Archive for June, 2013

Capital Tonight: Looking back at a pivotal week in politics

After the Filibuster

The first batch of bills has already been filed heading into the start of a new special session. While abortion is a big part of the agenda, it’s certainly not the only thing. We look at what lawmakers are expecting for round two.

Reporter Roundtable

Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster wasn’t the only big story this week. Between game-changing Supreme Court rulings and new friction among Republican officeholders, there’s plenty to talk about. Our Reporter Roundtable shares what stood out to them.

View from the Floor

Plus, Sen. Dan Patrick describes his view of Tuesday night’s events. As a candidate for lieutenant governor, he says he would have handled things a little differently.

Capital Tonight: More political fallout after abortion bill filibuster

Perry vs. Wendy

Gov. Rick Perry is giving his take on Tuesday’s failed bid to pass three bills before the special session deadline.

Speaking at the National Right to Life convention in Dallas, Perry talked about Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster, which effectively killed abortion restrictions he’d been pushing for. He referred to the night’s events as the “hijacking of the democratic process,” then made a comment about Senator Davis herself that some say went too far.

Going after Dewhurst

Sen. Dan Patrick is looking to move up the political ladder. He announced his bid Thursday as the “authentic conservative” candidate for lieutenant governor. It’s a move that could be seen as part of a bigger backlash against the current lieutenant governor.

After the Filibuster

Plus, immigration reform got a long-awaited vote in Congress, but despite the claims of both U.S. Senators from Texas, some local activists say the border security measures go too far.

Perry gets personal in remarks about abortion

The debate over abortion bills is moving beyond the Capitol walls, after remarks from Gov. Rick Perry veered into personal details about Sen. Wendy Davis’ life.

Speaking at the National Right to Life convention in Dallas, Perry talked about Davis’s Tuesday-night filibuster, which killed a package of abortion restrictions he’d been pushing for.

He referred to that night as the “hijacking of the democratic process,” then talked about Senator Davis herself.

“In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances,” Perry said. “The daughter of a single mother, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example.”

Senator Davis is pushing back against the governor’s comments. She released a brief statement in response:


“Rick Perry’s statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. Our governor should reflect our Texas values.  Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test.”

Sen. Patrick running for lieutenant governor

State Senator Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston, announced today that he will run for lieutenant governor. He says that Texas needs “authentic conservative” leadership. Patrick served this past session as chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, also a Republican, has already announced his re-election plans. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples have also announced their plans to run in the GOP field. You can view Patrick’s video announcement below.

Capital Tonight: All eyes on Texas as new session is called

Back to Work

Summer isn’t starting just yet for Texas lawmakers.

After a grueling, 10-hour filibuster helped kill a controversial abortion bill, Gov. Rick Perry is telling lawmakers to get back to work. Wednesday, he announced that a second special session will start July 1. In addition to the abortion bill, the governor is adding back the two other issues that failed overnight dealing with transportation funding and juvenile justice.

Even after Republicans succeeded in ending Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster, confusion and the clock eventually doomed the bills, but the end result wasn’t immediately clear, even to lawmakers.

National Attention

As the filibuster stretched past the halfway mark, we had a chance to visit with Cecile Richards, the national president for Planned Parenthood, who flew in to lend support to Sen. Davis.

She talked about what her mother, the late Gov. Ann Richards, would have thought about the grassroots movement among abortion-rights advocates that reached the Capitol.

DOMA Decision

The Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act and also dealt a blow to California’s gay marriage ban, in a ruling that will eventually allow same-sex spouses who are legally married to receive federal benefits.

We talked to a Texas couple about what the decision means to them.

Gov. Perry calls 2nd special session

Just hours after a Senate vote on a controversial abortion bill failed in the Senate, Gov. Rick Perry announced he was calling lawmakers back to work.

The governor sent out a press release shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday announcing a second special session would begin July 1. On the call this time around are the three issues lawmakers failed to pass the first time:

• Legislation relating to the regulation of abortion procedures, providers and facilities.

• Legislation relating to the funding of transportation infrastructure projects.

• Legislation relating to establishing a mandatory sentence of life with parole for a capital felony committed by a 17-year-old offender.

Gov. Perry explained his motivations in a statement:

“I am calling the Legislature back into session because too much important work remains undone for the people of Texas. Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have made crystal clear their priorities for our great state. Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn. Texans want a transportation system that keeps them moving. Texans want a court system that is fair and just. We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do.”

Senate abortion bill dead after filibuster, confusion

Democrats were successful in blocking a controversial omnibus abortion bill early Wednesday morning. Just before 3 a.m., Democrats confirmed to a still-packed State Capitol that their efforts to block the passage of what would have been some of the strictest abortion rules in the country were successful.

Shorty afterward, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gaveled the Senate out, saying time expired on the bill. “It’s been fun, see you soon,” he said, indicating that the Texas Legislature might be looking at a second special session.

The scene in the Texas Senate Tuesday was unlike any other in recent Texas legislative history. The day began when Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) took to the microphone at 11:18 a.m. Davis successfully filibustered the bill until just after 10 p.m., when Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) filed a point of order claiming Davis’ mentions of the sonogram bill passed last legislative session were not germane (or relevant) to the current abortion bill she was attempting to block.

