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COVER11AUSTIN– Recently, law enforcement officers across the U.S. geared up for Operation Dry Water – the nation’s boating while intoxicated (BWI) awareness and enforcement campaign. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths in the United States. In 2013, officers from across the country contacted 144,044 recreational boaters and made 290 BWI arrests during the three-day weekend. Thousands of law enforcement officers, along with their boating safety partners, were on the water during Operation Dry Water educating boaters about the dangers of boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol as well as removing from the water those who choose to be boat impaired.

BEAUMONT- Jefferson County Republicans attacked a city sponsored Juneteenth event. Rick Williams, who is legal counsel to the local GOP, told council members the city-sponsored event promoted Democratic candidates and contended the incident may have violated the law. Williams  cried foul and claimed that citizens want honesty and  integrity from elected officials and that the way it was done  was not proper. Councilman Jamie Smith, who is Black, organized the Juneteenth event, and he says in an effort to help increase voter participation, candidates were introduced, but he said the disc jockey at the event announced candidates and could have gone too far by endorsing some of them. Mayor Becky Ames wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again, she’s asking the city attorney to draft a policy in which candidates are not introduced at city funded events.

DALLAS-  The Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees examined its balanced $1.3 billion budget for the 2014-2015 school year that includes the smallest student to staff ratio in three years, funding for 389 additional teachers, and 3-percent pay increase for most employees. The financial blueprint also includes additional funds to offset employee health expenses, 23 more teachers to support the growth of the district’s pre-kindergarten program, support for the new Teacher Excellence Initiative and additional staff to support the new early college program at W.W. Samuell High School.  The 2014-2015 budget will support a projected enrollment of 161,521 students, an increase of 1,808 students from the 2013-2014 school year. However, with added staff positions, the staff-to-student ratio will be 1:15. The proposed budget also demonstrates the continued fiscal strength of Dallas ISD, and includes a projected all-time high fund balance of more than $311 million.

DALLAS- Texas Democrats gathered in Dallas for their state convention. The theme of the  convention is “A Texas Promise.” Women issues highlight the convention, but along with that, other issues Democrats are fine tuning platforms on are public education, access to healthcare, well-paying jobs, taking care of the environment and equal treatment for women. Immigration is another big topic as state Democrats are calling for major immigration reform.

FORT WORTH- A Fort Worth-based health care facility will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commis­sion (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged The Fort Worth Center of Rehab­ilitation with unlawfully failing to accommodate a disabled applicant with a kidney disorder. According to the EEOC’s suit, the company denied Patsy Roberson, an applicant for a certified nursing assistant position, the reasonable accommo­da­tion of a blood- or hair-based pre-employment drug test. Roberson’s kidneys were removed several years ago after a failed transplant, rendering her unable to produce concentrated urine for purposes of a drug screen.  The EEOC alleged that Roberson was told by her interviewer that the job offer was contingent on passing a drug test, at which point Roberson indicated that she could not do a urine-based screen because of her disability and requested a reasonable accommodation in the form of a different method of drug testing. The EEOC said Roberson’s request for accommodation was denied despite the existence of alternate forms of drug screening, and her conditional offer of employment was revoked as a direct result of the failure to accommodate. Refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation to an individual with a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), unless granting that accommo­dation would create an undue hardship for the employer.

GRAND PRAIRIE- Isaiah Austin was a 7-foot-1 star center playing for Baylor. He had NBA dreams and was working out with NBA teams, hoping to be picked high in this week’s draft.  However, the dream was cut short with the diagnosis of an abnormal EKG. The EKG led to a test for a condition called Marfan Syndrome – a condition that damages connective tissues in the body. According to The Marfan Foundation, the condition affects about one in 5,000. Few people ever get tested. Even though his basketball dreams were over, Austin is planning other ways to make a difference with his life.

HOUSTON- The Lone Star College System Board of Trustees unanimously approved the 2014 tax exemptions for qualified residents in Harris, Montgomery and San Jacinto counties. The 2014 tax exemptions continue the same as 2013. The board vote took place earlier this month at the June board meeting. Last year, LSCS also reduced the property rate tax by 3 percent to 11.60 cents per $100 property evaluation for the 2013-14 tax year. That reduction was the sixth time in the last 10 years the board has lowered the property tax rate for LSCS taxpayers. The 2014 tax exemptions are as follows: Homestead Exemption $5,000 or 1 percent (whichever is greater), Over 65 Exemption $75,000 and Disability $75,000. Taxpayers who are eligible for the Over 65 or Disability exemption will automatically qualify for a “tax freeze” (actual dollar tax amount owed is frozen), as approved by the board in September 2006.

LONGVIEW-The Organizing for Action; Baptist Ministers, and local women’s agencies and the NAACP Longview Branch of the NAACP hosted a press conference urging Congressman Goodlatte to hold a hearings on, and asking Congress to pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA). During the event, speakers discussed the critical need to protect Texas voters from discrimination and highlighted recent examples of voter discrimination in the state. The VRAA would provide common sense solutions to prevent discrimination against all voters regardless of race, including remedies to address current discrimination as it is occurring, an ability to review voting changes in places that have engaged in discrimination in the present and recent past, and better public notification of potential voting changes to enhance accountability. Last June in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court invalidated a key section of the Voting Rights Act. As part of the decision, the Supreme Court invited Congress to revise the VRA to provide for protections against voting discrimination that reflects current circumstances.

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