Archive for July, 2013

Capital Tonight: Abbott returns to Austin as gubernatorial candidate


Attorney General Greg Abbott made his first appearance in Austin since declaring his bid for governor. We spoke one-on-one with Abbott following his downtown campaign event.


Its been a source of contention for months, drawing emotional protests, thousands of demonstrators and an 11 hour filibuster. Now, House Bill 2 is officially the law of the land.

Governor Rick Perry signed off on stricter abortion regulations, Thursday morning. We took another look at what the bill entails, and how opponents plan to fight it from here.


Plus, political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined us to talk about Abbott’s campaign strategy, his efforts to differentiate himself from Perry and more.

House rallies support for transportation funding amendment

The Texas House has formally approved a plan that would funnel $800 million into Texas roads. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Pickett,  would change the way gasoline tax is distributed. Currently, five cents of the 20-cent gas tax goes to pay for public education. Under this plan, all 25 cents would be funneled into transportation projects. The education money would be made up, elsewhere.

Transportation funding was all but passed last special session, but the bill ultimately died after it was placed on the Senate calendar after the abortion bill. As a result of Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster, a final vote never took place.

The legislation is now headed to the Senate, which has already approved its own version of the bill. The Senate resolution, however, includes some key differences. Notably, the bill guarantees that $6 billion will remain in the Rainy Day Fund. House Democrats have vowed to block such a provision.

Voters would still have to approve either plan.

Wendy Davis responds to abortion bill signing

Shortly after Gov. Rick Perry signed a controversial abortion bill into law, Sen. Wendy Davis released a statement calling the move a potential turning point for voters.

“When Governor Perry signed the bill, he signaled a clear break with Texas families. Governor Perry and other state leaders have now taken sides and chosen narrow partisan special interests over mothers, daughters, sisters and every Texan who puts the health of their family, the well-being of their neighbors, and the future of Texas ahead of politics and personal ambitions.”

Sen. Davis played a key role in delaying the bill during the first special session. Her nearly 11-hour filibuster helped push a final vote past the midnight deadline, forcing Gov. Perry to call a second special session.

Planned Parenthood calls abortion legislation ‘devastating’

Planned Parenthood and other women’s groups have been staunchly opposed to the new abortion regulations. Cecile Richards, who is the President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, traveled to Austin to attend several of the protests and to observe the action on the House and Senate floors. She issued this statement: 

“The bill signed into law by Governor Perry today makes a terrible situation for women’s health even worse. Already, Rick Perry and other politicians have cut more than 130,000 Texas women off from basic preventive health care, including lifesaving cancer screenings and well-woman check-ups, and this new law will severely limit access to safe and legal abortion, which will cause women to resort to desperate and dangerous measures. These relentless attacks on women’s health have a devastating impact on women who already have the least access to health care.

“Doctors oppose this law because they know it will hurt their patients, and the public overwhelmingly opposes these attacks on women’s health. In Texas alone, 80 percent of voters oppose special session passage of the bill Governor Perry signed today, which is why the governor and his allies had to break the rules and shut down the democratic process to push this through the State Legislature.

“The fight over this law will move to the courts, while the bigger fight for women’s access to health care in Texas gains steam. People are enraged by this law, and it has created a whole new generation of activists who are in it for the long run to elect leaders who will protect women’s health.”


Perry signs controversial abortion reform bill

Gov. Rick Perry has signed into law new stricter abortion regulations. Among other things, the law will ban abortion after 20 weeks and require upgrades to existing abortion clinics.

Clinics have until September of 2014 to transform their operations into surgical centers. Opponents say the expensive upgrades, along with a component of the bill requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, will force all but five of the state’s 42 existing clinics to close.

Supporters of the legislation have maintained that the regulations will help improve safety and women’s health. “This is an important day for those who support life and for those who support the health of Texas women,” said Gov. Perry.

