Jun 11th - 12:09 pm
Gov. Rick Perry is threatening to strip state funding from the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refuses to resign. The Public Integrity Unit is funded partially by the Texas Legislature and prosecutes ethics and campaign finance violations.
According to an Austin American-Statesman exclusive, Perry intends to line-item veto that portion of the state budget. The governor’s office would not go into specifics, but spokesman Rick Parsons told the paper “we’re going through the budget line by line. (The governor) has very deep concerns about the integrity of the Public Integrity Unit.”
Lehmberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges in April. Police records show her blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit. Jailhouse surveillance video also shows Lehmberg acting belligerently toward the jailers. Lehmberg was sentenced to 45 days in jail and was released in early for good behavior.
Despite numerous petitions and lawsuits from attorneys and lawmakers alike, Lehmberg has maintained she will not step down as district attorney and head of the Public Integrity Unit. In court today, a judge determined that Lehmberg will face a jury in two separate lawsuits. One claims Lehmberg violated a code of conduct that states she cannot be intoxicated on or off duty. The other is for official misconduct, based on her actions in jail.
If Lehmberg chooses to step down, or is forced out of office, Gov. Perry would appoint her replacement.
Jun 10th - 7:28 pm
Gov. Rick Perry put pen to paper, officially signing a stack of education bills into law today, including House Bill 5.
Many were closely monitoring the fate of the graduation requirement legislation amid rumors that Gov. Rick Perry would veto the measure.
The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg offered his thoughts on what Perry’s non-veto might mean and analyzes the governor’s decision to add transportation to the special session call.
On the Agenda
Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown sat down with the Lonnie Hollingsworth from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. Click the video link below to get his take on the new law and hear what he says still needs to be done.
May 24th - 2:50 pm
Posted by Sarah Grady in [...]
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 16th - 3:20 pm
The conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation put out a press release this afternoon regarding the state budget process. The TPPF recognizes that budget conferees have “reached a critical point in the budget process” and is calling for spending restraint, especially in the area of education.
Talmadge Heflin, the director of the TPPF’s Center for Fiscal Policy, disputes the idea that $3.5 billion for education this session isn’t enough to meet the state’s needs, and worries putting more money in this area would hurt the possibility of tax relief legislation. The entire press release is below.
May 15th - 8:29 pm
Posted by Sarah Grady in [...]
A progressive Texas group is speaking out tonight over the scandal surrounding the Internal Revenue Service. Progress Texas, a left-leaning political group, says conservatives were not the only ones subject to extra scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service. But Progress Texas doesn’t take issue with the way the process was conducted.
Acting IRS director Steven Miller submitted his resignation today at the request of the White House. The agency came under fire this week for holding up tax exempt applications for groups that had words like “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names. Officials admitted that requests submitted by those groups were inappropriately singled out.
Progress Texas said its 501c tax exempt status was also subject to extra scrutiny and that they received a letter similar to the ones sent to Tea Party organizations. Progress Texas provided Capital Tonight with a copy of the nine-page request. In it, the IRS asks for details on everything from financial statements to meeting minutes and members’ political affiliations.
Progress Texas submitted its initial tax-exemption request in March of 2011. A year later, the IRS requested the addition information and tax exempt status was not approved until June of 2012. The organization says it “supports the due diligence” taken by the IRS and recognizes the government was handling a large influx of 501c applications at the time.
Executive Director Ed Espinoza released this statement today:
“Progress Texas and the Tea Party strongly disagree on the role of government. Yet, when we applied for tax-exempt status, Progress Texas received the same type of additional scrutiny that Tea Party groups are complaining about. The similar treatment indicates the IRS was likely addressing a flood of 501c4 applications after Citizens United, and undermines the paranoid notion that Tea Party groups were singled out.”
May 9th - 8:35 pm
Posted by Aaron Franco in [...]
President Barack Obama chose the Texas Capital to roll out his “Middle Class Jobs and Opportunity Tour.” His first stop in the area was Manor New Technology High School, where he touted education reform plans ranging from pre-kindergarten all the way to college.
Click the image below to hear more from the president’s speech, along with reaction from students and state political leaders.
Gov. Rick Perry was on the tarmac with a handshake ready when Air Force One arrived. He said he’s excited the president came to the Lone Star State, but suggested that Obama’s policies run counter to the reasons for Texas’ success.
Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailey and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri weighed in on the political pros and cons of the president’s visit.
Down to the Wire
While much of the focus was on President Obama’s visit, there was plenty of action in the State House. Lawmakers had until midnight to get their bills on the House floor.
Click the logo below to see more.
May 8th - 5:22 pm
House Democrats called a last-minute press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce that if Medicaid expansion isn’t quite dead, it’s certainly on life support.
Yesterday, Republican Rep. John Zerwas conceded that his “Texas solution” to draw down federal money under the Affordable Care Act remains stuck in the House Calendars Committee, with little chance of escape. Any bill the committee hasn’t assigned to a hearing on the House floor by midnight Thursday is unlikely to get a vote.
Rep. Sylvester Turner has proposed a different plan to expand Medicaid, which faces a similar fate.
“Unless we know some way to resurrect the dead, it won’t be resurrected this session,” Rep. Turner said.
May 3rd - 1:53 pm
It’s becoming almost an annual tradition: President Obama is returning to Austin. The White House says Obama will be in town Thursday for “events on the economy.” Officials have not released any other details.
This is the second time President Obama will be in Texas in less than a month. He attended the George W. Bush Presidential Center dedication on April 25th and then attended a memorial for the victims of the West Fertilizer Plant explosion.
President Obama is no stranger to the Capital City. He last visited Austin during the 2012 presidential campaign where he attended a sold-out fundraiser at The Austin Music Hall. He also made a swing through town in 2011 for a fundraiser at the Moody Theatre and a more exclusive private function at a West Lake home. And in 2010, President Obama delivered an education address at the University of Texas.
We’ll bring you more details of his visit as soon as we have them.
May 1st - 1:36 pm
He’s only been senator for a few months, but Sen. Ted Cruz’s actions on Capitol Hill are already prompting some to wonder about at possible 2016 presidential run. The first of such speculation came in the form of a National Review article citing unnamed Cruz confidants who say the freshman senator is pondering the possibility.
The Review quotes an anonymous insider as saying “If you don’t think this is real, then you’re not paying attention. Cruz already has grassroots on his side, and in this climate, that’s all he may need.”
Cruz, of course, has not made any public indication that he’s eyeing the Oval Office. He responded to the article on his Facebook page with a statement that reads:
“In my short tenure, my focus has been — and will remain — on two things: fighting for conservative principles in the Senate, and working to help elect strong conservatives to win a majority in the Senate in 2014. The Senate is the battlefield to defend liberty.
I was elected because thousands of grassroots conservatives came together to protect the Constitution, shrink the federal government, and promote growth and opportunity. It is a continued source of amazement that the simple fact that I am working hard with like-minded Senators to keep my promise is seen as newsworthy and cause for wild speculation.”
Regardless of Sen. Cruz’s possible hopes for higher office, there’s no denying he took the Capitol by storm. He has made national headlines after heated questioning over drone use and dust-ups with veteran senators like Dianne Feinstein. Cruz was also on the receiving end of criticism from members of his own party after he supported a filibuster on a bipartisan gun legislation package that later failed a floor vote.
Apr 24th - 9:39 pm
Posted by Aaron Franco in [...]