The Big Conversation

The ongoing legal challenge to Texas’ law requiring photo ID at the polling place took another potentially significant step Wednesday.

Six months after a three-judge appeals court panel ruled the law violated the Voting Rights Act, the full U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will take up the case, the Tribune’s Jamie Lovegrove reported. A date hasn’t been set yet for oral arguments.

Passed in 2011, the law is defended by its supporters as a common sense measure to better secure the voting process. Critics, though, are challenging it as a measure meant to discriminate against Hispanic and African-American voters.

The law’s provisions are in effect and governing elections in Texas while the legal fight winds its way to a conclusion.

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Lovegrove noted that one election law expert, Rick Hasen, wrote on Wednesday that the current vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court could end up having an impact on the final resolution of the challenge to Texas’ voter ID law.

“The stakes are especially high because this is a case which could divide 4-4 before the current Supreme Court, meaning what the entire 5th circuit does may be the final word on Texas’s law,” Hasen wrote.

Trib Must Reads

Immigration Saga Leaves Teen Trapped in Mexico, by Jay Root and Julián Aguilar — Marcos Valencia was raised in Indiana, but in the eyes of the law, his home is the cartel-infested state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, where he was born. Now he's stuck in Mexico, unable to return to the country where he grew up. This story is part of our "Bordering on Insecurity" series.

Law Designed to Drug Test Unemployed Texans Still Not in Place, by Alana Rocha — Nearly three years after Texas enacted a law requiring some applicants for unemployment benefits to pass a drug test, the state has yet to test a single applicant, and it remains unclear when the program will get going.

Uber to Leave Third Texas City Over Background Check Laws, by Madlin Mekelburg — Corpus Christi will be the third city Uber has left this year in response to local laws. In February, the company ceased operations in Galveston and Midland after the cities voted to enact background-check requirements.

Texas Caseworkers Call For Foster Care Reforms, by Edgar Walters — A new group has joined the chorus lambasting Texas for resisting court-ordered reforms to its foster care system: its own employees who work with children.

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F1 Organizers Hope Taylor Swift Brings Them Out of the Woods, by Jordan Rudner — After months of speculation that the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin could be canceled this year, organizers say the race is on — and they're bringing in Taylor Swift on race weekend to help shake off the organization’s financial woes.

Carly Fiorina Endorses Ted Cruz, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has added former GOP presidential rival Carly Fiorina to his list of endorsements. On Wednesday, the former Hewlett Packard CEO joined Cruz onstage during a rally in Miami.

As Oil Prices Plunge, Small Producers Could Get Tax Relief, by Jim Malewitz — After a 20-month free fall, West Texas crude prices thudded to a milestone last month — one that could bring some tax relief to small-time producers in Texas, state Comptroller Glenn Hegar said this week. 

The Day Ahead

•    The Tribune's CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith will have a conversation with Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller at the Austin Club. The conversation begins at 8 a.m. and will be live streamed for those unable to attend the event.

•    The Senate Veteran Affairs & Military Installations Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol extension to hear testimony about the state of veteran health and mental health and review the progress made to reduce the claims backlog and decrease wait times at VA hospitals.

Elsewhere

Is Austin — the 'Silicon Hills' of Texas — the next biotech hub?, Stat 

Analysis: Cruz's tax plan would hit seniors, Houston Chronicle 

Abbott: Texas joins Israel against terror, San Antonio Express-News

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UT finds no wrongdoing in treatment of Palestinian students, Austin American-Statesman

Rubio won’t team up with Cruz on a single ticket, The Dallas Morning News

Contentious Miami Democratic debate features distinct Hispanic flavor, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Texas Taco War comes to a head this week, San Antonio Express-News

Two new Zika cases confirmed in Tarrant County, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Five-time killer says he's 'sorry' for pain he caused before he's executed, Houston Chronicle

State GOP chairman: ‘We’ve got to unite’, Midland Reporter-Telegram 

Quote to Note

"We're not going to beat Donald Trump by having leaders 'tsk tsk' over our voters. We're going to have to beat him at the ballot box."

— Former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, endorsing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for president in Florida

Today in TribTalk

The (even higher) cost of higher education, by Charles Schwertner — Unless our public universities are faced with the necessity of reducing costs, they will never be appropriately motivated to combat wasteful spending, address administrative bloat or find new ways to keep college affordable for students.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    How High is the Water? A Data Visualization Party on March 13 at Umbel Corp

•    A Conversation with Reps. Craig Goldman, Stephanie Klick and Ramon Romero Jr. on March 29 at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth

•    The Price of Admission: A Conversation on the Top 10 Percent Rule on March 31 at Austin Community College Highland Campus

•    A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on April 13 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston