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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



Ponzi Schemes and Cooking the Books: Special Session Edition

The special session of the 85th Texas Legislature begins on Tuesday. And for those thinking the division between the House and Senate might have subsided, think again.


During a news conference Thursday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick laid out a plan to tap the Texas lottery to pay for teacher bonuses. 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.


But Patrick also called out House Speaker Joe Straus at least 15 times during the news conference.


“I want to emphasize this is a serious plan, which is different from what Speaker Straus laid out during the regular session and continues to talk about,” Patrick said. “That was nothing more than an education Ponzi scheme.”


What Straus and fellow Republicans championed was a plan to pump $1.6 billion additional dollars into public schools.


Public school advocates also backed the House plan.


They aren’t so sure about what Patrick is proposing and argue the state needs to better invest in public education.


“Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s sudden, newfound interest in teachers and retired teachers is as hollow as the governor’s $1000 teacher pay raise because neither is willing to make a genuine commitment to investing state funds in public education,” Noel Candelaria, Texas State Teachers Association President, said.


Gov. Greg Abbott has called on lawmakers to increase teacher pay by $1000 annually during the special session, but there’s no extra state budget funding.


Gov. Abbott applauded Patrick’s plan. “My office has been working with lawmakers in both the Senate and House these past six weeks, and if these items do not get passed, it will be for lack of will, not for lack of time,” Abbott said.


Patrick also said he supports all 20 bills the governor has put on the call and jabbed Straus for not.


“We’ve already passed 10 of those out of the Senate. They were killed by the Speaker,” Patrick said. “I believe the House can pass 20 for 20 as well if they ever get a chance to vote for them on the floor.”


Straus put out this statement in response to Patrick’s plan:

“It’s encouraging to see the Lieutenant Governor’s newfound focus on school finance reform. Nothing could be more important in this special session than beginning to fix our school finance system so that we improve education, keep more local dollars in local schools, and provide real property tax relief, just as the House overwhelmingly approved in the regular session.”


The feud between the leaders of the House and Senate that boiled over during the regular session has only been enhanced with comments and appearances during their short break.


Both have blamed each other for killing bills and causing a special session.


Patrick’s Ponzi scheme comment Thursday follows a similar jab from Straus during the regular session when the upper chamber used an accounting trick to delay a payment to the state highway fund to balance the budget.

He called it “cooking the books” and criticized Senators for not wanting to tap into the $12 billion Rainy Day Fund to help in lean times.


The special session begins Tuesday.


Posted by Karina Kling




Daily Digest: July 12

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


Who will challenge Gov. Abbott?

Governor Greg Abbott is expected to officially announce his reelection bid on Friday. It’s set to take place in San Antonio, in the same spot he unveiled his original gubernatorial bid exactly four years ago.

But the burning question: who is going to run against him? No Democrat has expressed any interest so far.

Tonight we take a look at the Democratic possibilities and ask the Texas Democratic Party — what’s up?


Redistricting Trial Day 3:

The legal battle over the state’s political maps continues today in San Antonio federal court. The focus today has turned to the state’s congressional maps.


Trump/Russia Probe:

Texas Republican lawmakers are keeping relatively quiet on those emails released by Donald Trump, Jr. in which he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that could have damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Democrats, meanwhile, are calling it proof of collusion with Russia. Our DC reporter Alberto Pimienta will have reaction from Texas lawmakers in Washington.


Political Analysts:

And our political analysts, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi, will be in to give their take on 2018, redistricting and Trump, Jr.



It’s stood tall over the Texas State Capitol building for nearly 100 years. And now, the ‘Goddess of Liberty’ statue is getting some TLC at its new home in the Bullock Museum. Check out the up close features on the 16 feet tall, 3000 pound statue on Capital Tonight.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm on Spectrum News. Join us for these stories and more tonight at 7!


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: July 11

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


Redistricting Trial Day 2:

The legal battle over Texas’ political maps continues in court. On day two of the state’s redistricting trial, plaintiffs argued about a lack of legislative process when redrawing some boundary lines in 2013.

One of the people testifying today was State Rep. Eric Johnson. Johnson’s a black Democrat from Dallas. He told the 3-judge panel that in 2013, when lawmakers were redrawing maps under a court order, there was no real process to provide input. According to lawyers defending Mr. Johnson and other minority voters, here’s why:

“No one in leadership reached out to the African-American representatives, to the Latino representatives and said, ‘how do we fix this?’” Allison Riggs, Southern Coalition for Social Justice senior attorney, said.

For the first time in the trial, state attorneys argued the maps could have been drawn with partisan motivation rather than racial ones. The US Supreme Court has ruled that’s not necessarily unconstitutional.

John Salazar will have the latest on the trial tonight at 7 p.m.


We’ll also be joined by former state representative Trey Martinez Fischer. He testified yesterday in the trial.


Trump/Russia Probe:

We’ll have the latest on the Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with Russian attorneys, plus reaction from lawmakers in Washington.


Local Control:

“Man your special session battle stations.” That’s the message from the Texas Municipal League heading into next week’s lawmaker overtime.

About half of Governor Abbott’s list for the special session include local control issues, or matters that cities, counties and school districts oversee or play a role in handling.

From how cities collect property taxes and set budgets, to regulating land use and restricting access to bathrooms, such topics are set to dominate debate.

“I call it the goldilocks form of government,” Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, said. “The federal government is big and bad, cities are small and bad and somehow the state gets it just right? That can’t possibly be the case. Cities are to the state what the state is to the federal government. We’re the laboratory of democracy. Every city is different and citizens like that.”

Tune in for Sandlin’s full interview.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7 p.m.


Posted by Karina Kling



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Daily Digest: July 10 – Redistricting

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


Redistricting Trial Day 1:

Texas’ redistricting trial began today in federal court in San Antonio. Three federal judges are hearing a week’s worth of testimony centered on whether the state intentionally discriminated against minorities when drawing Texas political maps in 2011. The timing of the trial is critical. The 2018 elections are just around the corner and if the judges side with the plaintiffs, it could shake up races across the state.



In 2011, Texas lawmakers drew new political boundaries. It happens every ten years after census data comes out. But the way the Republican-controlled Legislature drew the maps angered minority rights groups who called the new state and congressional maps discriminatory toward black and Latino voters. That led to a court drawing temporary maps that were used for the 2012 elections. In 2013, lawmakers adopted those maps and that’s what the state has been using ever since.


But then, this spring the federal judges ruled that three of Texas’ 36 congressional districts were drawn illegally. The judges also ruled that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities when crafting them.


The Arguments:

The state says it didn’t target Texas voters by race, but does admit it drew maps in a partisan way. It wants the legal challenge dismissed. Minority rights groups continue to argue the 2013 maps were meant to be temporary and should be redrawn because they don’t address all of the concerns first raised with the 2011 maps.



The trial is expected to last through Friday or Saturday. It’s unclear when the judges will rule.


We’ll have a full report on day 1 of the trial from San Antonio with John Salazar at 7pm.

Matt Angle, director of Texas’ Lone Star Project, will also be joining us from San Antonio to discuss why his group is pushing for the maps to be redrawn.


Special Session Proclamation:

Governor Greg Abbott has now officially called state lawmakers back to Austin for a special session. Abbott’s formal proclamation today means the Legislature will reconvene next Tuesday at 10am.

For now, the governor only asked lawmakers to extend operations of the Texas Medical Board and other state agencies set to expire this fall. Lawmakers failed to do so during the regular session that ended in May.

Once that so-called sunset legislation is passed, Abbott has promised to include 19 other priorities for the 30-day special session. Those include a private school voucher proposal, school finance reform and anti-abortion measures.


Bathroom Bill:

The so-called bathroom bill is also part of that long list of special session items. Our Max Gorden will have the story of one family fighting back against the measure.


Join us for these stories and the latest out of Washington tonight on Capital Tonight at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling


Daily Digest: July 6

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


Voter ID law:

The Trump administration says Texas has fixed any discriminatory effects of its Voter ID law. The Justice Department is now asking a judge to not take further action. The DOJ under former President Obama had previously joined minority rights groups in challenging the 2011 law. But the new administration told the judge that Texas lawmakers fixed the measure in May by adopting a weaker version. The judge has twice ruled that the original law intentionally discriminated against minorities. We’ll have reaction from both sides tonight at 7pm.



While groups are protesting the proposed health care bill outside of Sen. John Cornyn’s Austin office, Sen. Ted Cruz will be holding a town hall to discuss the issue tonight at 6pm. Earlier today, Cruz told a San Antonio radio station he didn’t know if the Senate could pass the bill.

“It is precarious,” Cruz said. He added the GOP’s Senate majority “is so narrow, I don’t know if we can get it done or not.”

Capital Tonight host Karina Kling will also be sitting down with Sen. Cruz later this evening. You can catch that full interview on Friday’s edition of Capital Tonight at 7pm.


Putin/Trump meeting:

Tomorrow, the eyes of the world will be on one of the most anticipated meetings between two of the most powerful men on the planet. President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany.

The White House is downplaying the critical encounter. And our Washington reporter Alberto Pimienta will have more tonight on the likelihood of whether the President will bring up Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.


North Korea missile:

President Trump says he’s considering quote “pretty severe things” in response to North Korea’s test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Experts say such a missile could reach Alaska. Paul Miller is the associate director of the Clements Center for National Security at UT-Austin. Hear his take on what options the country has to deal with the threat tonight at 7.


Republicans and the environment:

Can you be a Republican and an environmentalist? There are some out there — and one who recently described himself as just that joins us tonight.  Hear Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton’s stance on climate change and the state of Texas energy.


Capital Tonight airs nightly at 7.


Posted by Karina Kling




Daily Digest: July 5

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


Texas Medicaid cuts:

Some special needs kids have lost critical therapy services since the state let $350 million in Medicaid cuts take effect in December. The cuts have prompted government reimbursement that’s offered to providers to fall up to 50 percent.

Our Max Gorden is speaking with an in-home therapy provider to find out how the cuts have affected his patients. Groups are also concerned the Texas cuts could be a preview of what’s to come nationwide if proposed Medicaid cuts being considered by Republicans in Congress are passed.


Sen. Ted Cruz on mini Texas tour:

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is on a state tour of sorts during Congress’ July 4th recess. And he’s already gotten an earful.

Cruz took part in an Independence Day parade in McAllen yesterday. He shook hands with supporters, but was also confronted by protesters in the Democratic stronghold. Some shared their frustrations with Cruz’s stance on health care. Others were angry about his support for President Trump’s stance on immigration and the proposed border wall.

But in his comments to local media, Cruz stayed focused on the day’s celebrations. “You know it’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to celebrate what brings us together, what makes America unique, which is the freedom that’s protected in the Constitution, protected in the Bill of Rights, the freedom that every American, every Texan has,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s Texas trip comes as negotiations continue behind closed doors regarding the health care bill currently stalled in the Senate.

The junior Texas senator will be in San Antonio and Austin tomorrow.


Political Analysts:

Our political analysts, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi, will be in tonight to discuss the latest New Yorker piece — America’s Future is Texas. We’ll also discuss the upcoming special session and the latest chatter about stall tactics or pressuring lawmakers to pass priority bills.


Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm.


(The AP and CNN contributed to this post)


Posted by Karina Kling




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