Archive for June, 2013

Updated: Perry adds abortion, juvenile justice to special session call

Updated to add a statement from Gov. Perry

Gov. Rick Perry is adding two more issues to the lawmakers’ special session call.  Perry this afternoon will announce that he will ask lawmakers to consider abortion regulations and mandatory life sentences for certain juvenile offenders.

Capital Tonight has confirmed the specific call is as follows:

  • “Legislation relating to establishing a mandatory sentence of life with parole for a capital felony committed by a 17-year-old offender”
  • “Legislation relating to the regulation of abortion procedures, providers, and facilities.”

Gov. Perry issued this statement on the expanded call:

“The horrors of the national late-term abortion industry are continuing to come to light, one atrocity at a time. Sadly, some of those same atrocities happen in our own state. In Texas, we value all life, and we’ve worked to cultivate a culture that supports the birth of every child. We have an obligation to protect unborn children, and to hold those who peddle these abortions to standards that would minimize the death, disease and pain they cause.”

Perry threatens to veto Public Integrity Unit funding

Gov. Rick Perry is threatening to strip state funding from the Travis County Public Integrity Unit, if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refuses to resign. The Public Integrity Unit is funded partially by the Texas Legislature and prosecutes ethics and campaign finance violations.

According to an Austin American-Statesman exclusive, Perry intends to line-item veto that portion of the state budget. The governor’s office would not go into specifics, but spokesman Rick Parsons told the paper “we’re going through the budget line by line. (The governor) has very deep concerns about the integrity of the Public Integrity Unit.”

Lehmberg was arrested and pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges in April. Police records show her blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit. Jailhouse surveillance video also shows Lehmberg acting belligerently toward the jailers. Lehmberg was sentenced to 45 days in jail and was released in early for good behavior.

Despite numerous petitions and lawsuits from attorneys and lawmakers alike, Lehmberg has maintained she will not step down as district attorney and head of the Public Integrity Unit. In court today, a judge determined that Lehmberg will face a jury in two separate lawsuits. One claims Lehmberg violated a code of conduct that states she cannot be intoxicated on or off duty. The other is for official misconduct, based on her actions in jail.

If Lehmberg chooses to step down, or is forced out of office, Gov. Perry would appoint her replacement.



Capital Tonight: Perry signs education bills, prepares for job-poaching trip

Education Legislation


Gov. Rick Perry put pen to paper, officially signing a stack of education bills into law today, including House Bill 5.

Many were closely monitoring the fate of the graduation requirement legislation amid rumors that Gov. Rick Perry would veto the measure.

The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg offered his thoughts on what Perry’s non-veto might mean and analyzes the governor’s decision to add transportation to the special session call.


On the Agenda

Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown sat down with the Lonnie Hollingsworth from the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. Click the video link below to get his take on the new law and hear what he says still needs to be done.


Perry adds transportation to special session call

Gov. Rick Perry today announced he would add transportation funding to the special session call. That means lawmakers will now consider “Legislation relating to the funding of transportation infrastructure projects.”

Perry released this email statement:

“Texas’ growing economy and population demand that we take action to address the growing pressure on the transportation network across the state. As we enjoy the benefits of a booming economy, we have to build and maintain the roads to ensure we sustain both our economic success and our quality of life.”

Representatives urge Perry to add construction bonds to special session

A bipartisan group of Texas representatives is calling on Gov. Rick Perry to add campus construction bonds to the special session call. The Tuition Revenue Bonds, known as TRBs, would allocate millions of dollars for construction projects on college campuses across the state.

Despite having support from both parties in both the House and Senate, lawmakers ran out of time to pass the legislation in the regular session. Now, they’re urging Gov. Perry to give them a second chance.

More than 65 representatives signed a letter to governor saying “approval of these projects will bring notable benefits to our economy, while the construction and ongoing operations resulting in a significant multiplier effect in local communities throughout the state.”

