Archive for January, 2014

Capital Tonight: 41 years after Roe v. Wade

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case. During the Texas legislature’s special session last summer, strict regulations in House Bill 2 brought thousands from both sides of the issue to protest. Key provisions of the law include a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks and additional standards for abortion clinics.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how the Court’s landmark decision is still affecting Texas politics more than four decades later.


A bipartisan group in Congress is working on a bill in response to the Supreme Court striking down parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act last year. Our Geoff Bennett checked in on the latest from Washington.


As primary voting approaches, many candidates running for judges’ seats are mostly unknown to the public – at both the county and district level.

We heard from Sarah Eckhardt and Andy Brown about their tough campaign to be the Travis County Judge. Plus, George Scott Christian of the Texas Civil Justice League talked about a new campaign to increase voter participation in judicial races.

Capital Tonight: Azle residents bring earthquake concerns to Austin

The controversy over North Texas earthquakes has made its way to Austin. Dozens of North Texas residents shared their concerns with the state’s oil and gas regulators over a spate of recent earthquakes near Azle, Texas.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard why many believe the recent boom in hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — is leading to the earthquakes. Plus, we got an update on the latest round of court hearings over public education funding.


While the Texas Railroad Commission has yet to acknowledge the link between fracking and earthquakes, one scientist’s research is drawing strong connections. We spoke with Cliff Frohlich, a senior research scientist at UT’s Institute for Geophysics about what his research shows.


The details of Sen. Wendy Davis’s life are still drawing scrutiny after an article published in The Dallas Morning News pointed out discrepancies between her campaign narrative and the official record.

Democratic strategist Harold Cook and Republican strategist Ted Delisi joined us to discuss whether the dispute over details could become an ongoing problem for the Davis campaign.

Capital Tonight: Governor’s race gets personal for Davis

As people all around the country honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service, political leaders are giving their take on what his legacy means.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how leaders today are interpreting King’s thoughts on civil rights, voting rights and international issues.


An article by Wayne Slater in The Dallas Morning News calls the details of Wendy Davis’s past into question. Is it enough to rattle her campaign for governor? The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about that and more.



The race to fill Mark Strama’s seat in is in its last stretch, and one Republican candidate is hoping to turn House District 50 red after years of Democratic victory. We spoke to Mike VanDeWalle about his campaign.

TDI announces stricter health insurance navigator rules

People tasked with helping Texans sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will now have to undergo an additional 20 hours of training. The Texas Department of Insurance announced the new regulations Tuesday. The training will be in addition to the 20-30 hours of already mandated by the federal government.

In September, Gov. Rick Perry directed the department to create state-specific rules for navigators. Perry initially asked for an additional 40 hours of coursework. He also wanted require applicants to show proof of citizenship and submit to fingerprinting and periodic background checks. The changes announced today fall short of Perry’s directive.

Opponents to the changes have argued that additional state regulations would be cost prohibitive and would affect nonprofits’ ability to help people sign up for health insurance.

Rep. Lon Burnam was among those opposed to the changes. In a statement Tuesday, Burnam said the TDI took a scaled-back approach after his office threatened to release documents that showed the original proposal was made for political, not public health reasons. “We shouldn’t play political games with people’s healthcare,” Burnam said. “There was no justification for the original proposal other than conservative politics, so I’m glad TDI has relented and come up with training requirements that are at least somewhat logical.”

Navigators must now complete the additional training by May 1. The deadline to sign up for health insurance and avoid paying a penalty is March 31st.

Hilderbran launches first statewide TV ad in comptroller’s race

With just over a month to go until early voting begins, Rep. Harvey Hilderbran has launched the first statewide television ad in the Republican primary race for comptroller.

In the 30-second spot, Hilderbran promises to re-institute reports on state spending and efficiency, known as performance reviews. The Legislative Budget Board is currently in charge of issuing such reviews, known as Government Effectiveness and Efficiency Reports, but the task used to fall under the comptroller’s office.

“The private sector monitors cost every day. It’s high time state government did the same,” Hilderbran says in the ad.

