Capital Tonight: Big plans and low poll numbers

New Poll Numbers

Gov. Rick Perry is piquing interest from political pundits this week, after hinting at the announcement of “exciting future plans” in an email to his inner circle. But new poll numbers show the governor with single-digit support among Texans when it comes to a potential presidential primary. The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about that and other hypothetical matchups.

Plus, House Democrats say the majority party is pushing through legislation by ignoring the democratic process, but Republicans call the accusation hypocritical after last Tuesday’s behavior from the Senate floor.

After the Deadline

For many tuning in for the first time, the past two weeks have been a lesson in governance. We spoke with Sherri Greenberg of the Center for Politics and Governance at the University of Texas about how the first special session ended and what to expect in the days ahead.

Holding Pattern

The Obama administration announced late Tuesday that it’s delaying a key part of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a move that has far reaching implications, not just for politicians, but for millions of small business owners.

Capital Tonight: Wendy Davis talks current session, political future

Wendy’s Next Move

A week ago, a filibuster in the Texas Senate over abortion legislation was becoming an internet sensation. Hundreds of thousands kept track through television, online and through social media. Since then, the lawmaker who essentially talked the bill to death has become a national figure, now back in Austin with her colleagues for a second special session.

Tuesday, Sen. Wendy Davis joined us for a one-on-one interview covering the current session, her political plans and her thoughts during the filibuster.

Packed Public Hearing

The House State Affairs Committee heard testimony once again on a bill that would impose stiffer abortion regulations.

Nearly 2,000 people signed up to testify on the measure, but unlike last time, most of those who signed up to testify were firm supporters of the Republican-backed bill.

Big Announcement?

Plus, Gov. Perry is giving new hints about his political future. Our Capital Commentators weighed in on what it could mean, along with new poll numbers showing what a hypothetical head-to-head race between Perry and Davis would look like.

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.


Capital Tonight: Battle over abortion law continues

Loud and Clear

Lawmakers were slow to get started Monday, but demonstrators on both sides of the abortion issue were up early to make sure their voices were heard.

By noon, nearly 5,000 people had converged on the south steps of the Capitol in opposition to a package of abortion restrictions that could potentially close down all but five of the state’s abortion providers. Supporters of the bill showed up as well. An estimated 200 people walked through the halls of the Capitol to a press conference held by Republican Sen. Donna Campbell, where women who had gotten abortions spoke about why they regretted the decision.

Turning Tides?

Monday’s events can be viewed as being about more than abortion law. Many political pundits see Sen. Wendy Davis’ rising popularity as a sign of changing political tides in Texas. We spoke to the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg about that and more.

Campaign Season

Plus, Attorney General Greg Abbott’s job could soon be available, and several Republicans are already eyeing his spot. We sat down with Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman about his potential candidacy.

Photo gallery: Abortion issue brings thousands to Capitol

The Texas Legislature’s latest special session didn’t start until 2 p.m., but demonstrators on both sides of a controversial abortion bill were up bright and early to make a statement.

Nearly a hundred anti-abortion activists marched through the halls of the Capitol in support of stricter abortion regulations Monday morning, followed by a press conference hosted by Republican Sen. Donna Campbell. By noon, an estimated 5,000 people had gathered on the south steps of the Capitol for a rally in opposition to the bill. Apart from Sen. Wendy Davis, who closed out the event, the list of speakers included Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, actress Stephanie March and singer Natalie Maines.

Click the slideshow below to see photos from all the day’s events, taken by senior online producer Anne Szilagyi.

Capital Tonight: Looking back at a pivotal week in politics

After the Filibuster

The first batch of bills has already been filed heading into the start of a new special session. While abortion is a big part of the agenda, it’s certainly not the only thing. We look at what lawmakers are expecting for round two.

Reporter Roundtable

Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster wasn’t the only big story this week. Between game-changing Supreme Court rulings and new friction among Republican officeholders, there’s plenty to talk about. Our Reporter Roundtable shares what stood out to them.

View from the Floor

Plus, Sen. Dan Patrick describes his view of Tuesday night’s events. As a candidate for lieutenant governor, he says he would have handled things a little differently.

Perry gets personal in remarks about abortion

The debate over abortion bills is moving beyond the Capitol walls, after remarks from Gov. Rick Perry veered into personal details about Sen. Wendy Davis’ life.

