Archive for September, 2013

Appeals court overturns DeLay conviction

A Texas appeals court has overturned the money laundering conviction of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

In a 2-1 vote, the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the conviction. DeLay was convicted in November 2010 and sentenced to three years in prison, but his sentence was on hold pending the appeal.

While in Congress, Delay helped state lawmakers take control of the Texas Legislature by directing campaign money toward specific campaigns. Then-Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle accused Delay of funneling corporate contributions to individual candidates in violation of state ethic laws. The charges eventually cost DeLay his position as majority leader.

DeLay told reporters he had just finished praying with colleagues on Capitol Hill when his lawyer called with the news.

“I just thank the Lord for carrying me through all of this, and it really drove my detractors crazy, because I had the joy of Jesus in me and they didn’t understand that,” DeLay said.

The legal process will likely continue, however. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg said today she plans to file an appeal with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

“We strongly agree that Tom Delay is guilty,” Lehmberg said. “There was a lot of work done by jurors. They sat in the box for three weeks and heard the evidence. This is far from over.”

Capital Tonight: Officials disagree over new course for navigators

Less than two weeks before a major component of the Affordable Care Act goes live, Gov. Rick Perry is directing the Texas Department of Insurance to further regulate so-called health insurance navigators. It’s a move that’s not sitting well with some Texas Democrats, but that’s especially true for the man who wrote the bill Perry says authorizes his actions in the first place. Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson says his bill was meant to make it easier for Texans to get health insurance, not harder.

 

CANDIDATE CONVERSATION

We continued our Candidate Conversation series with Austin-area businesswoman Jade Chang Sheppard, who is one of three Democrats running for House District 50.

CUTS AND CONSEQUENCES

And in Washington, embers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the House Armed Services Committee. Our Washington bureau reporter looked at their warnings about the impact of sequestration budget cuts on the military.

Watson: Perry’s call for navigator requirements twists meaning of bill

Sen. Kirk Watson is pushing back against Gov. Rick Perry’s call for stricter requirements for insurance navigators, saying it distorts the meaning of his original bill and makes it more difficult for Texans to get health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“I authored Senate Bill 1795 to make it easier for Texans to get health insurance, not harder,” Watson said in a statement. “This is a tool to improve our healthcare system, not dismantle it even further.”

The federal government has distributed nearly $11 million to Texas groups to help train so-called navigators to guide people through the enrollment process. Yesterday, Gov. Perry sent a letter to Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber, directing the department to create state-specific rules for navigators. On top of federal requirements that include 20 to 30 hours of training and annual certification tests, Perry wants to require applicants to show proof of citizenship, take an additional 40 hours of coursework, submit to fingerprinting and periodic background checks.

Perry says TDI has the authority to make the changes under Senate Bill 1795, which was authored by Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson, who says the law was never intended to be used in such a way.

“It’s not clear to me that all of the Governor’s instructions are even allowed under this bill or other state or federal law,” Watson said. “He’s twisting the meaning of protecting consumers to fulfill a political agenda. This will hurt Texans who need healthcare far more than it helps him in some GOP primary.”

Davis to announce political plans October 3

Months of speculation over Sen. Wendy Davis’ political future will be put to rest on October 3. Davis announced today via email that she will make her future plans known at a grassroots event that day. She had originally planned to make this announcement around Labor Day, but postponed it due to the sudden illness and death of her father. The email doesn’t give a location, but all signs point to Davis’ home district of Fort Worth.

Davis political star rose among Democrats, following her 13 hour abortion bill filibuster during the first special legislative session. In a rare move, the Texas Democratic Party and other progressive groups have been campaigning to garner pre-primary support and raise money for a gubernatorial run.

Davis has thus far only confirmed that she will either run for governor, or seek another term as Texas Senator. If she does decide to run for governor, Davis’ senate seat will be up for grabs. Fellow Democrats have also put their own political plans on hold until Davis makes her announcement.

Despite ramped up fundraising events, including several in Washington, D.C., Davis will face an uphill financial battle. Her potential Republican opponent Attorney General Greg Abbott already has more than $20 million in his campaign war chest.

 

Capital Tonight: One-on-one with UT Regent Wallace Hall

He’s been the subject of controversy since 2011, and now he’s at risk of being the first governor-appointed official to be impeached in state history.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke one-on-one with UT Regent Wallace Hall. Click the logo below to watch an extended interview with Hall about UT President Bill Powers, the accusations against him and the future of higher education.

EVOLVING CONVERSATION

The State Board of Education was back in the spotlight Tuesday, and back on the issue of science curriculum and how evolution will be taught in public schools. It’s a heated topic that dates back to 2009 when the board approved new science curriculum standards, but due to legislative changes, some say the stigma that surrounds the board is changing.

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

Plus, a comment from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is drawing flack from a fellow lawmaker. Our Capital Commentators weighed in on that development and more.

Sen. Van de Putte challenges Dewhurst debate comment

Updated to add Lt. Gov. Dewhurst statement

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte is taking issue with comments made by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst during a Dallas debate. Challenger Sen. Dan Patrick took aim at Dewhurst’s legislative committee appointments, accusing him of naming too many Democrats to important seats.

Dewhurst responded with this remark:

“I’ve been reducing the number of Democratic chairs since I came in. You know how many committees we have? Seventeen. You know how many Democratic chairs we have? Five. So I’ve been reducing them, and not one of them is one of the critical committees.”

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who is chair of the Veterans Affairs and Military Installations committee, responded quickly on Twitter. Today, she sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, expressing her “great shock” that he was implying the committee’s work “wasn’t important.”

“As a Democrat in the state of Texas, I would understand if you attacked me personally at a Republican political debate.” Van de Putte said. “However I take great exception with dismissing the work of the committee which I chair, particularly because the VAMI committee works hard to protect the men and women that defend your right to freely debate.”

A spokesperson for Lt. Gov. Dewhurst issued this statement in response to Sen. Van de Putte’s letter.

“Lt. Governor Dewhurst believes every committee in the Texas Senate addresses issues important to Texans. As a veteran of the United States Air Force and foreign officer in the C.I.A., David Dewhurst has always supported veterans and was proud to preside over the passage of legislation such as SB163, which awards a 100% property tax exemption to spouses of active duty service members who were killed in action, and SB 162, which helps ease the transition of service members and their families to civilian life.” – Travis Considine, Spokesperson For Lt. Governor David Dewhurst

Sen. Van de Putte has been rumored to be considering a run for Lieutenant Governor. She hasn’t given any indication as to whether or not she’ll get in the race.

The full letter is below the jump.

More >

Texas Congressmen file Fort Hood Heroes Act

Texas lawmakers in Washington are moving forward with a bill to reclassify the Fort Hood shooting as an act of terrorism. Tuesday, Reps. John Carter and Roger Williams filed their version of the legislation. The bill has 118 co-sponsors, including Texas Rep. Michael McCaul.

The military designated the 2009 mass shooting on the Army post as an “act of workplace violence.” Reclassifying the shooting would give victims and their families access to the same benefits as those killed in combat.

“It’s very, very clear that the intent of Mr. Hasan was to kill soldiers to keep them off the battlefield. In his way of thinking, he was on the battlefield. Rep. Carter said in an interview yesterday. “I felt like this was clearly a terrorist attack.”

According to lawmakers, those benefits could include:

  • Combat-related special compensation
  • Maximum coverage under Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance
  • Tax breaks after death in combat zone or terrorist attack
  • Special pay for subjection to hostile fire or imminent danger
  • Unearned portions of bonuses
  • Combat-related injury rehabilitation pay
  • Meals at military treatment facilities

The Honoring the Fort Hood Heroes Act is a companion bill to legislation already filed in the Senate. That bill is sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

 

Capital Tonight: DPS shares new numbers related to voter ID

More than a dozen people are dead after a mass shooting at a Washington, D.C. Navy complex. In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we check in with the latest details and talk to Congressman John Carter about the attack.

Here in Texas, officials with the Department of Public Safety are working to make sure people are ready for the voter ID law, which is now in effect. We took a closer look at who’s signing up and what kind of questions they’re asking.

PRIMARY CAMPAIGNS

The primary is still a year and a half away, but campaigns are already in full swing. We checked in with gubernatorial candidates Greg Abbott and Tom Pauken, and talked to the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg about new poll numbers in the race for lieutenant governor.

AG EXPERIENCE

Plus, we spoke to Republican Uvalde Mayor J. Allen Carnes about his run for the agriculture commissioner seat being vacated by Todd Staples. Click the image below to see that interview, along with the latest on hearings involving UT Regent Wallace Hall.

Internal poll points to Dewhurst, Patrick runoff

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst continues to lead the lieutenant governor’s primary race, but not with enough support to avoid a runoff.

A new pollcommissioned by Sen. Dan Patrick’s campaign, shows Dewhurst polling in first place with 40 percent. Patrick is in second, with 18 percent. Patrick’s campaign is praising the new numbers. Campaign officials say Patrick has gained four points on Dewhurst since May.

“These results show what I am seeing at events across the state,” said Patrick. “The voters are ready for new authentic conservative leadership in the Texas Senate and I am their candidate.”

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson are tied for third with four percent each.

 

 

 

Capital Tonight: A bumpy road ahead for health care law

In just over two weeks, a key part of the Affordable Care Act comes online, but what does the insurance exchange mean for you? In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we wrapped up our series on Obamacare with a breakdown of the details that matter.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

From enrollment drives to insurance navigators, there are a lot of moving parts to implementing the law in Texas, especially given the state’s hands-off approach. We spoke to Becca Aaronson of the Texas Tribuneand Robert Garrett of The Dallas Morning News to find out how the rollout is going so far.

 

CHECKING THE FACTS

Plus, Gardner Selby with PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to sort fact from fiction on three popular claims about Obamacare.