Archive for August, 2013

Capital Tonight: Nearly 700 new laws set to take effect in September

A laundry list of new laws is set to take effect September 1. Among them, stiffer penalties for drivers involved in fatal hit-and-run accidents. The law was passed, in part, due to the a high-profile case involving a former staffer at the State Capitol.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we talked to Sen. Kirk Watson about the law’s intended effect.


The governor of Texas is on the road again, and drawing fresh criticism from Missouri officials for his efforts to bring employers back to Texas. Scott Braddock from the Quorum Report, Corrie MacLaggan of The Texas Tribune and Ben Philpott of KUT’s “Agenda Texas” joined us to talk about that story and more.


A political leader from North Texas has made his presence felt in Austin on issues ranging from Voter ID to health insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. We sat down with Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins to talk about his political involvement.

Capital Tonight: Congressman Doggett reveals split with Obama over Syria

A Republican-backed abortion bill got the green light from state health officials charged with implementing the rules, but a procedural twist is raising some eyebrows.

In Thursday’s show, we take a peek behind the scenes at what some are calling an unusual move.


The president is one step closer to making a decision on Syria, but an increasing number of Congressional lawmakers say he needs to convince convince them first. We spoke one-on-one with Rep. Lloyd Doggett about that issue, immigration reform and more.


From Sen. Wendy Davis’ delay of a major political announcement to Gov. Rick Perry courting controversy in Missouri, there’s been plenty of buzz-worthy political news lately. Democratic strategist Harold Cook and Republican strategist Ted Delisi joined us to analyze the day’s top talkers.

Capital Tonight: Health care laws still drawing scrutiny

The fight over federal health care law came to Texas Wednesday, and a group of Tea Party activists sought to lead the charge. On Wednesday’s show, we got their perspective on the split over strategy between Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn and looked at why a new poll could wind up shifting the debate.

Meanwhile, another health law continues to draw scrutiny. Lawmakers passed a divisive set of abortion restrictions during the summer’s second special session. Wednesday, Department of State Health Services met to decide on the best way to implement the law, and to hear from the dozens of people who signed up to testify.


Republican Eric Opiela is hoping to be the new face of the Texas Department of Agriculture, but he has to face off against Rep. Brandon Creighton in the primary election first. We spoke one-on-one with the rancher and attorney about water issues, land rights and more.


Plus, it’s been 50 years since the March on Washington helped change the American conscience. Our Washington bureau reporter looked at what civil rights leaders and the president had to say about racial equality today.

Patterson ad takes aim at Dewhurst, Patrick

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is making his case as an outsider in the race for lieutenant governor.

In a new ad, entitled “Washington West,” Patterson paints the current Senate leadership as “soft” and unable to get things done. He cites the delayed vote on a controversial abortion bill that followed Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster back in June, blaming Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Sen. Dan Patrick for letting an “unruly mob” of demonstrators take control.

“That might happen in Wisconsin or Michigan, but not in Texas,” Patterson says in the ad.

Patterson has served as head of the General Land Office since 2002, and was a state Senator for six years until 1999. He faces incumbent Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Sen. Patrick and current Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples in a primary race for the state’s second highest political office.



Raul Torres casts himself as ‘outsider’ candidate in new comptroller ad

Former Texas Rep. Raul Torres is hoping to position himself as the outsider in the State Comptroller’s race. He released a new online campaign ad today. In it, Torres touts his experience as a Certified Public Accountant and says he can make government more efficient.

“I’m convinced that sweetheart insider deals  and politics as usual are hurting hardworking families like yours and mine,” he says in the ad. “I believe your family’s future is too important to leave in the hands of career politicians who’ve been in office for decades.”

Torres will face Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, Sen. Glenn Hegar and former gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina in the Republican primary. Houston businessman Mike Collier is the only Democrat to announce so far.

Capital Tonight: Education commissioner opens up about legislative changes

Some lawmakers returned to the State Capitol Monday to hear more testimony on the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer plant. The exact cause of the blast is still unknown, but state leaders are working to prevent a similar disaster.

In Monday’s show, we look at what they’ve learned so far and where prevention efforts could be headed.


