Archive for December, 2012

Tonight on Capital Tonight: Speaker Straus weighs in on CPRIT

A sit down with House Speaker Straus

The state’s top cancer research funding agency has agreed to stop awarding grants until it addresses concerns raised over its practices. Texas House Speaker Joe Straus was among top state officials who requested that Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas impose a moratorium on future awards. Tonight, he sits down with Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown to talk about that decision. He’ll also discuss how the legislature should handle last week’s school shooting in Newtown, CT and his approach to education in the upcoming legislative session.

 

CPRIT officials face house committee

Speaker Straus isn’t the only lawmaker focusing on CPRIT this week. A house appropriations committee is set to take up the issue, today. So far, no lawmakers have discussed cutting the agency’s budget, despite scrutiny over an $11 million dollar grant that was awarded to a private company, with no scientific review. Lawmakers are hearing testimony from several CPRIT officials this afternoon. We’ll have a live update from the State Capitol, tonight.

 

LBJ Library Sneak Peek

After a yearlong renovation, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential library will officially have its grand reopening, tomorrow. Tonight, we’ll take you on a sneak peek preview tour of some of the newest exhibits.

 

State cancer research grants on hold, for now

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas says it will comply with a request from state leaders for a moratorium on grants until concerns about the agency are addressed.

Earlier today, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus sent a letter to the agency, asking it to halt the distribution of grants until it evaluates its processes and operations.

CPRIT is currently the subject of three investigations. Most recently, the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity unit announced it was investigating an $11 million grant awarded to the Dallas-based Peleton Therapeutics. An independent audit found CPRIT awarded the grant without the required scientific review.

CPRIT Committee Chairman Jimmy Mansour and Vice Chairman Joseph S. Bailes issued this statement in response to the moratorium request:

“The CPRIT Oversight Committee agrees with and endorses the call by Governor Perry, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and House Speaker Straus for a moratorium on CPRIT grants until concerns about the agency are addressed. These issues need to be resolved to restore public confidence in CPRIT.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Wendy Davis is proposing to reform the agency. In an open letter to Gov. Perry, Sen. Davis asked that he add CPRIT reform to his list of legislation to be tackled first thing, in January. Those reforms include evaluating whether private donors should “be allowed to supplement the salaries of the agencies’ employees, particularly where those donors have an interest in the awarding of those funds.”

State leaders call for moratorium on CPRIT grants

Just hours after Sen. Wendy Davis announced proposed legislation to reform the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the state’s top three lawmakers are called a moratorium future grants.

In a letter to the state agency’s oversight committee, Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus are called on CPRIT to “fully address concerns that have been raised about its organization before any future grants are awarded.”

CPRIT is currently the subject of three investigations. Most recently, the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity unit announced it was investigating an $11 million grant awarded to the Dallas based Peleton Theraputics. An independent audit found CPRIT awarded the grant without the required scientific review.

State leaders are now calling on the agency to cooperate with the current reviews and implement recommended changes to its practices before any more grants are awarded.

Sen. Davis calls for CPRIT reform as emergency item

Sen. Wendy Davis announced Wednesday she intends to file legislation to reform the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Davis is calling on Gov. Rick Perry to make the legislation an emergency item for the coming session.

The state agency, which launched in 2009, is the subject of several investigations.

A September internal audit of 14 funded companies raised questions over an $11 million dollar Peloton grant. The grant was approved despite the fact Peloton was a “start-up” company without a management team. The records show a “lack of documents available for review.”

Now, the State Attorney General’s office and the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit are investigating the agency. So far, the DA’s office has not made any specific criminal allegations.

In an open letter to Gov. Perry, Sen. Davis asked that he add CPRIT reform to his list of legislation to be tackled first thing, in January. Those reforms include evaluating whether private donors should “be allowed to supplement the salaries of the agencies’ employees, particularly where those donors have an interest in the awarding of those funds.”

Davis is also proposing changes in the law to make the agency more transparent in an effort to avoid cronyism. In a separate letter to Comptroller Susan Combs, Davis requested the agency’s audits be posted on the comptroller’s website.

Craddick to start Railroad Commissioner term early

Railroad Commissioner-elect Christi Craddick will begin her term a few weeks early. Gov. Rick Perry appointed her today to fill the remainder of Commissioner Buddy Garcia’s term.

Garcia was appointed to the Commission earlier this year. He took over for Elizabeth Ames Jones, when she resigned for an unsuccessful run at state senate. Garcia did not run for the seat in November and stepped down from that post, last week.

In November, Craddick beat democrat Warren Chisum to secure the post. As per Gov. Perry’s appointment, she will take over the seat immediately and will serve a six year term.

Texas leaders weigh in on DeMint departure

Republican Tea Party leader Sen. Jim DeMint announced Wednesday he will step down, effective Dec. 31. He will take over as president of the heritage Foundation. DeMint has represented South Carolina in congress since 2004. His term was not set to expire until 2016.

Sen. John Cornyn issued this statement, Wednesday.

“Throughout his career Jim has been a tireless warrior for conservative principles and a passionate advocate for limited government in Congress and across America. I congratulate Jim and look forward to continuing to work with him as we fight for the causes and beliefs that we as conservatives hold dear.”

Sen.-elect Ted Cruz also issued a statement congratulating DeMint. He said:

"Jim DeMint is a friend, and hero, and a patriot. In the modern era, no other person has had a greater impact reshaping the U.S. Senate, helping bring Republicans back to our conservative roots. Sen. DeMint’s move to Heritage is a sign of the conservative movement’s strength and confirms that Heritage will remain an intellectual powerhouse for decades to come."

Gov. Rick Perry also weighed in on DeMint’s announcement, calling it loss for the Senate, but a win for the Heritage Foundation. In an email statement, he said:

Although the Senate will be losing a principled, effective advocate for freedom, his forthcoming role at Heritage will strengthen conservative influence across our country. He will be a powerful voice on behalf of all who care about our nation, limited government and traditional values, and will empower even more Americans to fight for those causes, preserving the intent that our founding fathers had for this great country.”

Tonight on Capital Tonight: State subsidies, charter schools and the legislative session

United States of Subsidies

A New York Times series is exploring the incentive programs states use to entice companies to the state. At $19 billion a year, Texas doles out more incentives than any other state; but at what price? Tonight, we talk to Investigative Reporter Louise Story about her research and the impact those incentives are having on local school districts.

The state of charter schools

Charter schools have been an alternative in Texas since the mid 1990′s. While they can offer education alternatives, they are tightly regulated by the state. Tonight, Capital Tonight’s Sebastian Robertson takes a closer look at ways some lawmakers are looking to change that, this coming session.

Capital Commentators

Our Capital Commentators will join us in the studio to talk about the buzz heading into the legislative session and to break down the issues likely to take center stage. We’ll also revisit redistricting, as the legal action ramps up in federal court and the US Supreme Court considers taking on a challenge to the Voting Rights Act.