The violation of filibuster rules would have been the Davis’ third and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared the filibuster over. From there, chaos and confusion ensued. Davis’ fellow Democrats, including Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, took to the microphone to challenge Dewhurst’s ruling and attempted to use parliamentary tactics to hold the floor past the midnight deadline.

As the clock ticked toward the close of the special session, the hundreds of people looking on from the gallery began chanting and cheering, causing confusion on the floor. Amid the chaos a vote was cast, and Republicans declared that SB 5 passed ahead of the midnight deadline, even as Democrats insisted the clock had run out.

Around 1:30 a.m., Sen. John Whitmire announced the Senate would caucus behind closed doors, and photos began surfacing showing that the official vote record may have been altered in favor of the Republicans. About two hours later, Rep. Jessica Farrar emerged to formally announce that the legislation was indeed dead, for now. Shortly after, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst formally declared the bill dead. We’ll wait, now, for official word from Gov. Rick Perry on another special session.

Planned Parenthood declares victory in Senate abortion filibuster

As the Texas Senate remains caucusing behind closed doors, Planned Parenthood is declaring victory in the fight to block an omnibus abortion bill on the floor, Tuesday.

Sen. Wendy Davis filibustered the proposed legislation for more than 10 hours, before Republican lawmakers used Senate rules in an attempt to stop the delay and move the bill forward. A vote took place sometime around midnight, amid loud protests and chants from hundreds of pro-choice supporters in Senate gallery. Confusion ensued over whether or not the vote actually took place before the 12:00 deadline.

While the official fate remains unknown, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards issued this statement, declaring SB5 dead, for now:

“What has happened here in Texas over the course of the last week is nothing short of remarkable.  Facing near-impossible odds, thousands of Texans descended on Austin to make their voices heard – telling their legislators that they would not stand for legislation that would hurt thousands of women and essentially end access to safe, legal abortion.  Tonight, Texans won.

“Governor Perry knew all along he couldn’t pass this bill by the books.  He and his allies resorted to shutting down the debate, blocking testimony from the very women whose lives would be affected, voting in the middle of the night, and employing cheap tricks to try shut down a heroic filibuster by Senator Wendy Davis.

“This fight showed once again that we are all better off when women and their doctors – not politicians – are the ones making medical decisions. We made history tonight, but we know this isn’t the end of the fight to protect women’s access to health care in Texas. We thank State Senator Wendy Davis and every other legislator who stood up for women, and we urge Governor Perry and his allies to focus on the issues that Texans want them to address, and leave the medical decision-making to women and their doctors.

“Tonight, we sent a message to Governor Perry and every politician who wants to interfere in women’s medical decisions: Enough is enough. With every attack, Governor Perry and his friends are creating a new generation of activists, and changing this state forever.”

Abortion bill filibuster ends in uncertainty, accusations of foul play

The clock appears to have run out on the special session, but the final vote on a piece of controversial abortion legislation is still in dispute.

Amid deafening shouts from the gallery, the Texas Senate attempted to vote on Senate Bill 5, which would would give Texas some of the strictest abortion regulations in the country if passed.

The vote came after an hours-long filibuster by Democrats. Sen. Wendy Davis talked for more than 10 hours Tuesday to block the bill. Senate rules required her to stay standing without any food, water or assistance from others. She also had to stay on topics related to the bill.

Republicans eventually ended the filibuster by pointing out technicalities in the procedure, but Democrats spent the next two hours challenging the rulings. Shortly before midnight, spectators in the Senate gallery started yelling so loudly that Senators couldn’t hear to conduct business.

While DPS officers cleared the gallery, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called for a vote on the bill. Democrats say the vote came too late — after midnight — and therefore after the session had ended, but Republicans claim the bill passed.

The legislature’s online record-keeping system currently shows that the vote happened at some point before midnight. However, shortly before 1:30 a.m., Democratic Rep. Joe Deshotel Tweeted this photo, which appears to show that the vote happened after the midnight deadline and was later changed.


Senate filibuster enters 10th hour, Davis not yielding for questions

Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster has now entered its 10th hour. Davis took to the microphone at 11:18 a.m. to speak against Senate Bill 5. She is attempting to hold the floor until midnight — the official end of the special session — in an effort to kill the legislation for good.

Under Senate rules, Davis is prohibited from eating, drinking or taking a bathroom break. Davis is also required to stand at her desk without sitting or leaning and cannot have assistance from other senators. Other members have been allowed to ask questions and Democrats have been using parliamentary procedure to give Davis a few short breaks.

If Davis violates those rules three times, the Senate can vote to end the filibuster. So far, Davis is on strike two. The first point of order came when Republicans claimed Davis’ remarks about Planned Parenthood funding strayed too far off topic. The second was upheld when Sen. Tommy Williams raised a point of order after Sen. Rodney Ellis helped Davis put on a back brace to help ease her discomfort. Lawmakers voted that Davis had broken the rules by accepting help from a colleague. Davis has since ceased yielding for questions.

Davis’ filibuster has gained national media attention, even garnering a tweet from President Barack Obama’s Twitter account, saying “Something special is happening in Austin #StandWithWendy.”