This Week in Texas: January 11, 2012

Posted January 11, 2012 in The Mignon Memo

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in the Texas redistricting case. The Court must consider whether to choose between maps drawn by the Texas Legislature and the federal court in San Antonio or to allow the lower court proceedings to continue which would likely mean another delay in the Texas primary election. The Court did not issue a ruling and did not give a timeframe for issuing a ruling. The redistricting case involving preclearance on the Legislature’s plans is ongoing with the hearing in that case scheduled to begin January 17th. As the previously adopted April 3rd primary date gets closer, the odds increase for another change in the election calendar. Election officials around the state have said that they need maps and candidate lists by February 1 in order to hold the primary on April 3.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst made several appointments in the last week. Dewhurst appointed three new members to the Sunset Advisory Commission. Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) will serve as Vice Chair. Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) and Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) also join the Commission. Dewhurst also named four members to the Select Committee on Economic Development. During the interim, this 12 member committee will recommend an economic development policy for the state, conduct a study regarding local and state incentives, and develop criteria evaluating the effectiveness of existing state and local programs. The members appointed by Lt. Governor Dewhurst include Sen. Mike Jackson (R-LaPorte); Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano); Drayton McLane, Chairman of the McLane Group, whose interests include a number of convenience store wholesale distribution companies; and Brint Ryan, the founder and CEO of Ryan, a leading tax services firm. Governor Perry and Speaker Joe Straus will appoint the remaining members of the Select Committee on Economic Development.

WFAA-TV and The Dallas Morning News will host a live debate on March 2, 2012 featuring the Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, ESPN analyst Craig James and former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz will all participate in the Dallas debate.

The Texas law enacted last session requiring women to receive pre-abortion sonograms is constitutional and can be enforced, according to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The decision reversed a finding by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks that the new law violated the First Amendment by improperly requiring doctors and patients to engage in government-mandated speech. But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the sonogram law fell within well-established guidelines that allow states to regulate the practice of medicine in ways that do not place an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion. The ruling negated a temporary injunction that barred Texas from enforcing the law. The case now moves back to Sparks’ court for a hearing on the request for a permanent injunction.