their property tax rate and increase their homestead exemption for 2017 prior to supporting bills filed in the Legislature.

“The simple fact that Montgomery County officials are doing what they can to promote property tax relief speaks volumes as to what every taxing jurisdiction in Texas should be doing to help hard-pressed taxpayers stay in their home or business,” said Lt. Governor Patrick. “The average homeowner is not seeing a 7 to 8 percent pay raise nor is the average business owner getting a 15 to 20 percent revenue increase in one years, but that is what is happening across the State and why property tax relief is needed.”

The problem for taxpayers is that as their appraised property values skyrocket across the state, property tax rates rarely are lowered, yielding ever-rising property tax bills. In fact, property tax bills on average in Texas are rising 2.33 times faster median household income. SB 2 lowers the rollback rate from 8 percent down to 4 percent, schedules an automatic tax rate rollback election in November if that limit is exceeded, and makes a series of appraisal reforms as well.

Senator Creighton introduced the Montgomery County officials present and commended their unanimous vote for property tax relief and reform.  He added, “I am proud of my home county, the state’s 11th largest in leading the way on this important issue of property tax relief and reform.” 

Commissioner James Noack, the author of the resolution, spoke to the reasons it was important to stand up for property taxpayers. “Tax rates don’t matter anymore.  With the tremendous increase in appraisal value all you have to do is to accept the increase which was $2.8 billion in value from 2017-2018 for Montgomery County and not change the rate. 

Senator Bettencourt continued, “What Montgomery County Commissioners Court did was to unanimously support their taxpayers’ need for property tax relief and reform as property tax bills really are going up 2⅓ times as fast as Texans’ paychecks. I hope other local taxing entities stand up for taxpayers and follow the lead of Montgomery County is provided much needed tax relief.” He added, “I think Montgomery County is taxpayer friendly now!”

Legislation filing deadlines and committee hearings begin in earnest in March. Follow this issue online at www.senate.texas.gov/ptaxrr.

 

Proceeds from the three-day outdoor fine art festival will benefit six local charities

The 2017 Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park, produced by the Art Colony Association, Inc. (ACA), has selected six local non-profits that will benefit from a portion of the proceeds of the event. The three-day celebration will be held Friday – Sunday, March 24- 26, 2017, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and will spotlight over 300 artists from 19 different disciplines in Memorial Park. “The Art Colony Association is dedicated to producing fine art festivals and providing financial support to its local non-profit partners,” said Bridget Anderson, Executive Director of Art Colony Association. “The support from our sponsors and festival attendees help us raise funds, and we are truly grateful for our success in supporting local charities during the past 46 years.” Each non-profit provides volunteers and has the option to host an art station in the Children’s Creative Zone.

The six non-profit partners benefiting from the 2017 Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park include:

• A Cause to Give us Paws
• ESCAPE Family Resource Center
• Fresh Arts • Lawndale Art Center
• Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
• The Arc of Greater Houston

As the nation’s premier outdoor fine art event, the three-day festival will feature music, food trucks, beverages, entertainment, a Children’s Creative Zone and much more. For the past 46 years, ACA, has provided a venue for more than 20,000 artists to showcase their artwork to thousands of art lovers from all over the world. The participating artists, some new and some returning are selected by a new jury every year.

This year’s featured artist, Amanda Bennett, is a mixed media artist that transforms mid-century advertising, acrylic mediums and photography into a mash up on plywood, inspired by pop art and funk style. As a child, she use to paint with her grandmother and used a spatula as her primary tool. Now, Bennett resides in New Orleans where the city’s rhythm, color palette and energy stirs and ignites her creative process.

Sponsors for this year’s Bayou City Art Festival Memorial Park include Direct Energy, Green Mountain Energy, LeafGuard Gutter Protection, Power Home Remodeling, Renewal by Andersen and Stella Artois. Media Partners include Absolutely Memorial, Art Houston, CKW Luxe, Culturemap, Greensheet Media, H Texas, Hot in Houston, Houston CityBook, Houston Family Magazine, Houston Lifestyles & Homes, Houston Modern Luxury, Houstonia, JMG, Key, La Subasta, Patch Houston, River Oaks Living, TravelHost Houston and Ultra.

Online tickets are on sale now until the day of the event at www.artcolonyassociation.org. Tickets online are $12 for adults and $5 for children 6 – 12; children five and under are free. Tickets at the gate are $15 for adults. Also available online are two-day passes for $20 and family passes (two adults, two children tickets) for $30. Discounted tickets for Veterans and Seniors will be available at the gate. Donations are also being accepted online.

For updates on social media, follow the official event hashtags #HouArtFest and #BCAF, like the Facebook page, or follow on Twitter and Instagram. About Bayou City Art Festival: Now entering its 46th year, the Art Colony Association has raised $3.5 million for local non-profit programs through the festivals. A percentage of the proceeds support local art organizations and nonprofits.

The Festivals are funded in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, corporate sponsorships, private contributions, in-kind support and volunteer assistance. Volunteer and sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, please visit www.artcolonyassociation.org.

