Archive for June, 2013

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst abortion tweet angers critics

For hours on the Senate floor last night, Texas Republicans insisted new restrictions on abortion clinics were designed to protect women, not to shut down facilities. But a Tweet from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst today seems to indicate otherwise.

The Tweet from Dewhurst’s account reads, “We fought to pass SB5 thru the Senate last night, & this is why! #StandWithTexasChildren”





It links to a map from an abortion rights group showing clinic locations that would be forced to close under the new legislation.

The legislation passed last night requires that abortions be performed in ambulatory surgical centers and that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. Critics say very few abortion clinics could meet those requirements and that all but five would have to close.

The bill also includes stricter rules regarding the abortion pill RU-486. A provision to ban abortion after 20 weeks was dropped from the bill before debate began.

Judge sets date for new school finance trial

The judge in the state’s school finance case has set a date to hear new evidence, based on changes the lawmakers made to education funding this legislative session.

In February, State District Judge John Dietz ruled that the way the state finances schools was unconstitutional. It was based on massive education funding cuts and stricter graduation requirements passed in 2011. Dietz also found disparities between property rich school districts and property poor districts.

The state asked the court to reopen the case based on laws passed during the current legislative session. Lawmakers elected to restore $3.4 billion in education funding and also reduced the number of standardized tests necessary for students to graduate. Lawmakers also passed a bill that creates a vocational path to graduation.

The more than 600 districts that sued in 2011 maintain the entire school funding formula is flawed and that the additional funding won’t fix the basic problem.

Dietz said Wednesday the case will go back to trial on Jan. 6th. He has scheduled six weeks of testimony to hear what the new funding means.


Capital Tonight: Abortion bills trigger fierce Senate debate

Fighting for Funding

Just days after Gov. Rick Perry’s veto stripped state funding for the Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg made her first public appearance since a high-profile DWI arrest.

She’s asking the county to help close the $7.5 million funding gap, and making it clear that she has no plans to resign.

In Tuesday’s show, we heard more from Lehmberg, plus commentary from attorney Kerry O’Brien, who has been a prominent voice in calling for her resignation.

Abortion Debate

The Senate took up the governor’s special session call to pass legislation that would further restrict abortion in the state Tuesday. Among the bill’s most controversial components was a measure known as the fetal pain bill, which would block abortions after 20 weeks. The bill’s author, Sen. Glenn Hegar, eventually agreed to withdraw the measure, saying he believes taking it out is the most practical way lawmakers can enhance the quality of care while protecting life with the amount of time left in the session.

Capital Commentators

Plus, our Capital Commentators weighed in on the ongoing battle over the Public Integrity Unit, along with the rest of the day’s political news.

Commissioners Court considers funding Public Integrity Unit

Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg made her first public appearance Tuesday since serving jail time for a DWI. Lehmberg went before the Travis County Commissioners Court asking the county to help restore the $7.5 million dollars in funding that was cut from the Public Integrity Unit.

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed that portion of the budget Friday, making good on threats to do so if Lehmberg refused to step down. Perry has taken aim at Lehmberg’s personal integrity after she was arrested and served time for drunk driving in April. Jailhouse video showed Lehmberg acting unruly and repeatedly demanding that the employees “call Greg,” apparently in reference to Sheriff Greg Hamilton. Lehmberg has maintained she has no intention of stepping down.

The Texas Legislature provides a little more than $3 million in funding per year. That money allows the Public Integrity Unit to carry out its three main functions. The unit has statewide authority over cases involving insurance and motor fuel fraud. It also handles public corruption cases, which occur in Travis County. Funding for the Public Integrity Unit will run out September 1.

Critics have criticized Perry’s veto, saying the governor is using his power to shut down investigations into his office and its programs. “I can’t remember a time when there hasn’t been an attempt in the legislature to mess with the Public Integrity Unit,” Lehmberg said.

The court agreed Tuesday to explore ways to include funding in the county budget. “We have to make decisions on unfunded mandates all the time,” Commissioner Ron Davis said. “We’ll do the best we can.”

The commissioners requested that the District Attorney’s office provide a breakdown of the Public Integrity Unit’s expenditures and agreed to explore ways to work it into the next budget without an undue burden on taxpayers. They will meet again, in two weeks.

Cruz bests Perry in new UT / TT 2016 poll

Texans would prefer a Ted Cruz run for President over a repeat of Gov. Perry’s 2012 bid. According to a new University of Texas / Texas Tribune Poll, 25 percent of people would vote for Sen. Cruz if the GOP primary was held today. Rand Paul ranked second at 13 percent followed by Marco Rubio with 11 percent. Perry came in fourth, with 10 percent support. It is worth noting that 21 percent of people said they didn’t know yet who their choice would be.

On the plus side for Perry, the same poll also shows he would beat Attorney General Greg Abbott in the gubernatorial primary race. Perry bested Abbott in that poll, Neither Perry nor Abbott has said yet if they plan to run. It seems a primary between the two would be unlikely, however. In January, Gov. Perry told WFAA-TV that if he sought reelection, Abbott would not challenge him. Perry has maintained that he will announce his plans after the legislative session ends. Abbott, it would appear, is waiting for Perry to make his plans public.





