Daily Digest: June 28

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:

 

Unacceptable.

That’s the message health care advocates for children and the disabled are sending to their lawmakers in Washington. They rallied at the State Capitol Wednesday morning, urging senators not to make deep cuts to Medicaid as proposed in the GOP health care bill.

 

Many who showed up to rally say they’re worried about special needs kids. That’s because some have already lost critical therapy services since the state let $350 million in Medicaid cuts to speech, occupational and physical therapy take effect.

 

Children make up the majority of Medicaid recipients in Texas. Some Republican lawmakers argue that their version of the health care bill is necessary to put Medicaid on a sustainable path and give states more flexibility.

 

But some health care advocates say what’s currently happening in the state should be a wake-up call to what could happen nationwide.

 

“We’ve already seen families in Texas have lost support for their children because of cuts the Texas legislature made,” Peter Clark with Texans Care for Children said. “If the Senate health care bill passes, the cuts for Texans with disabilities would be much, much bigger.”

 

Coming up on Capital Tonight at 7, hear from the mother of a special needs child and why she fears what could happen under the Senate health care bill.

 

We’ll also be joined by Dr. Deane Waldman, director of the Center for Healthcare Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

 

Plus, our political analysts, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi, will be in with their take.

 

Posted by Karina Kling/Max Gorden

@KarinaKling

@Max_Gorden

 

Daily Digest: June 27

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:

 

Senate Republican leaders are working to rescue their health care bill as rebellious Republican opposition grows. Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than President Barack Obama’s law.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has been pushing for passage and took to Twitter Tuesday to respond to a tweet that said he was leaving the door open to delaying the Senate vote. “I am closing the door,” Cornyn tweeted. “We need to do it this week before double-digit premium increases are announced for next year.”

 

Our DC bureau reporter Alberto Pimienta will have the latest on the Senate standoff tonight at 7. Plus, we’ll be joined by Patrick Bresette, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, to discuss what the bill could mean for Texas children.

 

We’ll also be joined by Lawrence Sager, a constitutional theorist and former dean of UT-Austin’s Law School, to discuss how several Supreme Court decisions on religious freedom issues could affect Texas.

 

Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm and follow us @TXCapTonight.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

Daily Digest: June 26

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:

 

San Antonio is at the front lines of the fight against Senate Bill 4, the state’s new anti-sanctuary cities law. Protesters have been rallying outside the federal courthouse in San Antonio today as a judge is set to decide whether to temporarily halt the law.

Follow @VictoriaMaranan and @AleseU for updates.

 

The federal judge hearing arguments must decide whether to allow the law to take effect – or approve a preliminary injunction, which would halt the law while the court case plays out.

 

SB 4 would allow Police to ask people about their immigration status in a routine stop. It also seeks to punish cities and elected officials who refuse to comply with federal detainer requests.

 

Groups from El Paso, Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio each took to the podium during a rally before the hearing began and talked about how SB4 is already affecting their communities. San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller even led a prayer.

 

The ACLU of Texas said the fight against SB4 is just getting started.

 

“SB4 is an insult to our values and our freedom and everyone here who fears the effects of SB4 needs to know that we’re here with you and we’ll continue to fight until this racist and un-democratic law is dead,” Astrid Dominguez with the ACLU of Texas said.

 

Five Texas cities, including Austin and San Antonio, are suing the state. And last Friday, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest, siding with the state and backing the controversial law. Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit asking a federal court to declare SB4 constitutional. An Austin court is set to consider that request on Thursday.

 

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We’re also following several US Supreme Court decisions today including:

  1. Parts of the Trump administration’s controversial 90-day travel ban will be enforced as the Supreme Court waits to hear arguments on the case.
  2. Justices will consider whether a Colorado baker can refuse to make a wedding cake for same-sex couples — based on religious beliefs.
  3. The Supreme Court has ruled against a Texas death row inmate who said his lawyers failed to challenge a faulty jury instruction at his trial and on appeal.

 

The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg will also be joining us tonight. Watch Capital Tonight at 7 for the latest on these stories and more.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

DOJ files brief supporting Texas’ sanctuary cities ban

The US Department of Justice has officially filed a brief supporting Texas’ sanctuary cities ban. Earlier this week, an attorney with LULAC said a notice had been sent to the parties involved in the federal lawsuit challenging the state’s new immigration law indicating the Justice Department would back the state.

On Monday, a US district judge will hear the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop SB4 from going into effect as the case plays out in court.

 

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FILES STATEMENT OF INTEREST SIDING WITH TEXAS IN SB4 LITIGATION

 

WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in City of El Cenizo, Texas, et. al vs. Texas, et. al, commonly known as the SB4 litigation.

 

The lawsuit was filed by several cities trying to block Texas’s SB4 law, which prohibits localities in Texas from implementing or maintaining policies that prevent local officials from sharing immigration-related information with the federal government. Additionally, SB4 directs local officials in Texas to cooperate with immigration detainer requests issued by the federal government under federal law.

