May 13th - 3:56 pm
The state’s top cancer fighting agency appears to be back in lawmakers’ good graces.
Members of the conference committee on the budget have agreed to restore more than $594 million in funding to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. The organization has been under fire since last year, when the approval of a grant worth $11 million came into question, sparking a criminal investigation. Funding for CPRIT was cut in the Legislature’s original budget proposals.
The restoration of funds is contingent on the passage of Senate Bill 149, however. Sen. Jane Nelson’s bill would ban agency executives from having business relationships with award recipients and create a new oversight position to make sure agency rules are followed.
She released a statement today, saying:
“I am grateful to the conference committee for allowing CPRIT to move forward and approving these funds. I was very disappointed in the poor decision making and mistakes that came to light this session, but believe we must keep up our fight against cancer. SB 149, which was approved by the House Public Health Committee last week, will ensure CPRIT operates in a transparent and accountable way in the future and that these issues will be solved. Thank you to everyone who has continued to support CPRIT during this time. I am looking forward to a bright future for the Institute.”
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 9th - 8:35 pm
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 9th - 10:36 am
Texas’ top Republican officials are weighing in this morning on President Obama’s visit to Central Texas. Their message: President Obama should take a hard look at the Texas economy and use it as a model for the rest of the nation.
President Obama is in Central Texas today to kick off his “Middle Class Jobs & Opportunity Tour.” The president will deliver remarks at Manor New Tech High School and Applied Materials. There is also speculation that he will make another private stop in Downtown Austin.
In an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman, Gov. Rick Perry took the opportunity to tout Texas’ economy and job creation and took some jabs at the president’s policies.
“The secret to our success is actually pretty simple, and I’ve shared the message around the country and around the world,” Perry said. “We keep our taxes low, our regulations reasonable and effective; we’ve implemented lawsuit abuse reforms and cultivated a world-class workforce. Are these decisions always easy? No, but like every American family, we make the tough choices and balance our budget. Hardworking taxpayers should expect no less than a limited and accountable government.”
Senators Ted Cruz and Attorney General Greg Abbott weigh in, after the jump.
May 8th - 9:14 pm
The odds for Medicaid expansion are shrinking.
Wednesday, House Democrats held a last-minute press conference to say that any chance of expanding the program under the Affordable Care Act is nearly dead.
Meanwhile, Texas lawmakers are scrambling to get support for a statewide law regulating payday lenders. Rep. Mike Villarreal joined us to talk about his effort to keep the measure alive.
Charter School Rally
The number of charter schools in Texas could drastically increase if legislation continues to move forward this session. Republican Sen. Dan Patrick spoke to hundreds of parents, teachers and students at a rally outside the Capitol Wednesday, vowing he’ll do everything he can to see the state pass its first major charter school bill since 2001.
The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about that issue and more. Click the logo below to watch the full episode.
Several deadlines are looming that could doom the chances of any bill not already scheduled for a House or Senate floor debate. We spoke with former Democratic State Senator Hector Uribe and former Republican State Representative Aaron Peña about the pressure that process brings.
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.
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 8th - 12:09 pm
Gov. Rick Perry is threatening to call a special session if lawmakers don’t find a way to cut $1.8 billion in taxes. He made those comments to reporters at the State Capitol today.
The governor’s remarks would indicate that the nearly $700 million in business tax cuts passed by the House yesterday aren’t enough to satisify his appetite for tax relief. He pointed out that there are still several more weeks for lawmakers to trim more from the budget.
Perry also stressed that the Legislature needs to find a way to fund water and infrastructure projects.
The Legislature is scheduled to leave Austin on May 27, unless Perry calls them back. If that happens, Gov. Perry can pile other priorities on their plate, if he chooses to do so.
May 7th - 10:00 pm
“Is there anything left in the treasury?” Dutton asked.
The answer, according to the state comptroller at least, is yes. But the question explains why the governor’s call for tax relief is shaping up to be one of the most contentious issues of the session.
House Bill 500 would lower the amount of tax most businesses pay to the state. It passed to third reading by a vote of 112-27, and with an estimated two-year price tag of $667 million. Throughout the night, Democrats argued the state should instead focus on restoring cuts to education.
“It takes a stupid tax policy and makes it stupider. It takes an arbitrary tax policy and makes it more arbitrary,” Rep. Mark Strama said.
The bill’s author says it’s about spurring job growth and taking advantage of a healthier revenue outlook, while evening the tax playing field.
“The small employers, the mom and pop businesses get relief in this bill, and their employees benefit because those businesses will be stronger as a result of this bill,” Rep. Harvey Hilderbran said.
Click the image below to hear more about the bill, along with expert analysis from James Quintero of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Dick Lavine with the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
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.