Archive for October, 2012

Sadler makes final plea in first TV ad

In his first TV ad, Paul Sadler touts his newspaper endorsements and his work in the Texas Legislature, and calls his opponent Ted Cruz extreme.

"I’ve been endorsed by newspapers in Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, San Antonio, partly because of my work for you, and partly because Ted Cruz is the most extreme Senate candidate in Texas history," Sadler says in the ad.

He also lists his accolades and awards, including winning Top Legislator, and his ability to work with Republicans.

You can see the ad for yourself here:

Mr. Sadler will be a guest on "Capital Tonight" this Thursday at 7 p.m.

Court rules Planned Parenthood will receive federal funds; future still uncertain

A Friday evening court ruling guarantees Planned Parenthood will continue to receive funding through the Women’s Health Program, at least through November 8. Attorneys for Planned Parenthood and the state convened in Travis County District court Friday, after Planned Parenthood sued the state over its "Affiliate Ban Rule." They argued that the rules, enacted by the Health and Human Services Commission, violate state law.

At the heart of the issue is a move by the Texas Legislature in 2011 to further clarify a provision in the law governing the Medicaid Women’s Health Program. The Republican-led legislature reauthorized the law and further clarified the rules, moving to exclude organizations affiliated with abortion providers from receiving state subsidies. By excluding those providers, the state lost $40 million in federal funding to the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

The lawsuit filed today cites Chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code, which Planned Parenthood says authorizes the Women’s Health Program "subject to approval from the federal government." It argues the Health and Human Services Commission was "not authorized by the Texas Legislature to adopt the Affiliate Ban Rule because it makes the Women’s Health Program ineligible for federal funding."

In court Friday evening, attorneys on both sides argued for about half an hour. District Judge Amy Clark Meachum considered the arguments and ultimately issued a temporary restraining order. That order will remain in effect at least until the next hearing, which is scheduled for Nov. 8.

The state, meanwhile, insists that it will move forward as planned with its own 100-percent, state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program, on Nov. 1. Commissioner Kyle Janek said Friday that HHSC is sending brochures to all current Women’s Health Program clients that explain how to find a clinic in the new program. In an email statement, he said “We’re going to offer women as much help as they need to find a provider."

During a conference call Friday night, Planned Parenthood Vice President of Community Affairs, Sarah Wheat, clarified that the temporary restraining order strictly prevents the state from excluding Planned Parenthood from the original program. It does not, however, address the state’s plan to move forward with its own version.

Karina Kling took a look at the long legal battle between Texas and Planned Parenthood. She filed the below report.

Perry criticizes Planned Parenthood lawsuit

Gov. Rick Perry is weighing in on a lawsuit filed today by Planned Parenthood over the state’s "Affiliate Rules Ban." He accused the organization of being "more concerned about its own interests than those of Texas women." His full statement is below.

“If there was ever any doubt that Planned Parenthood is more concerned about its own interests than those of Texas women, there is no longer. Having lost on its constitutional claims, Planned Parenthood has now turned to Travis County judges in a desperate effort to find some way to keep making money off Texas taxpayers. In Texas, we’ve chosen to protect innocent life. We will keep fighting for life, and we will ultimately prevail.”

Planned Parenthood sues over ‘Affiliate Ban Rule’

There is a new development today in the legal battle over funding for Planned Parenthood. The organization is suing over the state’s "Affiliate Ban Rule."

Planned Parenthood argues the rule is invalid under state law. The suit comes one day after a federal appeals court denied Planned Parenthood’s appeal of a ruling excluding it from the Women’s Health Program.

At the heart of the issue is a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011. The Women’s Health Program was formed in 2005 to provide women’s health services to low-income women who would not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.

The program did not include using taxpayer money to fund clinics that provided abortions. Last year, lawmakers took the measure a step further when it reauthorized the law and banned organizations affiliated with abortion providers from receiving state subsidies. By excluding those providers, the state lost $40 million in federal funding to the Medicaid Women’s Health Program.

The lawsuit filed today cites Chapter 32 of the Texas Human Resources Code, which Planned Parenthood says authorizes the Women’s Health Program "subject to approval from the federal government."

It argues the Health and Human Services Commission was "not authorized by the Texas legislature to adopt the Affiliate Ban Rule because it makes the Women’s Health Program ineligible for federal funding."

