Archive for June, 2017

Daily Digest: June 30

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Same-sex marriage benefits ruling:

The Texas Supreme Court has thrown out a lower court ruling that said gay spouses are legally entitled to government-subsidized workplace benefits. The state high court unanimously ordered a trial court to reconsider a case challenging Houston’s benefits policy.

Friday’s decision is a major reversal for the all-Republican high court. It had previously refused to even consider the case after the US Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage. In their decision, justices suggested a landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage does not fully address the right to marriage benefits.


“I’m extremely pleased that the Texas Supreme Court recognized that Texas law is still important when it comes to marriage,” Attorney General Paxton said in a statement. “While the U.S. Supreme Court declared a right to same-sex marriage, that ruling did not resolve all legal issues related to marriage.” According to the Texas Supreme Court, “Mr. Pidgeon and the Mayor, like many other litigants throughout the country, must now assist the courts in fully exploring Obergefell’s reach and ramifications, and are entitled to the opportunity to do so.”


Meanwhile, Equality Texas issued a statement saying the court’s decision marked a “sad day for Texas.”

“The Texas Supreme Court’s opinion today in the Pidgeon case clings to unconstitutional notions of “separate but equal” that were long ago laid to rest in this nation. The justices’ holding that Obergefell v. Hodges does not require equal treatment under the law for LGBT married couples is patently indefensible. This is a sad day for Texas as our highest court joins the ranks of Mississippi and Arkansas in refusing to abide by the Constitution’s mandate to recognize the dignity and equality of all persons. Equality Texas is hopeful that the City of Houston will appeal this horrendous decision to the United States Supreme Court in order to ensure equality for the marriages of all Texans.”


We will have more reaction to the Texas Supreme Court decision tonight at 7pm.


Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, pleads ‘unequivocally not guilty’

Rep. Dawnna Dukes was back in court Friday. She said she’s not guilty in her public corruption case and says she has no interest in accepting a plea deal. Hear from the embattled Dukes and whether she thinks she’ll run for reelection tonight at 7pm.


Plus, Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune, Sean Walsh of the Austin American-Statesman and James Barragan with the Dallas Morning News join our reporter roundtable. Hear their take on the benefits case, the sanctuary cities court battle this week and the latest on Paxton’s securities fraud case.


Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas will also be in to put Energy Secretary Rick Perry and State Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, to the truth-o-meter.


On the national level, our Washington, DC reporter Alberto Pimienta is following the latest fallout after President Trump’s tweets about MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosts.


Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling


Daily Digest: June 29

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


SB4 Hearing:

For the second time this week, the issue of the state’s new anti-sanctuary cities law was before a federal judge. This time in Austin.

US District Judge Sam Sparks questioned why his court should decide whether the law is constitutional before it takes effect in September. The attorney general’s office sued Travis County and Austin last month, seeking a ruling that the bill is constitutional. But the state’s four largest cities, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, are already suing in a separate San Antonio court. The state wants that case moved to Austin.

Sparks didn’t immediately rule on those efforts Thursday.


Hear from the attorneys involved in the case tonight at 7pm. Plus State Reps. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Paul Workman, R-Austin, weigh in.


Ken Paxton Securities Fraud Hearing:

Thursday marks the first time Attorney General Ken Paxton will meet Judge Robert Johnson. Johnson is the newly-elected judge assigned to oversee Paxton’s securities fraud trial. The trial date has changed twice in recent months amid legal wrangling. The original judge overseeing the case was removed after losing jurisdiction to continue presiding over it.


Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm on Spectrum News Austin/San Antonio for these stories and more.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: June 28

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:



That’s the message health care advocates for children and the disabled are sending to their lawmakers in Washington. They rallied at the State Capitol Wednesday morning, urging senators not to make deep cuts to Medicaid as proposed in the GOP health care bill.


Many who showed up to rally say they’re worried about special needs kids. That’s because some have already lost critical therapy services since the state let $350 million in Medicaid cuts to speech, occupational and physical therapy take effect.


Children make up the majority of Medicaid recipients in Texas. Some Republican lawmakers argue that their version of the health care bill is necessary to put Medicaid on a sustainable path and give states more flexibility.


But some health care advocates say what’s currently happening in the state should be a wake-up call to what could happen nationwide.


“We’ve already seen families in Texas have lost support for their children because of cuts the Texas legislature made,” Peter Clark with Texans Care for Children said. “If the Senate health care bill passes, the cuts for Texans with disabilities would be much, much bigger.”


Coming up on Capital Tonight at 7, hear from the mother of a special needs child and why she fears what could happen under the Senate health care bill.


We’ll also be joined by Dr. Deane Waldman, director of the Center for Healthcare Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.


Plus, our political analysts, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi, will be in with their take.


Posted by Karina Kling/Max Gorden




Daily Digest: June 27

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Senate Republican leaders are working to rescue their health care bill as rebellious Republican opposition grows. Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than President Barack Obama’s law.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has been pushing for passage and took to Twitter Tuesday to respond to a tweet that said he was leaving the door open to delaying the Senate vote. “I am closing the door,” Cornyn tweeted. “We need to do it this week before double-digit premium increases are announced for next year.”


Our DC bureau reporter Alberto Pimienta will have the latest on the Senate standoff tonight at 7. Plus, we’ll be joined by Patrick Bresette, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, to discuss what the bill could mean for Texas children.


We’ll also be joined by Lawrence Sager, a constitutional theorist and former dean of UT-Austin’s Law School, to discuss how several Supreme Court decisions on religious freedom issues could affect Texas.


Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm and follow us @TXCapTonight.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: June 26

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


San Antonio is at the front lines of the fight against Senate Bill 4, the state’s new anti-sanctuary cities law. Protesters have been rallying outside the federal courthouse in San Antonio today as a judge is set to decide whether to temporarily halt the law.

