Archive for June, 2013

Livestream: Senate abortion bill filibuster

Report: Key adviser returning to Perry team

The Texas Tribune is reporting today that Gov. Rick Perry is bringing a longtime staffer back to his team. The Tribune’s Jay Root cites sources who say Mark Miner is being “tapped as ‘senior adviser’ to the governor.”

Miner worked on Perry’s 2010 reelection campaign and served as a spokesman in Perry’s presidential campaign.

The decision to bring Miner back into the fold is sure to stir speculation that Gov. Perry might be planning another run for the White House. Gov. Perry is expected to announce if he will run for reelection by July 1. Any announcement about presidential aspirations would probably come at a later date.

 

Former RPT Executive Director announces Ag Commissioner run

Texas is going to see a shakeup in statewide political offices in 2014, and candidates are lining up to get their names on the ballot.

Tuesday, Republican Eric Opiela announced he is running for Texas Agriculture Commissioner. Opiela is a South Texas rancher, attorney and a former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

Current Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has already announced he is running for Lieutenant Governor.

In a web video announcing his candidacy, Opiela vows to combat Washington bureaucracy and overregulation. You can watch the full video, below.

Abbott: Voter ID law to take effect immediately

The state’s attorney general says today’s ruling from the Supreme Court removes the need for judicial review, allowing changes to voting law being held up in court to take effect immediately.

That includes a law passed in 2011 that requires all Texans to show a valid photo ID in order to vote, as well as changes to state redistricting maps.

“Today’s ruling ensures that Texas is no longer one of just a few states that must seek approval from the federal government before its election laws can take effect,” Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement released this morning.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is following suit. According to a statement on the agency’s website, “Photo identification will now be required when voting in elections in Texas.” For those without the proper identification, DPS says it will start accepting applications for an alternative ID, known as an Election Identification Certificate.

Senate abortion bill filibuster underway

Senate Democrats are making a final stand in an attempt to kill abortion legislation. Sen. Wendy Davis began a floor filibuster around 11:17 a.m. and will attempt to talk until the special session ends at midnight.

Thus far, Davis has recapped all of the abortion bills filed during the regular session, explaining why each failed to pass. She spent time reading testimony from committee meetings during the regular session and said earlier she intends to read the testimony that was not heard during a committee hearing last week. Currently, Davis is reading medical research backing up her claim that the stricter rules do not improve women’s health care.

Under Senate rules, Davis is prohibited from eating, drinking or taking a bathroom break. Davis will also have to stand at her desk without sitting or leaning. Other members are allowed to interrupt to ask questions.

Davis’ attempt to kill the abortion bill may also effectively kill two other pieces of legislation on the special session call. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst placed SB 5 first on the floor calendar, meaning if Davis does speak until midnight, lawmakers will not have an opportunity to vote on transportation funding or new juvenile justice legislation. Before beginning her speech, Davis indicated the Democrats supported both pieces of legislation and were disappointed they would not be put up for a vote.

 

SCOTUS strikes down key component of the Voting Rights Act

In a landmark decision Tuesday, a deeply divided U.S. Supreme court overturned a key portion of the Voting Rights Act. In a 5-4 decision, the court struck down Section 4. That is the portion of the law that determines what parts of the country must have their voting laws precleared by the federal government.

Under the 1965 statute, nine states, including Texas, are required to get federal approval before making any changes to their voting laws. The law also applies to parts of seven other states, all of which have a history of infringing on minority voting rights. The statute was reauthorized in 2006.

The justices ruled that the government cannot enforce precelearance until Congress reevaluates voting data and updates its coverage formula. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of Section 5, itself.

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

Several Texas laws hinge on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. The state’s voter ID legislation and its redistricting maps are stalled in federal court, after the government denied approval to the voting law changes.

Attorney General Greg Abbott weighed in on Twitter almost immediately, saying:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the rare move of reading the dissenting opinion from the bench. Ginsburg said, “The sad irony of today’s decision lies in its utter failure to grasp why the VRA has proven effective. The Court appears to believe that the VRA’s success in eliminating the specific devices extant in 1965 means that preclear­ance is no longer needed.”

