Archive for January, 2013

Cruz introduces “Obamacare” repeal bill; admits it won’t pass

Sen. Ted Cruz is making good on a campaign promise.  Today, he introduced a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

Cruz admits, however, the Obama adminsitration’s health care law will likely remain on the books.

In an email statement, he said:

“Unfortunately, this bill will not pass in the current Congress, but I will continue working hard until we have the votes to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.  Obamacare was passed over the strong opposition of the American people, and it has already driven up the cost of health insurance and caused employers to drop their coverage.”

This is the first bill Sen. Cruz has filed since taking office in January.  It has 32 co-sponsors, including fellow Texan, Sen. John Cornyn.

 

PPP Poll: Are Texans ready for a new governor?

Have Texans had enough of Gov. Rick Perry?  If a new Public Policy Polling survey is to be believed, possibly. 

According to the poll, just 31% of voters think Gov. Perry should run again next year.  That’s compared to 62% who think it’s time for him to step aside.

 

 

 

The news is worse, should he face a primary challenge from Attorney General Greg Abbott.  In a hypothetical matchup, Perry would eke out a win by a 41/38 margin.  The poll points out that Abbott doesn’t have the name recognition Perry does, and the numbers would likely tip further should Abbott formally throw his hat in the ring.

Perry and Abbott have been mum on their future election plans.  Both have said they would let the voters know what they’ve decided, after the legislative session.  As it stands now, though, Abbott is out-raising Perry.  According to filings with the Texas Ethics Commisson, Perry has just over $6 million, compared to Abbott’s $18 million.  Under Texas law, they can’t raise any more money until after the legislative session.

 

Live-blogging the governor’s State of the State address

Gov. Rick Perry is set to give his seventh State of the State address today, in front of a joint session of the Texas House and Senate. Join us here for live updates from the speech starting at 11 a.m.

11:43 a.m. The governor’s State of the State speech has ended and the Senate has adjourned until tomorrow morning. Tune in to the show tonight to hear Democrats’ and Republicans’ responses.

11:36 a.m.: Gov. Perry calls for a “four-year tuition freeze” for incoming college freshmen, suggests tying at least 10 percent of state funding to number of graduates.

11:35 a.m.: As far as higher education, the governor continues to tout his idea for a $10,000 degree, which he says 13 Texas universities have announced plans to institute.

11:31 a.m.: We’re now on to education: “The way forward must involve more public charter schools,” Gov. Perry says. “It’s also time to introduce a scholarship programs that give students a choice, especially those who are locked into low-performing schools.”

11:29 a.m.: Gov. Perry now formally supports a one-time withdrawal from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for “infrastructure programs.” The number he gives is $3.7 billion, though it’s not clear how much of that would be for water, and how much for roads and transportation.

11:26 a.m.: The man was led out of the chamber, along with a group of similarly dressed people. The same group could be seen demonstrating outside the Capitol this morning, shouting “No-care Perry!”

11:23 a.m.: A man in the gallery just stood up and interrupted the governor with a comment on healthcare. “I didn’t know there would be that much excitement about tax relief,” Perry replied.

11:22 a.m.: We’re getting into a little more substance now. The governor is calling for a “stronger constitutional limit on spending growth, ensuring it never grows more than the combined rate of inflation and population.” Other concrete proposals: making franchise tax exemption for small business permanent, end the practice of using specific fees for “anything other than the the purpose for which they were intended.”

11:20 a.m.: Gov. Perry says this year’s higher revenue estimate “confirms we made the right decision” last session.

11:15 a.m.: Gov. Perry is laying out examples of companies that have grown in Texas, including Houston’s Green Plate Kitchen, XCOR Aerospace, SpaceX and Blue Origin.

11:11 a.m.: “There are those who insist our job creation doesn’t mean much, because they say we are only creating entry-level, low-paying jobs. The truth is, we are creating all kinds of jobs — low paying, medium paying and high paying,” Gov. Perry says.

11:07 a.m.: Gov. Perry takes the podium, thanks Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, his parents and his wife.

11 a.m.: Senate members have now been formally admitted to the House chamber, led by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Aides for the governor have handed out his prepared remarks. We can tell you without spoiling much that the state of the State will be declared “stronger than ever.”

10:54 a.m.: Lawmakers are still filing in to the House floor. A hard start time of 11 a.m. is looking unlikely.


 

 

Capital Tonight: Lawmakers respond to immigration reform plan

Click on the link at the bottom of this post to watch Wednesday’s full show.