Follow @VictoriaMaranan and @AleseU for updates.


The federal judge hearing arguments must decide whether to allow the law to take effect – or approve a preliminary injunction, which would halt the law while the court case plays out.


SB 4 would allow Police to ask people about their immigration status in a routine stop. It also seeks to punish cities and elected officials who refuse to comply with federal detainer requests.


Groups from El Paso, Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio each took to the podium during a rally before the hearing began and talked about how SB4 is already affecting their communities. San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller even led a prayer.


The ACLU of Texas said the fight against SB4 is just getting started.


“SB4 is an insult to our values and our freedom and everyone here who fears the effects of SB4 needs to know that we’re here with you and we’ll continue to fight until this racist and un-democratic law is dead,” Astrid Dominguez with the ACLU of Texas said.


Five Texas cities, including Austin and San Antonio, are suing the state. And last Friday, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest, siding with the state and backing the controversial law. Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit asking a federal court to declare SB4 constitutional. An Austin court is set to consider that request on Thursday.



We’re also following several US Supreme Court decisions today including:

  1. Parts of the Trump administration’s controversial 90-day travel ban will be enforced as the Supreme Court waits to hear arguments on the case.
  2. Justices will consider whether a Colorado baker can refuse to make a wedding cake for same-sex couples — based on religious beliefs.
  3. The Supreme Court has ruled against a Texas death row inmate who said his lawyers failed to challenge a faulty jury instruction at his trial and on appeal.


The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg will also be joining us tonight. Watch Capital Tonight at 7 for the latest on these stories and more.


Posted by Karina Kling



DOJ files brief supporting Texas’ sanctuary cities ban

The US Department of Justice has officially filed a brief supporting Texas’ sanctuary cities ban. Earlier this week, an attorney with LULAC said a notice had been sent to the parties involved in the federal lawsuit challenging the state’s new immigration law indicating the Justice Department would back the state.

On Monday, a US district judge will hear the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop SB4 from going into effect as the case plays out in court.




WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in City of El Cenizo, Texas, et. al vs. Texas, et. al, commonly known as the SB4 litigation.


The lawsuit was filed by several cities trying to block Texas’s SB4 law, which prohibits localities in Texas from implementing or maintaining policies that prevent local officials from sharing immigration-related information with the federal government. Additionally, SB4 directs local officials in Texas to cooperate with immigration detainer requests issued by the federal government under federal law.


The Department primarily argues that SB4 is not preempted by the Supremacy Clause, it is not inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment, and it does not violate the Fourth Amendment.


In filing the Statement of Interest, Attorney General Sessions provided the following statement:


“President Trump has made a commitment to keep America safe and to ensure cooperation with federal immigration laws. Texas has admirably followed his lead by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes. 


“The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.”

Read the brief here.


Our reporter roundtable will weigh in on the latest with the case tonight at 7 on Capital Tonight.


Daily Digest: June 23

After a short hiatus, we’re bringing it back and getting this blog back on track.

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


AP: SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s attorney general blocked state-funded travel to Texas and three other states on Thursday in response to what he considers anti-LGBT rights laws enacted this year.

Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra added Texas, Alabama, South Dakota and Kentucky to the list of places where state employee travel is restricted. Lawmakers passed legislation last year banning non-essential travel to states with laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are already on the list.

California taxpayers’ money “will not be used to let people travel to states who chose to discriminate,” Becerra said.

It’s unclear what practical effect California’s travel ban will have. The state law contains exemptions for some trips, such as travel needed to enforce California law and to honor contracts made before 2017. Travel to conferences or out-of-state trainings are examples of trips that could be blocked. Becerra’s office couldn’t provide information about how often state employees have visited the newly banned states.

Texas was added to the list because of a law that lets child welfare organizations deny services and adoptions to families because of “sincerely held religious beliefs” that Becerra’s office says would allow LGBT discrimination. Similar laws were enacted in Alabama and South Dakota. Kentucky’s new law could allow LGBT discrimination in schools, according to Becerra’s office.

“California may be able to stop their state employees, but they can’t stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation and relocating to Texas,” said John Wittman, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.

Fresno State, a public California university, is scheduled to play football against the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa this fall. A request for a legal opinion on whether public university sports’ travel is exempt from the ban has been filed with Becerra’s office, but no ruling has been issued.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s press office did not have an immediate comment.



Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released this statement Friday morning:

AG Paxton: Recent Texas Relocation Report Shows Californians Top List of Those Flocking to Texas

AUSTIN—Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today released his assessment of the recent Texas Relocation Report, a study by the Texas Association of Realtors. In the report, Texas ranked second among states adding new residents from other states, based on the influx and outflow of people. Leading all states with the number of transplants to Texas was California. In 2015, the number of people leaving California for the Lone Star State was 65,546.


“The data in this report came as no surprise to Texans, especially those who have transplanted from California,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I talk to people almost every day who made the trek from California to Texas, and without fail, they tell me their move is due to either greater job opportunities, much lower-priced housing, an escape from a left-coast political climate, or just a better quality of culture and life.”


In the study, Texas ranked second among all states for the largest inflow of residents. In 2015, 553,032 people moved to Texas. Only Florida had more people moving to their state. As for states with the largest resident outflows, California and New York topped that list. California lost 643,710 people, edging out New York by nearly 200,000 residents looking to move elsewhere.


To view the Texas Relocation Report, click here:


Our Max Gorden will have the latest on the ban and relocation report tonight on Capital Tonight at 7.


We’ll also be joined by Texas Capitol Press Corps reporters Bob Garrett of the Dallas Morning News, Scott Braddock with the Quorum Report and Julian Aguilar of the Texas Tribune to get their take on the past week in Texas politics.