Week of Aug. 15-21, 2016

Court relaxes Texas voter ID law in time for fall election
AUSTIN — Voters will have more options when presenting personal identification at the polls for the November 8 general election, Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos announced last week.
Pursuant to an Aug. 10 federal court order, Cascos said, if a voter is not able to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, the voter may vote by: (1) signing a declaration at the polls explaining why the voter is unable to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID; and (2) providing one of various forms of supporting documentation.
Supporting documentation can be an original, certified birth certificate, a valid voter registration certificate or one of the following:
- Current utility bill;
- Bank statement;
- Government check;
- Paycheck; or
- Other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.
The seven forms of approved photo ID are:
- Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety;
- Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS;
- Texas personal identification card issued by DPS;
- Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS;
- U.S. military identification card containing the person’s photograph;
- U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph; and
- U.S. passport.
The court-ordered change to voting requirements came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in July ruled Texas’ stringent “voter ID” law put an unconstitutional burden on minority voters. The Fifth Circuit instructed U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi to approve less-restrictive requirements, which she did. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agreed to the changes in requirements for the November election, but said he plans to file an appeal.
Voters with questions about how to cast a ballot may call 1-800-252-VOTE.
Death is linked to Zika
An infant who died in Harris County recently had microcephaly linked to the Zika virus, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Aug. 9.
During her pregnancy, the agency said, the mother was in Latin America, where she was infected. The baby acquired the infection in the womb and test results confirmed the baby’s condition and link to Zika.
The DSHS has been emphasizing precautions, specifically for travelers and pregnant women, through an ongoing public education campaign and via www.TexasZika.org.
School ratings released
The Texas Education Agency on Aug. 9 released preliminary financial accountability ratings for approximately 1,200 school districts and charters across the state.
According to the TEA, nearly 98 percent of all Texas school districts and charters earned an A, the highest preliminary rating possible for 2015-2016.
Ratings are based on annual financial reports provided to TEA by districts and charters from the 2015 fiscal year. A school district or charter is assigned one of four possible letter grades (A, B, C or F) and a financial management rating of Superior, Above Standard Achievement, Meets Standard or Substandard Achievement.
Revenue is distributed
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Aug. 10 announced he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $769.3 million in local sales tax allocations for August. The amount is 1.2 percent greater than in August 2015. Allocations are based on sales made in June by businesses that report tax monthly, and sales made in April, May and June by quarterly filers.
“The cities of San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Arlington, Plano and Irving saw noticeable increases in sales tax allocations,” Hegar said. “Energy-centric cities, such as Houston and Midland, continue to see decreases in sales tax allocations,” he added.
Game gets folks outdoors
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on Aug. 4 said state park sites are using the “Pokémon GO” smart phone game as “a new way to introduce the real natural world to players venturing into the great outdoors while on virtual hunts for the illusive Japanese characters known as Pokémon.”
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine has created a new digital guide in its free mobile app that has a wide range of helpful tips and tricks for gamers planning their next Pokémon hunting adventure in a Texas State Park.
“Pokémon GO is a cultural phenomenon and we’re embracing it,” said Nathan Adams, Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine art director. “This new section of our app features an overview of the game, Pokémon vocabulary and tips. We’re also spotlighting the PokéStops, Gyms and rare Pokémon found in our Texas State Parks. We’ll continue to add to the app in the coming weeks.”