 

The Department primarily argues that SB4 is not preempted by the Supremacy Clause, it is not inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment, and it does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

 

In filing the Statement of Interest, Attorney General Sessions provided the following statement:

 

“President Trump has made a commitment to keep America safe and to ensure cooperation with federal immigration laws. Texas has admirably followed his lead by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes. 

 

“The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.”

Read the brief here.

 

Our reporter roundtable will weigh in on the latest with the case tonight at 7 on Capital Tonight.

 

Daily Digest: June 23

After a short hiatus, we’re bringing it back and getting this blog back on track.

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:

 

AP: SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s attorney general blocked state-funded travel to Texas and three other states on Thursday in response to what he considers anti-LGBT rights laws enacted this year.

Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra added Texas, Alabama, South Dakota and Kentucky to the list of places where state employee travel is restricted. Lawmakers passed legislation last year banning non-essential travel to states with laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are already on the list.

California taxpayers’ money “will not be used to let people travel to states who chose to discriminate,” Becerra said.

It’s unclear what practical effect California’s travel ban will have. The state law contains exemptions for some trips, such as travel needed to enforce California law and to honor contracts made before 2017. Travel to conferences or out-of-state trainings are examples of trips that could be blocked. Becerra’s office couldn’t provide information about how often state employees have visited the newly banned states.

Texas was added to the list because of a law that lets child welfare organizations deny services and adoptions to families because of “sincerely held religious beliefs” that Becerra’s office says would allow LGBT discrimination. Similar laws were enacted in Alabama and South Dakota. Kentucky’s new law could allow LGBT discrimination in schools, according to Becerra’s office.

“California may be able to stop their state employees, but they can’t stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation and relocating to Texas,” said John Wittman, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.

Fresno State, a public California university, is scheduled to play football against the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa this fall. A request for a legal opinion on whether public university sports’ travel is exempt from the ban has been filed with Becerra’s office, but no ruling has been issued.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s press office did not have an immediate comment.

 

Related?

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released this statement Friday morning:

AG Paxton: Recent Texas Relocation Report Shows Californians Top List of Those Flocking to Texas

AUSTIN—Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today released his assessment of the recent Texas Relocation Report, a study by the Texas Association of Realtors. In the report, Texas ranked second among states adding new residents from other states, based on the influx and outflow of people. Leading all states with the number of transplants to Texas was California. In 2015, the number of people leaving California for the Lone Star State was 65,546.

 

“The data in this report came as no surprise to Texans, especially those who have transplanted from California,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I talk to people almost every day who made the trek from California to Texas, and without fail, they tell me their move is due to either greater job opportunities, much lower-priced housing, an escape from a left-coast political climate, or just a better quality of culture and life.”

 

In the study, Texas ranked second among all states for the largest inflow of residents. In 2015, 553,032 people moved to Texas. Only Florida had more people moving to their state. As for states with the largest resident outflows, California and New York topped that list. California lost 643,710 people, edging out New York by nearly 200,000 residents looking to move elsewhere.

 

To view the Texas Relocation Report, click here: http://bit.ly/2i7PokG

 

Our Max Gorden will have the latest on the ban and relocation report tonight on Capital Tonight at 7.

 

We’ll also be joined by Texas Capitol Press Corps reporters Bob Garrett of the Dallas Morning News, Scott Braddock with the Quorum Report and Julian Aguilar of the Texas Tribune to get their take on the past week in Texas politics.

Lawmakers Clash as SB4 Protesters Descend on Capitol

Protesters from across the state came to the Texas Capitol Monday opposing a tough new immigration law that seeks to ban sanctuary cities in the state. They crowded into the Capitol and disrupted House proceedings to the point state troopers had to clear the public gallery.

 

During debate on the House floor the group dropped a sign reading “See you in court.”

 

Opponents call Texas’ anti-sanctuary cities law a “show me your papers” measure. Immigrants from Arizona and elsewhere also showed up urging grassroots resistance against the law, which is similar to a 2010 Arizona law that lets police inquire about a person’s immigration status even during routine interactions such as traffic stops.

 

Governor Abbott signed the measure into law earlier this month. Supporters say it’s about protecting Texans and enforcing the rule of law.

 

Even after police peacefully cleared the House gallery, tensions among lawmakers brewed. Several Democratic House members said Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, told a group of Hispanic lawmakers that he had called ICE on the protesters.

 

Rinaldi and Democrats then got in each other’s faces and had to be separated.

 

Rep. Rinaldi released the following statement:

“Today, Representative Poncho Nevarez threatened my life on the House floor after I called ICE on several illegal immigrants who held signs in the gallery which said ‘I am illegal and here to stay.’ Several Democrats encouraged the protestors to disobey law enforcement. When I told the Democrats I called ICE, Representative Ramon Romero physically assaulted me, and other Democrats were held back by colleagues. During that time Poncho told me that he would ‘get me on the way to my car.’ He later approached me and reiterated that ‘I had to leave at some point, and he would get me.’ I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self defense. I am currently under DPS protection. Several of my colleagues heard the threats made and witnessed Ramon assaulting me.”

 

This is a developing story.