Speaking at the National Right to Life convention in Dallas, Perry talked about Davis’s Tuesday-night filibuster, which killed a package of abortion restrictions he’d been pushing for.

He referred to that night as the “hijacking of the democratic process,” then talked about Senator Davis herself.

“In fact, even the woman who filibustered the Senate the other day was born into difficult circumstances,” Perry said. “The daughter of a single mother, she was a teenage mother herself. She managed to eventually graduate from Harvard Law School and serve in the Texas Senate. It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example.”

Senator Davis is pushing back against the governor’s comments. She released a brief statement in response:


“Rick Perry’s statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. Our governor should reflect our Texas values.  Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test.”

Capital Tonight: All eyes on Texas as new session is called

Back to Work

Summer isn’t starting just yet for Texas lawmakers.

After a grueling, 10-hour filibuster helped kill a controversial abortion bill, Gov. Rick Perry is telling lawmakers to get back to work. Wednesday, he announced that a second special session will start July 1. In addition to the abortion bill, the governor is adding back the two other issues that failed overnight dealing with transportation funding and juvenile justice.

Even after Republicans succeeded in ending Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster, confusion and the clock eventually doomed the bills, but the end result wasn’t immediately clear, even to lawmakers.

National Attention

As the filibuster stretched past the halfway mark, we had a chance to visit with Cecile Richards, the national president for Planned Parenthood, who flew in to lend support to Sen. Davis.

She talked about what her mother, the late Gov. Ann Richards, would have thought about the grassroots movement among abortion-rights advocates that reached the Capitol.

DOMA Decision

The Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act and also dealt a blow to California’s gay marriage ban, in a ruling that will eventually allow same-sex spouses who are legally married to receive federal benefits.

We talked to a Texas couple about what the decision means to them.

Gov. Perry calls 2nd special session

Just hours after a Senate vote on a controversial abortion bill failed in the Senate, Gov. Rick Perry announced he was calling lawmakers back to work.

The governor sent out a press release shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday announcing a second special session would begin July 1. On the call this time around are the three issues lawmakers failed to pass the first time:

• Legislation relating to the regulation of abortion procedures, providers and facilities.

• Legislation relating to the funding of transportation infrastructure projects.

• Legislation relating to establishing a mandatory sentence of life with parole for a capital felony committed by a 17-year-old offender.

Gov. Perry explained his motivations in a statement:

“I am calling the Legislature back into session because too much important work remains undone for the people of Texas. Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have made crystal clear their priorities for our great state. Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn. Texans want a transportation system that keeps them moving. Texans want a court system that is fair and just. We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do.”

Senate abortion bill dead after filibuster, confusion

Democrats were successful in blocking a controversial omnibus abortion bill early Wednesday morning. Just before 3 a.m., Democrats confirmed to a still-packed State Capitol that their efforts to block the passage of what would have been some of the strictest abortion rules in the country were successful.

Shorty afterward, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst gaveled the Senate out, saying time expired on the bill. “It’s been fun, see you soon,” he said, indicating that the Texas Legislature might be looking at a second special session.

The scene in the Texas Senate Tuesday was unlike any other in recent Texas legislative history. The day began when Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) took to the microphone at 11:18 a.m. Davis successfully filibustered the bill until just after 10 p.m., when Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) filed a point of order claiming Davis’ mentions of the sonogram bill passed last legislative session were not germane (or relevant) to the current abortion bill she was attempting to block.

The violation of filibuster rules would have been the Davis’ third and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst declared the filibuster over. From there, chaos and confusion ensued. Davis’ fellow Democrats, including Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, took to the microphone to challenge Dewhurst’s ruling and attempted to use parliamentary tactics to hold the floor past the midnight deadline.

As the clock ticked toward the close of the special session, the hundreds of people looking on from the gallery began chanting and cheering, causing confusion on the floor. Amid the chaos a vote was cast, and Republicans declared that SB 5 passed ahead of the midnight deadline, even as Democrats insisted the clock had run out.

Around 1:30 a.m., Sen. John Whitmire announced the Senate would caucus behind closed doors, and photos began surfacing showing that the official vote record may have been altered in favor of the Republicans. About two hours later, Rep. Jessica Farrar emerged to formally announce that the legislation was indeed dead, for now. Shortly after, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst formally declared the bill dead. We’ll wait, now, for official word from Gov. Rick Perry on another special session.