NY Gov. Cuomo touts tax plan ahead of Perry visit

Gov. Rick Perry’s pending trip to the Empire State is ruffling some feathers. Perry released a series of television and radio ads ahead of his trip, urging New York businesses to relocate to the Lone Star State.

But New Yorkers aren’t giving them up without a fight. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing state lawmakers to adopt his Tax Free NY proposal. It would provide for a decade of across-the-board tax-rebates for new businesses that settle near college campuses.

Cuomo took at dig a Perry’s ad campaign while promoting his initiative in Syracuse, N.Y. this week. He said:

“We now have Texas advertising in this state because they have no income tax so they’re advertising zero tax, you can come to Texas and pay no income tax. Our program goes one better: You can pay no income tax and you don’t have to move to Texas. You can live in New York.”

Governor Perry is set to visit New York and Connecticut for five days, starting Sunday.

UPDATED: Perry facing abuse of power complaint

Updated to add comment from Gov. Perry

Did Gov. Rick Perry abuse his powers when he threatened to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refuses to step down? One watchdog group says yes and has filed a formal complaint with prosecutors.

Texans for Public Justice says Perry may have committed several crimes, including abuse of office, official oppression and coercion. “Governor Perry has no legal authority to remove the Travis Country District Attorney from her job. Threatening to take an official action against her office unless she voluntarily resigns is likely illegal,” said TPJ Director, Craig McDonald.

According to the complaint,

“Governor Perry’s official threats attempt to obtain two things that he can’t achieve through legal
democratic means. First, to remove an elected Democrat and replace her with an appointed
Republican DA. Second, to wipe out the state’s public corruption watchdog, which is currently
investigating corruption in at least one of the governor’s signature corporate subsidy programs.”

According to TPJ, the offenses range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 2 felony.

District Attorney Lehmberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges in April. She was sentenced to 45 days in jail and was released early for good behavior.

Earlier this week, the Austin American-Statesman first reported that Gov. Perry is threatening to use a line item veto to remove money for the Public Integrity Unit if Lehmberg does not step down. The Public Integrity Unit is funded partially by the Texas Legislature and prosecutes ethics and campaign finance violations. As Travis County DA, Lehmberg is the head of that unit.

Gov. Perry hasn’t responded to the complaint directly, but did say this, today:

“My bottom line is this. That we’re going to look at this budget. We’re going to make decisions about this budget, and Travis County is going to have to make a decision about whether or not they keep a district attorney who obviously has some real problems from the standpoint of…I mean people who’ve looked at the video will probably come to the conclusion of most folks. That that was pretty inappropriate activity.”


Capital Tonight: Hearing on abortion bills draws emotional testimony

Abortion Debate

Two days after the governor added abortion regulation to the special session, a Senate panel heard public testimony from both sides of the issue.

Click the video link below to see the latest from Thursday’s committee hearing, plus an update from Gov. Rick Perry on what’s in store for the rest of the special session.


Senate Update

Sen. Dan Patrick joined us to evaluate where the special session stands and give his take on Texas Monthly’s “worst list.” He also talked the possibility of running for lieutenant governor.


Capital Commentators

Plus, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Rob Johnson break down everything that’s happening under the pink dome.


Texas Monthly names ‘Best and Worst Legislators of 2013″

Texas Monthly is out with its biennial “Best and Worst Legislators List.” Here they are, in no particular order.


  • Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie)
  • Jimmie Don Aycock (R-Killeen)
  • Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands)
  • Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio)
  • Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)
  • Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock)
  • Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen)
  • Rep Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth)
  • Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio)
  • Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio)
  • Rep. Van Taylor (R-Plano)
  • Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas)
  • Rep. Naomi Gonzalez (D-El Paso)
  • Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston)
  • Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Houston)
  • Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston)
  • Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills)
  • Comptroller Susan Combs (A “very special worst award” according to a Texas Monthly tweet)
  • Rep. Harvey Hilderbran (R-Kerrville)
  • Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth)

And the “Bull of the Brazos” title went to Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston).

Be sure to watch the show, later tonight. Texas Monthly Executive Editor Paul Burka and contributor Sonia Smith will be on to talk more about why the reasons for their rankings.

Perry launches new ad blitz ahead of New York trip

Gov. Rick Perry is launching a second round of ads ahead of his trip to New York and Connecticut this weekend. Perry is headed to the Northeast for another job recruiting trip, similar to stops he’s already made in California and Chicago.

The $50,000 radio ad buy will air on nine radio stations this week. The ads feature Gov. Perry’s voice, urging New York businesses to move to Texas. Here’s an excerpt of the spot:

The “new” New York sounds a lot like the “old” New York.

Higher taxes. Stifling regulations. Bureaucrats telling you whether you can even drink a Big Gulp.

This is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and there is a place where opportunity, freedom and innovation are flourishing, and that’s Texas.


The full ad, is below.

The radio ads will accompany several TV ads that are already airing. The commercials and Perry’s travel are being paid for by the group TexasOne. The governor says no tax dollars are being used for the initiative.