Archive for August, 2016

Judge Blocks Obama’s Transgender Guidelines for Schools

A federal judge in Fort Worth temporarily blocked the Obama’s administration’s guidelines directing the nation’s public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that conform to their gender identity. It comes as millions of Texas students head back to class this week.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor issued the preliminary injunction late Sunday.

The judge ruled the directive violated federal notice and comment requirements noting the administration didn’t follow proper rule-making procedures in crafting the guidelines.

Texas led a 13-state coalition asking that the guidelines be stopped after the federal government issued the directive in May.

While the injunction applies nationwide, the judge said states that have chosen to accommodate transgender students “will not be impacted.”

Attorney General Ken Paxton applauded the decision. Here’s his response:

“We are pleased that the court ruled against the Obama Administration’s latest illegal federal overreach. This President is attempting to rewrite the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people, and is threatening to take away federal funding from schools to force them to conform. That cannot be allowed to continue, which is why we took action to protect States and School Districts, who are charged under state law to establish a safe and disciplined environment conducive to student learning.”


You can read the judge’s 38-page order here.

Watch Capital Tonight at 7 for reaction from both sides of the issue, plus we discuss what happens next.

Texas Republican Leaders Plan to Participate in Trump’s Austin Rally

Donald Trump will take the stage in Austin next week. His campaign announced Friday morning that he’ll hold a rally at the Travis County Expo Center following a fundraising event in town earlier that day. It’s Trump’s first public event in Texas since becoming his party’s nominee. The rally is schedule for 7:30 Tuesday night.


We reached out to top Texas Republican leaders to see who plans to join him. Governor Greg Abbott’s team said he won’t be able to attend the events because he has a previously scheduled treatment visit at the San Antonio burn unit.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is a yes. So is Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who’s team said he’s been coordinating with the Trump campaign and will possibly speak at one of the events.

We haven’t heard of Land Commissioner George P. Bush’s plans yet.

Former Governor Rick Perry has been a big Trump backer and will attend the fundraising event prior to the rally. A spokesman said he won’t be able to attend the rally due to a previously scheduled out-of-town commitment.

Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign, not surprisingly, told us he will not be in attendance.


Meanwhile, Texas Democrats were quick to question who would welcome Trump to the state. Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle said in a news release:

“The biggest question for Texas voters:  Will Texas Republican leaders show up? Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, George P. Bush, Sid Miller and indicted AG Ken Paxton have all endorsed the divisive and destructive GOP nominee—will they welcome Trump to Texas and take the stage with him on Tuesday? Will Republicans who have been “waiting” on Trump – like Will Hurd in Congressional District 23 –  finally guts up and join Trump, or keep hiding behind weak, passive and dishonest excuses?”




PPP Survey: Perry Could Beat Cruz in 2018

A new poll released Wednesday suggests Texas voters would pick former Governor Rick Perry over Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. The democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling survey shows Perry would beat Cruz by nine percentage points in the race for US Senate. The poll found Perry would get 46 percent of the vote, Cruz 37 percent and 18 were not sure who they would pick.


Speculation has been growing about who might challenge Cruz in 2018 after a failed presidential bid and frustration from some supporters after he refused to endorse Republican nominee Donald Trump at their party’s convention last month. Of those surveyed, 39 percent said they approved of the job Cruz was doing, while 48 percent disapprove. Still, 50 percent of Texas Republican voters surveyed said they want Cruz as the Republican candidate for Senate in 2018. Forty-three percent said they would like someone else.


The poll also matched Cruz up against two other potential challengers, Republican Congressman Michael McCaul and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. Cruz beat McCaul 51 to 19 percent. The state’s junior senator is also ahead of Patrick 49 to 27 percent.


When put up against a Democrat, Cruz also wins. He beats both US Housing Secretary Julian Castro and former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis by 12 points.


PPP surveyed 944 likely Texas voters from August 12-14. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.2 percent.








Trump Holds Narrow Lead Over Clinton in Texas

Donald Trump has a relatively narrow lead over rival Hillary Clinton in a new Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday. In a head-to-head matchup, Trump leads by just six points, 50 to 44 percent. In 2016, Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 16 points.

When you include minor party candidates, the margin remains the same with Trump at 44 percent to Clinton’s 38 percent. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson received 6 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein got 2 percent.

