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 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 16th - 5:12 pm
After a debate that focused mainly on minor changes, the House approved a measure to expand the number of charter school licences in Texas and change the way those schools are regulated.
House lawmakers voted 105-34 to approve Senate Bill 2. It would raise the current cap on charter schools from 215 to 275 over time and give the Texas Education Agency more power to close down poorly performing charters. The Senate bill passed last month would have raised the cap to 305 by 2019.
The main point of contention Thursday was an amendment discouraging nepotism, or the hiring of family members regardless of merit. It passed 135-7, but would only apply to charters formed after the law is enacted. Supporters of the amendment say many smaller charters were formed by families and shouldn’t be punished for the actions of a few corrupt actors. Another amendment would have delayed the increase by one year while quality control measures for existing charter schools were implemented. That measure, by Rep. Sylvester Turner, failed by a vote of 52-86.
Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, who chairs the House Education Committee, allowed all 20 proposed amendments to be either voted on or withdrawn voluntarily.
The House is expected to give final approval to the bill tomorrow.
May 16th - 1:42 pm
We may learn more about where the state budget is headed this afternoon. First, Republican Gov. Rick Perry will attend a ceremony at about 2:15 p.m. to sign the Michael Morton Act. It’s possible the governor will also take the opportunity to comment on the budget negotiations that continued this morning. The conference committee tasked with finalizing the budget is meeting at 2 p.m., after which an announcement is expected.
According to Harvey Kronberg with the Quorum Report, State Rep. Sylvester Turner, the lone Democratic House member on the conference committee, said Republicans have gone back on an agreement to add almost $4 billion to education, instead changing that offer to $3.5 billion. Meantime, Republican House Speaker Joe Straus indicated that there may not be enough room to get the $3.9 billion for education Democrats want due to the spending cap.
Of course, also part of the equation is bringing House and Senate members of both parties together on a plan to draw $2 billion out of the Rainy Day Fund for water relief. The same budget negotiations involve a complex mix of legislation that would put approval of a revolving fund for the water money before voters, thus avoiding a budgetary conflict with the spending cap.
We expect to have Rep. Turner on this evening’s Capital Tonight to shed more light on the back-and-forth among conference committee members.
May 6th - 8:57 pm
Texas High Schools are one step closer to seeing some major reform.
Monday, the Senate unanimously passed forward a bill that would restructure graduation requirements and cut back on the number of standardized tests. But it includes some key differences from the House version passed in March.
We heard more on the bill from Sen. Eddie Lucio, the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Gun Bills Head to Senate
After surviving a contentious Saturday, a range of gun bills passed out of the House Monday. Harvey Kronberg of The Quorum Report joined us to talk about that and more.
Perry’s Welcome Mat
We’re learning more about President Barack Obama’s visit to the Austin area Thursday.
In addition to Manor New Tech High School, he’ll be visiting Austin tech manufacturer Applied Materials. Now, Governor Perry is weighing in on the visit.
May 2nd - 8:46 pm
A showdown could be brewing between the House and Senate over funding for the state’s water plan.
In an interview with Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News, House Speaker Joe Straus revealed he was digging in his heels against a Senate plan that would include funding for education.
Senate Joint Resolution 1 would ask voters to authorize dipping nearly $6 billion into the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund to pay for water and transportation infrastructure. But the measure also includes an extra $800 million for public education as part of a compromise with Senate Democrats.
Straus has been vocal about the need for water infrastructure funding since the start of session, but he now says such a decision should be made by lawmakers. He compared the constitutional amendment strategy to punting the issue to voters.
Capital Commentators Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined us in studio to talk about the implications of Straus’ new stance.
Education Bill Update
After passing with overwhelming support in the House, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s bill to change graduation and testing requirements remains stalled on the Senate side. The House Public Education chair spoke to Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown about what he believes will happen next.
House Gun Debate
The gun debate has been in the national spotlight lately, and this weekend, it’s expected to spur renewed debate at the Capitol. Capital Tonight’s LeAnn Wallace spoke to one lawmaker whose name is on several of the proposed bills to get a preview of what to expect.
Apr 11th - 8:26 pm
There’s been a lot of talk about it, and now state lawmakers appear ready to finally dip in to the state’s Rainy Day Fund this session.
The Senate Finance Committee voted to take 6 billion dollars out of the fund to pay for water and infrastructure projects.
Taking on the Governor
We don’t know if Gov. Rick Perry will run for re-election, and we don’t know if Attorney General Greg Abbott will throw his hat into the ring. But we do know of one former state agency leader who will seek your vote as a Republican candidate for governor.
Click the image below to see our one-on-one interview with Tom Pauken.
Senate Standoff Ends
The push for new gun safety legislation cleared a major hurdle Thursday.
With the help of 16 Republicans, the Senate voted to block a threatened Republican filibuster. That means debate on background checks and other, less popular legislation can begin.
Sen. John Cornyn voted to block the debate, but said he hoped for a substantive discussion afterward. Click the YNN logo below to watch the full episode.
Apr 11th - 4:17 pm
The Texas Senate made quick work of Sen. Dan Patrick’s sweeping charter school legislation, today.
The law expands the number of charter schools allowed to operate in Texas. Currently, the cap is set at 215 charter schools. The bill passed today gradually raises that number to 305 over the next six years. The bill is a scaled down version of Patrick’s original plan, which would have lifted the cap altogether.
The measure passed easily in a 30-1 vote with very little floor debate. It now heads to the house where it likely faces a tougher road.
Apr 9th - 8:09 pm
Republicans and Democrats sparred once again over school vouchers Tuesday — including whether or not a newly proposed law counted as a voucher at all.
A bill filed by Sen. Dan Patrick would partially pay for private school tuition through scholarships funded by tax-exempt donations. The bill has the support of Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., but Sen. Wendy Davis expressed skepticism.
Another hearing Tuesday looked into oversight of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas. CPRIT has been under fire since last year, with questions of grant-rigging and even a criminal investigation. Trust, transparency and accountability were at the top of the committee’s list Tuesday.
Equal Under the Law
A bill extending the Romeo and Juliet provision passed out of a Senate committee Tuesday. It would extend the Romeo and Juliet defense to same-sex couples over the age of 14.
Earlier in the day, 600 women visited the Capitol hoping to turn it blue for the day. Blue Ribbon Lobby Day organizers are pushing lawmakers to say yes to Medicaid expansion, restoring public education cuts and returning Planned Parenthood to the Women’s Health Program.
Harold Cook and Ted Delisi sat down with Paul Brown to discuss the day’s political news, including school choice bills, CPRIT and new border security legislation filed by Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Michael McCaul.
Mar 29th - 6:31 pm
Christy Hoppe from The Dallas Morning News, Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report and Jay Root of The Texas Tribune sat down with Paul Brown to discuss this week’s events in politics, including recently passed education legislation. They also talked about the Texas Faith and Family rally and the need for water legislation this session.
Fact checking Sen. Ted Cruz
Gardner Selby from PolitiFactTexas discussed Sen. Cruz’s statements at CPAC this week.