 

Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm for the latest on the SB4 protest and the final day of the 85th Legislative Session.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

 

Abbott Says He’ll Decide on Special Session “Later this Week”

Governor Abbott has promised to make an announcement “later this week” on whether he will call a special session.

Monday is the last day of the regular session, but lawmakers are still in disagreement on property taxes and a so-called “bathroom bill” that would regulate which restroom transgender Texans can use.

Both are priorities of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick — and Abbott has also said he wants them passed.

Legislators have also not approved a so-called sunset bill needed to keep several state agencies open.

Abbott annouced his plans about the special session while signing HB 100 into law on Monday morning. The new law gives the state the ability to regulate ridehailing apps, like Uber and Lyft.

Senate Dismisses House “Sunset” Fix, Says Special Session Needed

UPDATE:

After Texas House members accused the Senate of “purposeful inaction,” Lt. Governor Dan Patrick shot back Sunday afternoon insisting the “Sunset” issue can only be resolved in a special session.

 

Patrick said the House didn’t complete its work, blaming Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, for acting slowly on legislation that is needed to keep five state agencies running, including the board that licenses the state’s doctors.

 

“They waited to do their entire session of work in the last 20 some days of session,” Patrick said.

 

Vice Chair of the Sunset Commission, Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, added the fix the House sent the Senate doesn’t work. He said the House’s version does not include 28 chapters of state licensing law that will also expire in September.

 

“Without these boards and without these statutes, you’re not going to have a doctor in the State of Texas,” Taylor said.

 

 

Patrick said the issue could be handled in two or three days in a special session.

 

 

EARLIER:

With the clock quickly ticking down to the end of the 85th Legislative Session, tensions between both chambers are at an all time high.

 

Texas House members Sunday called on the Senate to end the standoff over bathrooms and property taxes and pass a bill that would keep five state agencies from closing.

 

“The House has done its job on all matters sunset related,” Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, said. “It is the purposeful inaction by the Texas Senate that puts us where we are today.”

 

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has threatened to block a “Sunset bill” needed to avoid five agencies from expiring under the state’s Sunset Commission review process. By doing so, Patrick could force lawmakers into a special session even though the Governor is the only one with the power to call lawmakers back. Patrick wants the House to approve his top priorities dealing with bathroom regulations and property tax reform.

 

Governor Greg Abbott wants those measures approved, too, but has also said lawmakers can accomplish all of their work on time.

 

One of the agencies that would close if the Sunset bill does not pass is the Texas Medical Board, which licenses doctors.

 

“It is the Texas Senate who is playing games with the health and safety of the people of Texas,” Gonzales said.

 

This is a developing story. Lt. Governor Patrick is expected to respond at 4pm.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

 

 

Texas Lawmakers Approve $217 Billion Budget

Texas lawmakers gave overwhelming approval to a two-year state budget Saturday.

 

The $217 billion spending package is the only must-pass measure before the Legislature adjourns Monday.

 

One of the biggest sticking points had been whether to tap into the state’s savings account to help fill a $2.5 billion budget gap – or – delay dollars from the state’s highway fund. Lawmakers agreed to do both, using about $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and another $1.8 billion from an accounting trick related to transportation funding approved in 2015.

 

“This is a responsible budget that meets our essential needs,” Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound said. “It continues the policies of fiscal restraint that have shaped our success, and it positions Texas for a bright future.”

 

The budget maintains border security funding at $800 million. It also boosts funding for the state’s troubled child welfare system providing an additional $508 million for child protection.

 

“We started with a sizable shortfall, but we are ending this session with a balanced budget that invests in some very important priorities,” House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a statement. “We’re keeping overall spending low while improving child protection and mental health care.”

 

But lawmakers put little new money into public schools.

 

Higher education also took a hit – but for now maintains a program known as special items.

 

Another highlight includes the film incentives program which lawmakers once zeroed out. The program ended up coming away with some funding for the next two years.

 

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling

School Finance, “School Choice” Bill is Back

The Texas Senate on Saturday decided to give House Bill 21, the school finance and school vouchers bill, another look. Earlier this week, the legislation had been declared dead.

 

But without much discussion, Senators appointed a special committee to hash out the differences in the bill with members of the House. The House had already appointed conferees.

 

“To give us some more time to think about the loss of funding that a lot of districts are going to have if this doesn’t go through,” Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswoord said. “We’re starting to hear from some of the districts that are going to be adversely impacted by this loss of funding.”

 

HB21 originally aimed to pump $1.6 billion additional dollars into public schools. The school finance package increased annual, per-student funding as well as spending for school transportation and educating dyslexic students.

 

But the Senate reduced the plan to about half its worth and offered some special education students vouchers, which allow for using state funding to attend private schools.

 

The House on Wednesday rejected those changes and voted to convene a conference committee to seek compromise before the legislative session ends Monday. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick responded by declaring the bill dead.

 

While it’s been revived, Sen. Taylor said Saturday the odds of reaching a compromise between both chambers is still “slim.”

 

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled the school finance system barely constitutional, though deeply flawed.

 

Posted by Karina Kling

@KarinaKling