PPP is a democratic-leaning firm based in North Carolina. It points out that a Democratic victory in Texas this year is still a stretch but the numbers show “there are signs of Democrats being positioned to become seriously competitive in the years ahead.”

The poll shows that Trump’s advantage is “based entirely” on a wide lead over Clinton among seniors, 63 to 33 percent. Clinton leads Trump with voters under 65, 49 to 45 percent.

The poll of 944 likely voters was conducted Friday through Sunday. It has a margin of error of 3.2 percent.


Trump Taps Perry, Miller to Advise on Agriculture

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has tapped several Texans to advise him on agriculture policy as he campaigns for the White House. He announced his new Agriculture Advisory Committee Tuesday. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller had already made public his position with Trump’s agriculture team. But this is the first time we’ve heard former Governor Rick Perry will be part of it. The 64-member team also includes several other prominent Texans.


In a news release, the Trump campaign said the committee “will provide pioneering new ideas to strengthen our nation’s agricultural industry as well as provide support to our rural communities.”

“The members of my agricultural advisory committee represent the best that America can offer to help serve agricultural communities,” Trump said in a statement. “Many of these officials have been elected by their communities to solve the issues that impact our rural areas every day. I’m very proud to stand with these men and women, and look forward to serving those who serve all Americans from the White House.”


Here’s the complete list of Trump’s agriculture team (* indicates Texans on panel):


Charles Herbster – National Chairman of the Agricultural and Rural Advisory Committee for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President

Sam Clovis – National Chief Policy Advisor for the Donald J. Trump Campaign for President

Rebeckah Adcock –CropLife, Senior Director, Government Affairs

Robert Aderholt – Congressman from Alabama; Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture

Jay Armstrong – Kansas Wheat Commission; Chairman, Farm Foundation

Gary Black – Commissioner Agriculture, Georgia

John Block – Former Sec. of USDA

*Mike Brandenburg – State Legislator, North Dakota

Terry Branstad – Governor of Iowa

Sam Brownback – Governor of Kansas

Chuck Conner – CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

Mike Conaway – House Agriculture Chairman

Jack Dalrymple – Governor of North Dakota

Dennis Daugaard – Governor of South Dakota

Rodney Davis – Congressman from Illinois; House Agriculture committee and Subcommittee Chair of Bio Tech

Mary Fallin – Governor of Oklahoma

Eddie Fields – Senator, Oklahoma; Chair Senate Ag and Rural Development

Steve Foglesong – Former President National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Jim Gilmore – Former Governor Virginia; Chairman of Report on Terrorism and Agro-Terrorism

Bob Goodale – Former CEO of Harris Teeter

Bob Goodlatte – Congressman, Virginia; Former Chairman House Agriculture Committee

Mike Green – State Senator, Michigan; Appropriations Agriculture Chair; Senate Agriculture Committee Vice Chair

*Helen Groves – Rancher; daughter of Robert Kleberg (King Ranch); Well known in TX/ranching world

Ron Heck – Iowa farmer and Past President of the American Soybean Assoc.

Dave Heineman – Former Gov. Nebraska

Hans Hunts – State Legislator, Wyoming; Wyoming House Ag Committee; Rancher

Cindy Hyde – Smith – Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi

Brent Jackson – State Senator, North Carolina

A.G. Kawamura – Former Sec. Food & Agriculture, California

John Kautz – California wine producer; CEO Ironstone Vineyards

Charlotte Kelly – Tennessee cotton grower along with her husband (14,000 acres) plus operating a cotton gin processing 30,000 plus bales and a leader in the cotton industry

Mark Killian – Commissioner of Agriculture, Arizona; Farmer and rancher AZ

Brian Klippenstein – Protect the Harvest

Tsosie Lewis – Former CEO of Navaho Nation’s Agricultural Products Industries

Forrest Lucas – CEO Lucas Oil; Protect the Harvest

Mike McCloskey – CEO Fair Oaks Farms- one of largest dairies in U.S.

Beau McCoy – State Senator; Nebraska Nat. Chr. Council State Govts

Ted McKinney – Former Director of Global Corp. Affairs for Elanco Animal Health

*Sid Miller – Commissioner of Agriculture, Texas

Jim Moseley – Former consultant on agriculture at EPA; Former Deputy Secretary of USDA

Brian Munzlinger – Chairman Missouri Senate Ag Committee

Casey Murdock – State Senator, Oklahoma

Tom Nassif – President Western Growers; Former Ambassador

Garry Niemeyer – Former President National Corn Growers

Bill Northy – Secretary of Ag, Iowa

Sonny Perdue – Former Gov. Georgia

*Rick Perry – Former Gov. Texas

Ryan Quarles – Commissioner of Agriculture, Kentucky

Bruce Rastetter – Summit Ag Group of Alden, Iowa; Hosted first Republican Presidential debate

Jim Reese – Secretary of Agriculture for Gov. Mary Fallin of OK

Larry Rhoden – Senator South Dakota; House Majority Leader and Sen Majority Whip; Chair Senate Ag Committee

Pete Ricketts –Governor of Nebraska

Pat Roberts – U.S. Senator Kansas

Marcus Rust – CEO Rose Acre Farms- second largest egg producer in U.S.

Leslie Rutledge – Attorney General, Arkansas; Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorney General Agriculture Committee and is married to a soybean producer

David Spears – Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Dole Ag Advisor; Senior Vice President, Mid-Kansas Cooperative, Inc.

Dr. Mike Strain – Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Louisiana

*Red Steagall – Official Cowboy Poet of Texas

Annette Sweeney – Former Iowa House Agriculture, Chair; Farmer; Agriculture Advocate

Kip Tom – CEO, Tom Farms LLC-Largest Agri-Business farm operator in Indiana; Operates farms in South America

*Johnny Trotter – CEO of BarG- 125,000 feedlot operation and farms 10,0000 acres in TX

Steve Wellman – Former President of the American Soybean Association

Walt Whitcomb – Ag Commissioner, Maine

John Wilkinson – Chairman, Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee Georgia State Senate

STAAR Accountability Ratings Show More Districts Falling Short

Academic performance by individual schools in the state showed slight improvement according the 2016 STAAR accountability ratings released by the Texas Education Agency on Monday, but overall performance within entire school districts dropped slightly.

The TEA reports 1,131 (93.7-percent) Texas public school districts or charters received a passing rating of “Met Standard” or “Alternative Standard” in 2016, and 66 districts (5.5-percent) were given an “Improvement Required,” or failing, rating.

In the 2015 school year, 1,152 districts (94.5-percent)  met standards or alternative standards, and 55 (4.5-percent) had an “Improvement Required” rating.

However, individual campuses across the state showed improvement compared to last school year, with 7,667 schools (88.4-percent) garnering a passing rating, while 467 (5.4-percent) required improvement.

In 2015, 7,476 (86.5-percent) individual campuses met standards or alternative standards while 603 (7-percent) required improvement.

To find out how schools in Austin ISD and San Antonio ISD performed, you can use this district accountability report finder provided by the TEA.

This year’s accountability ratings come amidst a battle over the validity of the STAAR test in Texas schools. Technical snafus this past testing year prompted Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to cancel some exams, and not require students to retake tests from March or May if they didn’t perform well.

And in July, the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessment sent several recommendations to Gov. Greg Abbott for tracking academic performance.

Those recommendations included reducing the amount of material students should be tested on, and allowing school districts to develop their own writing assessments instead of using the STAAR writing assessments in fourth, seventh and high school grades.

The legislature will decide on whether or not to approve these recommendations in the upcoming session.

After First Day in Court, No Ruling in Lawsuit Over Transgender Directive

The state’s hopes of temporarily halting the Obama Administration’s directive on transgender bathroom rights in public schools will have to wait another day. A U.S. District Judge in Fort Worth did not issue a ruling on Friday over the Texas led, multi-state lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction on the directive.

Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a 13-state coalition suing the federal government over the guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice in May. The guidelines say all U.S. public school districts must allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their chosen gender identity. But Paxton, along with several other top state Republican leaders, argue the directive threatens privacy safeguards.

Here’s how Paxton is responding to Friday’s hearing:


Several national civil and LGBT rights groups are urging the U.S. District Court to reject the state’s efforts to block the directive. They also sent out a response shortly after Friday’s hearing concluded.



The Obama Administration’s directive came just days after the DOJ sued North Carolina in May over their statewide law requiring people to use public restrooms that coordinate with the sex on their birth certificate. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had compared that state’s policies to racial segregation. And following the release of the transgender bathroom guidelines, Lynch said there is “no room in our schools” for discrimination.

But shortly after the directive was announced, Paxton held a press conference announcing Texas was leading the multi-state lawsuit against the Justice and Education Departments, and also seeking a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the directive.