You can read the full letter, and see if your representative signed it, below:

TRB Letter to Perry by TexasCapitalTonight

Updated: Perry puts education bill veto rumors to rest

Gov. Rick Perry put pen to paper, officially signing a stack of education bills into law today. He was joined by Sen. Dan Patrick and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock as he formally adopted six bills, including House Bill 5.

Many were closely monitoring the fate of the House education bill. Perry’s actions today put to rest speculation that he might veto the legislation. HB 5 changes high school graduation requirements and lowers the number of standardized tests from 15 to 5. It also creates a pathway to graduation that includes a focus on vocational training as opposed to college readiness.

Rumors had been swirling at the Capitol that Gov. Perry would veto the measure due to concerns that the new standards might not be rigorous enough. While the legislation garnered widespread support from parents and teachers’ organizations, others, like the Texas Association of Business, had been staunchly opposed.

Update: Education Commissioner Michael Williams says his agency will begin work immediately to begin the transition to the new testing requirements. In an email statement, Williams said in the long term, the “revisions will have a great impact on the state accountability system for schools, charters and districts.” He hopes implementation details will be announced “sometime in the near future.”


Gov. Perry taking aim at New York jobs

Gov. Rick Perry is hitting the road again, trying to lure employers to the Lone Star State. This time, his job poaching tour is taking him to New York and Connecticut. Starting Sunday, he’ll meet with business leaders in the gun, pharmaceutical and financial industries in those states.

Perry’s visits will be announced by two thirty-second television spots that started running statewide today.The ads tout Texas as a leader in the technology, medical and biotech fields.

These are just the latest stops on Perry’s job luring mission. He’s already visited California and Illinois and launched ads in both states. As in the past, the group Texas One is footing the bill for the trip and the $1 million in television time.

Obama administration criticized over surveillance techniques

President Obama is defending his administration’s use of a data collection program, known as PRISM. Leaked NSA documents show that the federal government has been monitoring phone calls made in the United States. The documents show intelligence agencies have also been tracking Internet activity.

News of the program was first reported by the British newspaper, The Guardian. According to the report, PRISM was used to extract audio, video, photos, and emails from some of the biggest Internet companies, including Google and Microsoft.

The Obama administration insists its actions are legal. Officials say the data isn’t reviewed unless investigators have reason to believe it’s tied to terrorism.

“I think it is important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and then also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.  You know, we are going to have to make some choices as a society,”  President Obama said Friday.

Word of the NSA surveillance techniques has outraged lawmakers in both parties. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul launched the first strike against the activity Friday. He is proposing a bill that requires a warrant before any government agency can search Americans’ phone records.

Sen. Ted Cruz has also been highly critical of the government’s tactics. Read his full statement, below the jump. More >

Capital Tonight: Redistricting road trip begins

Last Hearing at Home

Lawmakers were back in Austin — and on the road — continuing their special session work Thursday. But there’s debate among some lawmakers about whether the hearings serve any purpose at all, if they’re not leading to maps different from the interim approved by a San Antonio court.

Capital Commentators

Governor Perry’s plans are still up in the air, whether it’s putting his signature on key education bills or his plans for political office.

Democratic strategist Harold Cook and Republican strategist Rob Johnson joined us to sort through the hints and signals.

View from Austin

Plus, Sen. Kirk Watson stopped by to talk special session strategy. Click the image below to hear his thoughts on redistricting, campus construction and more.

Capital Tonight: Public education issues still unresolved

Back to School

More questions are being raised in about the state’s school funding system.

Players from both sides of the school finance lawsuit were back in court Wednesday in an effort to get District Judge John Dietz to admit public education changes passed out of the 83rd Legislature as evidence. But many of those changes are still up in the air, pending Gov. Rick Perry’s signature — or his veto pen.

Campus Construction

As the special session creeps slowly along, some lawmakers are holding out hope that their legislation will make it on the call.

One push in particular is gaining a lot of attention. Legislation that would have approved about $2.5 billion in tuition revenue bonds fell through in the final hours of the regular session, but backers of the bills are hopeful it will be considered during the special session.

Candidate Perspective

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson stopped by the studio to give his take on the regular session as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. Click the logo below to see the full interview.