Texas lawmakers move closer to ending straight-ticket voting

State lawmakers are busy at work through May 29 at the Texas Capitol on proposals such as ending straight-ticket voting.
State lawmakers are busy at work through May 29 at the Texas Capitol on proposals such as ending straight-ticket voting. atinsley@star-telegram.com

State lawmakers may soon change how many Texans vote.

For many people, heading to the polls required one choice — picking either Republican or Democrat straight-ticket voting, which means each candidate belonging to that political party on the ballot automatically received their vote.

But now that the House has approved House Bill 25, which eliminates that voting option starting in 2020, it’s up to the Texas Senate to decide whether to go along with that plan. The Senate Business & Commerce Committee, which is headed by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, voted to send the bill to the Senate floor for consideration.

Many support the measure, saying this will make sure that voters do more research and become more informed before casting ballots. Opponents say they fear people won’t read all the way through the ballot to vote for those “down-ballot” races — or they might not head to the polls at all.

“This can be a real impediment,” state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, has said.

Lawmakers have until May 29 to wrap up work this legislative session.

Zimmerman leaves

It was a veritable love fest for outgoing District 3 Fort Worth Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman at his last council meeting this past Tuesday, one week early.

Near the end of the council meeting, each of his council colleagues said a few words about their time with Zimmerman. Zimmerman was defeated in the May 6 election by Brian Byrd. Byrd will be sworn in May 16.

After presenting him with a replica of the Frederic Remington bronze “Bronco Buster,” Mayor Betsy Price said Zimmerman “served admirably.” In jest she described him as a curmudgeon, “but we love our curmudgeon.”

District 4 Councilman Cary Moon, who was last to join the council in 2015 and sits next to Zimmerman on the dais, thanked him for taking him under his wing. “I’ve admired you for a long time,” Moon said. “You’re my friend and I appreciate that.”

District 2 Councilman Sal Espino, who will step down from the council next month following a run-off election for his post, said, “You were always forthright. Everyone always knew were Zim Zimmerman stood. You were a man of your word. You’re a man of integrity and has the city’s best interest at heart.”

Zimmerman thanked his wife and family and said he had eight great years on the council.

“I said when I came on that I wanted to leave Fort Worth in a better place than when I came in. I hope I’ve done that. Someone else will grade that later.”

3-D mammograms

Texas senators also control the fate of whether insurance providers should cover 3-D mammography for Texas women.

State representatives already approved House Bill 1036, which requires commercial insurers to cover this advanced form of mammography that tends to create fewer false alarms. Currently, many insurance plans only cover 2-D mammograms.

The bill has been sent to the Senate’s Business & Commerce Committee for consideration.

“We are one step closer for the women of Texas to have peace of mind that their 3-D mammograms, the most advanced form of screening available, will be covered by insurance,” said James Polfreman, president and CEO of Solis Mammography. “Texas is headed in the right direction.”

Healthy life

This month, U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, is among those pledging to encourage Texans — and all Americans — to have a healthier lifestyle.

Earlier this month, he introduced a resolution to designate May the “Health and Fitness Month.”

“Healthy living is attainable for all Americans,” Veasey said.

This month, Veasey is hosting free events to promote family-friendly health and fitness in Dallas, Fort Worth and Washington, D.C.

In Fort Worth, there will be a TX-33 Community Field Day from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 20, at the Tarrant County Community College, South Campus track, 5301 Campus Drive. If it rains, the alternate location is the gymnasium.

Arbor Day

Grand Prairie will be the next city to host the state’s official Arbor Day Celebration, the Texas A&M Forest Service recently announced.

Texans across the state are welcome to join the Nov. 3 celebration at Grand Central Park in Grand Prairie, the 15th-largest city in the state. The free festivities include a ceremony, tree plantings, giveaways, performances, the eclectic folk/rock band Trout Fishing in America, a kite-flying demonstration and more.

Staff writer Sandra Baker contributed to this report.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley