Jun 19th - 8:33 pm
Back to School
The state’s school finance problems were back before a court Wednesday, this time over changes both sides agree need to be included as evidence.
That evidence includes the $3.4 billion in funding restored this session, on top of numerous changes to testing and graduation requirements. District Judge John Dietz has set a new date to take state lawmakers’ changes into account. In Wednesday’s episode, we looked at what to expect from the trial.
Abortion law in Texas could be changed drastically if a new Senate bill makes it to the governor’s desk. We spoke to Whole Woman’s Health, a licensed abortion clinic in Austin, to find out what the changes mean.
Plus, a key player on immigration reform in Washington says he’s thinking of backing out.
Click the image below to see why Congressman John Carter says he has serious concerns with an immigration reform bill he helped draft.
Jun 19th - 1:30 pm
Rep. John Carter says language in a draft version of a House immigration reform bill would set up a “slush fund” to provide undocumented immigrants with health insurance.
Carter says he’s so upset by the language that it might kill bipartisan efforts he’s been involved with for the last several years to overhaul the immigration system.
“It’s a fund that would be paid into to provide them with health care or maybe put them in the Obamacare system,” said Carter.
Earlier this month, disagreements over how to handle health insurance for undocumented immigrants led Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) to quit the House’s so-called gang of eight.
According to a House Democratic staffer familiar with discussions, the bill does not give undocumented immigrants access to subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. It does, however, set up a fund that would take the money generated by the collection of fees and fines from undocumented immigrants and dole it out to help states cover costs associated with health care and education.
Jun 19th - 1:28 pm
For hours on the Senate floor last night, Texas Republicans insisted new restrictions on abortion clinics were designed to protect women, not to shut down facilities. But a Tweet from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today seems to indicate otherwise.
The Tweet from Dewhurst’s account reads, “We fought to pass SB5 thru the Senate last night, & this is why! #StandWithTexasChildren”
It links to a map from an abortion rights group showing clinic locations that would be forced to close under the new legislation.
The legislation passed last night requires that abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Critics say very few abortion clinics could meet those requirements and that all but five would have to close.
The bill also includes stricter rules regarding the abortion pill RU-486. A provision to ban abortion after 20 weeks was dropped from the bill before debate began.
Jun 19th - 11:39 am
The judge in the state’s school finance case has set a date to hear new evidence, based on changes the lawmakers made to education funding this legislative session.
In February, State District Judge John Dietz ruled that the way the state finances schools was unconstitutional. It was based on massive education funding cuts and stricter graduation requirements passed in 2011. Dietz also found disparities between property rich school districts and property poor districts.
The state asked the court to reopen the case based on laws passed during the current legislative session. Lawmakers elected to restore $3.4 billion in education funding and also reduced the number of standardized tests necessary for students to graduate. Lawmakers also passed a bill that creates a vocational path to graduation.
The more than 600 districts that sued in 2011 maintain the entire school funding formula is flawed and that the additional funding won’t fix the basic problem.
Dietz said Wednesday the case will go back to trial on Jan. 6th. He has scheduled six weeks of testimony to hear what the new funding means.
Jun 18th - 8:53 pm
Fighting for Funding
Just days after Gov. Rick Perry’s veto stripped state funding for the Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg made her first public appearance since a high-profile DWI arrest.
She’s asking the county to help close the $7.5 million funding gap, and making it clear that she has no plans to resign.
In Tuesday’s show, we heard more from Lehmberg, plus commentary from attorney Kerry O’Brien, who has been a prominent voice in calling for her resignation.
The Senate took up the governor’s special session call to pass legislation that would further restrict abortion in the state Tuesday. Among the bill’s most controversial components was a measure known as the fetal pain bill, which would block abortions after 20 weeks. The bill’s author, Sen. Glenn Hegar, eventually agreed to withdraw the measure, saying he believes taking it out is the most practical way lawmakers can enhance the quality of care while protecting life with the amount of time left in the session.
Plus, our Capital Commentators weighed in on the ongoing battle over the Public Integrity Unit, along with the rest of the day’s political news.
Jun 18th - 12:21 pm
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg made her first public appearance Tuesday since serving jail time for a DWI. Lehmberg went before the Travis County Commissioners Court asking the county to help restore the $7.5 million dollars in funding that was cut from the Public Integrity Unit.
Gov. Rick Perry vetoed that portion of the budget Friday, making good on threats to do so if Lehmberg refused to step down. Perry has taken aim at Lehmberg’s personal integrity after she was arrested and served time for drunk driving in April. Jailhouse video showed Lehmberg acting unruly and repeatedly demanding that the employees “call Greg,” apparently in reference to Sheriff Greg Hamilton. Lehmberg has maintained she has no intention of stepping down.
The Texas Legislature provides a little more than $3 million in funding per year. That money allows the Public Integrity Unit to carry out its three main functions. The unit has statewide authority over cases involving insurance and motor fuel fraud. It also handles public corruption cases, which occur in Travis County. Funding for the Public Integrity Unit will run out September 1.
Critics have criticized Perry’s veto, saying the governor is using his power to shut down investigations into his office and its programs. “I can’t remember a time when there hasn’t been an attempt in the legislature to mess with the Public Integrity Unit,” Lehmberg said.
The court agreed Tuesday to explore ways to include funding in the county budget. ”We have to make decisions on unfunded mandates all the time,” Commissioner Ron Davis said. “We’ll do the best we can.”
The commissioners requested that the District Attorney’s office provide a breakdown of the Public Integrity Unit’s expenditures and agreed to explore ways to work it into the next budget without an undue burden on taxpayers. They will meet again, in two weeks.
Jun 17th - 12:04 pm
Texans would prefer a Ted Cruz run for President over a repeat of Gov. Perry’s 2012 bid. According to a new University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, 25 percent of people would vote for Sen. Cruz if the GOP primary was held today. Rand Paul ranked second at 13 percent followed by Marco Rubio with 11 percent. Perry came in fourth, with 10 percent support. It is worth noting that 21 percent of people said they didn’t know yet who their choice would be.
On the plus side for Perry, the same poll also shows he would beat Attorney General Greg Abbott in the gubernatorial primary race. Perry bested Abbott in that poll, Neither Perry nor Abbott has said yet if they plan to run. It seems a primary between the two would be unlikely, however. In January, Gov. Perry told WFAA-TV that if he sought reelection, Abbott would not challenge him. Perry has maintained that he will announce his plans after the legislative session ends. Abbott, it would appear, is waiting for Perry to make his plans public.
Jun 14th - 4:57 pm
Gov. Rick Perry’s pending trip to the Empire State is ruffling some feathers. Perry released a series of television and radio ads ahead of his trip, urging New York businesses to relocate to the Lone Star State.
But New Yorkers aren’t giving them up without a fight. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing state lawmakers to adopt his Tax Free NY proposal. It would provide for a decade of across-the-board tax-rebates for new businesses that settle near college campuses.
Cuomo took at dig a Perry’s ad campaign while promoting his initiative in Syracuse, N.Y. this week. He said:
“We now have Texas advertising in this state because they have no income tax so they’re advertising zero tax, you can come to Texas and pay no income tax. Our program goes one better: You can pay no income tax and you don’t have to move to Texas. You can live in New York.”
Governor Perry is set to visit New York and Connecticut for five days, starting Sunday.
Jun 14th - 12:02 pm
Did Gov. Rick Perry abuse his powers when he threatened to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refuses to step down? One watchdog group says yes and has filed a formal complaint with prosecutors.
Texans for Public Justice says Perry may have committed several crimes, including abuse of office, official oppression and coercion. “Governor Perry has no legal authority to remove the Travis Country District Attorney from her job. Threatening to take an official action against her office unless she voluntarily resigns is likely illegal,” said TPJ Director, Craig McDonald.
According to the complaint,
“Governor Perry’s official threats attempt to obtain two things that he can’t achieve through legal
democratic means. First, to remove an elected Democrat and replace her with an appointed
Republican DA. Second, to wipe out the state’s public corruption watchdog, which is currently
investigating corruption in at least one of the governor’s signature corporate subsidy programs.”
According to TPJ, the offenses range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 2 felony.
District Attorney Lehmberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges in April. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail and was released early for good behavior.
Earlier this week, the Austin American-Statesman first reported that Gov. Perry is threatening to use a line item veto to remove money for the Public Integrity Unit if Lehmberg does not step down. The Public Integrity Unit is funded partially by the Texas Legislature and prosecutes ethics and campaign finance violations. As Travis County DA, Lehmberg is the head of that unit.
Gov. Perry hasn’t responded to the complaint directly, but did say this, today:
“My bottom line is this. That we’re going to look at this budget. We’re going to make decisions about this budget, and Travis County is going to have to make a decision about whether or not they keep a district attorney who obviously has some real problems from the standpoint of…I mean people who’ve looked at the video will probably come to the conclusion of most folks. That that was pretty inappropriate activity.”
Jun 13th - 8:43 pm
Two days after the governor added abortion regulation to the special session, a Senate panel heard public testimony from both sides of the issue.
Click the video link below to see the latest from Thursday’s committee hearing, plus an update from Gov. Rick Perry on what’s in store for the rest of the special session.
Sen. Dan Patrick joined us to evaluate where the special session stands and give his take on Texas Monthly’s “worst list.” He also talked the possibility of running for lieutenant governor.
Plus, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Rob Johnson break down everything that’s happening under the pink dome.