Devard Darling, Austin High alum turned NFL player is bringing a 5k family fun run/walk to Sugar Land, 8am, Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the Constellation Field/Sugar Land Skeeters. It’s called the Darling Dash 5k & 1k and it’s a fundraiser benefiting the As One Foundation, which Darling started in honor of his late twin brother, Devaughn, to help young people unlock and unleash their full potential through athletics, education and spiritual enrichment.

Devard Darling

Participants can register online at www.DarlingDash5k.com. Donors can sign up online as well. Registration is $40 for adults and $30 for children under 12. Registration forms and payments, made out to the As OneFoundation, can be mailed to 6725 South Fry Road, Suite 700 #296; Katy, TX 77494. Race fees are tax deductible.

The As One Foundation has received a great response from people wanting to volunteer at the Darling Dash on race day. “There’s still more room on our list of sponsors, said As One Executive Director,” Tomia Austin, “Our immediate needs are for cash sponsors and in-kind donors of t-shirts, ice, color printing, banner signage, security, etc.” Darling Dash sponsors to date include: Panera Bread, Operation Hydration, Costco, The Driven, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land and Walmart.

“This Darling Dash 5k is a perfect fit for Sugar Land, said Thompson. “Its family, fun, fitness and a good cause all wrapped up in one.” Darling’s invited NFL friends who will be on hand as special guests for autographs and photos.

The Darling Dash commemorates the 16th anniversary of the death of Darling’s identical twin, Devaughn, who died during spring football practice at FSU. Both twins carry the sickle cell trait, which alone is no real threat to the 8% of Americans born with it annually. But, coupled with physical rigor and lack of hydration, could be fatal – as it was for Devaughn. Themed “Celebrating the Heart of Devaughn Darling”, Darling Dash revenue will help fund the As One Foundation’s efforts to prevent future deaths of young athletes by promoting sickle cell trait awareness through its Operation Hydration Project – an annual training program to prevent sports related deaths by educating the public on the correlation between the sickle cell trait and the lack of hydration.

“Houston has been my home since I was a little boy,” said Darling. “Helping young people brings me joy and I know in my heart this is what Devaughn would want.”

The As One Foundation takes its name from the fact that the doctor had been hearing two hearts beating As One while their mother carried them unaware she was having twins until their birth. Devard lives on to fulfill his and his brother’s shared dream to play professional football and to give back to both their homes – Houston, Texas and their native Bahamas. This dream of giving back was made official when the As One Foundation was established in 2007 as a public charity that annually provides scholarships to FBISD high school seniors through the Devard & Devaughn Darling Scholarship Awards and brings the twins’ love of football to children of the Bahamas every summer through the Devard & Devaughn Darling Football Camps.

For more information on the As One Foundation or the Darling Dash 5k, phone 832-308-9984, email Tomia@AsOneFoundation.org or visit www.AsOneFoundation.org.

 

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

AUSTIN –Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that Texas joined an Alabama-led 26-state coalition in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The amicus states are challenging the constitutionality of a San Diego County, California, gun restriction that violates an individual’s Second Amendment right to bear arms for self-defense outside of their home.

The California statute largely prohibits open carry, but it allows sheriffs to issue permits for “good cause.” The San Diego Sheriff’s policy on “good cause” prevents ordinary citizens from obtaining a license to carry.  Five individuals from San Diego County and the California Rifle and Pistol Association Foundation brought the original lawsuit against the sheriff, claiming his restrictive interpretation of “good cause” infringed their Second Amendment rights. A panel of the 9th Circuit concluded that the county could not deprive citizens of the ability to obtain concealed-carry licenses when California law prohibits open carry. However, an en banc panel of the court later reached a divided decision that the sheriff’s policy could stand. It claimed citizens have no specific constitutional right to concealed carry.

“The Constitution plainly guarantees law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms outside of the home for self-defense, whether through open or concealed carrying. That right must be vigilantly protected,” Attorney General Paxton said. “I’m proud to work with attorneys general from across the nation in the fight to preserve Americans’ right to security and self-defense.”

States joining Texas in the Alabama-led amicus brief are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

 

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) issued the following statement after introducing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Settlement Reform Act, which would give impacted local parties a voice in the settlement process of ESA litigation between special interest groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

“By giving states, counties, and local landowners a seat at the table, this bill will bring some much-needed transparency to the ESA settlement process. This will ensure Washington bureaucrats can’t run roughshod over Texas landowners and job creators.” 

Background:

Sen. Cornyn fought for similar legislation during previous sessions of Congress.  The ESA Settlement Reform Act would:

  • apply to certain ESA “citizen suits” that are driving the litigation and mega-settlements;
  • give local government and stakeholders a say in ESA settlements that affect them;
  • and limit the use of taxpayer dollars to fund ESA “citizen suits.”

Today Sen. Cornyn also introduced the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act today to require the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to make the best scientific and commercial data publicly available on the internet as it relates to future listings and de-listings under the Endangered Species Act.

