Political Points: Property Tax Cap, Noncitizens Voter Flap, State of the Union, Dallas Mayor's Race

Good morning!Here are the top political headlines from Austin, Washington and Dallas.1. Rebekah Allen reports that more than half of Texas counties and the vast majority of cities would be exempted from priority legislation to cap property tax revenue growth for cities and counties at 2.5 percent a year. The companion bills filed in the House and Senate last week to alleviate overburdened taxpayers have a carve-out for taxing entities that collect less than $15 million in combined sales tax and property tax revenue.2. James Barragán reports that a third lawsuit has been filed against Texas officials for advising counties to review the citizenship of tens of thousands of eligible voters in the state with flawed data. The latest lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of four nonprofits that are active in engaging people to vote: MOVE Texas Civic Fund, Jolt Initiative, League of Women Voters of Texas, and NAACP of Texas It asks a federal court to declare the secretary of state's actions unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act. The complaint, which calls the state's advisory a voter "purge list," also asks the court to block all Texas counties from sending notices to individuals requiring them to prove their citizenship and to stop counties from removing any registered voter from the voter rolls based on a failure to respond to such letters.Here's Barragán's quick synopsis of the issue and answers to three questions: Last month, the Texas secretary of state sent counties a list of 95,000 people who had registered for a driver's license while not U.S. citizens and also appeared on voter rolls. It also sent them a list of 58,000 people who matched that description and had voted in one or more elections since 1996, suggesting that there may be tens of thousands of people voting illegally in the state. The state asked county officials to investigate these people. But when it sent them lists of suspected noncitizen voters, the numbers quickly began to fall apart. By Wednesday, at least 20,000 people had been removed from that list after state officials said they had been placed there in error and had already proven their citizenship.1. Are there tens of thousands of people voting illegally in the state?We don't know. These numbers are preliminary, but there's nothing definitive.2. Why are some groups upset about this advisory? Isn't it a good idea to make sure the voter rolls are updated and that noncitizens are not voting?Yes. However, the way this advisory was rolled out made it seem like tens of thousands of noncitizens were voting, without evidence to back that up. Government officials rolled this out and claimed it as evidence.3. How are people harmed by this investigation?Some naturalized U.S. citizens are on the list. So the groups suing say that their voting rights are being infringed and that they are being targeted solely for being foreign born, which would be a violation of the constitution's equal protection clause. A person potentially could show up at the voter rolls and find that their name has been removed because they did not respond to these "notices of examination for review of citizenship." Counties also don't know what to do with this data the state sent them. They are saying it is flawed and have received little follow-up from the state on how to handle it, leading many of them not to take action because they fear they will be sued by civil rights groups. Dallas County, for example, has not sent notices.To keep up with all our stories on this issue, click here.3. Lauren McGaughy reports that two lawmakers unveiled legislation on Monday that would majorly overhaul the state's beleaguered bail system. Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, have filed identical bills to require counties to adopt a pretrial evaluation system that would determine bail based on a defendant's flight risk and the community's safety, instead of their ability to pay. Only defendants charged with a capital offense, who are a flight risk or a danger to the public, would be ineligible to post bail under the proposed legislation. Dallas County is among Texas counties that have been ordered by a federal judge to overhaul their cash bail systems.4. Sexual assault survivors are applauding state lawmakers for a bipartisan effort to create laws that will help survivors navigate the process of reporting crimes and bring attackers to justice. Brianna Stone reports that several lawmakers, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore and former Sen. Wendy Davis joined the survivors at a news conference to talk about the proposals.5. We're trying to make it easier, and more fun, to stay informed on what your state representatives and senators are up to. In the spirit of Schoolhouse Rock, we've started a video series about politics. The first installment is about how the state Legislature works.  Continue reading...

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