Archive for August, 2014

Capital Tonight: State Party Leaders Respond to Perry Indictment

The governor or Texas has been indicted. Friday evening, a grand jury found that Gov. Rick Perry can be prosecuted on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke to Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri and Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer to get their reactions.

BEHIND THE INDICTMENT

We also spoke to the man who filed the criminal complaint against the governor, Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

Pluls, reporters Bob Garrett of The Dallas Morning News and Reeve Hamilton of the Texas Tribune joined us for a special reporter roundtable.

Governor Indicted on Two Counts

The governor or Texas has been indicted. Friday evening, a grand jury found that Gov. Rick Perry can be prosecuted on two felony counts: abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.

The charges stem from last legislative session, when the governor threatened to slash state funding from the Public Integrity Unit unless Democratic Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned after her drunk driving arrest. Lehmberg refused to resign and the governor carried through on that threat. The unit, which investigates allegations against elected officials across the state, operates out of the Travis County DA’s Office. Lehmberg is a Democrat, and if she had resigned, Perry, a Republican, would have been able to appoint her replacement.

You can see the full indictment below:

Perry Indictment

Capital Tonight: Painting a Picture of the Upcoming Budget Battle

The first wave of National Guard troops has arrived at the border, even while the bulk of them are still in training. In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the role they’re playing and why some local business leaders say they’re not needed.

Plus, we explained how a key piece of information could cause some to lose the coverage they signed up for under the Affordable Care Act.

BUDGET BATTLE

The next two-year budget process is underway, with Sen. Jane Nelson at the helm. Our capital commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi weigh in on some of the minefields finance chair Jane Nelson will have to navigate in what Delisi predicts will be a “highly political environment.”

LEADERSHIP ROLES

Does gender matter when it comes to political leadership? Ann Beeson of the Center for Public Policy Priorities joined us to give her take on why putting women in charge is about more than demographics.

McAllen Business Leader to Perry: ‘Troops Are Not Needed Here’

While National Guard troops continue to train at Camp Swift, the head of one group of border business leaders says leave them where they are.

The president of the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, Steve Ahlenius, wrote an open letter to Gov. Rick Perry this week. He’s asking the governor to reconsider his decision to send 1,000 troops to the border, saying they’re not needed. Ahlenius points out that the number of children crossing over has dropped since June, and he argues that the money could be better spent on things like local law enforcement and increased surveillance technology.

Ahlenius also argues the decision is bad for local business, saying:

“Additionally, deploying the Guard to the border sends the wrong image to 200 South Korean and Japanese companies who are considering moving manufacturing facilities to McAllen.”

Nearly 60,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the border from Central America since October. The governor says National Guard troops won’t be authorized to arrest anyone crossing illegally. But he says they’ll assist border patrol by deterring immigrants and by referring border crimes to the Department of Public Safety.

Capital Tonight: Congressman Carter Describes Process behind House Border Bill

Gov. Rick Perry is staying closely involved in his decision to send National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border, meeting with some of the troops who will soon head south as they go through training.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we shared more details on what the troop rollout will look like and whether the call for volunteers has been met. Plus, we checked in on the final day of the latest hearing over the state’s abortion law.

IN-DISTRICT INTERVIEW

When it comes to the Congressional response to the border situation, the end result is still up in the air. Congressman John Carter joined us to explain his role in getting the House to react before lawmakers headed home for break.

AIR WARS CONTINUE

Greg Abbott is fighting back in the governor’s race with an attack ad of his own, after Wendy Davis kicked off her television ad campaign criticizing Abbott for a ruling he made as a member of the Texas Supreme Court. The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg joined us to analyze that and more.

Capital Tonight: Budget Team Finds Footing under New Leadership

The state’s top budget writers gaveled in under the leadership of Sen. Jane Nelson for the first time Tuesday. We looked at how Sen. Nelson is tackling her role as the Finance Committee’s first female chair.

Plus, we looked at the Texas Attorney General’s office’s petition against a proposed EPA regulation. The Environmental Protection Agency says it wants to clarify language in the law to protect any water that flows into larger bodies downstream. But the AG’s office says the new language would give too much power to federal authorities.

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

The newly formed PAC supporting Rick Perry is already out with a video ad. Our capital commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, weighed in on the governor’s political strategy as an undeclared candidate.

CHEMICAL DISCLOSURE

The state’s policy on the disclosure of dangerous chemicals may have faded as a political issue, but one environmental group says it should still be a concern. The executive director for the Texas League of Conservation Voters, David Weinberg, joined us to explain why.

Craddick Elected Railroad Commission Chair

The Texas Railroad Commission unanimously elected Christi Craddick as chairwoman, Tuesday. Craddick was elected to the three member commission in 2012. She will replace Barry Smitherman, who will be leaving the commission following an unsuccessful run for Attorney General.

In recent months, Craddick has been working closely with Red State Women, which is PAC aimed at engaging female voters in Texas. Executive Director Cari Christman released this statement:

“Texas will be well served with Christi Craddick at the helm of the Texas Railroad Commission. As Commissioner, Christi has been an unrelenting crusader for Texans, protecting jobs from the ever-encroaching EPA and looking for ways to improve and innovate our oil and gas industry. A strong Republican female, Christi continues to be a trailblazer and a role model for the women of our great state.”

Capital Tonight: Rep. Martinez Fischer Explains Committee’s Censure of UT Regent

A House panel has voted to give a University of Texas System regent a public reprimand and a warning. The House transparency committee that has been investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall for more than a year says the move sends a strong statement that his behavior crossed a line, but committee members say they’re choosing not to pursue an impeachment process at this time.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we heard how Regent Wallace Hall himself is responding. Plus, committee member Trey Martinez Fischer explained what the decision means for the UT System as a whole.

BATTLE OVER MAPS

While the political cost of the state’s redistricting court case won’t be known for some time, we now have a clearer picture of the monetary cost. Following a Public Information Act request by the San Antonio Express-News, we now know that it’s cost Texas $3.9 million thus far to defend redistricting maps. And that figure will only go higher as the second phase of the case begins in a federal courtroom in San Antonio.

We spoke to redistricting expert Michael Li about the newest court battle, and why it involves a set of older maps.

PISTOLS AND PILSNER

The public is weighing in on a controversial proposal to allow alcohol sales at gun shows.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is considering a change in its rules after a gun club in the Dallas area reached out to the agency asking for permission to serve alcohol at its events. We checked in with TABC officials to find out where the proposal stands.

House Panel Votes to Censure UT Regent

The committee investigating UT Regent Wallace Hall handed down a reprimand Monday that falls short of calling for impeachment. The Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations has been investigating Hall for what some lawmakers have called a “witch hunt” against UT Austin President Bill Powers. Hall is also accused of abusing his position and violating student privacy rights through public information requests.

The panel voted in May that grounds for Hall’s impeachment existed but they declined to draw up formal charges and send them to the full House. Instead, Monday, the committee voted 6-to-1 to censure Hall. However, members say the impeachment option is still on the table. Republican Rep. Charles Perry was the only ‘no’ vote.

Democratic State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer serves on the House Transparency Committee and helped draft the 26-page censure document. Martinez Fischer said while there aren’t articles of impeachment, the censure is serious.

“It’s important for us to take measured steps, but to set the tone,” he said. “And this censure document really does that. It’s not a slap on the wrist. It’s an embarrassing document.  If I was Regent Hall, I would be embarrassed to know that this is going to be a part of the public record.”

The Travis County Public Integrity Unit is also investigating Hall’s actions, and he could still face criminal charges.

Hall released a statement following the committee vote. He said, in part:

“The committee’s findings are based on distortions, untruths, and intentional misrepresentations. Speaker Straus and his committee have abused the public’s trust and money to cover up their improper interference in System operations, including to defend a university president who was repeatedly asked to leave.”

Gov. Rick Perry, who appointed Hall, released a statement of support. He said:

“Regent Hall has acted how I expect all appointees to act – in the best interest of Texas. He has rightly asked tough questions and held people accountable for their actions, even in the face of withering personal attacks. I hope today closes this ugly chapter and Regent Hall’s critics can stop wasting time and start focusing on what’s important, ensuring higher education is affordable, accessible and accountable to all Texans.”

 

Capital Tonight: Is Going Negative a Good Strategy for Davis?

The Wendy Davis campaign has come out swinging with its first statewide TV ad, attacking Greg Abbott for his decision in a 1998 case during his time as a Texas Supreme Court Justice. Meanwhile, the Abbott team is taking a friendlier approach, focusing on the candidate’s family and history instead.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at both strategies to see why going negative might work.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

The Texas delegation in Congress is back in-district and defending their response to the border situation. We heard from House members on both sides of the aisle. Plus, Bob Garrett of The Dallas Morning News, Mike Ward of the Houston Chronicle and Texas Monthly’s Erica Grieder joined us to weigh in on that story and more. 

 

CHECKING THE FACTS

Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to break down two claims, including one from Gov. Perry on border-crossings and the threat of terrorism.