Democrats and Republicans sounded optimistic today that they can work together to pass immigration reform this year. Under the plan crafted by a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators announced today, there would be a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. This would be contingent, though, on securing the borders.

Lawmakers tried and failed in 2007 and 2010 to reform immigration. But this time could be different, in large part because Republicans need to improve their standing among Hispanic voters.

Of course, with lawmakers in session this week, the U.S. Senate’s Immigration plan is creating a buzz in the Texas Senate.

 

Immigration reform was a major point of contention last legislative session. Gov. Rick Perry made both voter ID and sanctuary cities legislation a focus of the 2011 agenda. Thus far, however, we have not heard much about the issue.

Monday, we talked to the chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, to get his take on how lawmakers will approach the topic.

 

 

The debate over guns on college campuses is not new at the Texas Capitol. In light of the Sandy Hook school shooting, however, that discussion has extended to high schools and even elementary schools.

Today, lawmakers held their first hearings on the issue. You can find reaction from one school district that already arms its teachers, and some law enforcement who say it’s a bad idea.

That, plus the Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg weighs in on a new effort to turn Texas into a battleground state.

Sen. Cruz concerned with “path to citizenship”

Sen. Ted Cruz issued this statement in response to a bipartisan Senate plan to reform immigration:

“I appreciate the good work that senators in both parties have put into trying to fix our broken immigration system. There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration. However, I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally.”

 

State audit critical of CPRIT operations

The credibility of the state’s cancer research agency was dealt another blow, today.  As was first reported by the Dallas Morning News, state auditors are calling for extensive reforms at the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.  The 100-page report lays out problems in seven key areas including how CPRIT evaluated research grant applications to how it managed contract agreements.

The audit questions the agency’s transparency, addresses possible conflicts of interest, and raises red flags over relationship between some of its management and its donors.  It also urges the legislature to take a closer look at the laws governing the agency.

CPRIT is currently under criminal and civil investigations over the way it awarded cancer research grants.  The audit states that “By not ensuring that all grant applications are properly evaluated and documented, CPRIT weakens its ability to ensure that its award decisions best align with the agency’s mission.”

At least one bill aimed at overhauling the agency is expected to be filed, soon.  Sen. Wendy Davis called on Gov. Rick Perry to make that legislation an emergency item this legislative session.  Already the agency has put future grants on hold until some of the management and operational concerns are addressed.

In a statement today, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said:

“I appreciate the good work the State Auditor has performed in identifying areas the Legislature needs to address to make CPRIT more accountable and transparent to the taxpayers of Texas. When the problems were discovered, Governor Perry, Speaker Straus and I immediately called for a moratorium on all CPRIT’s funding. Going forward, funding for CPRIT will continue only once complete confidence and trust is restored to the agency by the people of Texas. Despite this setback, I’m still committed to the noble purpose approved by the voters to help deliver promising cures to cancer victims to save their lives. I fully expect to address the concerns this Session and return CPRIT to its original mission of defeating cancer.”

 

The full audit is posted, below: 

 

Senators lay out bipartisan immigration reform plan

Sen. John Cornyn weighed in today on a bipartisan Senate plan for immigration reform.

The plan calls for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States, without requiring them to first return to their home country.  It also includes an employment verification system to stop the hiring of undocumented citizens in the future.

This afternoon, Democrats Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez and Michael Bennet and Republicans Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and John McCain laid out the framework for the plan. 

“Any immigration legislation that passes Congress must establish practical, legal channels for workers to enter the United States,” Schumer said during the news conference.  “Whether they’re high-skilled, low-skilled, or agricultural workers so we can free up federal officials to focus on those individuals truly intending to do our nation harm.”

A spokesman for Sen. John Cornyn issued this statement earlier today:

 

“Immigration reform has always been a top priority for Sen. Cornyn, and he looks forward to reviewing the Senators’ proposal. There are many facets to immigration reform, but one that must be addressed first and foremost is our porous border. Unfortunately President Obama has consistently shown he prefers to use the issue to score political points, and any progress will require his leadership.” 

-Drew Brandewie, Sen. Cornyn Press Secretary

 

 

 

Capital Tonight: Roe v. Wade Anniversary Renews Abortion Debate

Abbott appoints “Choose Life” Advisory Committee

It’s been 40 years since the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, and the anniversary of the landmark decision is once again forcing the debate into headlines across the country.  While supporters fiercely defend a woman’s right to choose, here in Texas, some lawmakers have been working to essentially end all abortions.

