Archive for July, 2017

Daily Digest: July 25

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


Bathroom Bill:

It’s considered the most controversial item on the special session agenda, and today, the Texas Senate has been debating the so-called “bathroom bill” for hours. The measure would limit where transgender people can use the restroom in the state. 

Democrats tried to derail the bill before debate even began. Sen. Kirk Watson. D-Austin, raised a point of order, arguing the bill isn’t relevant to the special session call. That’s because this version of the bathroom bill has a provision keeping gender separation in sports. 

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick eventually overturned the point of order, which was upheld by a Senate vote, and debate on the bill carried on. 

Many of the arguments today are similar to the ones discussed during the regular session. Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and other supporters say it’s meant to protect against voyeurism and sexual predators — ensuring people use the restroom on their birth certificate. 

“it is about the privacy and protection of our small children and our young girls and women,” Kolkhorst said during debate.

But opponents say it could lead to violence against transgender people and could “out” transgender school children.

“We are proposing a measure here that would allow schools to cause bullying,” Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said.  

The issue has brought hundreds to the Capitol to speak out against it. Today that growing group included police officers. Hear why many law enforcement officials say this bill won’t make Texans safer tonight at 7.


House Passes Sunset Bill:

The Texas House has given final approval to an agency oversight bill that forced lawmakers into overtime. It extends the lives of the Texas Medical Board and other agencies that were set to expire in September if lawmakers didn’t act.

The Senate quickly passed its own version during a late-night session last week.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick let the typically routine bill die during the regular session in order to force the governor to call lawmakers back to tackle a host of conservative priorities.


Medicaid Therapy Rate Cuts:

A House panel voted unanimously today to restore funding to the Medicaid therapy rate cuts that went into effect in December. In 2015, lawmakers voted to slash $350 million to Medicaid children’s therapy services. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, vowed to restore the cuts during the regular session but efforts with the Senate failed. Lawmakers decided to mostly maintain the cuts.

So, House members have revived the debate and are trying to reverse the cuts yet again. It’s a long shot, since it’s not on Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20-item special session agenda.

Still, parents of affected children are hopeful. Hear from them at 7pm.


School Finance:

A plan to pump nearly two billion dollars into Texas public schools has been approved by a House panel. A big part of the bill would increase per-student funding by about $200. That would help reduce recapture payments that property-wealthy school districts pay to the state – to be redistributed to property poor ones. House members tried to pass a similar measure in the regular session — but the proposal died after the Senate tacked on a voucher amendment to the bill.

At 7, House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty joins us to discuss the legislation, the House’s continued opposition to vouchers and what he thinks will actually pass this special session.


Repealing Obamacare:

Sen. John McCain got a standing ovation before casting a key health care vote. He voted to move ahead on repealing the Obama health law.

McCain’s battling brain cancer and returned to the Capitol for the first time since his diagnosis.

Our Washington reporter will have the latest on the health care vote and what comes next.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: July 24

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 Set to Pass Slew of Bills:

After a whirlwind weekend of committee hearings, the Texas Senate is now trying to pass measures approved by the committees in order to quickly send them to the House. Sixteen bills are set to be heard on the Senate floor Monday. A measure to extend the work of the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality has already been initially approved by the full chamber. Senators are also set to debate school finance and choice issues, a bill to limit where transgender Texans can use the restroom and property tax reform, to name a few. Check out the full list here. Our Max Gorden is following the Senate proceedings and will have the latest on what happened tonight at 7pm.


House Action:

Meanwhile, the lower chamber took up and passed one of two sunset bills that would extend the lives of several agencies set to expire in September. After that, the House Public Education Committee is meeting to tackle school finance legislation. Our Jeff Stensland is following the House.


Teacher Retirement Benefits:

Retired teachers are hoping for some health care help during the special session. Legislation making its way through the Texas Senate would pump $212 million into the state-run health insurance system for retired teachers.

It would be paid for by delaying payments to health care companies that provide Medicaid through a privatized system. But even with the one-time additional money, the system will see a significant shortfall in the coming years. Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association, joins us at 7pm to discuss the importance of the additional dollars and the continued concern over the projected shortfall for the future.


On the Agenda:

The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg will also be in with his take on how the special session is going so far, including the politics at play.


Join us tonight at 7 for the latest on these stories and more.

Capital Tonight airs weeknights on Spectrum News.


Posted by Karina Kling


Daily Digest: July 21

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


As promised, the Texas Senate is quickly getting to work to pass Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20 special session agenda items. Three different committees are meeting today. You can keep up with all the action here.


