Archive for October, 2012

Lawmakers mourn passing of Sen. Mario Gallegos, Jr.

State lawmakers are remembering a longtime state Senator who they said was firm in his beliefs and resolute in his spirit. Democratic Sen. Mario Gallegos, Jr. of Houston, who served close to 22 years in the legislature, died Tuesday from complications from a liver transplant. "Capital Tonight’s" Harold Cook, who serves as a spokesperson for the family, said Gallegos was surrounded by his family in a Houston hospital. He was 62.

Gallegos is well known for returning to the State Capitol shortly after his liver transplant in 2007 to vote against a voter ID law.

"He ignored a doctor’s call to return to Houston for treatment and remained in Austin and the Capitol, often in a hospital bed off the Senate floor, to fight and prevent legislation that would screen and suppress the votes and voices of the people Mario protected. He stopped that legislation that year, and its subsequent passage doesn’t lessen his heroism –it reinforces it," the Democratic Caucus wrote in a press release.

Republican lawmakers are also remembering Gallegos, especially his devotion to his constituents and his family.

"Senator Mario Gallegos was a devoted public servant who proudly represented the people of Senate District 6 for the last 17 years. I’ve seen with my own eyes the love and friendship lavished upon him by his family, friends and fellow firefighters. He was a friend and colleague to all the Senators and myself, and he will be dearly missed by all of us. Tricia and I send our deepest condolences to his wife, Theresa, and the entire Gallegos family. They will be in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," Lt. Governor David Dewhurst said in a press release.

Governor Perry ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff.

"Whether serving as a firefighter, championing his beloved University of Houston or representing the interests of his constituents in the Texas Legislature, Sen. Gallegos led a life of serving the public. Anita and I send our condolences and prayers to his family and friends during this difficult time," Gov. Perry said in a statement.

Services for the Senator are pending. He will be buried in Houston. Gallegos was running against Republican R.W. Bray in the November general election. It is too late to remove his name from the ballot, and should he win a special election will be called by the governor.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tonight on Capital Tonight: Dissecting the debate with Neal Spelce

Dissecting the debate

Capital Tonight host Paul Brown sat down earlier today with former Austin broadcaster and presidential debate coach Neal Spelce to talk about last night’s Presidential showdown. Among Spelce’s observations, he says Jim Lehrer ‘blew it’ as a moderator. Spelce helped coach John McCain and Sarah Palin for the 2008 presidential and vice presidential debates.

The state of the US Senate race

Unlike the last night’s presidential debate, Tuesday’s US Senate match-up spurred headlines not for its substance, but for its fire. Our Capital Commentators will join us at the roundtable to talk about what, if any, impact it will have on the outcome of the November election.

Inside the Perry presidential campaign

All of Texas watched as Governor Rick Perry shot to the front of the pack of presidential candidates in the primary election. And his constituents at home looked on as the ‘Oops’ heard round the nation signaled the ultimate demise of his campaign. Tonight, we’ll be joined live in studio by Texas Tribune reporter Jay Root, author of Oops! A Diary from the Campaign Trail, for some insight into what may have caused his candidacy to crumble.

Patrick appointment stirs controversy; signals legislative voucher battle

Today’s committee chair shuffle is ruffling some feathers at the Texas State Teachers’ Association. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced today that Sen. Dan Patrick would chair the education committee. TSTA President Rita Haecker is calling on the Senate to block the appointment.

The TSTA’s has been highly critical of Patrick’s support for a school voucher system; which is expected to be a major battle in the upcoming legislative session. The program would reimburse parents who send their children to private schools. Patrick has touted school choice as a way to save the state money and offer more choices for low income students. Opponents, however, say vouchers make for-profit education rich, with little regard to standards.

In a statement today, Haecker said Patrick’s plan is "is out of touch with the majority of Texans who want real solutions for students and educators who have been forced by historic education cuts to work in crowded classrooms with inadequate resources."

You can read Haecker’s full statement, below:

“We are hopeful that the Senate majority will not allow the appointment of Sen. Dan Patrick as Chairman of the Senate Education Committee to turn undue attention to a privatization sideshow that does not address the needs of the overwhelming majority of Texas students.

“Senator Patrick’s priority, private school vouchers, is out of touch with the majority of Texans who want real solutions for students and educators who have been forced by historic education cuts to work in crowded classrooms with inadequate resources.

“Instead of trying to enrich private school operators with tax dollars, the Legislature should expand public educational opportunities for all Texas children. And, the place to start is by restoring the $5.4 billion that was cut from public schools last session, restoring the 25,000 lost school jobs and reducing the size of thousands of overcrowded classrooms.

“Texas families demand a first class public education system, because that is where the vast majority of children will continue to be educated. Wasting time and tax dollars on a narrow, ideological political agenda is not what Texans deserve.”

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst announces Senate Committee chairs

The 83rd Texas Legislative session starts in just a couple of months.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst announced the Senate Committee Chair appointments Thursday. He says the positions match each member’s specific talents.

Here’s the full list, from Dewhurst’s office:

Senator Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) appointed Chair of the Senate Committee on Higher Education. He recently served as Chair of the Senate Committee on Redistricting.

Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Transportation, succeeding Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) who was recently appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance.

Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Government Organization.

Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Open Government.

Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security,

Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) has been appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Education. Sen. Patrick succeeds Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) who announced her retirement from the Texas Senate in September 2011.

Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa (D-McAllen) is appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations.

Senator Glenn Hegar (R-Katy) is appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Nominations.

Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence.

Senator Bob Deuell (R-Greenville) is appointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development. This position was formerly filled by Sen. Mike Jackson (R-La Porte).

Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) will serve as Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, succeeding Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) who announced his retirement following the 82nd Legislature.

Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) has been reappointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.

Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) has been reappointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on State Affairs.

Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) is reappointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.

Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) is reappointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources after previously serving as Chair of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce.

Senator Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) is reappointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Administration.

Senator John Whitmire (D-Houston) is reappointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice.

Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) is reappointed as Chair of the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military Installations.