Parties to campus-carry lawsuit to return to court
AUSTIN — Three University of Texas professors are seeking a temporary injunction “to at least retain the option of maintaining their academic classrooms as gun-free zones when classes start again.”
In a motion filed in connection with a federal lawsuit filed July 6, the professors are asking the court to bar enforcement of the law when the UT fall semester begins Aug. 24. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a brief in opposition.
In an Aug. 4 hearing, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ordered the university to clarify its campus-carry policy on Aug. 8 and for parties present their arguments again on Aug. 10.
“In a cruel irony,” the professors’ petition begins, “the Texas Legislature has mandated that 50 years to the day after one of the worst gun-related massacres ever on a college campus — when Charles Whitman gunned down 43 people on or about the campus of the University of Texas in Austin — UT-Austin must begin allowing the concealed carrying of handguns on campus and in class rooms.”
Paxton, on Aug. 1, called the professors’ lawsuit — filed in the Austin Division of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas frivolous and said, “I’m confident it will be dismissed because the Legislature passed a constitutionally sound law. There is no legal justification to deny licensed, law-abiding citizens on campus the same measure of personal protection they are entitled to elsewhere in Texas.”
Voter ID rolled back
Texans voting in the November 8 general election might not be required to present a state-approved form of photo identification in addition to their voter registration card.
The state attorney general’s office indicated last week that the State of Texas would not stand in the way of the federal judiciary in relaxing the photo identification requirement that became law in 2011.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the Texas law, while not discriminatory in intent, is discriminatory in effect, and instructed Corpus Christi U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to approve any changes relaxing the law before the November general election.
Late toll fees to hit
Toll road customers with overdue toll charges should pay their balances by Aug. 31 to avoid possible late fees and additional penalties, the Texas Department of Transportation announced on Aug. 2.
TxDOT said late fees on unpaid tolls were suspended in 2015 as the agency migrated to a new billing system, but in September 2016, the agency said, it plans to resume late fees for unpaid tolls.
Threat of Zika is high
Texas remains on high alert for the transmission of Zika virus disease by mosquito bites.
The State Department of Health Services on Aug. 3 urged Texans to take the following precautions against the disease:
- Apply Environmental Protection Agency-approved insect repellent;
- Wear pants and long-sleeve shirts that cover exposed skin;
- Use screens or close windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out; and
- Remove standing water in and around the home in any container that can hold water.
Texas has reported 93 cases of Zika, all related to travel abroad to areas with active Zika transmission but no local transmission through mosquito bite has been detected yet in Texas, according to Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services commissioner.
“If Texas has local transmission, we’ll quickly announce it and describe the area of potential risk for Texans,” Hellerstedt said. “We’re working in lockstep with our local and federal partners to ensure a strong Texas response,” he added.
Meanwhile, Texas Medicaid announced Aug. 3 that the cost of mosquito repellent for eligible women who are between the ages of 10 and 45 or pregnant would be covered. More information is available at TexasZika.org.
Revenue report is in
State sales tax revenue totaled $2.37 billion in July, 1.5 percent lower than in July 2015, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced on Aug. 2.
Furthermore, Hegar added, “State sales tax collections continue to be down, largely due to depressed spending in the oil and natural gas-related sectors. By contrast, collections from the construction and retail trade sectors rose compared to the previous year.”
Total sales tax revenue for the three months ending in July 2016 is down 3.3 percent compared to the same period a year ago.