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 17th - 8:48 pm
After a week of tense negotiations, the state’s top budget writers have approved a final deal.
The bill restores nearly $4 billion to education funding that was cut last session and sets aside $400 million for transportation. Budget committee co-chair Tommy Williams said he believes the bill is one both parties can agree on.
“It’s a tricky process to score where you are when you’re putting this together, because it’s a moving target,” Williams said. “And I don’t think there’s anybody, Republicans or Democrats, who don’t want to fund public education. We all want to fund it at the highest level with we can, that’s consistent with the other poles in the budget.”
In Friday’s episode, we break down the bill’s details with the Quorum Report‘s Scott Braddock and Aman Batheja of the Texas Tribune.
The oil and gas boom in parts of South and West Texas has added to the state’s coffers, but it’s also led to serious damage on the roads to and from those areas.
One lawmaker wants to make sure that’s not overlooked before the session ends. We spoke to Sen. Carlos Uresti about his plan to make sure county roads get needed repairs.
IRS Under Fire
Just days after the acting director of the IRS was forced to hand in his resignation, he faced tough questioning before the House and Means Committee Friday.
Click the image below to see the Friday’s full episode.
May 10th - 5:00 pm
Among them was House Bill 3664, which would increase vehicle registration fees to raise money for road projects. The bill’s author, Rep. Drew Darby, eventually postponed the bill until one day after session ends. Between that and and the apparent demise of Rep. Allan Ritter’s bill to fund water infrastructure, it looks like some of the legislature’s major priorities are faltering.
To get a sense of where the session is headed, we spoke to Karen Brooks Harper from <I>The Dallas Morning News</I> Ryan Poppe with Texas Public Radio and Scott Braddock with the <I>Quorum Report</I>. Click the image below to see Friday’s full episode, plus a fact check with Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas.
May 8th - 6:21 pm
Cheerleaders at an East Texas high school will be allowed to display their religion on the the football field. A State District judge ruled today that the constitution protects their right to carry banners carrying Bible versus. Today’s decision puts an end to a lawsuit that has been pending since last year.
In 2012, the Kountze Independent School District banned the cheerleaders from displaying religous-themed banners at sporting events .The banners carried quotes with sayings like “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.” The controversy gained national attention when an atheist group complained that Kountze High School was promoting Christianity.
In October, district Judge Steve Thomas issued an injunction, suspending the ban pending the lawsuit’s outcome. If the school wants to proceed, it will have to appeal today’s summary judgment.
Apr 29th - 5:44 pm
Local governments and school districts that provide marriage benefits to same-sex couples are violating the Texas Constitution, according to an opinion issued today by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.
State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) sought the ruling last November, arguing that Texas amended its constitution in 2005 to define marriage as between one man and one woman, while prohibiting government entities from recognizing anything similar to marriage.
“By creating domestic partnerships and offering health benefits based on them, the political subdivisions have created and recognized something not established by Texas law,” Abbott wrote in the opinion.
The cities of El Paso, Austin and Forth Worth have offered some benefits to domestic partners. Pflugerville ISD became the state’s first school district to extend similar benefits.
See the entire opinion below.
Apr 17th - 2:21 pm
The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill to ensure that all evidence in death penalty cases is DNA tested before they go to trial. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) garnered support from both parties, including Attorney General Greg Abbot. Ellis and Abbot touted the legislation as a collaborative effort to create a “more fair, reliable and just Texas criminal justice system.”
In an interview with Capital Tonight last month, Abbott said, “We need to get all that [DNA testing] done upfront, to make sure that we convict the right person, or if the DNA evidence shows the person was innocent, they are released.”
Sen. Ellis released this statement following today’s vote:
“This modest but vitally important reform will help reduce the possibility that the ultimate mistake is made with someone receiving the ultimate penalty. The fact of the matter is that we have already dodged just such a bullet thanks to advocates for the wrongfully convicted. We know that, sometimes, we get the wrong person. The Michael Morton case and dozens of examples are painful reminders of that fact. SB 1292 will ensure we avoid both the possibility of the wrong person serving years on Death Row and the far worse specter of putting to death an innocent person.”
Apr 14th - 9:57 pm
Houston-area homebuilder and major Republican donor Bob Perry has died.
He was 80 years old.
