Archive for April, 2013

Bipartisan DNA legislation clears Senate

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill to ensure that all evidence in death penalty cases is DNA tested before they go to trial. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) garnered support from both parties, including Attorney General Greg Abbot. Ellis and Abbot touted the legislation as a collaborative effort to create a “more fair, reliable and just Texas criminal justice system.” 

In an interview with Capital Tonight last month, Abbott said, “We need to get all that [DNA testing] done upfront, to make sure that we convict the right person, or if the DNA evidence shows the person was innocent, they are released.”

Sen. Ellis released this statement following today’s vote:

“This modest but vitally important reform will help reduce the possibility that the ultimate mistake is made with someone receiving the ultimate penalty. The fact of the matter is that we have already dodged just such a bullet thanks to advocates for the wrongfully convicted. We know that, sometimes, we get the wrong person. The Michael Morton case and dozens of examples are painful reminders of that fact. SB 1292 will ensure we avoid both the possibility of the wrong person serving years on Death Row and the far worse specter of putting to death an innocent person.”


Illinois governor calls Perry a ‘big talker’

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn isn’t impressed with Gov. Rick Perry’s boasting over Texas’ economy. He responded to Perry’s plans for a business recruiting trip, telling a Chicago radio station “We’ve seen this rodeo before.” The democrat called Perry a “big talker” and touted his own state’s manufacturing success.

“If previous, similar efforts by other Republican governors are any indication – these publicity stunts don’t work and they don’t change the fact that businesses are choosing Illinois all the time,” his office told 89 WLS reporter Bill Cameron. “In fact, today we announced a global corporation is choosing Illinois for its North American headquarters, in part due to Governor Quinn’s Clean Water Initiative and work to make our state a global hub for water technology.”

Quinn pointed to Texas’ drought woes, calling the state “water challenged.” Recently, he has played up his home state’s water technologies including a groundbreaking this week at water pump maker Grundfos’ North American headquarters in suburban Chicago.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Gov. Perry announces Chicago recruiting trip

Gov. Rick Perry is ramping up his efforts to tempt Illinois businesses to relocate to Texas. Just days after launching a new online campaign touting Texas as a business friendly state, Perry announced today that he’s making a recruiting trip to Chicago. The governor will leave Monday and return Tuesday. He will address the 2013 Bio International Convention and plans to meet with business leaders.

Perry’s announcement coincides with a new $42,000 radio ad buy on four Chicago radio stations. The ad was paid for by Texas One, the same group that bank rolled a similar blitz in California in February.

More >

Capital Tonight: Immigration reform plan decoded

As details continued to come to light about the Boston Marathon explosions, the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” quietly released an outline of their long-awaited immigration reform plan.

We spoke to two experts to get a better sense of the complex details of the bill. Click the image below to hear our interview with immigration attorney Dan Kowalski and University of Texas associate professor Terri Givens. Plus, we look at two new proposals for Medicaid expansion in Texas and more. 


Senate votes to audit Texas Enterprise Fund

The Senate today voted in favor of Sen. Wendy Davis’ bill establishing an auditing system for the Texas Enterprise Fund. Senate Bill 1390 requires the state auditor to “determine the efficiency and effectiveness” of the fund. It also requires the auditor to file a report to the legislature by January 1, 2015.

The Texas Enterprise Fund was established in 2003. It is a taxpayer-funded initiative used to offer financial incentives to lure companies to Texas. It was instrumental in attracting corporations like National Instruments and HID Global.

The fund has its share of critics. Gov. Perry has come under scrutiny amid accusations of crony capitalism and critics find issue with the fund’s limited oversight. Supporters of the bill passed today hope this bill will help increase the fund’s transparency.

In a statement last week, Sen. Davis said:

“It’s unconscionable that, after spending nearly a half-billion dollars in taxpayer money, the Enterprise Fund has yet to be held to the scrutiny of a comprehensive state audit. Texans cannot be confident their taxes are being appropriately or effectively used without the assurance provided by these audits.I think it’s significant that members of both parties have joined together in support of greater transparency for this Fund.”

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives.


Capital Tonight: Boston blasts raise security concerns nationwide

Tragedy & National Security

As more details came to light about the Boston Marathon explosions Monday, politicians in DC and here in Texas made it clear that they would do whatever possible to find those responsible.