Planned Parenthood has a separate lawsuit pending in federal court. That case deals with the constitutionality of the state law banning abortion provider affiliates from receiving funding. Planned Parenthood claims the statute violates its First Amendment right to free speech.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Greg Abbott has also filed a separate lawsuit against the federal government. He filed that suit after the federal government cut off funding to the Women’s Health Program following the state’s decision to exclude Planned Parenthood clinics from participating.

Abbott argues that the state has a right to determine who receives federal medicaid funding and asked the government to restore the money. In the meantime, the state plans to move forward with funding the program on its own.

This evening on Capital Tonight: Clinton visits Texas and a sit down with Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Clinton visits Texas

Former President Bill Clinton is in Texas, today. He’s stumping for state democrats in San Antonio and Beaumont. His first stop is to lend his support to Pete Gallego, who is locked in a tight race against against Republican Rep. Francisco Canseco in the 23rd Congressional district. Our Sebastian Roberston will have an update from the campaign event.

A candidate conversation

Rep. Lloyd Doggett is running for the first time in the 35th Congressional district. The longtime Austin representative has been spending a lot of time in San Antonio, introducing himself to his new constituents. Doggett sat down with our Paul Brown this week to talk about health care, the deficit and the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

Doggett is running against Republican Susan Narvaiz. She was a guest on our show, last week. You can see her interview, here.

Capital Commentators

Early voting is underway and the Presidential candidates are making their final pitch to undecided voters. Republican strategist Ted Delisi and Democratic strategist will join us live in the studio tonight to talk about the latest poll numbers and the closer legislative races, here at home. We’ll also be joined by Harvey Kronberg from the Quorum Report.

New Cruz ad highlights family story

Republican candidate for Senate Ted Cruz is out with a new television ad. The :30 second spot is called "American Dream," and starts airing, today. In it, Cruz talks about his father’s journey from Cuba to Texas, and promises to fight to protect the American dream.

Cruz faces Democrat Paul Sadler in the Nov. 6 election. The latest poll, conducted by the Sadler campaign, puts Cruz in the lead by 17 points.

You can watch Cruz’s new TV ad, below:

Texas appeals redistricting ruling

Texas is appealing a district court ruling rejecting the state’s redistricting maps. The Attorney General’s Office formally filed the appeal to the Supreme Court, Friday.

Among its arguments, the state claims there is no evidence that the state intentionally drew discriminatory maps. Attorney General Greg Abbott accuses the court of relying on circumstantial evidence focused on party affiliation, rather than race. The brief also argues there is "no direct evidence" the Texas legislature was motivated by "a discriminatory purpose."

Under the voting rights act, Texas is required to have any changes to election law precleared by either the Department of Justice, or the district court. Abbott opted to submit the maps directly to the court, rather than the DOJ. The brief filed today also includes a request that the court consider the constitutionality of Section 5 of that act.

The Supreme Court will now have to decide if it will hear the case. In the meantime, interim maps drawn up by a three-judge panel in San Antonio will be used in the November 6 election. If Abbott’s appeal is granted, the maps drawn up last session will be used until the next census. If it is denied, the state legislature will take up redistricting once again when the session convenes in January.

Attorney General Abbott released this statement, today:

"The State of Texas is appealing this case because the lower court improperly extended the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits imposed by the Constitution and created new standards that have never been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. The maps enacted by the Texas Legislature satisfy all necessary legal requirements, so the judges in Washington, D.C. simply created new requirements in an attempt to justify their rejection of Texas’ maps. In order to ensure the Texas Legislature’s maps apply to the next election cycle, the State is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and override the lower court’s flawed decision during the Court’s current term."

Here is the full brief:

Texas Women’s Health Program rules released

Rules governing the new Texas Women’s Health Program will take effect, November 1st. Today, Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek released the guidelines.

There are some changes to the original rules that were being discussed. In its rules released today, the commission decided it would allow doctors to talk to their patients about abortion, as long as they are providing "neutral, factual information and nondirective counseling." They can provide patients with abortion providers information and phone numbers, as long as the doctors don’t contact the provider directly.