The abortion legislation has sparked weeks of protests at the State Capitol. Lawmakers failed to pass the bill during the first special session. Sen. Wendy Davis’ 11 hour filibuster and outbursts from the Senate gallery pushed the vote past the midnight deadline. Republicans were able to easily push the through legislation last week. The law officially takes effect in October.


Capital Tonight: Legal challenge brewing on eve of abortion bill signing


Gov. Rick Perry has announced he will sign stricter abortion regulations into law Thursday, just plans for legal ramifications are taking shape.

Terri Burke of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas says the group is considering including Texas as part of its nationwide response to abortion legislation. We spoke to Burke about what the legal action might look like.


The State Board of Education is meeting this week for the first time since lawmakers passed new curriculum and testing changes. We spoke to SBOE Vice Chair Thomas Ratliff about how the board is dealing with the changes and what they plan to do about the loss of CSCOPE.


And in Washington, lawmakers are taking the first steps toward updating the Voting Rights Act. Click the image below to hear the latest on their efforts, plus commentary from two former lawmakers about its impact here at home.

Capital Tonight: Democrats strive to break political dry spell


As the second special session winds down, the focus is quickly shifting to the next election.
Republican candidates are coming out of the woodwork, but so far, not a single Democrat has declared intentions to run for state-wide office. We spoke to organizers with Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party to find out where their efforts are leading.


New campaign finance reports show the incumbent in third place when it comes to fundraising for the lieutenant governor’s race. Political consultants Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined us to talk about what Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst might do next.


Although the controversial abortion bill they sought to block is already on its way to the governor’s desk, Democrats and abortion-rights activists are vowing to fight on. We sat down for a one-on-one interview with Rep. Senfronia Thompson to talk about the next step, statewide politics, and her use of an infamous visual aid on the House floor.

Dewhurst campaign releases ‘defender of the pre-born’ video

The lieutenant governor hasn’t held any official reelection campaign events, but a new video released by his campaign team appears to get it started for him.

Posted by the TeamDewhurst account Tuesday, the video shows Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the days leading up to the passage of House Bill 2, which imposes tough, new restrictions on abortion providers. The bill was forced into a second special session after Dewhurst failed to get it passed before a midnight deadline at the end of June. The second time around, thousands of demonstrators, both for and against the bill, gathered at the Capitol. Over dramatic music, the video shows Dewhurst promising to respect the opposition’s First Amendment rights while guaranteeing to supporters that the bill would pass.

The video is titled “Dewhurst: Defender of the Pre-Born.”

The ad was paid for by the David Dewhurst Committee, which campaign finance reports show has just over $1.7 million in cash on hand. That puts Dewhurst in third place in the field of declared candidates for lieutenant governor. The numbers show Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples with a strong head start at $3 million. Sen. Dan Patrick, who has strongly criticized Dewhurst for his handling of the bill during the first special session, holds $2.1 milllion. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson’s campaign has $1.3 million.

Capital Tonight: House, Senate take diverging paths toward transportation funding

In Monday’s episode: We look at the House’s plan for long-term transportation funding; organizers for an abortion-rights rally at the Capitol hope to keep the movement going; and the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg looks at where campaign fundraising efforts stand. Click the image below to watch Monday’s full episode.

Pauken posts modest fundraising totals

Former Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken  raised $221,260 since announcing he would seek the Republican nomination for Governor. That is compared to the nearly $23 million raised by Attorney General Greg Abbot, who announced his candidacy yesterday.

Pauken has set himself up for a run as the anti-establishment candidate. In a statement today, Pauken took aim at Abbott’s war chest and the way he collected contributions.

“Today’s release of a political fundraising report shows that my opponent has been extraordinarily busy during his three terms as attorney general raising a war chest from big law firms and special interests,” Pauken said. “Even before this report came out, Greg Abbott had raised more than $39 million since 2001, with $27 million coming from just 200 sources.”

In an email statement, Pauken acknowledged that his campaign will be greatly outspent, but stressed that it is the message, not the money that is most important.