Archive for March, 2013

DPS ends ‘stupid’ screenings at governor’s mansion

The Department of Public Safety is ending a policy requiring background checks for lawmakers entering the Governor’s Mansion.

During a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, DPS Director Steve McCraw described the policy as “stupid” and said it has since been re-evaluated.

The mansion was heavily damaged in a 2008 fire caused by an unknown arsonist. Since its reopening in July, lawmakers have complained about the new security measures, which include waiting for state troopers to screen them before entering. Tuesday’s committee meeting began with testimony on the policy.

The new exemption only includes current elected state lawmakers and congressional members. All other visitors still have to submit to background checks.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Texting while driving bill passes out of House committee

A bill to ban texting while driving cleared its first major legislative hurdle Tuesday. Rep. Tom Craddick announced the House Transportation Committee voted in favor of HB 63. The legislation will now go to the calendars committee to be considered for full floor debate.

If passed, HB 63 would amend the Texas Transportation code to ban the “use of a wireless communication device to read, write or send a text-based communication while driving, except when a vehicle is stopped.”

“I am elated that the ban on texting while driving bill has been reported favorably by the committee and is one step closer to increasing public safety of our Texas roadways,” Rep. Craddick said. “I appreciate the time, attention and effort that Chairman Larry Phillips and the members of the Transportation Committee put into considering The Alex Brown Memorial Act.”

This is the second time Rep. Craddick has pushed for tougher distracted driving laws. In 2011, a similar meausre passed in both the House and Senate but fell victim to Gov. Rick Perry’s veto pen. There’s no indication the law will earn the governor’s support this time around, either.

In a statement to Capital Tonight last month, a spokesperson for Gov. Perry said:

“Gov. Perry continues to believe texting while driving is reckless and irresponsible, and as he noted last session, current law already prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using a cell phone while driving. The key to dissuading drivers from texting while driving is information and education, not government micromanagement.”



Capital Tonight: House republicans reject Medicaid expansion

Term Limiting Lawmakers

The idea of term limits for Texas politicians is gaining traction at the State Capitol. “Texans for Term Limits” launched a statewide effort Monday to eliminate so-called career politicians. The group aims to put a cap on how long an elected official can hold office. “We have an obligation to make sure we elect citizens who want to serve, not politicians looking to build a career,” said George Seay, with Texans for Term Limits.

Republican Lyle Larson sponsored the bill. In addition to capping term limits, the measure would require state officials to resign their post if they decide to run for a higher office. Larson pointed to the state’s top two lawmakers as examples. Both Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry have been in office for more than 10 years. In addition, Perry spent much of 2011 campaigning for President. “We have folks going across the country, across the state, they essentially vacate their office and we need to have people who are running the state’s business in those offices,” Larson said. 

Similar legislation has been proposed in the past, but never made it past lawmakers. In the video below, Capital Tonight’s LeAnn Wallace explains why it might have more traction this legislative session.

Perry vs. Abbott

A new University of Texas / Texas Tribune poll pitting Gov. Rick Perry against Attorney General Greg Abbott offers some interesting insight into the hypothetical primary race. The poll shows Gov. Perry with 49 percent support over Abbott’s 17 percent among voters who consider identify themselves with the Republican party.

The more telling data, however, comes when you examine the results of the approval questions within the poll. Those samples show even voters who support Gov. Perry still have a favaorable view of Abbott.

James Henson from the Texas Politics Project joined us Monday to break down the data. Click the video link, below, to hear why this poll could actually be good news for both potential 2014 contenders.

On the Agenda: Medicaid Expansion

House republicans made it clear today at the State Capitol they are following the Governor’s lead on Medicaid reform. The GOP caucus voted against expanding the program in its current form, but they are leaving the door open for other options.

Several other Republican governors have brokered state-specific deals with the federal government. The details vary, but most involve accepting more federal dollars and include more people in the program. Some Texas lawmakers have said they’d be interested in exploring similar alternatives. Governor Rick Perry, though, hasn’t said if he’d consider a compromise.

In the video below, Harvey Kronberg from the Quorum Report offers his commentary on the possibility of compromise.


New UT/TT poll puts Perry well ahead of Abbott

Gov. Rick Perry would easily beat Attorney General Greg Abbott, if the two were to face off in a hypothetical primary race, according to a new University of Texas / Texas Tribune poll. The poll shows Perry with 49 percent support over Abbott’s 17 percent among voters who consider themselves Republican. The margin is smaller among all voters. In that scenario, Perry would get 27 percent to Abbott’s 14 percent.

In a statement on the University of Texas’ website, Daron Shaw, one of the poll’s directors, said there is good news for both Perry and Abbott.  “After 12 years in office, Governor Perry remains in good standing with Republican voters. Attorney General Abbott is less well established in voters’ minds but has a very favorable rating to build on in the future if he so chooses,” Shaw said.

The poll released today shows a drastically different scenario than a Public Policy Polling survey released in January. That poll only gave Gov. Perry a slight 41/38 percent lead over Abbott. According to the PPP analysis, the poll was especially troublesome for Perry given Abbott’s sizable war chest and lack of name recognition.

Of course, the likelihood of this matchup is still questionable. Both Gov. Perry and Abbott have said they wouldn’t make any decisions about their political futures until after the legislative session. Perry also reportedly told several Dallas media outlets that he and Abbott have agreed that Abbott would not challenge Perry if he decides to seek reelection.

Capital Tonight: Texans move on as sequester talks sputter

Despite an hour-long meeting at the White House Friday, no deal was reached to avoid an automatic $85 billion in automatic spending cuts.

Paul Brown sat down with Scott Braddock from the Quorum Report, Ben Philpott fromKUT and Jonathan Tilove from theAustin American-Statesman to talk about the failed negotiations, along with Medicaid expansion, education funding and more. 


Rep. Paul Workman

As a member of several committees dealing with business, manufacturing and economic development, Republican Rep. Paul Workman is well suited to talk about industry in Texas. The Austin-area lawmaker stopped by the studio to talk about his goals for the session.


Ashes and taxes

Democratic Sen. Carlos Uresti has introduced a new bill to raise the legal buying age for cigarettes to 21. Click the image below to see the full story.