In 2011, two environmental groups settled multi-district litigation with the FWS that resulted in a “work plan” for the agency to make endangered species list determinations for hundreds of species. The settlement also required taxpayers to pay the plaintiffs’ litigation fees. The suits were brought against the FWS because it failed to meet certain statutory deadlines after being flooded with requests to list hundreds of species. Closed-door ESA settlements like these not only threaten unwarranted regulation, but give plaintiffs undue leverage over local land owners, businesses and elected officials in the conservation process.

In addition, in 2012 Senator Cornyn successfully blocked U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sand dune lizard as endangered, working with state and local officials to save potentially thousands of West Texas jobs threatened by the listing.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) issued the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Red River Gradient Boundary Survey Act to protect private property rights along the Red River from federal ownership claims. This legislation seeks to end questions about the federal government’s ownership of disputed land along the Red River.  Sen. Cornyn has introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“Today’s vote is a big step forward for Texas families that have owned land along the Red River for generations. I want to thank Congressman Thornberry for ushering this bill through the House and bringing us closer to protecting Texans from baseless claims the federal government has made to their property.”

The legislation will help property owners along the Red River by:

  • Commissioning a survey of the majority of the 116-mile stretch of contested area along the Red River using the gradient boundary survey method developed and backed by the Supreme Court to find the proper ownership boundary between public and private land.
  • Ordering that the survey be conducted by licensed and qualified surveyors chosen by Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Providing states the authority to oversee the surveyors and approve the final survey to ensure the Supreme Court instructions are properly followed.
  • Requiring that a notice of survey approval, a copy of the survey, and any related field notes be provided to each individual land owner after the survey is completed.
  • Ensuring that nothing in the bill alters the Red River Boundary Compact, modifies the interests of the states, or harms the rights of the impacted federally recognized Indian Tribes.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

 

 

 

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Sylvester Turner

The official state records of longtime State Representative Sylvester Turner are now available online through the work of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Turner, who now serves as Mayor of Houston, represented House District 139 from 1989-2015. During his tenure, Turner worked on a wide range of topics, including utility affordability and accessibility, the criminal justice system, programs aimed at providing emotional and financial support for crime victims, education, and state funding.

“As a member of the Texas legislature for over 25 years, Representative Turner served on the Legislative Budget Board, as Vice-Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Chairman of numerous committees,” commented Jelain Chubb, Texas State Archivist. “His legacy and commitment to constituents in District 139 are documented throughout the official correspondence, bill files, presentations, speeches, meeting minutes, committee files, photographs, and other materials that make up his official records.”

These records are available through the Texas Digital Archive, an online portal for preserving and facilitating access to the state’s electronic archival collections, including archival records from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission as well as other digital materials transferred by state agencies. The Texas Digital Archives offers researchers, the public, and historians a vast reserve of primary materials that is accessible 24/7.

“I want to thank the Texas State Library and Archives Commission for making these records available.  We got a lot done for the residents of District 139 during my 27 years in the state legislature,” stated Mayor Turner. “I am proud of what was accomplished and pleased that the records documenting that work are being preserved.”

“Researchers now and in the future will be fortunate to have access to documents that reflect his positions and actions on issues of district, state and national importance, especially health care, education funding and reform, the juvenile and adult criminal justice system, and issues affecting the African-American community,” continued Chubb. “Our archival staff stands ready to assist members of the legislature in ensuring their records are also preserved for use and reflection by future generations.”

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is the official repository for the State’s government records, including the records produced by state elected officials and agencies. The Texas Digital Archive, which comprises state electronic records, documents, and photographs, was established in 2015 and is increasing available collections on an ongoing basis. The Texas Digital Archives is accessible online at https:// tsl.access.preservica.com/.

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(AUSTIN) — An investigation conducted by police officers with the Texas Comptroller’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and the FBI has led to the indictment of six people for their roles in an alleged credit card skimming device plot.

According to a federal indictment unsealed Feb. 9, the defendants allegedly conspired to place skimming devices on gas pumps in Odessa to steal credit card numbers and personal identification numbers from customers. The defendants used the stolen information to make cloned credit cards to purchase hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel from gas stations, and then resold the fuel to others. Officials estimate victims lost more than $37,000 in the plot.

“I’m proud of the hard-working men and women in the Comptroller’s Criminal Investigation Division and the long hours of vigilant police work that went into this investigation,” said Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. “By working closely with the dedicated officers of our partner law enforcement agencies, together we were able to build a case that sends a clear message: We will vigorously work to protect the safety, identity and hard-earned dollars of law-abiding Texans all over our great state.”

The following were charged with one count of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft: Juan Adelmo Bermudez, 46; Jorge Manuel Batista-Gonzalez, 37; Michel Sarmiento, 36; Andy Cruz-Leyva, 45; Sandra Alva Escobar-Carballosa, 31; and Livan Sanchez-Leyva, 38.

The FBI’s Permian Basin Oilfield Theft Task Force, Texas Comptroller’s CID and Ector County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation. For more information about CID and the crimes it investigates, go to theComptroller’s website.