WASHINGTON, D.C. — Attorneys for Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number 1 were in Washington, D.C. on Monday arguing before a federal three-judge panel that the preclearance requirements in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 are unconstitutional. Taking a page from several GOP Texas Congressmen who were on the forefront of the battle last summer over reauthorization of the VRA, the utility district filed suit last year about a week after the law was reauthorized. The district is alleging that the provision, which requires government bodies of all stripes in Texas and other Southern states to have any change in election procedures cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, is unconstitutional and stigmatizes jurisdictions to which it applies.
Preclearance is “the scarlet letter that these jurisdictions wear,” argued Gregory S. Coleman, an attorney who represents the utility district. Emmet G. Sullivan, an African American and one of the three judges who are hearing the case, responded to Coleman’s claim that there were no widespread patterns of discrimination that would require preclearance by asking Coleman if he believed there is “no longer discrimination in our society?”
A decision on the case, which legal analysts say will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court, is expected later this year.
NACOGDOCHES & GREENVILLE — The Texas Conservative Coalition has been taking its show on the road of late, teaming up with legislators in two East Texas counties to host “town hall meetings.”
The group was hosted by State Rep. Wayne Christian, a Republican from Center, last week in Nacogdoches and included state reps from other districts including Rep. Dan Flynn, a Van Republican, who hosted a similar town hall meeting Monday night in Greenville.
Of special note is that the group’s executive director, John Colyandro, made the trip and was guest speaker at both events. Colyndaro, of course, the indicted former official of Texans for a Republican Majority — Tom DeLay’s pet political action committee, which remains embroiled in lawsuits and criminal trials following the 2002 election cycle. Hughes and Flynn were both recipients of TRMPAC’s largesse in 2002. Flynn received $25,000 and Hughes received more than $40,000 — the largest total of any single state representative candidate in Texas — for his race against former State Rep. Bob Glaze, a Gilmer Democrat.
GALVESTON — Galveston County is poised to become the first county in the state to take advantage of a new highway funding method, “pass-through toll bonds.” The Galveston County Commissioners Court last week took preliminary steps to provide for the widening of Farm-to-Market Road 646 using the bonds. The project is expected to cost about $50 million. These bonds don’t actually involve tolls, in spite of their name. The county will actually front the money for the construction and manage the project and be reimbursed from state funds based upon vehicle traffic. If, however, traffic isn’t enough to justify the project, the county could end up footing the bill for, at minimum, half of the construction. The pass-through method was approved by the Texas Legislature in 2003. •