May 24th - 8:15 pm
With only three days left in the regular session, a key part of the overall budget deal has been rejected by the House, at least in its current form. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is signalling that a special session is more than just a possibility.
Click the image below to hear the latest from the Capitol, with insight from Wayne Slater of The Dallas Morning News, Brandi Grissom from the Texas Tribune, Ryan Poppe of Texas Public Radio and the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg.
Amid all the budget back-and-forth, questions remain over two House and Senate education bills that have yet to make it to the Governor’s desk.
Senator Leticia Van de Putte is on the committee tasked with working out the differences. She joined us to talk about what the final product could look like.
Rainy Day Relief
Recovery efforts are still underway for the parts of Bastrop County hit by wildfires.
Our John Salazar spoke to elected officials to find out how much money they’re setting aside from the Rainy Day Fund, and the specific relief it will bring.
May 24th - 4:38 pm
Updated to include Senate appointments
A key component to a final budget deal is now headed to conference committee. House lawmakers who will serve on that committee include:
- Rep. Jim Pitts – (R) House Appropriations Committee Chair
- Rep. John Otto – (R) Dayton
- Rep. Drew Darby – (R) San Angelo
- Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher – (D) San Antonio
- Rep. Rene Olivera – (D) Brownsville
- Sen. Tommy Williams – (R) Senate Finance Committee Chair
- Sen. Robert Duncan – (R) Lubbock
- Sen. Jane Nelson – (R) Flowermound
- Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa – (D) McAllen
- Sen. John Whitmire – (D) Houston
May 24th - 2:50 pm
The 83rd Texas Legislature appears headed for an immediate special session. The Dallas’ Morning News‘ Wayne Slater says he has two “very well placed” sources who say Gov. Rick Perry will call lawmakers back Tuesday to tackle redistricting.
Last summer, a district court deemed that the maps drawn last legislative session were intentionally discriminatory. That left Texas to base its elections on the interim maps drawn up by a three-judge panel in San Antonio. It is rumored that Attorney General Greg Abbot is leading the calls for a special session. He wants lawmakers to formally adopt those interim maps.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst wants lawmakers to take up other conservative issues that failed to pass during the regular session. Those include the campus carry bill, stricter abortion regulations and school choice. Dewhurst told the Houston Chronicle, “I talked to the governor .. about the need for a special session on a number of these issues.” There is no word yet if Gov. Perry plans to tack those items onto a redistricting special session.
May 23rd - 8:30 pm
Both the House and the Senate approved important pieces of the budget pie yesterday, including money for education and water needs. But long-term transportation funding still hangs in the balance, even though it, too, was included in the list of top lawmakers’ priorities at the beginning of session.
We spoke to Reps. Drew Darby and Joe Pickett about where things stand today.
The goodwill that fueled yesterday’s budget breakthrough may already be coming to an end. Rep. Sylvester Turner now says the Senate didn’t hold up its end of a deal to provide $200 million more in education funding, because the money is tied to electricity bill rebates from a fund meant for low-income Texans.
We spoke to Rep. Turner and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Williams about the disputed deal.
Plus, Democratic strategist Harold Cook and Republican strategist Ted Delisi discussed all the day’s political news. Click the logo below to watch the full episode.
May 23rd - 1:33 pm
Despite what most considered a major budget breakthrough last night, Rep. Sylvester Turner says he’s not happy with an amendment placed on the Senate version of HB 1025.
The bill is one of the cornerstones of the larger budget deal. It approves dipping $2 billion into the Rainy Day Fund for water projects and sets aside $200 million for education. That $200 million, however, is tied to another House bill calling for tax relief in the form of electricity bill rebates to low income families.
Turner said the House never agreed to that provision and is encouraging House members to vote against the bill if the provision is not stripped in conference committee. In a statement, Rep. Turner said:
The only reason the $200 million was not placed in the main appropriations bill was because Senator Williams unilaterally chose to place it in HB 1025. Now we know why. This is neither transparent nor consistent with the purpose for which this fund was created. On behalf of the people of my district, I will not vote for HB 1025 as long as we are asked to trade dollars intended for poor Texans for tax breaks. I encourage other members of the House to do the same.
In response to Rep. Turner’s statement, a spokesperson said Sen. Williams’ only comment was “Is that right?” Sen. Williams will be a guest on Capital Tonight this evening. Hopefully we will get more clarity on what exactly that statement means when we talk to him, later today.
May 22nd - 11:19 pm
After days of mistrust between the House and Senate, two key parts of a complex budget compromise came together as planned.
The Senate did its duty first, by moving forward on a measure to put $2 billion toward the state’s water needs and increase funding for education. With that in place, House Democrats agreed to support a separate resolution that would create a state water fund.
In Wednesday’s episode, Karina Kling explains how it’s all coming together, and we speak to Rep. John Otto, one of the main budget negotiators.
We also spoke with Rep. Aaron Peña and former Sen. Hector Uribe about spats between the House and Senate in the past.
Gun Bills Disarmed
Despite some signs this might be the year lawmakers approved campus carry legislation, that bill is among those unlikely to survive.
Capital Tonight’s LeAnn Wallace spoke with the author of the bill about where things stand this late in the session
May 21st - 8:23 pm
It all hinges on a measure known as Senate Joint Resolution 1, which would allow voters to decide whether to create a statewide water fund. House lawmakers were set to take up the vote Tuesday evening, but instead voted to push it back one more day.
In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we look at where the bigger budget picture stands with help from our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi. Plus, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples gives his take on whether water needs are being addressed.
Click the image below to watch the full episode.
May 21st - 3:33 pm
A bill to change the way Medicaid services are administered passed out of the Texas House, and with it a major roadblock to Medicaid expansion.
The bill itself directs state officials to come up with managed care plans for people with mental and physical disabilities. It also sets up a coordinating panel to help with the transition. But an amendment by Republican Rep. Jeff Leach would block the expansion of any services under the Affordable Care Act. That means that Gov. Rick Perry couldn’t simply direct the Health and Human Services commissioner to work out an acceptable plan with federal officials. Instead, he would have to get approval from the legislature.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation released a statement applauding the amendment. In it, the group’s executive director said:
“The House passage of SB 7 with the successful inclusion of Amendment 26 — the Leach Amendment to prohibit state participation in the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion — is a heartening sign that Texans are determined to resist Washington, D.C.’s ambitions for ever-greater control over our lives and economy. We urge the Senate to affirm the Leach Amendment, and send a unified message that Texas rejects the false promise of Medicaid run on D.C.’s terms.” – Arlene Wohlgemuth
The full bill is now headed back to the Senate, where significant changes made by the House need to be approved before it’s sent to the governor’s desk.
May 21st - 3:17 pm
Redistricting will be back in the courtroom next week. As reported on TexasRedistricting.org, the U.S. Federal Court in San Antonio posted an order that attorneys would meet in court on May 29 at 9 a.m.
The purpose of the hearing is to decide how to proceed with Texas’ redistricting maps, pending the outcome of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The justices will decide if states with a history of discrimination should still have changes to voting rules approved by the federal government.
In the meantime, the court said next week’s hearing is “necessary to address the status of these proceedings and the manner in which this Court may move forward in preparation for the 2014 elections.”
A district court deemed Texas’ legislative maps discriminatory in a ruling last summer. That left Texas to base its elections on the interim maps drawn up by a three-judge panel in San Antonio. Meanwhile, it is rumored that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott supports calling lawmakers back for a special session to tackle redistricting. He wants lawmakers to formally adopt those interim maps.
May 20th - 1:17 pm
Hundreds of Texas school districts will stop offering lesson plans created by CSCOPE. In a press conference this morning, Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) announced that the board would inform participating clients that all lesson plans will be taken offline on August 31.
CSCOPE was created as an online tool to help teachers meet state education requirements. It is used by more than 800 school districts.
CSCOPE came under fire earlier this year amid complaints from conservative and Tea Party groups who claimed students were being subjected to “anti-American” teachings. They attacked the tool claiming it promoted pro-Islamic lessons. Some examples included plans that taught children that the Boston Tea Party was carried out by terrorists and a sixth grade assignment to design their own communist flags. In addition, parents complained that they were unable to monitor what their children were learning in school because they did not have access to the online lesson plans.
Sen. Patrick has been leading the fight against the program. In an interview with Capital Tonight in February, Patrick criticized CSCOPE for using tax payer money to set up a shell corporation. “They set up this private corporation, I believe to shield information for whatever reason. But it doesn’t make any difference what the reasons are. Parents have a right to see what’s in the curriculum,” Patrick said.