Archive for February, 2013

Capital Tonight: The state of veteran affairs in Texas

Honoring our heroes

On the same day that hundreds of people stopped to watch the procession carrying slain Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle to the Texas State Cemetery, hundreds more current and retired members of the military connected with education and employment resources at the 15th Annual Military Summit in Austin.

Tuesday’s Capital Tonight looks at how all of Texas’ 1.7 million veterans can get the help they need, whether it’s medical, financial or mental-health related.

Veteran affairs 

Rep. José Menéndez joined us to talk more about veterans’ issues. As chairman of the House Defense and Veteran Affairs Committee, Rep. Menéndez spoke about the VA’s backlog of disability claims, funding for veterans’ spouses and peer-to-peer counseling programs.

From the Capitol to California 

There were plenty of other developments in Texas politics Tuesday. Commentators Harold Cook and Ted Delisi stopped by the studio to sort through it all, including a new radio ad in California that takes aim at Gov. Rick Perry. Click the image below to watch Tuesday’s full episode.

Texas GOP lawmakers respond to State of the Union

Texas republicans were quick to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Here’s a collection of some of their email statements. 

Sen. Ted Cruz:

President Obama only knows how to grow government, not the economy.

Under President Obama, the economy is entering its fifth year of substandard annual growth – 0.8% on average — compared to an average of 3.3% for the last 70 years.

If the President’s big-government policies were enacted, they would make it harder for the 23 million people out of work to find a job, harder for young people coming out of school to find their first job, and harder for Hispanics and African Americans struggling to achieve the American dream.

There is potential for real bipartisan cooperation in Congress to get the economy growing and help people get back to work, but expanding government spending, debt, taxes, and control of the economy will only make the problem worse.

Sen. John Cornyn

“Each year the President has promised, pledged, and pivoted, but American families continue to confront persistently high unemployment, rising health care costs, and the prospect of losing more of their hard-earned paychecks to tax increases.

“If we want to grow the nation’s economy and create jobs, Washington needs to embrace the Texas model. I will continue to push this President to adopt our proven formula of limited government, low taxes, and sensible regulations – because America can, and should, do much better.”

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst:

At a time in our nation’s history when Americans should be coming together to heal our more perfect Union, President Barack Obama is once again delivering a State of the Union speech that panders to the liberal elite, while creating more division among Americans.

President Obama says he wants to attract more jobs to America, get Americans the skills that they need, and ensure everyone has a chance of success. Mr. President, actions speak louder than words.

President Obama is proposing an answer to America’s economic crisis.  Well, I can answer that in one word, five letters: Texas.  If only he’d listen.

I have worked with conservative leaders to build the best business climate in the world right here in the Lone Star State. What exactly does that mean? It means cutting taxes 51 times in the last decade. It means cutting the state budget by billions of dollars. It means stopping all liberal attempts at imposing a state income tax. It means having the lightest regulatory hand in the country.  It means getting government out of your lives.  And It means not caving in to unions who care more about lining their coffers than in helping to produce jobs.

And what has that commitment to fiscally conservative policies meant for Texas?  According to the Texas Comptroller, Texas’ GDP for 2013 will grow 3.4%, compared to 1.7% for the rest of America.  Our economy is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the country.  We’ve been rated the #1 state to do business. We’re the nation’s top exporting state – and have been for 10 years running. We are ranked 48th out of 50 states in per capita state spending.  And we’ve created more jobs than any other state in the nation by leaps and bounds. To put that into perspective, for the last three years we’ve created more jobs than all other 49 states combined.

If President Obama would pay attention to the Texas Miracle, our nation wouldn’t be falling behind China today. While many Americans continue to lose hope because they cannot find a job, President Obama continues to plunge our nation further and further into debt.

For centuries, Americans have given their lives, toiled with their hands, spent years learning – all in the hopes that they would provide a better life for their children and grandchildren. It is the foundation of the American Dream — the Dream that President Obama is making more difficult to achieve with each passing day.