“We still do not know who did this or why, and people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this. And we will find out who did this, we will find out why they did this,” President Barack Obama said at a press conference Monday afternoon.

While the president was careful not to refer to the explosions as an act of terrorism, Rep. Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, had no such reservations.

“I called this an act of terrorism the minute I saw it, based on the way it was perpetrated. It has all the hallmarks of the act of terrorism in terms of multiple, simultaneous casualties, spectacular events. So the Boston marathon, as runners are crossing the finish line, has all the hallmarks of an act of terrorism,” McCaul said. 


Texas Perspective

Rep. Allen Fletcher spoke to McCaul earlier in the day. He talked about that conversation and gave his perspective as vice-chairman of the Texas House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee. 


State Business Continues

Meanwhile, things elsewhere the Capitol continued as usual. Gov. Rick Perry chose tax day to unveil a tax-relief plan for Texas businesses.

Click the YNN logo below to hear more about that story, along with analysis from the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg.


Gov. Perry offers condolences to Boston Marathon explosion victims

Gov. Rick Perry issued this statement today, after 2 explosions occurred near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

 “The scene at the Boston Marathon today is a sobering vision for us all, especially those who have friends or loved ones competing in today’s race. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those injured in the explosions, along with the first responders who braved danger to help get the wounded to safety.”

So far, the Boston Police Department confirms that 2 people were killed and 22 were injured in the blasts.

Perry’s ‘Open for Business’ ads spread to Chicago

No longer content with needling Californians, Gov. Rick Perry has taken his recruitment ads to the president’s political hometown.

With an appeal to “Get out while there’s still time,” the ads present Texas as a business-friendly alternative to Illinois. They’ll appear in both the print and online versions of Crain’s Chicago Business Journal, according to a press release sent by Gov. Perry’s office. The $38.450 ad buy was paid for by TexasOne, an economic development program formed by the governor in 2003.

“If you’re a business owner in Illinois, I want to express my admiration for your ability to survive in an environment that, intentionally or not, is designed for you to fail,” the ad says. It encourages business owners to consider relocating in Texas, for its “limited government, low taxes” and “pro-business mindset.”

It comes two months after a similar advertisement aired on California radio.

You can view the ad’s full content here.

Influential businessman Bob Perry dies at 80

Houston-area homebuilder and major Republican donor Bob Perry has died.

He was 80 years old.

Perry was a major contributor to conservative candidates, including George W. Bush and Rick Perry. He was also a fundraising source for conservative political action committees, known as 527s. That includes the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which raised questions in 2004 about then-presidential candidate John Kerry’s Vietnam service.

Several Texas Republicans have responded to news of his death. Gov. Perry, who is not related, released a statement Monday:

“Bob Perry was an exceptional man of great faith who believed strongly in everything he put his mind and soul into, and nothing more so than his family. His astonishing success story as a businessman serves as an inspiration to anyone who ever dreamed of bigger things, and his selfless dedication to the people and causes he believed in serves as an inspiration to anyone who has ever felt the call to get involved. Bob Perry left his state, and his country, in a better place than where he found it, and he will be profoundly missed by us all. Anita and I send our deepest condolences to his wife, Doylene, his children, his extended family and friends.”

Through Twitter, Attorney General Greg Abbot said:

“Texas lost a legend today. From school teacher to homebuilder, Bob Perry changed the world. God Bless.”

Perry was born in Bosque County, and went on to form Perry Homes in 1968.

Capital Tonight: Reversing course on ‘rainy day’ money

There’s been a lot of talk about it, and now state lawmakers appear ready to finally dip in to the state’s Rainy Day Fund this session.

The Senate Finance Committee voted to take 6 billion dollars out of the fund to pay for water and infrastructure projects.


Taking on the Governor

We don’t know if Gov. Rick Perry will run for re-election, and we don’t know if Attorney General Greg Abbott will throw his hat into the ring. But we do know of one former state agency leader who will seek your vote as a Republican candidate for governor.

Click the image below to see our one-on-one interview with Tom Pauken.

Senate Standoff Ends

The push for new gun safety legislation cleared a major hurdle Thursday.

With the help of 16 Republicans, the Senate voted to block a threatened Republican filibuster. That means debate on background checks and other, less popular legislation can begin.

Sen. John Cornyn voted to block the debate, but said he hoped for a substantive discussion afterward. Click the YNN logo below to watch the full episode.