Friday, Attorney General Greg Abbott named seven people to the newly created “Choose Life” advisory committee. Their goal is to end abortions and raise money through the sale of “Choose Life” license plates “encourage adoption as an alternative” to abortion.

“Everyday in every corner of this state, adoption is bridging the gap of children who are seeking hope and adoptive families that are providing a brighter future for those children,” said Abbott. 

Reporter Roundtable

From gun laws to school safety and the Senate term drawing; our reporter roundtable breaks down the week in state politics.

Tonight, we are joined by Jay Root from the Texas Tribune, Karen Harper Brooks, from the Dallas Morning News, and Corrie MacLaggen from Reuters

 

Truth-testing with PolitiFact Texas

In the height of the fiscal cliff debate, Sen. John Cornyn told the Houston Chronicle a partial government shutdown might be the only way to secure the country’s long term economic future. 

Austin Rep. Lloydd Doggett took issue with Sen. Cornyn’s statements, saying “The last time Republicans held hostage a resolution to ensure that our country’s bills were paid cost us more than $1 billion in added interest and slowed the economic recovery.”

So is that true?  In the video below, PolitiFact Texas’ Gardner Selby truth tests Doggett’s statement.

 

Capital Tonight: CPRIT cuts, school funding, and turning Texas blue

Lobbying for Education Funding

Educators made their case for more school funding, today.  It was the bi-annual school lobby day at the Texas State Capitol.  Dozens of teachers and administrators filled the halls of the Capitol.  They are asking lawmakers to restore some of the cuts made last legislative session. “If teachers are wiling to put in, if teachers are willing to take a very low salary to teach the children of Texas, why aren’t the legislators willing to ante up?” said Thomas Nichols with the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.

Meanwhile, another organization was at the Capitol today, pushing for education reform.  The group “Texans Deserve Great Schools” wants stricter rules for failing schools and expanded online options.  Members are also studying ways to give parents more options when it comes to where their children go to school. 

Senate Education Committee Chairman, Dan Patrick supports the group’s philosophy. “That reforming Texas education isn’t a simple one answer solution it’s a multi prong approach to choices,” Patrick said.

Senator Patrick is also a supporter of expanding charter schools and a voucher system that would allow parents to use state issued vouchers to send their children to private schools.

 

Cutting CPRIT funding

Should the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas continue to receive state money? And if so, where should it come from?  State Senator Kevin Eltife filed a measure today to put the issue on the November ballot.  He’s proposing cutting off bond funding to the state agency.  “In my opinion if it’s worth funding it should come out of general revenue and fund it on a yearly basis,” Eltife said.  “To go $3 billion in debt, makes no sense to me.”

CPRIT is under criminal and civil investigation for an $11 million grant given to start-up company Peloton Therapeutics.  An internal review found the Peleton application did not go through proper scientific and commercial review.  At the request of Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, a moratorium has already been placed on future grants.  Both the House and Senate budget drafts also cut off funding to the agency.

 

Turning Texas Blue

Could the Lone Star State be the next Battleground State?  The Democratic party might be getting the funds to help it happen.  A new independent group called “Battleground Texas, ” will focus effort – and importantly – money here in Texas. 

The organization is being run by former Obama campaign National Field Director, Jeremy Bird.  In a statement to Politico Friday, Bird said “Battleground Texas” would be “a grass-roots organization that will make Texas a battleground state by treating it like one.”  Click the video link below to hear reaction from Texas Democratic Party Communications Director, Tanene Allison.

 

Sen. Cruz takes aim at assault weapons ban bill

U.S. Sen Ted Cruz is coming out strong against an assault weapons ban being proposed in Congress. 

Congressional Democrats reintroduced the legislation on Capitol Hill today.  The measure is authored by Democrat Dianne Feinstein; who wrote the original legislation during the Clinton administration.  The bill is part of a larger gun safety package being supported by President Obama.

Critics have said the ban would be ineffective and the National Rifle Association has strongly opposed it.

Sen. Cruz voiced his opposition today, accusing lawmakers of politicizing the Sandy Hook school shooting.  In a statement, he said:

“Real assault weapons—machine guns—are already functionally illegal, and they have been since 1934. This proposal would have done nothing to prevent the terrible murders in Newtown, but it would limit the constitutional liberties of law-abiding citizens. And gun control doesn’t work – the empirical data overwhelmingly demonstrate that strict gun-control laws consistently produce more crime and more murders.

The Second Amendment exists to ensure that law-abiding Americans can protect their homes and families, and I look forward to helping lead the fight to defeat this bill and to protect our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

 

 

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Sean Rushton