 

Capital Tonight: House Democrat discusses role in abortion debate

Battle over Abortion

With fewer than 32 Hours left in the special session, Texas Democrats held steady in their mission to block the legislature from passing a controversial list of abortion regulations.

Sen. Wendy Davis sent a letter to the lieutenant governor saying she’s ready to filibuster the bill when it comes up in the Senate. But it’s Rep. Jessica Farrar’s efforts on the House side that many believe will have given her that opportunity. We sat down with the State Affairs Committee member to get her perspective.

SCOTUS Ruling

After months of deliberation, the Supreme Court revealed it would sidestep a sweeping ruling on affirmative action in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case.

Our Washington D-C bureau reporter looked at the wider implications.

On the Agenda

Plus, the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg says Texas Republicans are nationalizing the midterm elections. He joined us to explain why.

Pitts files resolution to impeach UT regent

The head of the House Appropriations Committee has taken the first formal step to impeach University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall.

Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) filed a resolution today, directing the House speaker to initiate impeachment proceedings. The resolution accuses Hall of misrepresenting his “experience and qualifications” in order to get the job. In an interview with Capital Tonight, Rep. Pitts said Hall failed to inform legislators of potential business conflicts when he applied for the regent position, an offense that could potentially violate state criminal code relating to falsified government documents.

If lawmakers approve the resolution, the next step is for House Speaker Joe Straus to convene an impeachment committee, which would operate during the interim.

Pitts has accused Hall of engaging in a “witch hunt” against UT Austin president Bill Powers. Hall has requested hundreds of pages of documents related to Powers, including personal emails. In a statement released Friday, Gov. Rick Perry suggested Hall’s efforts were to reveal lawmakers’ attempts to request “admission to the UT law school on behalf of others.”

Gov. Perry appointed Hall in 2011. State law allows the House to move on certain impeachments, without the governor’s approval.

UT President Bill Powers ‘encouraged’ by SCOTUS ruling

Updated to add UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s statement

University of Texas president Bill Powers is applauding the Supreme Court’s decision to punt on the school’s use of race as an admissions factor. UT takes ethnicity into account as a part of its process to admit students who fall outside the system’s Top 10 percent rule. Powers said Monday the ruling will have no impact on the school’s current policy.

In a statement, Powers said:

“We’re encouraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case.

 We will continue to defend the University’s admission policy on remand in the lower court under the strict standards that the Court first articulated in the Bakke case, reaffirmed in the Grutter case, and laid out again today. We believe the University’s policy fully satisfies those standards.

We remain committed to assembling a student body at The University of Texas at Austin that provides the educational benefits of diversity on campus while respecting the rights of all students and acting within the constitutional framework established by the Court.

Today’s ruling will have no impact on admissions decisions we have already made or any immediate impact on our holistic admissions policies.”

UT Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa also issued this statement:

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court believes there is compelling governmental interest in assuring diversity at our nation’s universities and encouraged that the Court upheld its ruling in the Grutter case, a landmark decision that gave public universities the ability to use race as one of multiple factors in determining admissions. 

“Today’s decision sends the case back to the lower court to take a closer look at UT Austin’s admissions policy to ensure it follows the standards laid out in Grutter. 

“We stand ready to assist in any way possible in defending UT Austin’s admissions policy on remand and will seek to maintain a policy that sustains a diverse student population and follows the guidelines the Court has provided us. We respect the Court’s decision and sincerely appreciate its careful deliberation on this important matter.”

AG Abbott releases ‘Perseverance’ video

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today released a video that details his experience after an accident that left him paralyzed. The video, titled “Perseverance,” is narrated by former U.S. Senator and actor Fred Thompson.

Political pundits consider Abbott a likely candidate for governor, although Abbott has only indicated he will make his political intentions known this summer. The video can be seen below.