News Roundup: Texas Attorney General Accuses Schools Of Meddling In Politics. Voting Advocates Call It Intimidation.

We’ve corralled headlines from across Texas. Check it out.

By Becky FogelMarch 20, 2018 1:26 pm

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

Two small school districts near Austin and Houston have until Wednesday, March 21, to address claims they’ve violated state election law.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent cease-and-desist letters to Elgin and Galena Park Independent School Districts at the end of last week. Paxton says both are using taxpayer resources to send messages to their staff and the public advocating for or against political candidates.

In the letter to Elgin ISD, for example, Paxton pointed to a message the school district’s superintendent re-tweeted from the Texas Parent PAC, a bipartisan group that pushes for “high quality public education.” That tweet criticized Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and endorsed one of his Republican primary election opponents, Scott Milder, to replace him.

Paxton’s office sent similar letters to three other Texas school districts in February. Those were Brazosport, Holliday, and Lewisville ISDs.

Beth Stevens, the Voting Rights Program Director with the Texas Civil Rights Project, says in certain cases, these districts are getting dinged for messages that aren’t partisan or illegal. She’s the Voting Rights Program Director for the Texas Civil Rights Project.  “Some of these cease-and-desist letters have scooped up not just things that are advocating for a candidate but things that say, ‘we want to create a culture of voting in our school district,’” she says. “And so, having that broad sweep has the intended effect of intimidating schools across the state.”

Stevens adds that earlier this year Paxton also issued an official, non-binding opinion that says schools cannot bus students to polling places, unless it serves an education purpose. Stevens says that opinion was shocking, especially given that the state requires public and private schools to provide eligible high school students with voter registration forms at least twice a year.

“So we’ve got on the one hand, the Secretary of State’s Office, indicating that they’re interested in having folks comply with this law, and then on the other hand we have the same Texas administration through the AG’s office actually intimidating the schools from doing both parts of their job,” Stevens says.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office declined a request for an interview. The office does say it will continue to investigate complaints of violations of election law by school districts across Texas.

Solar electricity continues to grow in Texas.

From KUT News in Austin, Mose Buchele reports that new numbers show the state moving up among the leaders when it comes to getting power from the sun.

Texas solar power grew by over 50 percent last year adding 654 megawatts to the grid. That made Texas the fourth fastest growing solar state in the country – but it still lags behind six others when it comes to how much solar power is produced. California remains the undefeated champion when it comes to solar. It has over ten times as much installed as Texas.

The numbers come from the Solar Energy Industries Association. It notes that less solar was installed in 2017 than the previous year nationally. Part of the reason? Fear of federal policy changes made people rush to install solar in 2016 before those changes would have taken effect.

American League MVP Jose Altuve is sticking with the Houston Astros for another seven years.

The World Series champs extended their contract with the star second-baseman, and will pay him an additional 151-million-dollars.

Altuve’s current contract was set to expire at the end of 2019. Altuve thanked his teammates who attended the Monday press conference, saying “you guys made my day.”

The contract, which now totals $163.5 Million is the most expensive in the team’s history.