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Not The Texas Observer. We have one of the biggest. reporting staffs COVering thy: rrevas Legislaturebigger than Houston, bigger than Dallas. And we’re darned proud of it You’ll find us irresistible: Multiple Daily Posts from the Capitol Interviews and Hearings Exclusives: Breaking News, Legislative Investigations, Documents Bad Bills Capitol People: Profiles/Interviews with Legislators, Lobbyists, Staff, Activists And. Much, Much More! JOIN OUR LIST online at BOOKMARK VVVVW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG Get. Important News and Alerts from The Texas Observer [email protected] or –…. DON’T MISS THE TEXAS OBSERVER’S UNPRECEDENTED COVERAGE OF THE LEGISLATURE AT OUR NEW BLOC: a 6.1 to< NEWSPAPER CAPITOL BUREAUS CLOSING OR REDUCING STAFF., and poor voters. Those constituencies usually favor Democrats. And Democrats believe that's the real driving factor behind the Republican's voter ID push. Debate on voter ID bills in the Texas House the past two sessions was bitter and nasty, with Democrats accusing the GOP of trying to resurrect a poll tax. Voter ID barely passed the House in 2007, but it died in the Senate when an ailing Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, returned to the chamber from liver transplant surgery to provide Democrats the necessary vote to block the bill. Had Tom Craddick captured a fourth term as House Speaker, voter ID probably would have resurfaced this session. With Joe Straus taking over, the chances that a bill will pass this session are slimmer. But it's a delicate issue for Straus. He voted for it last session, and many powerful voices in his party will pressure him to bring it back to the House floor. On Jan. 14, Senate Republicans cleared the way for Voter ID to pass the upper chamber, specifically exempting Voter ID legislation from the requirement that a bill pass a two-thirds vote before it can be debated. That likely means the Democrats' only chance of stopping Voter ID lies in the House and its new speaker. Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat who helped lead the opposition to voter ID last session, believes that any bill resembling last session's would be a nonstarter. A viable ID bill, he says, would need a "vote-saving" provision in which those without an ID could sign an affidavit at the polling location affirming their identity and then be allowed to vote. He would also want to see a provision that helps poor voters pay the fee for an ID. "It would need to include all those provisions about not having divisive issues coming to the floor would obviate a bloody floor fight on a voter disenfranchisement bill." D.M. 7 FOSTER CARE Starving System Texas' foster care system is a wreck. The state ranks 47th in the nation in funding for child welfare. In 2008, Child Protective Services caseworkers handled an average of 39 cases each. The national average is 24. Child deaths from neglect and abuse regularly haunt the evening news. Underpaid and overworked caseworkers continue to flee the state agency. It got so bad recently that the federal government fined Texas $4 million for violating federal child-welfare standards. Still, lawmakers have chosen to address the problems piecemeal rather than provide the major funding and reform the system needs. This year isn't likely to break that pattern. "The budget is flat this year," says Jodie Smith, public policy director with 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 23, 2009