Capital Tonight: Senate approves high school testing overhaul

Texas High Schools are one step closer to seeing some major reform.

Monday, the Senate unanimously passed forward a bill that would restructure graduation requirements and cut back on the number of standardized tests. But it includes some key differences from the House version passed in March.

We heard more on the bill from Sen. Eddie Lucio, the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee.


Gun Bills Head to Senate

After surviving a contentious Saturday, a range of gun bills passed out of the House Monday. Harvey Kronberg of The Quorum Report joined us to talk about that and more. 


Perry’s Welcome Mat

We’re learning more about President Barack Obama’s visit to the Austin area Thursday.

In addition to Manor New Tech High School, he’ll be visiting Austin tech manufacturer Applied Materials. Now, Governor Perry is weighing in on the visit. 


Capital Tonight: Straus sets up showdown over water funding

A showdown could be brewing between the House and Senate over funding for the state’s water plan.

In an interview with Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News, House Speaker Joe Straus revealed he was digging in his heels against a Senate plan that would include funding for education.

Senate Joint Resolution 1 would ask voters to authorize dipping nearly $6 billion into the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund to pay for water and transportation infrastructure. But the measure also includes an extra $800 million for public education as part of a compromise with Senate Democrats.

Straus has been vocal about the need for water infrastructure funding since the start of session, but he now says such a decision should be made by lawmakers. He compared the constitutional amendment strategy to punting the issue to voters.

Capital Commentators Harold Cook and Ted Delisi joined us in studio to talk about the implications of Straus’ new stance. 


Education Bill Update

After passing with overwhelming support in the House, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock’s bill to change graduation and testing requirements remains stalled on the Senate side. The House Public Education chair spoke to Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown about what he believes will happen next. 


House Gun Debate

The gun debate has been in the national spotlight lately, and this weekend, it’s expected to spur renewed debate at the Capitol. Capital Tonight’s LeAnn Wallace spoke to one lawmaker whose name is on several of the proposed bills to get a preview of what to expect.

Capital Tonight: Reversing course on ‘rainy day’ money

There’s been a lot of talk about it, and now state lawmakers appear ready to finally dip in to the state’s Rainy Day Fund this session.

The Senate Finance Committee voted to take 6 billion dollars out of the fund to pay for water and infrastructure projects.


Taking on the Governor

We don’t know if Gov. Rick Perry will run for re-election, and we don’t know if Attorney General Greg Abbott will throw his hat into the ring. But we do know of one former state agency leader who will seek your vote as a Republican candidate for governor.

Click the image below to see our one-on-one interview with Tom Pauken.

Senate Standoff Ends

The push for new gun safety legislation cleared a major hurdle Thursday.

With the help of 16 Republicans, the Senate voted to block a threatened Republican filibuster. That means debate on background checks and other, less popular legislation can begin.

Sen. John Cornyn voted to block the debate, but said he hoped for a substantive discussion afterward. Click the YNN logo below to watch the full episode.


Senate passes Patrick’s charter school bill

The Texas Senate made quick work of Sen. Dan Patrick’s sweeping charter school legislation, today. 

The law expands the number of charter schools allowed to operate in Texas. Currently, the cap is set at 215 charter schools. The bill passed today gradually raises that number to 305 over the next six years. The bill is a scaled down version of Patrick’s original plan, which would have lifted the cap altogether.

The measure passed easily in a 30-1 vote with very little floor debate. It now heads to the house where it likely faces a tougher road.


Capital Tonight: Revisiting vouchers, CPRIT and more

School Vouchers

Republicans and Democrats sparred once again over school vouchers Tuesday — including whether or not a newly proposed law counted as a voucher at all.

A bill filed by Sen. Dan Patrick would partially pay for private school tuition through scholarships funded by tax-exempt donations. The bill has the support of Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., but Sen. Wendy Davis expressed skepticism.

Another hearing Tuesday looked into oversight of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas. CPRIT has been under fire since last year, with questions of grant-rigging and even a criminal investigation. Trust, transparency and accountability were at the top of the committee’s list Tuesday.

Equal Under the Law

A bill extending the Romeo and Juliet provision passed out of a Senate committee Tuesday. It would extend the Romeo and Juliet defense to same-sex couples over the age of 14.

Earlier in the day, 600 women visited the Capitol hoping to turn it blue for the day. Blue Ribbon Lobby Day organizers are pushing lawmakers to say yes to Medicaid expansion, restoring public education cuts and returning Planned Parenthood to the Women’s Health Program.

Capital Commentators

Harold Cook and Ted Delisi sat down with Paul Brown to discuss the day’s political news, including school choice bills, CPRIT and new border security legislation filed by Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Michael McCaul.

