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Another Officeholder Wades Into Red River Land Dispute

Also, the Texas attorney general weighs in on transgender bathroom legal fight in Virginia.

Map of disputed 116-mile stretch of the Red River.

Sid Miller is the latest state leader to wade into the legal battle over who owns a stretch of land along the Texas side of the Red River — Texas landowners or the feds?

The Republican agriculture commissioner on Wednesday filed a brief backing Texans’ arguments in the case, currently in federal district court in Wichita Falls.

“Protecting private property rights goes hand-in-hand with supporting a robust agriculture industry, and an attack on those rights threatens to derail the second largest economic driver in our state,” Miller said in a statement. “The BLM’s arbitrary land grab along the Red River is bad public policy, and it’s bad for private property rights and our agriculture industry.”

Questions have swirled near that stretch of river since December 2013, when bureau representatives arrived in North Texas to discuss updates to its resource management plans in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

But Texans have long managed swaths of that area. They hold deeds to the land and have paid local taxes.

The court has granted standing in the case to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

The case is currently scheduled to go to trial on March 20, 2017.

See the Tribune’s previous coverage of the lawsuit here.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton has weighed in on yet another law involving transgender students and bathrooms, this time filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit supporting a school district in Virginia that prohibited a female student from using male bathrooms. 

"One’s sex is a biological fact, not a state of mind,” Paxton wrote. 

The filing comes one day after Paxton wrote a letter to the president of the Fort Worth ISD school board telling him the district's guidelines for transgender students violate state law. The guidelines also caught the attention of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who called for the district's superintendent to resign on Monday.

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Attorneys representing several individuals and groups challenging Texas’ voter ID law submitted their legal arguments ahead of the May 24 oral arguments before the full 5th Circuit.

In August, a three-judge panel from the appellate court ruled that the law has a “discriminatory effect” on minority voters but it does not constitute an unconstitutional poll tax.

Texas later asked for the full court to hear the case, a request that was subsequently granted.

In their brief, the attorneys ask the full court to reaffirm the panel’s finding that the law violates the Voting Rights Act. The law, they write, “imposes unacceptable burdens on Texas voters, is infected with invidious racially discriminatory purpose, and has an undeniable discriminatory purpose.”

They also argue that the lower court’s ruling that the law constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax should remain in play because the Legislature could reinstate a fee on obtaining birth certificates for an election ID that it eliminated last legislative session.

The appeals court, meanwhile, has allowed the law to remain in effect while the legal challenges play out. In late April, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated it might look at the issue again if the 5th Circuit hasn’t taken action by July 20.

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State Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, announced on Monday that he plans to file legislation next session to create a Texas Border Patrol in order to make the state’s current border security surge permanent.

Miller said that he has the help of House colleagues Larry Phillips, R-Sherman; Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park; John Wray, R-Waxahachie; and DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, in the effort. All four are members of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee; Phillips serves as the panel’s chairman.

Miller is in a runoff against challenger Kyle Biedermann to keep his seat representing HD-73 in the next Legislature.

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Texas has now collected a 12-pack of “best state in which to do business” accolades from Chief Executive Magazine. The Office of the Governor made the announcement earlier today.

“For the 12th straight year, CEOs across America have agreed there is no place better for conducting business than Texas,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in an accompanying press release. “Our winning formula is simple — low taxes, reasonable regulations and investment in a quality workforce.”

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