Perry was a major contributor to conservative candidates, including George W. Bush and Rick Perry. He was also a fundraising source for conservative political action committees, known as 527s. That includes the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which raised questions in 2004 about then-presidential candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam service.
Several Texas Republicans have responded to news of his death. Gov. Perry, who is not related, released a statement Monday:
“Bob Perry was an exceptional man of great faith who believed strongly in everything he put his mind and soul into, and nothing more so than his family. His astonishing success story as a businessman serves as an inspiration to anyone who ever dreamed of bigger things, and his selfless dedication to the people and causes he believed in serves as an inspiration to anyone who has ever felt the call to get involved. Bob Perry left his state, and his country, in a better place than where he found it, and he will be profoundly missed by us all. Anita and I send our deepest condolences to his wife, Doylene, his children, his extended family and friends.”
Through Twitter, Attorney General Greg Abbot said:
“Texas lost a legend today. From school teacher to homebuilder, Bob Perry changed the world. God Bless.”
Perry was born in Bosque County, and went on to form Perry Homes in 1968.
Mar 21st - 12:08 pm
Update: Capital Tonight has confirmed that Tom Pauken will, in fact, run for governor.
Former Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken didn’t take long to decide what he’ll do after stepping down from his post recently. According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, Pauken is running for governor in 2014.
Pauken, who was a guest on Capital Tonight before his departure from the TWC, is also a former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. He was appointed to serve on the Texas Workforce Commission by Gov. Rick Perry, who has indicated he will make a decision about running again after the current legislative session.
Pauken would face Perry in the GOP Primary should the governor seek reelection. Pauken could also face State Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has been the focus of speculation about a gubernatorial run. Abbott told us this week that his focus is on the job at hand and that political decisions will sort themselves out after the session.
Education is expected to be a major issue for Pauken, who is against the Robin Hood school funding plan established in the early 1990s. Pauken has also written a book titled “Bringing America Home,” which focuses on the conservative movement in politics.
Mar 19th - 8:15 pm
A bill limiting statewide officials to two consecutive terms passed out of the Senate Tuesday. If approved by the House, the bill would go to voters in November.
A joint committee is looking into the relationship between the University of Texas Board of Regents and UT President Bill Powers. The committee asked for a year’s worth of communication between the Board of Regents and all University of Texas staff.
Attorney General Greg Abbott discussed a recently proposed bill to ensure DNA testing of evidence is done before cases that involve the death penalty begin.
Abbott described the bipartisan bill as a way to streamline the criminal justice process.
“We need to get all that [DNA testing] done upfront, to make sure that we convict the right person, or if the DNA evidence shows the person was innocent, they are released,” Abbott said.
Paul Brown also spoke to Abbott about the Second Amendment and gun-control efforts in Washington.
Harold Cook and Ted Delisi sat down with Paul Brown to discuss a statement Gov. Rick Perry made to a Florida political blog. In an interview with The Shark Tank, Perry said he’ll likely make an announcement about a possible 2016 presidential run later this year.
Mar 4th - 11:33 am
Gov. Rick Perry would easily beat Attorney General Greg Abbott, if the two were to face off in a hypothetical primary race, according to a new University of Texas / Texas Tribune poll. The poll shows Perry with 49 percent support over Abbott’s 17 percent among voters who consider themselves Republican. The margin is smaller among all voters. In that scenario, Perry would get 27 percent to Abbott’s 14 percent.
In a statement on the University of Texas’ website, Daron Shaw, one of the poll’s directors, said there is good news for both Perry and Abbott. “After 12 years in office, Governor Perry remains in good standing with Republican voters. Attorney General Abbott is less well established in voters’ minds but has a very favorable rating to build on in the future if he so chooses,” Shaw said.
The poll released today shows a drastically different scenario than a Public Policy Polling survey released in January. That poll only gave Gov. Perry a slight 41/38 percent lead over Abbott. According to the PPP analysis, the poll was especially troublesome for Perry given Abbott’s sizable war chest and lack of name recognition.
Of course, the likelihood of this matchup is still questionable. Both Gov. Perry and Abbott have said they wouldn’t make any decisions about their political futures until after the legislative session. Perry also reportedly told several Dallas media outlets that he and Abbott have agreed that Abbott would not challenge Perry if he decides to seek reelection.