“It represents just the latest example of the current administration’s attempt to accomplish by executive fiat, what they couldn’t accomplish democratically through Congress,” Paxton had said at the news conference.

A tiny North Texas school district also joined Paxton in the lawsuit. Harrold ISD has about 100 students, and according to the superintendent David Thweatt, none of them are transgender. But none-the-less, the school adopted a policy opposite of the federal guidelines, allowing only students to access bathrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

“Washington’s mandate doesn’t fit our schools so we are suing to keep the federal government out of our children’s locker rooms and restrooms,” Thweatt told reporters at the news conference.

It was later discovered Harrold ISD wasn’t the first Texas school district to be approached by Paxton. The A.G.’s Office also asked Wichita Falls ISD if they would join the lawsuit, but the school district declined.

Sen. Cornyn Talks Trump, Police Protection and Presses AG Lynch

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn says he’s concerned about what the top of the ticket could mean for down ballot races.


The Texas senior senator was in Austin Friday pushing for police protection. He highlighted his Police Act legislation that was signed into law last month. It would allow local law enforcement and first responders to use federal grant funding for active shooter response training.


But Cornyn was also asked about his party’s nominee Donald Trump. While Cornyn says he supports him, he told reporters the rhetoric on both sides needs to change.

“Instead it’s been a battle of personalities which I don’t think has served the American people very well,” Cornyn said. “I would like to hear both from Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump on how they would govern if elected and we’ve been given more of a personality clashing contest than a real policy discussion, which I’d like to see.”


Meanwhile, Cornyn is also asking the US Attorney General for answers on why the Department of Justice didn’t open a case on the Clinton Foundation.

Cornyn sent a letter to AG Loretta Lynch Friday with a series of questions stemming from a CNN report this week.

That report showed FBI officers approached the DOJ about opening a case on the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.


“This kind of conduct is unacceptable, and reflects the worst concerns harbored by the public about the abuse of government office to benefit the powerful at the expense of the American people,” Sen. Cornyn wrote. “It violates the commitment Secretary Clinton made to Congress and the Executive Branch following her nomination to be Secretary of State. That and her proven record of extreme carelessness with national security warrant a careful examination of Secretary Clinton’s other conduct, and that of her staff.”


Below is Sen. Cornyn’s full letter:


The Honorable Loretta Lynch

Attorney General

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20530


Dear Attorney General Lynch:


Last month, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) James B. Comey publicly announced his recommendation to the Department of Justice (the Department) that it not pursue a criminal indictment of former Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton, for her decision to conduct her email while in office on a private, unsecured and secret server. Mr. Comey described Secretary Clinton’s extreme carelessness and the fact that she put our national security at risk. You followed the FBI’s recommendation and decided not to press charges.


On August 9th, CNN reported that, earlier this year, the FBI asked the Department to open a case and support a criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation and its related entities. As the press have reported widely and emails released over the past few days confirmed, representatives of the Foundation repeatedly sought special treatment for its donors and associates from senior officials at the State Department. These matters were attended to by Secretary Clinton’s inner circle of advisors, including Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin. (Ms. Abedin was reportedly also paid simultaneously by the State Department and an entity closely linked to the Foundation.)


This kind of conduct is unacceptable, and reflects the worst concerns harbored by the public about the abuse of government office to benefit the powerful at the expense of the American people. It violates the commitment Secretary Clinton made to Congress and the Executive Branch following her nomination to be Secretary of State. That and her proven record of extreme carelessness with national security warrant a careful examination of Secretary Clinton’s other conduct, and that of her staff.


When the FBI recommended that you not pursue a criminal indictment of Secretary Clinton for her emails, you followed their recommendation. Yet, according to the CNN report, the Department’s Public Integrity Unit refused to open a case and pursue criminal charges regarding the Clinton Foundation when the FBI recommended doing so. The practice is not clear, but the outcome in both cases favors Secretary Clinton.


This contrast does little to instill faith in the Department, part of why I called for an appointment of the Special Counsel in the email matter. But greater clarity for the public on the basis for your decision may. With that in mind, please respond to the following questions by August 25, 2016:
Is the CNN report accurate?


When did the FBI recommend that the Department open a case and pursue criminal charges related to the Clinton Foundation?


Why did the FBI recommend that the Department open a case on the Clinton Foundation?


