Did Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminate against minority voters when they passed their voter ID law?
A federal judge on Thursday set oral arguments on that question: Jan. 24, 2017.
Though the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month ruled the strict ID requirements did discriminate, it kicked the question of intentionality back to a lower court.
In setting the date, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos rejected the state’s efforts to delay the proceedings until July 2017 or later, along with its call to delay the proceedings until after its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court — an action it plans to take but has not yet.
“Until Defendants take their appeal and until this Court is divested of jurisdiction to proceed, the Court has a duty to the parties to proceed with the adjudication of this case without unnecessary delay,” Ramos wrote. "Defendants have adequate time to initiate their appeal and obtain a stay of this Court’s proceeding.”
A ruling that Texas intentionally discriminated against voters could land Texas back on the list of states needing federal approval before changing election laws. (A 2013 Supreme Court ruling sprung Texas and other states with a history of discrimination from that list.)
U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, is helping echo Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's call for a special prosecutor to investigate Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney, was among the GOP officials who issued statements Thursday through the Trump campaign backing up the nominee, who wants an independent probe of Clinton's ties to her family foundation while serving as secretary of state. Ratcliffe called a special prosecutor "absolutely necessary when the Obama administration has proven itself wholly unwilling to prosecute one of its own."
"As a former U.S. Attorney, I join the American people in saying enough is enough," Ratcliffe said. "At this point, a special counsel is most definitely needed to ensure a truly fair and impartial investigation."
In the past week, the foundation has been at the center of a number of reports raising questions about how close Clinton was to it while she was the United States' top diplomat. Trump brought up those stories while campaigning Tuesday in Austin, saying it has become "impossible to figure out where the Clinton Foundation ends and the State Department begins."
The Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday returned its focus to the issue of college affordability. During a nearly three-hour meeting, many senators highlighted two programs aimed at making college more affordable for certain groups as reasons that statewide tuition bills are growing.
First, a group of conservative lawmakers decried tuition set-asides, which is tuition revenue that universities are required to devote to scholarships for needy students. Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, called the practice a "hidden tax" that raises the tuition bills for everyone else.
Meanwhile, several Republican senators also renewed their push to reform the Hazlewood program, which promises free tuition to veterans and, in some cases, their children. That program has cost universities millions of dollars in missed tuition revenue.
Changing either program will be a tall task in the upcoming session. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has unsuccessfully pushed to end set-asides for years. And a bill to reform Hazlewood died in 2015 due to resistance by Democrats and veterans advocates.