The new rules also go further to define exactly what qualifies as an "abortion affiliate." The commission requires that a clinic maintain "physical and financial separation" from any abortion provider. They also must have a separate governing board and cannot share any funds.

The formation of the Texas Women’s Health Program comes on the heels of the state’s decision to cut 40-million dollars in federal funding to the Medicaid Women’s Health Program and fund it on its own. At the heart of the issue is a state law banning tax payer money to any organization associated with an abortion provider.

By excluding those providers, the state lost federal funding; which paid for 90 percent of the Women’s Health Program. The program is designed to provide health care screenings to low income women. The decision excluded several Planned Parenthood clinics, which did not provide abortions, on the basis that they are affiliated with clinics that do. They sued the state. That case is still pending. However, their funding is set to dry up on November 1.

Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas CEO Kenneth Lambrecht released this statement in response to the new "Affiliate Ban Rules":

“Once and for all, we implore Texas to put politics aside and put women’s health first. The Women’s Health Program and Planned Parenthood have worked together to provide women with essential health services, including cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams, for the past five years.

There is no sound reason Texas should jeopardize this important program by cutting off access to the health care provider relied on by nearly half of the women receiving preventive health services in the program. It is shocking that state officials would rather end low-income women’s access to family planning and preventive health services altogether than allow Planned Parenthood to provide these vital health services to women who choose to come to Planned Parenthood for care.

Planned Parenthood is exploring every option available to protect the health of the more than 100,000 women who rely on the Women’s Health Program. Our top priority is ensuring women in Texas have access to high quality, affordable health care. We wish politicians in Austin shared this commitment to Texas women, their health, and their wellbeing.”

The complete rules and changes are below:

Abbott applauds ruling in cheerleader bible verse case

Updated to add a statement from Gov. Rick Perry

Cheerleaders in East Texas can continue to carry their bible-verse banners on the football field, for now. A judge ruled today that a school district decision banning the cheerleaders from quoting the bible violates their rights to free speech. He issued a temporary restraining order, while the lawsuit goes to trial.

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.

Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott had both supported the cheerleaders, and Abbott announced Wednesday that he would intervene in the lawsuit. He argued that since the cheerleaders paid for and made the banners themselves, they qualified as free speech.

Abbott released this statement, following today’s ruling:

Today’s decision is an important victory for the cheerleaders’ freedom of religion. The Constitution has never demanded that students check their religious beliefs at the schoolhouse door. Students’ ability to express their religious views adds to the diversity of thought that has made this country so strong. Texas law supports students’ right to freely express their religious beliefs without discrimination. We will not allow groups or individuals to wage a war on religion by trying to intimidate students into embracing a secular mindset.

Governor Perry released this statement:

“Today’s ruling is a victory for all who cherish our inalienable right to freedom of speech and religious expression. I am proud of the cheerleaders at Kountze ISD for standing firm in the knowledge of these endowed rights and their willingness to be an example in defending those rights, which a secular group has needlessly tried to take away.

“I commend Attorney General Abbott for intervening in their case and will continue working with him and other state leaders to protect people of all religious backgrounds and ensure all Texans have the right to voice their opinions and worship as they choose.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tonight on Capital Tonight: Immigration and the presidential race

Immigration and the presidential race

Immigration is one of the central issues in this presidential election and the two candidates have vastly different positions. President Obama has been criticized for failing to deliver on his 2008 promise for comprehensive immigration reform. Romney, meanwhile, has taken heat for calling on undocumented workers to "self-deport" and his vow to veto the DREAM act. Tonight, our Washington DC Bureau reporter Erin Billups will take a closer look at the candidates plans and how they would implement them if elected.

The race for US House District 35

Longtime Congressman Lloyd Doggett is hoping to win reelection in a new district. Redistricting forced Doggett out of his current district, and into one that includes parts of both Austin and San Antonio. He is facing former San Marcos mayor Susan Narvaiz, who is running on a platform of sensible spending cuts and a fair tax policy. She will join our Paul Brown tonight to talk more about why voters should send her to Washington. Congressman Doggett, meanwhile, will be a guest later this month.

Capital Commentators

This week, there is renewed chatter about Governor Rick Perry’s future plans; and as the election nears, we are looking at the future make up of the Texas Legislature. As always, our Capital Commentators will join us at the round table to break it all down.