News Roundup: Disabled Job-Seekers No Longer Receive Voter Registration Assistance, Rights Group Says

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 13, 2018 1:44 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Several groups have accused Texas officials of failing to help people with disabilities register to vote when they receive job training, which would be a violation of a 25-year-old federal law.

The National Voter Registration Act, passed in 1993, requires state agencies that assist people with disabilities to offer help with either registering to vote or updating their voter registration information. On Monday, the Texas Civil Rights Project and Disability Rights Texas sent a letter to the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Secretary of State on behalf of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities.

The Texas Civil Rights Project’s voting rights director, Beth Stevens explains that a different state agency, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, used to provide job training and voter registration services to Texans with disabilities, but that changed in 2016.

“The Texas Workforce Commission took over the vocational rehab services for folks with disabilities and – we’ll find out what their reason is – but whatever their reason they decided to stop providing voter registration services to those individuals,” says Stevens. She adds that her group estimates that since 2016, the Texas Workforce Commission has failed to register somewhere between 74,000 and 100,000 eligible voters per year. She argues this is part of a larger pattern within the state.

“We have voter registration problems in Texas, and Texas state agencies are a part of that problem,” she says.

Stevens says that under federal law, the Texas Workforce Commission has 90 days to address this issue, and if they don’t, her group and others plan to file a lawsuit.

An endangered Cook inlet beluga whale rescued off the coast of Alaska late last year is headed to a new home: SeaWorld San Antonio.

Alexandro Luna, who covers breaking news for the San Antonio Express-News explains that experts, including officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, spent several months considering whether the young beluga, named Tyonek, could be released back into his natural waters.

In January, they came to a conclusion. “They deemed him incapable of surviving on his own,” says Luna. “He didn’t have the survival skills necessary to communicate with other whales. And so, experts got together and they chose SeaWorld San Antonio as the best place for a permanent home.”

One reason researchers decided on SeaWorld San Antonio is because it already has nine beluga whales of its own. “And so as he grows older -– he’s not even a year old – as he grows older he’ll learn those social skills with those other nine beluga whales,” says Luna. He adds that SeaWorld San Antonio hasn’t said just how it will be moving Tyonek from Alaska to San Antonio, but it will be announcing the transfer date soon.

Cities and counties affected by Hurricane Harvey will have the chance to apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flood mitigation projects. The Houston Chronicle reports that Gov. Greg Abbott is announcing the new $1 billion funding program Tuesday. He’ll outline the specifics in Rockport and Houston.

According to documents the Chronicle obtained, roughly $500 million could be available immediately for a variety of hazard mitigation efforts from buyouts to home elevation projects.