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One big plus in this bill: Currently states can only be added to the list required to gain DOJ pre-clearance if there is proof of intentional violation. Well, it’s pretty hard to prove what’s in one’s heart. The proposed legislation would warrant inclusion on the list whether the discrimination was intentional or accidental - which we believe might go a long way in making legislators more responsible in how they craft laws, particularly in our state.

While this newspaper has heartily embraced the idea of voters being required to show photo ID at the polls, we have had problems with the Texas law because it made it unnecessarily onerous or expensive for the poor - more likely to be Hispanic or black - to obtain voter IDs if they lack driver’s licenses and/or reside in counties that have no Department of Public Safety offices, which issue IDs.

For some of us lucky in life, this might seem trivial. But consider the case of an African-American in Wisconsin who spent more than $2,000 trying to get birth certificates for her mother and herself, complicated by the fact her mother was born at home in Mississippi during times when blacks had little access to such documentation.

That’s not right. It’s un-American. We should be making it easier for citizens to vote, not encouraging apathy or excluding some from their rightful say at the polls.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Jan. 28, 2014.

School finance suit will take time

Texas has a poor record of defending its public school finance system against lawsuits brought by the school districts and students it is supposed to serve.

By that record, you’d have to say that, eventually, the suit brought by more than 600 districts and other parties and undergoing a new round of hearings before an Austin judge will go to the state Supreme Court and, eventually, bring the same dismal result: another mandate for the Legislature to fix what’s wrong.

It’s the eventually part that’s likely to make Texans weary before this suit ends.

Modern-day legal battles over Texas school finance started in 1968 when parents in San Antonio’s Edgewood school district filed a federal suit saying poor districts weren’t given as much funding as wealthy districts.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the suit in 1973, saying school finance is a state issue.

In 1984, the Edgewood district led other poor districts in a state lawsuit, again claiming unequal funding. In 1995, several suits and several proposed remedies later, the state Supreme Court finally upheld a new finance plan.

The next round of suits started in 2001, led by the West Orange-Cove district near Beaumont. In 2005, the Supreme Court again declared the finance system unconstitutional. The Legislature completed repairs in 2006.

The first suit in the latest battle was filed in October 2011, after a legislative session in which lawmakers cut $5.4 billion from school funding.

Story Continues →