Capital Tonight: The Week in Review

Reporter Roundtable

Christy Hoppe from The Dallas Morning News, Scott Braddock of the Quorum Report and Jay Root of The Texas Tribune sat down with Paul Brown to discuss this week’s events in politics, including recently passed education legislation. They also talked about the Texas Faith and Family rally and the need for water legislation this session.

Fact checking Sen. Ted Cruz

Gardner Selby from PolitiFactTexas discussed Sen. Cruz’s statements at CPAC this week.


Capital Tonight: Turning dollars into water

Lawmakers are getting serious about the state’s water deficit.

By a vote of 144-3, the Texas House voted to use $2 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund (known as the Rainy Day Fund) to finance much needed water projects.


Texas experienced the state’s worst draught on record in 2011, and many of the effects are still being felt. In light of those conditions, the state’s Water Development Board has recommended a plan that would cost $53 billion to implement. House Bill 4 would use the $2 billion as a starting point to prioritize infrastructure, reservoir construction and pipeline improvements.

Debating DOMA

The Supreme Court wrapped up arguments Wednesday afternoon on the Defense of Marriage Act, and supporters of overturning the law say they’re hopeful the outcome will be in their favor.

The 1996 Defense Of Marriage Act defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, and prevents legally married same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

On Wednesday, the four liberal justices and swing-vote Anthony Kennedy appeared to question whether the act is constitutional.


Art of the Amendment

The path from creating a bill to having it become law is a lengthy process, and part of that path includes amendments.

We spoke to two former state lawmakers about that process, and the strategy behind it. 

House school curriculum bill passes on third reading

The Texas House this morning gave final approval to sweeping education overhaul bill. HB5 passed on third reading, after nearly nine hours of heated debate and 165 proposed amendments, Tuesday.

The law is designed to shift the focus from college-readiness only to include more vocational training. It scales back the number of standardized tests high school students are required to pass from 15 to five. It also does away with Algebra II and other advanced math and science classes.

Capital Tonight: Changing social climate

Social Issues

The United States Supreme Court is addressing same-sex marriage this week, and YNN’s Michael Scotto has the update from Washington, DC.

Also Tuesday, Texas Faith & Family Day was held at the Capitol. Among the topics discussed at the rally were same-sex marriage and pro-life policies.

Education Overhaul

The House passed House Bill 5 Tuesday night with 145 to 2 vote. House Bill 5 adds options for high school students who may not go on to college after graduation. The bill allows students to graduate without taking Algebra II or other advanced math and science classes. It also changes the number of standardized tests from 15 to 5.


Paul Brown sat down with Harold Cook and Ted Delisi to discuss the political climate for changing social issues in Texas. Education was a big topic for the Capital Commentators.
They also discussed the change in support for same-sex marriage.


Paul Brown sat down with immigration lawyer Paul Parsons. They discussed the issues those facing immigration face.

House budget calls for $2.5 billion education funding increase

The Texas House Appropriations Committee approved its 2014-15 budget today. The $193.8 billion spending plan includes a $2.5 billion increase for the Foundation School Program. That’s in addition to what had already been set aside for enrollment growth and does not include tapping the Rainy Day Fund. The House version of the budget restores about a billion dollars more in education dollars than the Senate plan.

“By putting additional resources into Texas classrooms, this budget demonstrates that public education is a top priority for the members of the Texas House,” Committee Chairman Jim Pitts said. “The additional resources that this bill provides for public education and higher education will expand opportunities for young Texans.”

The full House will now have to approve the budget. Once that happens, the House bill and Senate bill will head to conference committee where compromises will have to be made in order to pass a final budget.

Here are some of the other highlights of the House budget:


  • Stays below the constitutional spending limit
  • Funded within available revenue
  • Does not use Rainy Day Fund


  • Fully funds enrollment growth
  • $2.5 billion increase for the Foundation School Program (in addition to enrollment growth)
  • $147 million to increase state’s contribution for TRS pensions from 6.4 percent to 6.6 percent


  • $175 million increase for financial aid programs, including $150 million increase for Texas Grants
  • 3 percent formula funding increase (on top of enrollment growth) for all institutions — community colleges, general academic institutions, and health related institutions.
  • $59 million increase for the Texas Competitive Knowledge Fund


  • $264 million increase for mental health programs (across all articles), which includes extending services to more than 6,000 adults and almost 300 children on waiting lists
  • $100 million increase for women’s health services
  • Increased funding for Child Protective Services to reduce delinquent investigations and lower caseloads to 2009 levels


  • $50 million increase for Parks and Wildlife Department (General Revenue and GR-Dedicated)
  • Salary increases for correctional officers and Schedule C employees (law enforcement)
  • 1 percent per year merit increases for state employees