Archive for January, 2013

Capital Tonight: Bill aims to make federal gun laws ‘unenforceable’ within state borders

Texas lawmakers are already planning for the possibility of stricter gun regulations.

Republican Rep. Steve Toth is in the process of filing a bill dubbed the “Firearms Protection Act,” which aims to make any federal law banning semi-automatic firearms or limiting the size of gun magazines unenforceable within the state’s boundaries.

“We’re not trying to do anything radical and crazy,” Rep. Toth said. “We’re just trying to preserve, protect and defend our rights.”

The legislation also calls for the criminal prosecution of any federal official who might come into the state to enforce stricter gun regulations, should President Obama take executive action.

“Maybe, just maybe, this will wind its way through the courts and we will be able to challenge executive orders, which are being abused right now.” Rep. Toth said.

In Tuesday night’s show, we also looked at the impact of one omission in the House budget proposal — that of funding for statewide school testing.

“We did some things in the introduced bill that we wanted to start the discussion,” Rep. Jim Pitts explained.

That discussion is just what many education groups were looking for. Holly Eaton with the Texas Classroom Teachers Association says that, while it may be a little item in the overall scheme of things, it’s hugely important to some.

“We test more than even the federal law requires,” Eaton said. “So we could at least scale down the number of tests required of a student to take.” 

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has a hard-nosed assessment of where things stand when it comes to Texas’ water woes: “Texas has a water crisis. It is not imaginary, it is very real.”

He’s pointing to voluntary conservation as a significant part of a multi-tiered solution.

“Water conservation is really the least expensive method of obtaining new water. And 26-million Texans times a few drops saved by each really adds up,” Staples said.  

We also heard from Democratic strategist Glenn Smith and Republican Strategist Ted Delisi, on everything from new campaign finance numbers to gun control.

Click the image below to watch tonight’s entire episode online.


Dewhurst raises $3.3M, left with $1.97M

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst raised $3.3 million dollars in the last reporting period, but he only has $1.97 million in cash on hand. 

The Dewhurst campaign is still recovering from an alleged embezzelment scandal.  No charges have been filed, but the Dewhurst camp is accusing former campaign manager Kenneth Barfield of stealling at least $600,000 from the campaign.  Some estimates say the final total may end up at more than a $1 million in missing money.

Dewhurst has been Lieutenant Govenror since 2003 and has committed to another run in 2014.

In a statement today, campaign spokesman Enrique Marquez said:

“Across the Lone Star State, Texans support David Dewhurst’s conservative, pro-growth agenda that has already made Texas the Number One job creator in America. David is honored and humbled by the friendship of those who believe in him and believe that Texas must remain the beacon for conservative values across America.”





Abbott campaign has $18 million in war chest

Attorney General Greg Abbott will have plenty of money in his war chest, should he decide to run for governor.  His campaign reported raising more than $4.1 million dollars between July 1 and Dec. 31.  That leaves him with more than $18 million in cash on-hand.

Abbott has not officially announced a run for the state’s highest office, but is widely rumored to be considering it. 

The latest campaign finance reports give him a huge fundraising advantage over Gov. Perry, should he decide to seek reelection.  State law prohibits the Governor from raising campaign funds during the legisltive session.

Texas roads get failing grade

If you’ve ever been stuck on Interstate-35 and thought, “This could not possibly be any worse,” you’re not far from the truth, at least according to one group.

The Texas section of the American Society of Civil Engineers has released a new report card, interpreting all aspects of the state’s infrastructure through a traditional letter grade scale.

Texas roads and highways get a D.

The report card took seven factors into account, including capacity to meet current and future demands, funding, condition and protection against possible threats.

Here’s a breakdown of the results:

Roads & Highways: D

While the report credits transportation officials with looking for alternate ways to fund new projects (we assume that includes toll roads), it says “funding for traditional projects has declined,” along with overall maintenance. Because of that, the report says Texas now ranks 42nd in highway spending per capita, compared to other states. In 2008, it ranked number 17.

Bridges: B –

The good news is that, although Texas has more bridges than any other state by far, our grade is better than the national one, which is a C. The bad news is that the number of “structurally deficient” bridges is expected to rise in the next 10 years. The ASCE report credits TxDOT with eliminating the worst offenders, but says more funding is needed to maintain the department’s goal.

Transit: C +

The state’s grade has improved since 2008, thanks to new buses, carpooling efforts and passenger rail. It also ranks higher than the national grade. Still, the ASCE report says Texas is “heavily dependent” on federal money when it comes to light rail transit.

 So what’s being done to fix these problems?

Both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor have mentioned transportation as an issue to work on this legislative session, and budget proposals from both the House and Senate include increases for transportation funding. One new solution floating around was brought up by the Texas Association of Business last year. They’re backing a plan to increase the vehicle registration fee by $50. By their estimate, it would generate “as much as $14 to $16 billion” in bond money for transportation projects.

Perry campaign raised $3.5 million last quarter

With campaign finace reports due out this week, Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign announced today it raised $3,554,046 between June 30, 2012 and December 8, 2012.  The campaign says it has $6 million in cash on hand. 

Of course, it remains to be seen if Governor Perry will run for reelection in 2014. 

In a statement, Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said

“Gov. Perry is proud and appreciative of the broad and generous support from Texans across the state.  He looks forward to working with lawmakers this session to implement a budget that lives within our means, keeps taxes low and maintains the policies of fiscal conservatism that have made Texas a national leader in job creation and opportunity. These priorities, along with his commitment to upholding robust infrastructure and education programs, will keep Texas strong in the years to come, providing people the freedom and opportunity to thrive.”

