Archive for February, 2014

Cigarroa steps down as UT System chancellor, says fight over Powers unrelated

The head of the University of Texas System formally announced he would end his five-year tenure to return to transplant surgery.

In a press conference Monday, UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said he had accomplished everything he’d set out to do as chancellor, and that it always had been his intention to return to medicine full-time. Cigarroa has accepted a job as head of pediatric transplant surgery at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Cigarroa touted his accomplishments as chancellor, including the establishment of two new medical schools: the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the Dell School of Medicine at UT Austin. He also cited his Framework for Advancing Excellence, which the UT Board of Regents adopted in 2011. The plan called for increased engineering education, expanded online learning and the Horizon Fund, which provides seed money for the commercialization of UT research.

The chancellor’s departure comes during a tumultuous time for the Board of Regents, UT Austin President Bill Powers and the Texas Legislature. In December, Cigarroa announced Powers would stay on as president, but cited strained tensions with the board. Meanwhile, a joint committee of lawmakers is investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall, who has been accused of a “witch hunt” against Powers. Cigarroa said the controversy surrounding the UT Austin president had nothing to do with his decision.

“I evaluate all presidents as I’ve always done, based on facts and performance,” Cigarroa said. “I support President Powers, and I will continue to evaluate presidents every day — not only President Powers but all 15.”

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, who has been supportive of Powers, says she believes the decision has more to do with the fight over leadership than Cigarroa would admit.

“Although I am confident that he will deny any disharmony, I am equally confident that his decision was influenced by the continued negative circumstances at hand. His action personifies the harmful repercussions of the current attack on those who pursue excellence, protect the privacy of students and strive for true transparency for all,” Zaffirini said in a statement.

Cigarroa said he will remain as chancellor until his replacement is found, a process UT Board of Regents Chair Paul Foster says will likely to take 4-6 months. He will also continue to serve the board as an adviser for the UT Rio Grande Valley medical school.


Capital Tonight: Weighing the impact of open carry gun laws

The topic of more permissive gun laws is back up for discussion, and with both frontrunner candidates for governor supporting the open carry of handguns, there’s a better chance it could pass next session.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we examined the real-world implications of the law and saw how Texas gun laws compare to other states.


Immigration and border security are big topics for Republican primary candidates, but is the rhetoric starting to alienate even Latino voters on the right? Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News, the Texas Tribune‘s Jay Root of Texas Monthly senior editor Erica Grieder weighed in on that question and more.


Plus, a new week brings a new round of campaign claims. Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas joined us to take a closer look at two of them.

Capital Tonight: Davis’ support for open carry draws mixed reactions

Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis is now on record as supporting the open carry of handguns, after registering her position in an Associated Press questionnaire. Davis’ stance puts her on similar ground as her Republican rival for governor, Attorney General Greg Abbott.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the reaction from Sen. Davis’ fellow Democrats, as well as pro-gun Republicans.


The four candidates vying for the lieutenant governor’s office made their cases to the Texas business community Thursday. They’ve done dozens of forums leading into the March primary, but with less than two weeks until early voting starts, the effort to find differences between the candidates is starting to bear fruit.

We sat down with Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to talk about the state’s drug laws, the Emerging Technology Fund and what separates him from the pack.


Plus, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi weighed in on the Davis decision and the Patterson campaign from a political strategist’s perspective.

Capital Tonight: EPA fight spills over into attorney general race

Republican candidates competing to be the next attorney general lashed out at the President today, giving his Affordable Care Act the worst possible rating and pledging to sue the administration. The candidates also anticipate conflict with EPA regulations they see as burdensome and unnecessary.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we took a look at the merits of the EPA’s new air and farm regulations.


Debra Medina, a Republican candidate to be the Texas Comptroller, articulated how cronyism is a problem in Texas and how we can achieve greater prosperity through use of the free market.


Harvey Kronberg gave an insider’s perspective on recent fundraising and how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may be perceived on his trip to Texas.

Capital Tonight: Drug testing law delayed by federal timeline

After weeks of heated debate, Senate Bill 21 was passed into law during last year’s legislative session, but it has since been delayed by the US Department of Labor. The bill would require that the unemployed pass a drug test in order to receive benefits.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we look at how the bureaucratic roadblock is reviving debate over the controversial law.


Manny Garcia, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party, and Beth Cubriel, director of the Republican Party of Texas, join us to talk about the abysmal voter turnout in Texas and whether the voter ID law will affect turnout.


The Wendy Davis campaign received sharp criticism from the Texas press after only letting select members of the media into a fundraiser. In response, the campaign is reportedly bringing on an outsider to “right the ship” with its communication department. Harvey Kronberg joined us to provide commentary on how this and other factors influence the governor’s race.

Abbott’s fundraising lead over Davis tops $19M

New fundraising totals from the frontrunner candidates for governor show Attorney General Greg Abbott with a lead of more than $19 million dollars over Sen. Wendy Davis.

Both campaigns released their totals voluntarily Monday, after filing the latest report with the Texas Ethics Commission.  The Abbott campaign reports it has raised $3.1 million in the period from Jan. 1 to Jan. 23, for a total of $29.4 million in cash on hand.

During the same period, the Davis campaign brought in $607,311 and totaled $10.2 million in cash on hand. More than $300,000 of that total comes from the Texas Victory Committee, a joint fund set up between the Davis campaign and Battleground Texas.


Dewhurst likens Obamacare launch to a school food fight

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst launched a new statewide television ad Monday. The 30-second spot criticizes President Obama’s health care legislation, comparing its bumpy launch to a high school food fight. “It’s chaos,” the ad says. “Everybody loses.”

The ad points to problems that plagued and the so-called bureaucracy surrounding its implementation. “That’s why I successfully led the charge to keep Texas out of the Obamacare exchanges and stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion,” said Dewhurst.

You can watch the full ad, below.

Dewhurst is facing a tough four-way GOP primary race. He will face off against Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples in the March 4 election.