Bathroom Bill Hearing:

Hundreds have signed up to testify on the so-called “bathroom bill.” The measure would require transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate. Similar measures failed during the regular session. LGBT rights groups and businesses have come out against it citing discrimination and economic losses. Despite such opposition, the Republican-led committee wants to approve the bill as soon as possible so the full Senate can pass it next week.

Follow @Max_Gorden for updates throughout the day.


School Choice/Finance Hearing:

The Education Committee is discussing a bill that would offer taxpayer-funded vouchers for some special education students to leave public schools for private ones. Opponents are concerned that will open the door to broader voucher plans. But supporters say it’s about giving parents a choice and would only affect about 30,000 students. The Senate has tried to pass a voucher proposal for years but the House has overwhelmingly objected. House Democrats and rural Republicans say it would hurt traditional public schools.

The Senate committee is also considering other school finance legislation.


Abortion/Maternal Mortality Hearing:

The Health and Human Services Committee is considering a number of anti-abortion related measures. Senators are also discussing maternal mortality and patient protections regarding do-not-resuscitate orders.


Reporter Roundtable:

Bob Garrett of the Dallas Morning News, Peggy Fikac with the San Antonio Express-News and the Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock will join Karina Kling to discuss the Governor’s ambitious 20-item call, the pace of both chambers so far and the divide between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus.


PolitiFact Texas:

Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas will also be in to fact check Republican Congressman Pete Olson and Speaker Straus.


Join us at 7pm for the latest on all of these stories.


Posted by Karina Kling







Daily Digest: July 20 – 1on1 w/ Gov. Abbott

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


1on1 with Gov. Abbott:

Gov. Abbott told our Karina Kling that “believe it or not,” he thinks a lot will be passed in the special session. The governor has opened up the call for lawmakers to tackle 20 items he chose. He thinks both chambers are moving at a good pace.

“If you look at the pace of both the House and the Senate, and they are moving very rapidly looks like. The members of both chambers are treating this seriously, very aggressively. I think they really want to take care of business,” Abbott said.

He also thinks things will be different this time around on vouchers because it focuses solely on special needs children.

When it comes to calling lawmakers back for extra innings, here’s what the Governor had to say:


“Listen, we’re just starting. Can’t be talking as if the game is over. No UT Longhorn starts thinking about what’s going to happen next season before this season even begins.”


Watch the full interview with Gov. Abbott, including his take on bathroom legislation, vouchers, school finance reform and his ‘list’ at 7pm.


School Finance Reform:

Gov. Abbott also added school finance and increases to retired teacher benefits to the call early this morning.

This is widely seen as a nod to the House, where school finance legislation passed during the regular session. That bill died after the Senate tacked on a school voucher provision for students with special needs.

Several lawmakers filed school finance bills once the expanded call was announced. The proposals aim to send more state money to Texas schools.

Education advocates say the Governor’s move to tackle these items during the special session sends the message that he’s serious about improving education in Texas and improving the lives of educators.

They also say taking on school finance reform could be key to solving a separate item on the special session agenda.

“If lawmakers are serious about addressing rising local property taxes, school finance has to be the first place we look to fix that issue,” Mark Wiggins with the Association of Texas Professional Educators said.

Coming up at 7, hear from retired teachers on the possibility of increased benefits.


Abortion Rights Groups Sue Texas Again:

The state is once again being sued over abortion — one year after its loss at the nation’s highest court.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups filed a lawsuit today over a new ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure…known as dilation and evacuation.

They’re asking a federal judge in Austin to block the new law — which goes into effect September first.

Similar laws are in effect in Mississippi and West Virginia — but have been blocked by court rulings in four other states.

The lawsuit comes one year after the US Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sweeping anti-abortion measures that prompted more than half of the states abortion clinics to close.


Property Tax Reform Panel:

Lawmakers are readying for another debate over property tax reforms during the special session. Specifically, whether to block cities and counties from raising the average tax rate above four percent unless voters agree to it.

Currently, it’s at 8 percent.

Our panel with the Texas Municipal League’s Bennett Sandlin and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Robert Henneke will discuss their opposition and support of such legislation.


Daily Digest: July 19

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 Passes Sunset Bills:

It’s the main reason lawmakers are back in Austin for a special session and today, the Texas Senate approved so-called sunset legislation.

The measures are needed to keep five state agencies open, including the Texas Medical Board. The Senate quickly gave its initial approval to two bills — one to extend the agencies and one to fund them.

Senators approved keeping the agencies in question open for another two years. While there was little debate on the floor, some Senators have criticized the legislation saying it’s only kicking the can down the road, leaving lawmakers to deal with the issue again in the next two years.

But the bill passed the Senate’s initial vote unanimously and Senators will continue their fast pace to take a final vote at 12:01 a.m.