Travis County backs off gun show ban, Abbott weighs in

Travis County Commissioners are backing away from a plan to ban gun shows.  The ban would have prohibited gun sales in all county-owned buildings, including the Travis County Expo center. 

Today, they decided against an outright ban.  Instead, the county is asking the organizers to do voluntary background checks for all gun sales, even when it’s not required by law.  The decision means nine gun shows already scheduled at the Expo Center will go on as planned.

Last week, Attorney General Greg Abbott tweeted that the city and county should be ready for a “double-barreled lawsuit should they decide to ban guns shows city and or county owned property.

Today, he issued a statement applauding the County Commissioners decision, saying:

“Travis County Commissioners did the right thing by following the law and continuing to allow gun shows on county property. The City of Austin should do the same. As Texans, we should all endeavor to keep our children safe from harm, but violating the law in pursuit of that goal is not right.”

 The City of Austin is still considering it’s own resolution that could retrict or ban gun sales on city-owned property.

Capital Tonight: Legislature gets down to business

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

After a slow first week, lawmakers in the 83rd legislative session are ready to get to work.

Both chambers say they’ve finalized initial budget proposals. On the House side, money for increased Medicaid enrollment is factored in, while funding for statewide school testing is not.

Republican Rep. Jim Pitts is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. He said lawmakers need to look more closely at whether current testing standards are working.

“We have seen the over-emphasis on testing over the last 10 years, and we want to see [if that is] all necessary. Do we want to spend all year long testing and teaching for a test?”

The Senate’s initial proposal is smaller, with $186.8 billion allocated, compared to the House’s $187.7 billion. In both proposals, money for the state’s Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas was cut out.

House lawmakers also went through the process of adopting rules Monday, but not without some friction. Rep. David Simpson, who withdrew his bid to challenge Rep. Joe Straus for the speakership, pursued rule changes that would have limited Straus’ power. Most of those changes weren’t adopted, and Simpson received some terse advice from fellow Republican Rep. Debbie Riddle.

“I think, Representative, when you’re here longer, when you understand the process and when you appreciate the process that we have had so that we can make the best use of the time that we are allotted,” Rep. Riddle said.

We also spoke to the head of the Professional Advocacy Association of Texas in tonight’s episode. The group’s president, Jack Gullahorn, says his chief responsibility is to raise the bar for lobbying in Texas, and to help people understand what lobbyists do.

Click the YNN Video link to watch tonight’s full show.



George P. Bush campaign raised $1.3 million since November

We don’t know yet which office George P. Bush will seek., but he already has a good jump on campaign fundraising. He’s raised $1.3 million dollars since he announced he would run for office in November.

Campaign manager Trey Newton said Monday that a report showing Bush took in $1,350,489 would be submitted to the Texas Ethics Commission, tomorrow.  His first $50,000 contribution came from his father, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. His uncle, former President George W. Bush, also contributed $50,000.

Bush hasn’t officially announced which statewide seat he’ll seek.  However, a fundraising letter sent by his father to Florida donors seems to indicate he had his eye on Land Commissioner.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


White House tells Texas secession petitioners: Founding fathers didn’t “provide right to walk away”

The Obama administration won’t be giving Texas the green light to form its own country any time soon. The White House officially responded today to a petition signed by more than 125,000 people, asking the U.S. government to allow Texas secede from the union. 

The petition claims Texas’ strong economy makes it “practically feasible for the state to withdraw from the union” and that state could better “protect it’s citizens standard of living” than the federal government. 

Seven other states filed similar petitions.  The White House had promised to respond to any petitions that received more than 25,000 signatures within the first 30 days.

Today, John Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, posted that response.  He quoted Abraham Lincoln and envoked the founding fathers’ vision of the constitution. “They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot — a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all,” he said.  “But they did not provide a right to walk away from it.””

Here’s the full response:

Our States Remain United

By Jon Carson

“Thank you for using the White House’s online petitions platform to participate in your government.

In a nation of 300 million people — each with their own set of deeply-held beliefs — democracy can be noisy and controversial. And that’s a good thing. Free and open debate is what makes this country work, and many people around the world risk their lives every day for the liberties we often take for granted.

But as much as we value a healthy debate, we don’t let that debate tear us apart.

Our founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States “in order to form a more perfect union” through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot — a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it. As President Abraham Lincoln explained in his first inaugural address in 1861, “in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual.” In the years that followed, more than 600,000 Americans died in a long and bloody civil war that vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States. And shortly after the Civil War ended, the Supreme Court confirmed that “[t]he Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.”

Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, “of the people, by the people, and for the people” — all of the people. Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.

So let’s be clear: No one disputes that our country faces big challenges, and the recent election followed a vigorous debate about how they should be addressed. As President Obama said the night he won re-election, “We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future.”

Whether it’s figuring out how to strengthen our economy, reduce our deficit in a responsible way, or protect our country, we will need to work together — and hear from one another — in order to find the best way to move forward. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to learn more about the President’s ideas and share more of your own.”

Sen. Cruz home from first official trip abroad

Senator Ted Cruz returned home today from his first visit as senator to Afghanistan and Israel.

In a statement released this morning, Cruz’s office announced that he and four other Senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, met with U-S military personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.

U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave the country by the end of 2014.  The purpose of the weekend visit was to talk about the political, economic, and security issues on the ground and get an update on the training of Afghan forces. 

Cruz’s office said in addition to visiting with U.S. troops, the Senator also met with Major General Larry Nicholson and General John Allen.

Cruz, McConnell, and the rest of the delegation also visited Israel, where they met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.