Paul Brown

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Daily Digest | May 4

Our Daily Digest is a lunchtime look at the stories we have our eyes on at the Capitol and beyond. Here’s what we are watching today:

Senators are hearing testimony on Senate Bill 2065 today. The bill, which was fast-tracked weeks after the filing deadline at the request of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, would excuse clergy members from officiating marriages that violate their beliefs. Democrats in the Senate delayed the bill to allow more of the public to testify.

The full House could take up their contract reform bill today. It’s an issue that was thrust into the spotlight after accusations state agencies were giving out multimillion dollar contracts without proper oversight due to loopholes in the law. It became a major campaign point for Gov. Greg Abbott, who called the controversy a key part of his fifth emergency item: ethics reform.

A rally is scheduled Monday afternoon at the Capitol, put together by activists opposed to House Bill 40, known as the “Denton Fracking Bill.” It would prohibit municipalities from banning the oil and gas exploration method. The companion legislation is Senate Bill 1165.

On “Capital Tonight” this evening, James Henson, director of UT’s Texas Politics Project, is scheduled to join us. We’ll talk to him about a planned U.S. military training exercise that drew a lot of suspicion from the public, and even a statement from the governor. Henson points to recent polling that may explain the reaction by both the public and politicians.

Also, the Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg will join us for his weekly commentary. That’s tonight at 7 and 11 on Time Warner Cable News.

Perry orders state agencies to use E-Verify

Governor Rick Perry has reversed his stance on E-Verify.

He’s now ordering state agencies to use the system to make sure those applying for state jobs or working for contractors are in the country legally. Four years ago, Perry criticized the federal E-Verify system, saying it “would not make a ‘hill of beans’ difference when it comes to what’s happening in America.”

At a Wednesday news conference, the governor said the system has been improved. Under E-Verify, employers can enter in names and Social Security numbers of new hires. That will let them know whether they are citizens or have proper visas for employment.

At the news conference, Perry also took time to blast President Obama’s executive order on immigration. He says it will trigger a new flood of people illegally entering Texas from Mexico.

Abbott takes legal action against Obama’s immigration order

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced legal action Wednesday challenging President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of Texas, is part of a 17-state coalition.

Abbott, the governor-elect, issued the following statement:

“The President’s unilateral executive action tramples the U.S. Constitution’s Take Care Clause and federal law. The Constitution’s Take Care Clause limits the President’s power and ensures that he will faithfully execute Congress’s laws – not rewrite them under the guise of ‘prosecutorial discretion.’ The Department of Homeland Security’s directive was issued without following the Administrative Procedure Act’s rulemaking guidelines and is nothing but an unlawfully adopted legislative rule: an executive decree that requires federal agencies to award legal benefits to individuals whose conduct contradicts the priorities of Congress.”

Van de Putte to Run for San Antonio Mayor

After months of speculation, Democratic State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte says she’s running for San Antonio mayor.

The announcement comes just a couple weeks after Van de Putte suffered a huge loss to Republican Dan Patrick in the Lt. Governor’s race. But although she lost big to Patrick two weeks ago, Van de Putte won more than 50 percent of the Bexar County vote. The city election is May 9th.

Meantime, Van de Putte’s decision to run sets up a political “domino effect” among state lawmakers from San Antonio. State Rep. Mike Villarreal (D, District 123) is also running for mayor — and has resigned from the House.

And two other Texas House members from San Antonio have expressed interested in running for Van de Putte’s Senate seat. Today, State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D, District 116) officially declared he is a candidate. And State Rep. Jose Menendez (D, District 124) has already publicly indicated he would be interested.

Van de Putte plans let Gov. Rick Perry know today her intention to resign from the Senate, so he can call for a special election.

 

Judge rules against one Perry defense motion

In an 18-page ruling Tuesday, District Judge Bert Richardson refused to throw out two felony indictments against Gov. Rick Perry. The motion involved in Tuesday’s ruling dealt with a technicality over whether or not special prosecutor Michael McCrum was properly sworn in. Another argument in this particular motion was that some paperwork was not properly filed.

Perry was indicted in August. He’s accused of threatening, then carrying out, a veto of funding for public corruption prosecutors after DA Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat leading the unit, wouldn’t resign following her DWI conviction.

The governor’s defense team has also questioned the case’s constitutionality. Judge Richardson, a Republican, has not yet ruled on those motions.

 

‘Big 3’ extend border surge

Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus have signed an agreement to extend the border surge through the end of August 2015.

Perry and other state officials said in a statement Tuesday that the’ll now await the approval of the Legislative Budget Board, which meets next month.

If members give the $86 million plan the go ahead, the move allows enhanced patrols by the Department of Public Safety, the Texas National Guard and other personnel to continue their response to a surge in immigrants entering illegally into the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley.

Officials want to divert nearly $48 million in general revenue bonds and other monies to help cover the cost.

“Texas has proven beyond any doubt that this border can be secured, even if the federal government refuses to take the steps necessary to do so as required by the Constitution,” Perry said in a press release. “This agreement will ensure the hardworking men and women from DPS, the Texas National Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife, who have been working with local and federal partners, have the resources they need to maintain a robust law enforcement presence along the border until the Legislature can act.”

According to the Governor’s Office, funds for DPS would include the addition of new shallow-water boats and other technological capabilities, “which would be used to extend tactical capabilities as well as the surge footprint beyond the Rio Grande Valley Sector.”

 

Supreme Court Blocks Texas from Enforcing Parts of Abortion Law

Late today, the Supreme Court blocked Texas from enforcing key parts of a 2013 abortion law that would close all but eight of the state’s abortion facilities.

With three dissenting votes, the court suspended a ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed Texas to enforce a rule making abortion clinics statewide spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades known as ambulatory surgical centers.

The appeals court’s ruling suspended an August decision by U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel, who found that such upgrades were less about safety than making access to abortion difficult.

Yeakel’s ruling stopped the requirements, so the state appealed. The 5th Circuit is still considering the overall constitutionality of the measure but allowed it to go into effect.

 

Organizers of South Texas Gubernatorial Debate Clarify Details

Now that Attorney General Greg Abbott has pulled out of the televised gubernatorial debate with State Sen. Wendy Davis scheduled for Sept. 30 in Dallas, does that leave all of us without a statewide televised debate? That depends on your definition of statewide.

According to WFAA-TV, theirs would have been the only debate available in every television market in the state. That would have included all Gannett-owned stations in Texas in the following markets: Abilene, Austin, Beaumont/Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Tyler/Longview, San Angelo, San Antonio, Waco, and Bryan/College Station. Any station located in a non-Gannett market would have also been allowed to broadcast the debate.

According to Carlos Sanchez, editor of the McAllen Monitor, the debate his newspaper is co-sponsoring will air on all Sinclair-owned television stations across the state, including: Amarillo, Austin, Beaumont/Port Arthur, El Paso, Harlingen/Weslaco/Brownsville/McAllen, and San Antonio. While it is not be available to English-language stations in other Texas markets, it will be available live on the Internet, and will be simulcast in Spanish on all Telemundo stations in Texas. That debate is scheduled for Sept. 19.

As for formats, WFAA indicated theirs would have been a “round-table” format without strict time guidelines. Sanchez said the Rio Grande Valley debate will have a more traditional format, with timed responses. Each candidate will get one minute to respond to a question, and 45 seconds to offer a rebuttal. There will be no opening statements. Each candidate will receive two minutes for a closing statement.

 

 

 

Abbott Campaign Launches ‘Major’ Statewide Ad

The Greg Abbott campaign announced Thursday it is launching a “major statewide television ad buy.”

The ad features Attorney General Abbott’s mother-in-law discussing his values. The 30-second spot is in Spanish.

The Republican nominee for governor has often reminded voters that if he wins, his wife Cecilia would become the state’s first Latina First Lady.

This is not the first Spanish-language ad the Abbott campaign has released during the general election season. Back in June, another one aired during the World Cup on Spanish-language stations. Abbott faces the Democratic nominee, State Sen. Wendy Davis, in November.

Cleveland Picked over Dallas for 2016 GOP Convention

It appears the 2016 Republican National Convention will take place in Cleveland. According to the Associated Press, a Republican National Committee panel is recommending Cleveland. The full 168-member RNC is expected to ratify the choice next month.

Finances were a key part of the decision-making process. The previous two GOP conventions have been extremely expensive for the party during election years. GOP Chairman Reince Priebus insisted the host city not leave the party picking up the tab, estimated at about $60 million.

Of course, Ohio has been a swing state in recent years, while Texas has been a solid “red” state for the past two decades.

Democrats have not yet decided where their 2016 convention will be held.