“This is a great opportunity. Getting this bill done today really gives us, opens the gate now for the other bills, the other call items, to come in from the Governor,” Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, said.

And what about those 19 other items? Coming up at 7 on Capital Tonight, we’ll take the pulse of the legislature to see which proposals lawmakers think have a shot at passing.


Political Analysts:

Republican State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, joins Democrat Harold Cook to discuss the special session, the Governor’s list and what items they think will get approved in the next 30 days.


Health Care Latest:

We’ll get to the latest out of Washington where President Trump today told Republican senators, “inaction is not an option on health care.”

Our Washington, DC reporter, Alberto Pimienta, will have the latest.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling




Daily Digest: July 18 – Special Session Day 1

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’s Special Session Fast-Track Strategy:

The Senate suspended decades-old rules Tuesday to get a sunset bill moving right along.  That move by Republicans upset Democrats who say it gives the public virtually no notice. On Capital Tonight at 7pm, we’ll discuss how that strategy is likely to remain all special session long.


House Talks Quorum Break:

Over in the lower chamber, a Republican called attention to a measure he wants passed to provide penalties if members break quorum. There’s been rumors that Democrats might do so. Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, has authored a measure to penalize any lawmaker who skips town. Hear from him at 7pm.


Lawmaker Panel:

We’ll also be joined by State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler and Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie to get their take on the next 30 days.


DNC Chair Tom Perez:

The chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, was in Austin Tuesday and stopped by the studio to talk Resistance Summer and what the national party is doing to help Texas Democrats become more competitive. Hear his full interview at 7pm.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling






Special Session Underway: Senate Moves Quickly, House Talks Quorum Breaks

They’re back…


Day one of Texas’ Special Legislative Session has begun and key fights over rules and quorum breaks are already in the works for what’s expected to be a contentious 30 days.



First and foremost – lawmakers need to pass a so-called sunset bill. That’s the main reason they’re back. The legislation is needed to keep some critical state agencies open, like the Texas Medical Board.



The Senate is already getting to work on the measure. But the upper chamber’s quick move to take up the bill got pushback from Senate Democrats because Republicans suspended rules to hear it on day one.

Democrats said it gives the public virtually no notice.

“I have been in the Senate 30 years. I do not recall the tag rule ever being suspended,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.



Over on the House side, a Republican called attention to a measure he wants passed to provide penalties if members break quorum. There’s been rumors that Democrats might not show up.


Gov. Greg Abbott has put 20 items on the special session agenda he wants lawmakers to tackle. Those include a private school voucher proposal for special needs students, a so-called bathroom bill and property tax reform.



Abbott sets the agenda in the special session. But that didn’t stop Democrats from holding a press conference after the House adjourned for the day to discuss repealing a bill passed during the regular season. 

Democrats want the anti-sanctuary bill, SB 4, to go away.

It require local law enforcement officials to honor federal immigration detainer requests and gives officers expanded power to inquire about immigration status 



“We know law enforcement has said it’s going to make our communities less safe,” Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, said. “We know that there are going to be negative impacts in terms of creating fear in immigrant communities. We know that there is already fear in many of the communities that we represent.” 



Join us at 7pm for a full recap of day one of the special session, including a panel discussion with Reps. Jason Villalba, Matt Schaefer and Chris Turner.


Posted by Karina Kling


Daily Digest: July 17

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


Special Session Divide:

It’s the eve of Texas’ special legislative session. Tuesday, lawmakers head back to work for what could be 30 days of action on 20 items the Governor wants them to pass.

But lawmakers appear to be as divided as ever.

That was made even more clear earlier Monday when Governor Greg Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick laid out their game plans for the upcoming overtime session at an event hosted by the conservative think tank – Texas Public Policy Foundation.

They both say they want lawmakers to go 20 for 20, passing all of the governor’s legislative items, which include the so-called bathroom bill, private school vouchers for special needs students and property tax reform.

Another item on the governor’s lengthy list: a raise for Texas public schoolteachers, which Patrick has said he wants to take a step further. At Monday’s news conference, Patrick mainly talked about his proposal, but also jabbed House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, claiming the speaker was behind a push for a statewide income tax.

“If he says things that aren’t true, I will set the record straight,” Patrick said. “And if he personally attacks the governor, I will be his wingman.”

Speaker Straus’ office sent Capital Tonight a statement following Patrick’s remarks.

“Speaker Straus doesn’t support a state income tax because it would be bad for Texas and harm our economy, just like the bathroom bill,” Jason Embry, Speaker Straus’ spokesman, said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Abbott said he’s going to be keeping a list.