In Texas, we fight for the American Dream daily, and I will not relent in this battle. Texas is a place of big dreams and quiet miracles. It’s a place where every day, anybody from any background can scale heights as improbable as they are breathtaking.

And maybe that’s why Washington just won’t pay attention.


Full text of President Obama’s State of the Union Address

Here’s the full text of President Obama’s address, Tuesday:


As Prepared for Delivery –

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, fellow citizens:

Fifty-one years ago, John F. Kennedy declared to this Chamber that “the Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress…It is my task,” he said, “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.”

Tonight, thanks to the grit and determination of the American people, there is much progress to report.  After a decade of grinding war, our brave men and women in uniform are coming home.  After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over six million new jobs.  We buy more American cars than we have in five years, and less foreign oil than we have in twenty.  Our housing market is healing, our stock market is rebounding, and consumers, patients, and homeowners enjoy stronger protections than ever before.

Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.

More >

CPRIT reform bill passes out of committee

A bill that would reform the state’s top cancer fighting agency passed out of the Health and Human Services Committee Monday morning.

Filed by Republican Sen. Jane Nelson, SB 149 would restructure the leadership staff for the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, or CPRIT, and establish a new compliance program. The bill would also remove the Attorney General and Comptroller from the Oversight Committee.

CPRIT has been under scrutiny since a state audit revealed problems in its grant review process last year. At issue was an $11 million grant awarded to Dallas-based company Peleton Therapeutics, which auditors determined was awarded without the required scientific review. Since then, the agency head has resigned and been replaced by an interim executive director. The governor has also asked that all future CPRIT grants be put on hold. 

Other changes in the bill include:

  • Requiring CPRIT to issue an annual public report detailing the amount of grants awarded annually, grants that are currently in progress and agency money that goes towards operating costs. The report would also detail the amount spent on administrative expenses. In addition, foundation
  • Donors to CPRIT’s fundraising arm would no longer be eligible for grants, and CPRIT officials would be prohibited from having business relationships with companies that benefit from grants.
  • Establishing a Program Integration Committee to oversee peer review

The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote, which most likely will occur in March. 


Lone Star Project: Oops – Our Governor Got Out Again

Radio listeners in California are getting another dose of Texas-related radio ads. A week after Gov. Rick Perry’s ad buy encouraging California busniesses to relocate to Texas, The Lone Star Project launched its own 30-second spot encouraging people to do the same. But their message is a little different.

The Lone Star Project is a political action committee promoting local Democratic candidates. In a press release, organizers called Gov. Perry an “embarassment” and said their mission is to let people know they “don’t have to support or contribute to Rick Perry’s campaign” to move to Texas.

You can listen for yourself, here:


Capital Tonight: Stage set for battle over education cuts

The Capitol saw its share of tense exchanges Monday, one of which played out on the House floor not long after the gaveling in. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer took to the back mic to ask Republican Rep. Jim Pitts, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, whether he thought the state of education funding counted as an “emergency” issue.

“You’ve never been on Appropriations,” Rep. Pitts replied, “but 27 members of Appropriations are going to discuss public education in the full committee.”

“So it is emergent?” Martinez Fischer asked.

Pitts’ one-word reply: “Yes.”

In Monday’s episode, we examined that exchange and spoke to Rep. Martinez Fischer about his plan to hold Republican lawmakers accountable for 2011 cuts to education.


The “creationism” versus “evolution” debate resurfaced at the State Capitol Monday. Barbara Cargill is looking to keep her governor-appointed seat as chair of the State Board of Education. But some aren’t convinced that the self-proclaimed conservative Christian will be able to separate her personal views from her job of overseeing education standards for the state’s children.

Sen. Kirk Watson, the only Democrat on the committee, had no shortage of questions for Cargill about her thoughts on evolutionary science. Meanwhile, advocates on both sides of the issue made sure to have their voices heard.


