OPINION COLUMNS

Governor rails against Dallas sheriff’s detention policy

By Ed Sterling | Published Wednesday, November 4, 2015
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Gov. Greg Abbott on Oct. 26 wrote to Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, saying her “case-by-case immigrant detention plan will no longer be tolerated in Texas.” Under the sheriff’s current policy, an undocumented person who committed minor offenses is not held past their release date an extra 48 hours for federal immigration authorities.

Abbott accused Valdez “of refusing to automatically detain all criminal immigrants pursuant to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) federal detainer program, which is designed to prevent dangerous criminals from being released into communities.”

The governor said actions the state of Texas could take to combat such policies are:

  • Passing laws that prohibit any policy or action that promotes sanctuary to people in this state illegally.
  • Enacting laws that make it illegal for a sheriff’s department to not honor a federal immigration detainer request.
  • Evaluating the extent to which local taxpayers should foot the bill for local decisions that increase costs for Texas’ health and education systems.
  • Amending the Tort Claims Act to ensure counties are fully financially responsible for the actions of any illegal immigrants who are released because the county’s sheriff failed to honor an ICE detainer request.

AG SEEKS TO INTERVENE

Last week the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed court papers requesting to intervene in the city of Austin’s lawsuit against the Travis County Appraisal District.

In its lawsuit filed Aug. 25, the capital city is appealing “systematic undervaluation” of certain commercial properties by the county appraisal district. The city alleges the appraisal district’s action shifts the tax burden to residential homeowners and thus is in violation of the state constitution.

According to an Oct. 29 news release by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, “Austin is attempting to invalidate Texas’ non-disclosure law, which prevents taxing authorities from forcing property owners to disclose personal information regarding purchases and sales. Doing away with this protection would affect all Texas property owners, commercial and residential alike.”

Further, the news release said, “The district court barred Texas homeowners from intervening in the lawsuit. Because the city is attempting to rewrite Texas tax law and taxpayers are entirely unrepresented, the Texas Attorney General’s Office is asking to intervene.”

The appraisal of the Circuit of The Americas racetrack is a prominent bone of contention between the city and the appraisal district.

The lawsuit is styled as City of Austin, Plaintiff, v. Travis Central Appraisal District; Individual Property Owners Who Claim C1 Vacant Land or F1 Commercial Real Property Within Travis County, Texas; and Glenn Hegar, in his official capacity as Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, et al., Defendants.

TXDOT AWARDS GRANTS

More than $20 million in federal “TIGER” grants was awarded by the Texas Department of Transportation on Oct. 29 to improve transportation services for rural populations.

TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.

The state agency said the funding would help replace 325 vehicles located throughout the state that are used to transport rural residents. Funds also will go toward updating or constructing transportation facilities in or near the cities of South Padre Island, Early, Weatherford and Cedar Creek.

According to TxDOT, the Lone Star State has the largest rural population in the U.S., with more than 6 million residents living outside urban areas. Between 2000 and 2010, TxDOT reported, the state’s rural population grew by 7.5 percent.

Also, many areas served by rural transportation services have populations that are proportionally older, have lower income and often have a higher percentage of people with disabilities.

ELECTION RESULTS TO COME

Early voting ended Oct. 30 and Election Day was Nov. 3.

Seven proposed amendments to the state constitution were on the ballot.

Statewide results will be recorded in next week’s column.

BOARD GETS NEW CHIEF

Gov. Abbott on Oct. 21 appointed Bobby Jenkins of Austin as chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Jenkins replaces Harold Hahn of El Paso as chair.

Jenkins, president of ABC Home and Commercial Services, has served as vice chairman of the coordinating board since September 2013.

The agency’s mission is “to promote access, affordability, quality, success and cost efficiency in the state’s institutions of higher education.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: In last week’s column, the writer erroneously reported that Jenkins succeeded Raymund A. Paredes as chair. Paredes serves as Texas Commissioner of Higher Education and is a member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association.

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