Monday was the first day of school for many Texas students, and it was day-one for some long-debated changes made by the legislature to go into effect. We spoke one-on-one with Education Commissioner Michael Williams about what parents and teachers need to know.


And it was a busy weekend for Texas politicians, including a debate over a controversial teaching tool. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about that debate and more.

Hilderbran takes aim at IRS in new comptroller ad

Comptroller candidate Harvey Hilderbran released his first online campaign ad Monday. The two-minute video focuses on what Hilderbran calls “big government liberals” who are “using the IRS as a weapon against good folks, just because they’re conservative.”

In an interview on Capital Tonight last week, Hilderbran explained how he would use the comptroller’s office to expand communication between the state and the IRS. 

“One of the areas we see is an opportunity to be a resource. The comptroller’s office has tax experts,” he said. “We know both state tax policy and federal tax policy and how it interacts. If we find people are being abused by the IRS, we can inquire. We can engage the IRS. We already have a relationship with them.”

You can watch the full ad here:

Dewhurst addresses controversial phone call

The state’s lieutenant governor is talking publicly about a controversial phone call for the first time.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst spoke at the Conservative Leadership Symposium in Georgetown Saturday. It was his first public appearance since Wednesday, when a call to the Allen Police Department was released. In the call, Dewhurst repeated his name and title, and asked to speak to the highest ranking officer after his nephew’s wife had been arrested for shoplifting. Dewhurst didn’t talk about the incident during his speech, but he had this to say to reporters afterward:

“How would you feel if you’d had two family members call, and they were so distraught that they could barely talk? And so, I simply wanted to know what the procedures were, what could be done, if anything.It turned out nothing could be done.

Because I kept visualizing this lady who I’ve known for a long time alone. I pictured my mom, who was a single mom, if that ever happened to her. And I was concerned. A very concerned uncle.

And I made it crystal clear that I didn’t expect or deserve any special treatment. But I’m the type of guy that I care for family, I care for friends, I care for the people of Texas, and I’ll fight for them. And I will — in this case, try to find out what the law is. I’ve never had this experience, I’ve never been in this situation. Never knew any of my family members who’ve ever had any trouble with the law. I didn’t know what the rules were, so I asked, found out, and the lady had to spend the night in jail.”

The phone call recording was released after a Freedom of Information request from a Dallas TV station. Allen police say Dewhurst didn’t break any laws in making the call, but his political opponents have characterized it as an abuse of power.

First Democrat announces for statewide office

Mike Collier became the first Democrat to announce a statewide 2014 campaign, Friday. Collier is running for the soon-to-be vacant Texas Comptroller seat.

Collier is a the Chief Financial Officer for a Houston-based petroleum company. He is touting his experience as a businessman and promises a commitment to transparency. On his website, Collier says:

“For too long, the people we’ve hired to mind Texas’ tax dollars have been more interested in their political ambition than in holding politicians accountable. Texas needs a Comptroller who has the courage to tell taxpayers the truth and who has the know-how to hold the Texas legislature accountable. As a business leader, financial professional, and Democrat, Mike will bring a fresh perspective to Texas government and drive real reform in Austin.”

If he makes it past the primary, Collier could face one of four GOP opponents in the general election. Sen. Glenn Hegar, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, former Rep. Raul Torres and former gubernatorial candidate Debra Media are all vying for the republican nomination.

More Democrats are expected to announce their political plans once Wendy Davis decides if she will run for governor. That announcement is expected around Labor Day.



Capital Tonight: Responding to public controversy

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is responding to criticism over a phone call made to the Allen Police Department in an attempt to get a family member out of jail.

While the lieutenant governor maintains he was acting as a concerned family member, some political experts say public officials should know where to draw the line, and many are even speculating this could do some real damage to his political future.


The UT board of regents made changes Thursday, amid controversy surrounding one of their own. Members appointed El Paso businessman Paul Foster as the new chairman, and directed staff to provide a detailed report of on the UT system’s handling of requests under the Texas Public Information Act.


The state’s embattled cancer prevention agency has new life after a lack of oversight in the grant-review process drew heightened scrutiny.

We sat down with CPRIT’s interim executive director, Wayne Roberts, to find out where the reconciliation process stands and where the agency’s work is headed.