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.
May 1st - 8:32 pm
It was two weeks ago that a massive fertilizer plant explosion forever changed the small city of West, Texas. The fire and the subsequent blast have raised questions about safety and state regulations. Wednesday, lawmakers looked for answers to some of those questions during a Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee meeting.
The Cancer Prevention and Research Agency has taken a lot of heat this session, but there’s one group standing by the agency’s goals and touting the good work it has done. Grant recipients who benefited the most from the state’s cancer fighting agency defended it Wednesday at a House committee hearing dealing with CPRIT overhaul.
Few people know what a point of order is, but it can be used to kill even the biggest bill, including a measure to fund the state’s water prevention plan that died on the House floor Monday.
We spoke to former Democratic State Senator Hector Uribe and Former Republican State Representative Aaron Peña about the art of the technicality.
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 30th - 7:51 pm
Planning for Growth
The need to fund water infrastructure has been at the forefront of the legislative session this year, especially with the growing population in Texas. A plan to draw out $2 billion from the Rainy Day Fund failed to pass Monday, but Gov. Perry said lawmakers can expect to be in session until they find a resolution.
A bill passed out of committee Tuesday that would allow students to store their licensed concealed handgun in their vehicle on campus. Lawmakers said they want to give students the same rights that others have.
The house voted Tuesday to make changes to standardized tests for fourth and seventh grades. The changes include removing the standardized writing test and limiting the time needed to take the required tests.
Texans Advocating for Meaningful Student Assessment is one of the grass roots groups supporting the changes. Joanne Salazar joined Paul Brown to discuss their campaign and the changes they hope to bring about.
Harold Cook and Steve Munisteri sat down with Paul Brown to discuss the day’s political news, including the Rainy Day Fund and Battleground Texas.
The Transparency Committee is continuing its look into CPRIT, and a bill that will make changes to the embattled agency is headed to the House.
Apr 30th - 2:42 pm
The day after a bill to fund the state’s water plan failed on a point of order, House Speaker Joe Straus’ office released a statement reaffirming his commitment to finding a solution.
“Speaker Straus will not let a technicality seal the debate on water and remains committed to working with Appropriators, Members of the House and stakeholders to ensure funding for the state water plan this session,” the statement said.
Straus has made water infrastructure a priority since the start of session, calling it a key factor in the state’s potential for economic growth.
House Bill 11, which would have put $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund toward the state’s water plan, was pulled from the House floor Monday on a point of order. Democrats raised the technicality in an effort to get more money for public education.
The funding could still come through other means, however. House Bill 19 lays out a similar plan, and the Senate has passed a resolution that would fund water and transportation through a constitutional amendment.
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 29th - 12:44 pm
Texas Rep. Peter King (R-Weatherford) is renewing his call for Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s resignation. Lehmberg is currently serving jail time after pleading to drunk driving charges earlier this month. Police documents show her blood alcohol limit was nearly three times the legal limit. Video footage taken at the time of Lehmberg’s arrest shows she was combative and uncooperative while in custody. Lehmberg has said she intends to continue as district attorney when she has served her time.
The case has the attention of state lawmakers because the Travis County DA is also responsible for running the Public Integrity Unit. That is the office in charge of investigating government corruption and ethics complaints.
Rep. King adressed the issue on the floor, Friday, calling for Lehmberg to step down. Today, he renewed that call, saying “Anyone can make a mistake, but the belligerence Ms. Lehmberg showed to the police officers and jail personnel was extraordinary. The public should go on-line and review these recordings.”
Not everyone agrees that Lehmberg should lose her job. More than 100 local attorneys, calling themselves “Friends of Rosemary,” signed on to a brief supporting Lehmberg’s decision to stay on as the county’s chief prosecutor.
Apr 26th - 7:25 pm
Paul Brown sat down with Reeve Hamilton from the Texas Tribune, Ryan Poppe from Texas Public Radio and Christy Hoppe from the Dallas Morning News to recap the weeks events in the Capitol, including the Lottery Commission and the Rainy Day Fund.
Helping Women Worldwide
Paul Brown spoke to Charity Wallace earlier this week at the Bush Library dedication.
Wallace serves as the director of the Women’s Initiative at the Bush Institute and was Chief of Staff for First Lady Laura Bush.
Apr 25th - 8:42 pm
The George W. Bush Presidential Center was officially dedicated Thursday morning on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Bush was joined by the other living presidents, along with a crowd of thousands, all there to pay tribute to the Bush years.
Inside the Museum
While the public won’t be able to see the inside of the library until next week, the Capital Tonight team was able to get an early look.
After the dedication ceremony, President Obama and the First Lady traveled to Waco, where thousands gathered to pay tribute to the first responders killed in the West fertilizer plant explosion.
Click the image below to see Thursday night’s full episode, including thoughts from Sen. Ted Cruz, Bush Center Director Alan Lowe and our Capital Commentators.
Apr 25th - 9:12 am
Our Capital Tonight crew will be updating this slideshow from the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, throughout the day.