Education, transportation and a longstanding fine for Texas drivers are all issues Rep. Larry Gonzales is looking at this session. Click the image below to hear our full interview with Rep. Gonzales, plus a fact-check stemming from Gov. Perry’s trip to California.


Poll: Majority of voters support gambling referendum

According to a poll released by pro-gambling group Let Texans Decide, voters in the state are overwhelmingly in support of a referendum on legalized gambling.

The poll was conducted by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, a firm based out of Washington, DC. It shows 82 percent of respondents would like to see a decision on gambling left to voters in the form of a state constitutional amendment. Of that 82 percent, the poll shows 78 percent are Republican primary voters.

According to the group’s website, Let Texans Decide is “focused on urging the state legislature to provide our citizens with an opportunity to vote on a sensible casino-style gaming plan for Texas.”

The group argues that billions of dollars in potential revenue are lost each year to nearby states that do allow gambling.

Capital Tonight: Looking back at week five of session

From Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s campaign woes to possible funding shortfalls for TxDOT, our Reporter Roundtable breaks down this week in state politics.

In Friday’s show we were joined by Aman Batheja from the Texas Tribune, Christy Hoppe from The Dallas Morning News, and Scott Braddock from the Quorum Report.


Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples also stopped by to talk about his new book, “Broken Borders, Broken Promises.” We asked him for his take on the latest immigration proposals out of Washington.

And we’ve seen plenty of groups lobbying for more funding at the State Capitol. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is among them. With a better budget forecast and some major support from key lawmakers, state park officials are hopeful they’ll see more this session.

Click the image below to see Friday night’s full episode.

Perry sets runoff election date for Senate District 6 seat

The November elections will carry on into March for some Harris County residents.

After the death of Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr. in October, voters in Texas Senate District 6 voted overwhelmingly to re-elect him posthumously. From there, the governor set a special election in January, which netted eight candidates, including Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia and current state Rep. Carol Alvarado. Those two carried the most votes, but since neither walked away with more than 50 percent of the total, yet another election had to be set.

Today, Gov. Rick Perry set the runoff election date for March 2.

Sen. Gallegos, Jr. served close to 22 years in the legislature and was remembered fondly from lawmakers from both parties. Gov. Perry personally sent his condolences after learning of the Senator’s death, and ordered the flags outside the Capitol to be lowered to half-staff.

Early voting for the special election will run from Feb. 20-26.

Capital Tonight: Combs fronts new push for transparency in Texas

Flanked by lawmakers from both the House and Senate Thursday morning, State Comptroller Susan Combs announced her vision for a more transparent Texas.

Senate Bills 13 and 14, along with their House counterparts, would provide taxpayers with more information about publicly held debt and more details about the investments of state pension administrators.

Sen. Tommy Williams and Rep. Jim Pitts filed the bills dealing with government spending and debt. Among other things, they would require school districts to post information online detailing what facilities they currently have, along with the construction costs of any new buildings or updates. The bills also aim to limit the ability of local entities to issue certificates of obligation, or COs, to pay for projects in lieu of voter-approved bonds.

The other bills, filed by Sen. Robert Duncan and Rep. Bill Callegari, call for public pension details to be posted online.

“In particular, in some cases we’re having difficulty in both the general public and cities obtaining information from their pension board about their particular pensions,” Rep. Callegari said. “We’ve got to know what’s happening so that both the legislature and the people who have to pay for those pensions understand better what they’re confronted with.”

Susan Combs came on the show Thursday to talk more about the newly filed bills, along with other statewide issues.

Sen. Patrick’s rising profile

Fresh off a major victory in the Senate and two high-profile TV appearances, Sen. Dan Patrick visited the Capital Tonight studio to talk about school finance, testing standards and more. He also spoke about the recent controversy over CSCOPE, an online curriculum management tool for teachers.

Click the image below to see Sen. Patrick’s full interview, along with analysis from political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi.