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Posts by kkling
Jan 31st - 3:10 pm
Governor Greg Abbott laid out his priorities for the 85th Texas Legislature Tuesday morning. He told lawmakers to immediately get to work on four issues: overhauling the state’s broken foster care system, ethics reform legislation, banning so-called “sanctuary cities” and passing a resolution to support a convention of states to amend the US Constitution.
The designation of an emergency item permits the Legislature to vote on relevant legislation in the first 60 days of the 140-day session.
Child Protective Services overhaul:
The state’s child welfare system was declared broken by a federal judge in 2015 and lawmakers have been working to overhaul the agency. They approved emergency funding last year so CPS could hire more caseworkers and give employees a pay raise. The agency has been plagued by high caseloads and high turnover.
“Do not underfund this rickety system only to have it come back and haunt you,” Abbott told lawmakers in his address. “If you do nothing else this session, cast a vote to save the life of a child.”
Banning “Sanctuary Cities”:
Abbott has been in a showdown with the Travis County Sheriff over her new “sanctuary city” policy that places limits on requests from federal immigration officials. The Governor said this session will be the one where lawmakers ban sanctuary cities.
The Governor named ethics reform an emergency item last session but lawmakers failed to get a bill to his desk. Abbott said he’s confident the sponsors of the legislation this time would be able “to avoid the pitfalls that led to the demise of ethics reform last session.”
Convention of States:
Abbott has been touting this idea for months. Calling for a convention of states would allow states to propose amendments to the US Constitution. For it to happen, 34 state legislatures must apply for a convention.
“For decades, the federal government has grown out of control,” Abbott said Tuesday. “It has increasingly abandoned the Constitution, stiff-armed the states and ignored its citizens. This isn’t a problem caused by one president. And it won’t be solved by one president. It must be fixed by the people themselves.”
The Governor also ordered a state hiring freeze through August. He said it’s a way to deal with the state’s tight budget and would free up about $200 million in the current budget.
Governor Abbott then touched on a number of topics that he did not deem emergency items. He criticized lawmakers on the pre-K program he championed last session. He said both the House and Senate budget give insufficient attention to improving the program.
“If you’re going to do this, do it right or don’t do it at all,” Abbott told lawmakers.
He has said he wants a so-called school choice bill to reach his desk and told lawmakers to make Texas the 31st state that offers parents the option of using public money to send their children to private schools. He also said lawmakers are right to tackle the issue of school finance now rather than putting it off. The Texas Supreme Court ruled the system barely constitutional last year, and urged lawmakers to make changes.
One thing notably missing from Abbott’s address – his stance on the so-called “bathroom bill” that could be the most controversial item of the session.
Click here to see the Governor’s budget.
Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm for analysis and reaction from Texas Democrats.
Posted by Karina Kling
Jan 19th - 11:58 am
Former Texas Governor Rick Perry kicked off his confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Thursday morning by expressing regret for campaigning on the promise of doing away with the Energy Department.
“My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry said. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”
Perry is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Energy.
Perry also touched on the politically sensitive topic of climate change. He said in his opening remarks that he believes the climate is changing and some of it is caused by “man-made activity.”
“The question is how do we address it in a thoughtful way?” Perry added. “When it comes to climate change, I’m committed to making decisions based on sound science that also take into account economic impact.”
The former Texas Governor repeatedly touted his tenure overseeing a state with the 12th largest economy in the world as reason he’s prepared for the position.
Fellow Texan, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn praised Perry as he introduced him to the committee citing job growth and Texas becoming the top exporting state in the country while Perry was Governor.
“Rick Perry is not a status quo kind of guy. He’s a leader. He’s an innovator,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn also noted that today, Texas leads the nation in oil and gas production and produces more wind energy than any other state in the country.
Perry was set to face tough questioning from Democratic Sen. Al Franken, but then this exchange happened:
But Sen. Franken then turned serious citing Perry’s 2010 book where he wrote about a “cooling trend” and asked about how much climate change he thinks is due to human activity.
“Senator far from me to be sitting before you today and claiming to be a climate scientist. I will not do that,” Perry said.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to be a climate scientist. But you’re going to be the head of the Department of Energy,” Franken responded. “I don’t want this idea of the economy and addressing climate change are at odds at all.”
This post will be updated and watch Capital Tonight at 7pm for full coverage and analysis of Perry’s confirmation hearing.
Posted by Karina Kling
Jan 17th - 3:25 pm
Updated to include House version:
The only piece of legislation Texas lawmakers must pass each session has been filed.
Budget proposals from both the House and Senate were revealed Tuesday. The proposals are starting points for budget writers to begin negotiating, but the bills reveal big differences between the two chambers. First off, Texas Senate and House budgets are nearly $8 billion dollars apart.
Texas Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson has proposed a $213.4 billion two-year base budget.
State House Speaker Joe Straus’ includes $221.3 billion over two years.
One of the most glaring differences between the two chambers is with public education funding. The House wants to add $1.5 billion if lawmakers reform the school finance system. The Senate version does not increase state money for public schools beyond enrollment growth.
Both chambers agree a funding boost is needed for the state’s embattled child welfare system.
A slump in oil and gas prices, as well as decisions by lawmakers two years ago to cut taxes and dedicate money to road funding, has left the state with less money to spend.
The only legislation Texas lawmakers must pass each session has been filed.
A $103.6 billion budget proposal from the State Senate is now on the table.
And while it’s a starting point for lawmakers in the upper chamber — the initial bill would mean significant cuts to many state agencies.
It also does not increase state money for public schools beyond enrollment growth.
The proposed budget by Republican Finance Chair Jane Nelson follows the Comptroller’s gloomy revenue estimate last week.
A slump in oil and gas prices, as well as decisions by lawmakers two years ago to cut taxes and dedicate money to road funding, has left the state with less money to spend.
The budget bill does include some funding boosts for programs including the embattled Child Protective Services agency and pre-kindergarten.
Here’s Sen. Nelson’s and Speaker Straus’ full releases on their base budgets:
SENATOR NELSON FILES SB 1, THE SENATE’S BASE BUDGET
AUSTIN – Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, today filed SB 1, the Senate’s base budget, establishing the state’s funding priorities for the next two years.
“This base budget is a starting point, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop a balanced budget that addresses our needs and strengthens our economy. While we will need to prioritize and make efficient use of our resources, I am confident we can meet the challenges ahead,” Senator Nelson, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said.
Last week, the Texas Comptroller issued his Biennial Revenue Estimate, indicating that the Legislature will have $104.9 billion available for the FY 18-19 budget. SB 1 allocates $103.6 billion, including additional resources for transportation, Child Protective Services and other priorities. SB 1:
- Continues the current funding formulas for both public education and higher education;
- Adds $2.65 billion to cover student enrollment growth, which is projected to be more than 80,000 per year over the next two years;
- Increases the education instructional materials allotment by $29.6 million;
- Provides an additional $32 million for high quality pre-kindergarten;
- Continues funding at current levels for Communities in Schools;
- Includes $5 million for Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a new program designed to help students pursue careers in technology;
- Provides $10 million to support Education Commissioner initiatives;
- Maintains current funding levels for Texas’ major financial aid programs for public institutions of higher education, including TEXAS Grant;
- Adds $44.1 million for Graduate Medical Education with the goal of ensuring that residency slots are available for Texas medical school graduates;
- Dedicates approximately $5 billion for transportation in accordance with Proposition 7;
- Adds $260 million to address the critical needs of Child Protective Services;
- Provides a $1 billion commitment to improve the state hospital system and address other state facility needs;
- Includes $63 million to eliminate waitlists for community mental health services;
- Keeps funding for women’s health programs at current levels;
- Maintains veterans’ services and the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, a $20 million grant program to assist veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues;
- Fully funds the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute;
- Maintains the additional $800 million for border security approved last session;
- Includes $25 million for high caliber bullet-proof vests to protect Texas peace officers;
- Directs the Department of Information Resources to study the state’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
Balancing the state’s needs against available revenue, SB 1 eliminates one-time expenditures from the previous budget; includes many agency recommendations for 4% savings; reduces funding for non-educational higher education initiatives; and calls for a 1.5% across-the-board budget reduction, exempting the Foundation School Program.
With declining oil revenue and growing needs, the Legislature faces several critical budget decisions this session, including:
- Structuring our school finance system to better meet the needs of students;
- Skyrocketing health care costs in Medicaid, the Teacher Retirement System, the Employee Retirement System and correctional managed care; and
- Addressing mental health needs of the state, including infrastructure and capacity challenges within the mental health state hospital system.
“We have difficult decisions to make this session, and we will work tirelessly to address the needs of the state in a responsible manner,” Senator Nelson said.
In crafting the base budget, 16 agencies underwent strategic fiscal review – a modified form of zero-based budgeting. In an effort to improve transparency, five agency budgets are presented in a program-based format, and members will receive a program-based version of SB 1 in its entirety. For more information on how the budget process works, visit http://www.senate.texas.gov/_assets/srcpub/85th_Budget_101.pdf
HOUSE BUDGET PRIORITIZES PUBLIC EDUCATION
AUSTIN – The initial 2018-19 budget introduced by Texas House leadership Tuesday puts additional resources into public education, child protection and mental health while increasing state spending by less than 1 percent.
“We keep overall spending low while making investments in children and our future,” said Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. “We put an emphasis on public education, child protection and better mental health care. The Members of the House, beginning with the Appropriations Committee, will now have the chance to shape this budget and decide how best to allocate resources during an economic slowdown. This is the first step toward producing a balanced budget that reflects the priorities of the Texas House and does not raise taxes.”
Highlights of the initial House budget include:
Public Education. The budget provides funding to pay for expected enrollment growth of about 165,000 students over the next two years. It also includes an additional $1.5 billion for public education that is contingent upon the passage of legislation that reduces Recapture and improves equity in the school finance system.
Child Protection. In December, the leaders of the House and Senate joined with Governor Greg Abbott to approve new caseworkers and investigators at Child Protective Services, as well as pay raises aimed at reducing employee turnover. Overall, the House budget provides $268 million to bring additional stability to the CPS workforce.
Mental Health. The House budget increases funding for behavioral health by $162 million. The increase would allow the Legislature to eliminate wait lists for mental health services and implement recommendations of the House Select Committee on Mental Health, including early identification efforts, jail diversion programs and local collaborations to expand capacity of mental health treatment facilities. The increase also provides funding for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among Veterans.
The initial House plan appropriates $108.9 billion in General Revenue. It reduces funding for administrative costs and discretionary programs across state agencies. It also eliminates one-time funding provided by the last Legislature, such as completed capital and information technology projects. It also includes cost-containment efforts to reduce spending in Medicaid by $100 million.
“The House will have a productive debate about where to go from here,” Speaker Straus said. “I’m confident that the end product will put more dollars in the classroom, protect children and keep this state on sound fiscal footing.”
Posted by Karina Kling
Jan 11th - 12:33 pm
It didn’t take long for the friendly pomp and circumstance to wear off for state lawmakers. On day two of the 85th Texas Legislature, the House got its first taste of the looming battle over access to bathrooms.
Rep. Matt Schaefer, (R) Tyler, offered an amendment to House administration rules that would restrict people using restrooms in the Capitol to only use those that correspond to their biological sex.
But House administration chairman Rep. Charlie Geren, (R) Fort Worth, quickly called a point of order and told members the Capitol bathrooms are managed by the State Preservation Board, not the House.
Rep. Schaefer eventually withdrew is proposal.
The Senate has made passing a so-called “bathroom bill” a top priority. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has said it’s about protecting women. Critics have said it discriminates against transgender people and the business community has warned it could cost the state billions in lost revenue.
2/3 Rules Fight:
Senators began their debate on day two over whether to restore the two-thirds rule. That would mean the Senate needs 21 members to bring a bill to the floor for debate. The make-up of the current Texas Senate is 20 Republicans to 11 Democrats. Currently, the Senate operates under a three-fifths rule where only 19 senators are needed to bring up a bill. After heated debate, the Senate voted along party lines to keep the three-fifths rule, enough to give the 20 Republicans greater power over what legislation moves through the upper chamber.
Posted by Karina Kling
Nov 8th - 12:47 pm
The day has finally arrived. Election Day 2016. It’s hard to believe that this election cycle started in March 2015 with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announcing his candidacy at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Overall, Texas saw quite a bit of action during this election season. The state had five presidential candidates with Texas ties. Former Governor Rick Perry, native Texan Jeb Bush, Austin-born Carly Fiorina and Sen. Rand Paul who grew up in Texas and went to Baylor University joined Sen. Cruz in the crowded field of 17 Republican candidates.
But in the end, Donald Trump won the GOP nomination and Hillary Clinton became the Democrats’ nominee.
While much of the last few months have been solely focused on that contentious presidential race, there are several state races that could end in upsets for the incumbents.
Here’s a list of the races we are watching tonight:
Congressional District 23 – San Antonio
Republican Rep. Will Hurd vs. Democrat Pete Gallego
State House Races
Republican Rep. John Lujan vs. Democrat Tomas Uresti
Republican Rep. Rick Galindo vs. Democrat Phil Cortez
Republican Rep. Rodney Anderson vs. Democrat Terry Meza
Republican Rep. Kenneth Sheets vs. Democrat Victoria Neave
Republican Rep. Linda Koop vs. Democrat Laura Irvin
Republican Rep. Cindy Burkett vs. Rhetta Andrews Bowers
Republican Rep. Jason Villalba vs. Democrat Jim Burke
Republican Rep. J.M. Lozano vs. Democrat Marisa Yvette Garcia-Utley
Republican Rep. Gilbert Pena vs. Democrat Mary Ann Perez
Republican Rep. Wayne Faircloth vs. Democrat Lloyd Criss
Republican Rep. Sarah Davis vs. Democrat Ben Rose
Republican Rep. Tony Dale vs. Democrat Paul Gordon
Republican Rep. Paul Workman vs. Democrat Ana Jordan
Even if Democrats do pick up a few Texas House seats, the balance of power is still firmly in Republicans’ grip at the Texas Legislature.
Join us at 6 p.m. tonight for complete coverage of the presidential, state and local races.
Sep 23rd - 3:04 pm
After the bitter back and forth during the presidential campaign, Sen. Ted Cruz said he’s searched his own conscience and will vote for Donald Trump in November.
“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Cruz said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
Trump quickly responded to Cruz’s endorsement saying:
“I am greatly honored by the endorsement of Senator Cruz. We have fought the battle and he was a tough and brilliant opponent. I look forward to working with him for many years to come in order to make America great again.”
Here’s Cruz’s full statement:
This election is unlike any other in our nation’s history. Like many other voters, I have struggled to determine the right course of action in this general election.
In Cleveland, I urged voters, “please, don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket whom you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”
After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.
I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word.
Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable — that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.
Six key policy differences inform my decision. First, and most important, the Supreme Court. For anyone concerned about the Bill of Rights — free speech, religious liberty, the Second Amendment — the Court hangs in the balance. I have spent my professional career fighting before the Court to defend the Constitution. We are only one justice away from losing our most basic rights, and the next president will appoint as many as four new justices. We know, without a doubt, that every Clinton appointee would be a left-wing ideologue. Trump, in contrast, has promised to appoint justices “in the mold of Scalia.”
For some time, I have been seeking greater specificity on this issue, and today the Trump campaign provided that, releasing a very strong list of potential Supreme Court nominees — including Sen. Mike Lee, who would make an extraordinary justice — and making an explicit commitment to nominate only from that list. This commitment matters, and it provides a serious reason for voters to choose to support Trump.
Second, Obamacare. The failed healthcare law is hurting millions of Americans. If Republicans hold Congress, leadership has committed to passing legislation repealing Obamacare. Clinton, we know beyond a shadow of doubt, would veto that legislation. Trump has said he would sign it.
Third, energy. Clinton would continue the Obama administration’s war on coal and relentless efforts to crush the oil and gas industry. Trump has said he will reduce regulations and allow the blossoming American energy renaissance to create millions of new high-paying jobs.
Fourth, immigration. Clinton would continue and even expand President Obama’s lawless executive amnesty. Trump has promised that he would revoke those illegal executive orders.
Fifth, national security. Clinton would continue the Obama administration’s willful blindness to radical Islamic terrorism. She would continue importing Middle Eastern refugees whom the FBI cannot vet to make sure they are not terrorists. Trump has promised to stop the deluge of unvetted refugees.
Sixth, Internet freedom. Clinton supports Obama’s plan to hand over control of the Internet to an international community of stakeholders, including Russia, China, and Iran. Just this week, Trump came out strongly against that plan, and in support of free speech online.
These are six vital issues where the candidates’ positions present a clear choice for the American people.
If Clinton wins, we know — with 100% certainty — that she would deliver on her left-wing promises, with devastating results for our country.
My conscience tells me I must do whatever I can to stop that.
We also have seen, over the past few weeks and months, a Trump campaign focusing more and more on freedom — including emphasizing school choice and the power of economic growth to lift African-Americans and Hispanics to prosperity.
Finally, after eight years of a lawless Obama administration, targeting and persecuting those disfavored by the administration, fidelity to the rule of law has never been more important.
The Supreme Court will be critical in preserving the rule of law. And, if the next administration fails to honor the Constitution and Bill of Rights, then I hope that Republicans and Democrats will stand united in protecting our fundamental liberties.
Our country is in crisis. Hillary Clinton is manifestly unfit to be president, and her policies would harm millions of Americans. And Donald Trump is the only thing standing in her way.
A year ago, I pledged to endorse the Republican nominee, and I am honoring that commitment. And if you don’t want to see a Hillary Clinton presidency, I encourage you to vote for him.
Watch Capital Tonight at 7 for full analysis from our reporter roundtable on Cruz’s decision to endorse Trump.
Aug 22nd - 12:47 pm
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.
Aug 19th - 4:42 pm
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?”
Aug 17th - 11:39 am
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.
Aug 16th - 11:57 am
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.