Hilderbran is running for comptroller against three other Republican candidates: Glenn Hegar, Debra Medina and Raul Torres. The winner of the primary will face off against Democrat Mike Collier, who is running unopposed.

You can watch Hilderbran’s full ad, below.


Capital Tonight: Looking back at a week of fundraising numbers


President Barack Obama is calling for an end to the National Security Agency’s ability to store phone data from millions of Americans. It’s one of several surveillance policy reforms the president outlined during a Friday speech at the Justice Department.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at his reaction after months of revelations about surveillance.


The cards are on the table when it comes to fundraising for statewide candidates. Ross Ramsey from the Texas Tribune, Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News and Ryan Poppe from Texas Public Radio joined us to talk about what the totals mean heading into the primaries.


The Texas economy is booming, but are we really the fastest-growing state in the country? Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to check the claim.

Capital Tonight: College costs debated at federal, state level

UT Austin President Bill Powers joined more than a hundred college leaders in Washington Thursday to find ways to make higher education more accessible.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we heard President Barack Obama’s motivation for convening the summit, plus former University of Texas at Austin President Larry Faulkner talked about efforts to curb rising tuition costs.


The lieutenant governor’s race is almost a three-way tie — at least when it comes to fundraising. Democratic strategist Harold Cook and Republican strategist Rob Johnson joined us to talk about who is ahead and who should start worrying.


Will the state’s economic incentive funds survive after Gov. Rick Perry leaves office? Austin Business Journal Editor Colin Pope joined us to consider that question in light of one fund’s mixed success rate.

Lawmakers to investigate ties between earthquakes and fracking

The Texas Legislature is taking steps to determine if earthquakes in North Texas are tied to oil and gas drilling. House Energy and Energy Resources Committee Chairman Jim Keffer named three Republicans and one Democrat to the ‘Subcommittee on Seismic Activity.’ It will be led by Denton Republican Myra Crownover.

The committee with work with the Railroad Commission to look into a rash of earthquakes in Azle, which is located about 50 miles north of Dallas. The area has experienced more than 30 small earthquakes since November. Residents in the area have voiced concerns over cracked walls, foundation damage and water leaks. Many attribute the seismic activity to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. 

“The Texas oil and gas industry is the envy of the nation and the world. All Texans benefit from the safe production
of our natural resources,” Crownover said. “It is our job as legislators to make sure that we address the concerns surrounding recent
earthquake activity so that all Texans can sleep easy, confident that the oil and gas industry continues to operate in a
safe and responsible manner.

The Railroad Commission has not acknowledged the link, however recent studies by Cliff Frohlich of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas suggest the quakes are caused by the wastewater deposited deep in the ground after it’s used to extract oil and gas. Earlier this month, the Railroad Commission announced it will hire a seismologist to study any possible connection.


Capital Tonight: One-on-one with George P. Bush

He’s a big-name candidate running for an inconspicuous office, and this week, George P. Bush kicked his run for land commissioner into high gear with a statewide bus tour.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we caught up with Bush to talk about his role in the Republican party, family advice and more.


The deadline has passed and the fundraising totals are in. We sat down with former lawmakers Aaron Pena and Sherri Greenberg to analyze things from a candidate’s perspective.


The Texas Comptrollers’ office released a study this week examining the effects of our state’s water crisis. In it, Comptroller Susan Combs lays out several recommendations for meeting the state’s future water needs.

Dewhurst campaign announces $1.4M cash on hand

The David Dewhurst campaign reports it raised $2.3 million in the second half of 2013, a number that puts Dewhurst slightly above two of his competitors in fundraising.

But when it comes to cash on hand, Dewhurst is at the back of the pack. Both Todd Staples and Dan Patrick currently claim $3.1 million in the bank, compared to the $1.4 million total Dewhurst announced today. (Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who is also running for lieutenant governor, has not released totals yet.)

It’s not clear yet how much the Dewhurst team has spent, but the campaign has released a steady series of ads since the lieutenant governor’s official announcement for re-election, with at least one airing nationally. The campaign has also been hampered by an alleged embezzlement scandal, in which a former campaign manager is accused of stealing more that $2 million.