“We all need to establish lists that we publish on a daily basis to call people out. Who is for this? Who is against this? Who has not taken a position yet? No one gets to hide,” Abbott said.

Tonight at 7pm, Max Gorden will break down the special session call, reaction from Governor Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick and where the Democrats stand on the issues.


Bathroom Battle:

Big business leaders want to put the brakes on a second round of bills they say target transgender Texans. About one hundred people took to the south steps of the Capitol Monday to drive home their message that the bathroom bill is bad for business. They say North Carolina’s tourism and job growth has suffered as a result of similar laws.

The rally coincided with a letter from more than a dozen Dallas-based companies that want Abbott to reconsider his call for bathroom regulations. It also comes as IBM, which employs about 10,000 people in Texas, took out an ad in major newspapers across the state calling the measure discriminatory.

They say the rules would make it harder to recruit top talent.

“I think we constantly ask ourselves where we should invest for growth, and it is totally dependent on where the best talent wants to live and work,” Phil Gilbert, IBM Global Head of Design, said.

Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, has filed so-called bathroom bills for the special session.

He said the companies angered by his bill should lead by example and show the state a solution that works for everyone.

“Their buildings where they office, their restrooms are designed by their gender,” Simmons said.


Lawmaker Panel:

Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock and Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, join us to discuss the special session. Hear their take on what will pass and the divide between the House and Senate.


On the Agenda:

And the Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg is in.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm on Spectrum News.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: July 14

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


Abbott Reelection Announcement:

Governor Greg Abbott is officially running for reelection. The governor made the announcement in San Antonio today at the same site as his original gubernatorial announcement four years ago. The date is also significant.

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the accident that paralyzed the governor. His ability to overcome that setback and rise to the state’s highest political office has been one of the hallmarks of his career — and even the basis for the title of his book “Broken but Unbowed.”

The Governor took to Facebook yesterday, boasting about the promises he made when he took office and outlining how he got those promises done.

Our Annette Garcia was in San Antonio for the announcement and will have a full recap at 7pm.


1 on 1 with Wendy Davis:

Abbott’s former gubernatorial rival will also join us to discuss what it was like running against Abbott. Hear her take on the future of the Democratic Party and what it needs to do to be competitive. We’ll also ask about her future political plans.


Tech Companies Powering up for Bathroom Battle:

Over the past five years San Antonio’s tech scene has grown. One thousand IT companies and 35 thousand tech workers call it home. Leaders want tech to grow, but worry the so-called bathroom bill likely to be debated during the special session could make it difficult to recruit more talent. Our Alese Underwood spoke with several tech CEOs and will have the full story on Capital Tonight.


PolitiFact Texas:

Gardner Selby will also be in to put Energy Secretary Rick Perry and State Rep. Paul Workman to the truth-o-meter.


Join us for these stories and more tonight at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: July 13

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


Patrick teacher bonus plan:

A plan to tap the Texas lottery to pay for teacher bonuses has been proposed. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick laid out the idea at a press conference Thursday. He wants to spend $700 million each year in lottery revenue to give veteran teachers a boost. Patrick says the lottery raises about $1 billion yearly for education.

His plan would force school districts to use most of that on pay bumps for teachers with at least six years of experience and retirees with more than 20 years.

The proposal would require a change to the Texas Constitution — meaning voters would have to approve it.

Public school advocates argue the state needs to better invest in public education.


Redistricting Trial Day 4:

Our Alese Underwood is in the courtroom today and will have the latest on day four of the fight over Texas’ political maps.


Texas Congressman Calls on Trump to Kick Adult Kids out of the White House:

A Texas Republican Congressman is calling on President Trump to kick his adult kids out of the White House.

“I’m going out on a limb here, but I would say I think it would be in the president’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House — not only Donald Trump but Ivanka and Jared Kushner,” Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said. “And so I wished that he would get them out of the way so that we could have — from a professional standpoint — House policy issues.”

Specifically Rep. Bill Flores of Bryan was asked about Donald Trump, Jr., who posted an email exchange from June with a Russian official that he appeared eager to accept information that could have damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Flores says the meeting should not have happened. And he added he’d like to see more professionals in the White House so they could get back to the issues that matter.


Senate Revised Health Care Bill Unveiled:

Senate Republican leaders unveiled their new plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. The bill would still cut Medicaid and it would allow insurers to sell plans with bare-bones coverage. But the legislation is still in jeopardy with not enough votes to even start debating it on the Senate floor. Our Washington DC Bureau Reporter Alberto Pimienta will have the latest details.


Travis County Republican and Democratic Party Chairs Debate:

Republican Matt Mackowiak and Democrat Vincent Harding join us to discuss 2018, special session and the state of the county parties.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling