Paul Brown

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Poll: Davis, Perry get bumps following filibuster

A new Texas poll finds both Democratic State Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican Gov. Rick Perry with higher approval ratings among potential voters following last week’s filibuster by Davis over abortion legislation.

The Public Policy Polling results show 39 percent of Texans have a favorable opinion of Davis compared to 29 percent with a negative one. The poll indicates that her net favorability is up 14 points compared to those polled in January.

The same poll indicates that while Perry remains unpopular with 45 percent of voters approving of him compared to 50 percent who disapprove, his net approval is also up since January, by 8 points.

In a hypothetical match-up between Davis and Perry in a run for governor, Davis trails the incumbent by 14 points. Of those polled, 53 percent support Perry and 39 percent support Davis.

In another hypothetical match-up, this one between Davis and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the margin is closer. Abbott has 48 percent support to Davis’ 40 percent.

Of course, Perry has not yet indicated if he will run for re-election. Abbott is considered by many to be considering a run for governor, but it’s unclear if he would decide to take on Perry in the GOP Primary should the governor decide to run again. Davis has indicated she has thought about running for higher office, but has not committed to any future campaign.


Sen. Patrick running for lieutenant governor

State Senator Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston, announced today that he will run for lieutenant governor. He says that Texas needs “authentic conservative” leadership. Patrick served this past session as chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, also a Republican, has already announced his re-election plans. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples have also announced their plans to run in the GOP field. You can view Patrick’s video announcement below.

AG Abbott releases ‘Perseverance’ video

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today released a video that details his experience after an accident that left him paralyzed. The video, titled “Perseverance,” is narrated by former U.S. Senator and actor Fred Thompson.

Political pundits consider Abbott a likely candidate for governor, although Abbott has only indicated he will make his political intentions known this summer. The video can be seen below.

Comptroller Combs will not seek office in 2014

State Comptroller Susan Combs announced today she will not seek elective office in 2014. The announcement comes after months of speculation over her political future, including a potential bid for lieutenant governor.

“I want to make my intentions clear as soon as possible for prospective statewide candidates,” Combs said in a statement released Wednesday morning.

This means the race for lieutenant governor in the GOP primary will include the incumbent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, along with Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. All three have said they will run. Combs’ announcement also opens up the race for comptroller.

Combs indicated during a recent appearance on Capital Tonight that she would discuss her future plans with her husband over the Memorial Day weekend before making any decisions. She will be our guest on Capital Tonight this evening at 7. Her entire statement is below the jump.

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TPPF urges budget conferees to ‘practice spending restraint’

The conservative think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation put out a press release this afternoon regarding the state budget process. The TPPF recognizes that budget conferees have “reached a critical point in the budget process” and is calling for spending restraint, especially in the area of education.

Talmadge Heflin, the director of the TPPF’s Center for Fiscal Policy, disputes the idea that $3.5 billion for education this session isn’t enough to meet the state’s needs, and worries putting more money in this area would hurt the possibility of tax relief legislation. The entire press release is below.

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Budget talks stall over education funding

We may learn more about where the state budget is headed this afternoon. First, Republican Gov. Rick Perry will attend a ceremony at about 2:15 p.m. to sign the Michael Morton Act. It’s possible the governor will also take the opportunity to comment on the budget negotiations that continued this morning. The conference committee tasked with finalizing the budget is meeting at 2 p.m., after which an announcement is expected.

According to Harvey Kronberg with the Quorum Report, State Rep. Sylvester Turner, the lone Democratic House member on the conference committee, said Republicans have gone back on an agreement to add almost $4 billion to education, instead changing that offer to $3.5 billion. Meantime, Republican House Speaker Joe Straus indicated that there may not be enough room to get the $3.9 billion for education Democrats want due to the spending cap.

Of course, also part of the equation is bringing House and Senate members of both parties together on a plan to draw $2 billion out of the Rainy Day Fund for water relief. The same budget negotiations involve a complex mix of legislation that would put approval of a revolving fund for the water money before voters, thus avoiding a budgetary conflict with the spending cap.

We expect to have Rep. Turner on this evening’s Capital Tonight to shed more light on the back-and-forth among conference committee members.

Abbott: Same-sex marriage benefits unconstitutional

Local governments and school districts that provide marriage benefits to same-sex couples are violating the Texas Constitution, according to an opinion issued today by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) sought the ruling last November, arguing that Texas amended its constitution in 2005 to define marriage as between one man and one woman, while prohibiting government entities from recognizing anything similar to marriage.

“By creating domestic partnerships and offering health benefits based on them, the political subdivisions have created and recognized something not established by Texas law,” Abbott wrote in the opinion.

The cities of El Paso, Austin and Forth Worth have offered some benefits to domestic partners. Pflugerville ISD became the state’s first school district to extend similar benefits.

See the entire opinion below.



Michael Morton Act moves out of committee

The Michael Morton Act is a step closer to becoming law.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee today passed SB 1611, a landmark reform revamping Texas’ discovery statute for the first time since 1965. State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and State Senator Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock) worked together on the legislation. They say it ensures that all relevant evidence is revealed. 

 “Discovery reform is simply vital to the reliability and quality of our justice system,” Ellis said in a statement released by his office Tuesday.  “We must weigh all relevant evidence and ensure we bring all the relevant facts to light to safeguard the innocent, convict only the guilty, and provide justice the people of Texas can have faith in. We look forward to working with our House sponsor, Representative Senfronia Thompson, to get this important legislation to the Governor’s desk.”

 “I have long been an advocate for an efficient, effective and uniform court system across Texas.  This legislation is a giant step forward in reaching that goal,” Duncan said. “I am proud that stakeholders from across the state were able to come together and set aside their differences to improve our criminal justice system.”

The bill’s namesake, Michael Morton, was released from prison after more than two decades when DNA evidence proved he did not murder his wife Christine. He had the following statement read into record:

“I would like to thank all of the interested parties that have worked on this legislation.  I would especially like to thank Senators Ellis and Duncan and their staff for the many hours spent drafting and negotiating the language that has gotten us to this point.

“Sitting where I sit today, I can say I have seen the best and the worst of the Texas Criminal Justice System.  Having had such a unique vantage point, I hope that my experience allows me to contribute in such in such a way as to protect those things that make the system work and to change those things that weaken it.

 “I have previously said I do not want a revolution and I am not out for revenge.  My goal has been and continues to be to effectuate changes that promote transparency and accountability.  I believe this bill is a positive step towards that goal.  

 “Like any negotiation, it is not a perfect bill.  Nobody got everything they wanted, including me.  However, I support SB 1611 and I ask for your favorable consideration.”

Senate approves two-year state budget

The Texas Senate approved a $195.5 billion budget for 2014-2015 by a vote of 29-2 this afternoon. The dissenting votes came from Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) and Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston).

Both Davis and Garcia wanted to see more money put into education funding, which took a $5.4 billion hit last session.

The Texas House Appropriations Committee is expected to pass a version of the budget Thursday. The House has put together a very similar plan.

Perry blasts Medicaid expansion at CPAC

Governor Rick Perry returned to Washington, D.C. and the national political spotlight Thursday as one of the featured speakers at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC.

He talked about the recent release of detainees due to the sequester, calling the move a federally-sponsored jail break.

He also addressed his resistance to Medicaid expansion in Texas under the Affordable Care Act.

“I say Medicaid doesn’t need to be expanded, it needs to be saved and reformed,” Perry told the crowd. “We care about our poorest Texans. We want them to have the best care possible, and that can’t happen with a program that is on its way to bankruptcy.”

Governor Perry added that President Obama four years ago called Medicaid a broken system.

This was not the governor’s first speech at CPAC. Before his presidential bid, he gave a well-received address in 2011, and also spoke at CPAC last year after dropping out of the race.