Which Department employees, in the Public Integrity Unit or elsewhere, were involved in the decision not to open a case on the Clinton Foundation?


In the earlier reported investigation by the Department, which violations of criminal law were considered? And why did the Department decide not to open a case?


In your recent private meeting with former President Bill Clinton, did you discuss anything regarding the Clinton Foundation? If so, please indicate what was discussed.


Texas Republicans Question Obama on Zika Funding

Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) is joining the chorus of Texas Republicans in Washington accusing President Obama of holding back millions of dollars that the say could be immediately used to combat the Zika virus. U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), along with the rest of the members of Texas’ GOP congressional delegation, signed a joint letter on Friday, demanding the Obama administration free up around $400 million of a $589 million re-purpose of health program funds meant to go towards Zika virus response.

In the letter, Republican lawmakers expressed their “serious concerns” over the administration’s lack of allocating the money.

Here’s an excerpt of the letter:


Zika letter to obama


Gov. Abbott followed suit of his Republican counterparts Friday afternoon, and also sent a letter to President Obama.

Abbott said it was imperative the federal government act now to free up whatever money is available to combat Zika.


Abbott Letter to Obama


The battle in Congress over funding for the country’s response to the mosquito-borne virus reached a stalemate earlier this summer. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers recessed without approving any of the $1.9 billion President Obama requested earlier this year to help develop a vaccine and control mosquitoes that carry the virus.

In a press conference on Thursday, President Obama chided Washington lawmakers over not passing a Zika funding bill before recessing for seven weeks.

“Congress needs to do its job,” President Obama said.

“Fighting Zika costs money. Helping Puerto Rico deal with its Zika crisis costs money. Researching new vaccines, and by the way NIH just announced the first clinical trials in humans, that costs money. That’s why my administration proposed an urgent request for funding back in February. Not only did the Republican-led Congress not pass our request, they worked to cut it. And then they left for summer recess without passing any new funds for the fight against Zika. Meanwhile, our experts at the NIH and CDC, the folks on the front lines, have been doing their best to make do my moving funds from other areas. But now the money that we need to fight Zika is rapidly running out. The situation is getting critical.”

State, Abortion Rights Advocates Spar Over Proper Fetal Tissue Disposal

The Texas Department of State Health Services is holding a public hearing on Thursday over a rule proposed by state health officials this summer that would require embryonic and fetal tissue be buried or cremated after an abortion, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.

The rule has been praised by Gov. Greg Abbott, who said in a July fundraising email, “It is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life.”

Abortion rights groups like Planned Parenthood Texas affiliates and NARAL Pro-Choice Texas strongly oppose the regulations.

They are testifying at Thursday’s hearing.

Here’s how these groups are responding to the proposed rule:


Planned Parenthood Testifies at Public Hearing in Opposition to Proposed Fetal Tissue Rule

TODAY: Thursday, August 4, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. CT

AUSTIN, TX – Today, the Department of State Health Services hears testimony in opposition to new regulations intended to restrict access to safe and legal abortion in Texas.

With little notice and just four days after the Supreme Court struck down restrictions that have already shuttered health centers across the state, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) introduced proposed rules that would force all women to bury or cremate fetal tissue following a safe, legal abortion. Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas submitted public comment to DSHS and Planned Parenthood supporters throughout the state have submitted more than 2,500 comments to the department in opposition to the rule, in addition to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Medical Association, and the Texas Hospital Association.



More Than 1,100 Texans Decry Proposed Rules Requiring Fetal Tissue From an Abortion be Buried or Cremated

Austin, TX – The Texas Department of State Health Services held a public hearing Thursday on a proposed rule that would require embryonic and fetal tissue to be buried or cremated following an abortion, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. More than 1,100 Texans have signed a petition from NARAL Pro-Choice Texas against the proposed measure.

“This is another politically-motivated move by our state’s leaders to make it harder for Texans to access abortion,”  Heather Busby, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, said. “This rule has nothing to do with the safe practice of medicine, but rather is a thinly-veiled attempt to shame Texans who have abortions and make it harder for doctors to provide abortions. Instead of passing laws that complicate a patient’s experience and force them to consider burial services or death certificates, we should focus on making sure that patients are supported and respected and empowered in their decision.”

The rules dictate how health care facilities must dispose of tissue at all stages of pregnancy, with no exceptions for genetic testing, research or pathology and no consideration for best medical practices or patients’ wishes or religious beliefs.