Tom Pauken announces run for governor

Update: Capital Tonight has confirmed that Tom Pauken will, in fact, run for governor.

Former Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken didn’t take long to decide what he’ll do after stepping down from his post recently. According to a report in the Dallas Morning News, Pauken is running for governor in 2014.

Pauken, who was a guest on Capital Tonight before his departure from the TWC, is also a former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas. He was appointed to serve on the Texas Workforce Commission by Gov. Rick Perry, who has indicated he will make a decision about running again after the current legislative session.

Pauken would face Perry in the GOP Primary should the governor seek reelection. Pauken could also face State Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has been the focus of speculation about a gubernatorial run. Abbott told us this week that his focus is on the job at hand and that political decisions will sort themselves out after the session.

Education is expected to be a major issue for Pauken, who is against the Robin Hood school funding plan established in the early 1990s. Pauken has also written a book titled “Bringing America Home,” which focuses on the conservative movement in politics.


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.

Capital Tonight: Lawmakers mull drug testing for benefits

Lawmakers are considering a bill requiring drug testing of those receiving unemployment benefits. Both sides gave testimony this week about the bill’s effect on those receiving unemployment.

Reporter Roundtable

Paul Brown sat down with Aman Batheja of the Texas Tribune, Peggy Fikac from the Houston Chronicle and Terry Stutz from the Dallas Morning News to discuss Gov. Rick Perry’s appearance at CPAC, lawmakers turned lobbyists, and all the week’s events in Texas politics.

Texas White House

The importance of the LBJ Ranch to Central Texas dates back over 50 years. Superintendent Russ Whitlock discussed the park’s importance and how recent budget cuts affected the operating budget.

Click the image below to watch Friday’s full episode.


Chancellor writes Perry about guns on campuses

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa is expressing concern once again over legislation relating to allowing concealed handguns on university campuses.

According to a press released issued by the UT System on Wednesday, the chancellor has sent a letter to Gov. Rick Perry on the matter. The letter was also delivered to House Speaker Joe Straus, Chairman Joe Pickett of the House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee and Chairman John Whitmire of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

“I respect the legislature’s authority to decide this public policy issue, and that neither all legislators nor the Texans they represent will agree,” Cigarroa wrote in his letter to Perry. “However, during my tenure as Chancellor, parents, students, faculty, staff, administrators, and institutional law enforcement officers have all expressed concern that the presence of concealed handguns on our campuses will make the campus environment less safe.”

Cigarroa expressed similar concerns in a letter to the governor in 2011, when the issue was last before legislators.

Capital Tonight: Testing the limits of education reform

The path toward public education reform

A proposal to reduce the number of tests needed to graduate in Texas came up before the Senate Education Committee Tuesday. It would reduce the number of tests from 15 to four or five. Some teachers fear the change could jeopardize education standards.

Beverage distributors and craft brewers reached an agreement on a proposed bill that would allow smaller breweries to sell their beer directly to customers in some cases.


Fracking in Texas

Railroad Commissioner David Porter sat down with Paul Brown to discuss the benefits of fracking to the Texas economy. A study on the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas was released by the Texas Railroad Commission.


The Eagle Ford Shale Task Force Report looks at the economic benefits of fracking, the infrastructure needed and the Railroad Commission’s regulations on the industry.

For the full interview, click the video below.


Capital Commentators

Harold Cook and Ted Delisi sat down with Paul Brown to discuss George P. Bush’s announcement that he’s running for land commissioner next year. They also discussed election laws and a poll recently conducted by the Texas Tribune and the University of Texas


Bills address veterans’ tuition program concerns

Two bills have been filed to address concerns raised by some Texas universities over the expense of the state’s veteran higher education financial aid program known as Hazlewood.

State Rep. Chris Turner (D-San Antonio) and state Senator Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) filed identical measures which would allow schools to use “B-On-Time” funds that are currently not utilized to offset Hazlewood and Hazlewood Legacy tuition exemptions.

“Hazlewood represents a solemn promise from the state of Texas to our veterans and their families and our legislation is aimed at keeping that promise,” Turner said.  “By allowing our state’s colleges and universities to utilize unused B-On-Time funds that are currently being transferred back to the state to instead offset Hazlewood costs, we will strengthen our veterans benefits and help our colleges and universities.” 

“The first and foremost consideration is that we help the 1 percent who defend our freedoms and have earned their Hazlewood benefits,” Van de Putte said. “It makes sense to give schools the flexibility to utilize monies already appropriated for their campuses before looking at additional state dollars. This bill will help our universities do the right thing for our veterans and their families.”

The two pieces of legislation would allow state institutions to retain unused tuition funds designated for the “B-On-Time” loan program. HB 3265 and SB 1543 would allow leftover funds to stay with the institution at which they were collected, rather than the current practice of sending that money to other schools.

Capital Tonight: Education, religion and politics

More than a thousand ralliers with the Texas affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers gathered outside the Capitol Monday to call for the restoration of $5.4 billion of public education cuts made last year.

But funding wasn’t the only issue on their minds. A new proposal by Sen. Dan Patrick brought the long-running dispute over vouchers into the mix.

With all eyes on Rome for the selection of the next Pope, many Catholics are reflecting on the state of the church today.

Immigration reform, abortion and the Affordable Care Act are all issues on the church’s radar. We spoke to Bishop Joe Vasquez about those topics, as well as the selection process in Rome.

The effort to make Texas competitive for Democratic candidates is off and running. President Obama’s former campaign field director is in Austin to mobilize volunteers for Battleground Texas.

Capital Tonight’s LeAnn Wallace caught up with Jeremy Bird at Monday’s event Austin.

Click the image below to watch Monday’s full episode.


Capital Tonight: Distracted driving bill returns to House

A bill to ban texting while driving is back before lawmakers this session. Texting behind the wheel is illegal in 39 states, and many local ordinances already ban the practice, but it’s a statewide measure that couldn’t get past the Governor’s pen in 2011. Click the image at the bottom to hear more about why it might stand a chance this time around.

Battleground Texas

Joshua Treviño of the Texas Public Policy Foundation discussed efforts to turn Texas into a swing state. Treviño also shared the strategy he would take if he were a Democrat.


Capital Commentators

Harold Cook and Ted Delisi sat down with Paul Brown to discuss Gov. Chris Christie’s recent announcement that he would accept Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act. They also discussed Gov. Perry’s recent call to re-evaluate testing for Texas students.



Capital Tonight: Watson calls for tougher hit-and-run penalties

A high-profile hit-and-run trial is coming to a close in Austin, but its impact on the community will likely be talked about much more this legislative session.

Democratic State Sen. Kirk Watson has just filed a bill that would attach stricter penalties to drivers who fail to stop and render aid after hitting a pedestrian. We spoke to Sen. Watson Thursday about what he hopes the bill will achieve.

Although House lawmakers voted to pay off nearly $4.5 billion in Medicaid debts Thursday, the question of future spending is still up in the air. Capital Tonight’s Karina Kling spoke to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who’s making headlines by urging state lawmakers to say yes to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The man who could ultimately determine the fate of Eastside Memorial High School took the time to visit the at-risk campus Thursday, after the school’s class president sent him a personal invitation.

Click the image below to see more from Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams’ visit.

Perry names new regents to UT board

Gov. Rick Perry named two new members and one re-appointment to the University of Texas System Board of Regents Thursday.

Once confirmed by the Senate, Ernest Aliseda of McAllen and Jeff Hildebrand of Houston will replace James Dannenbaum and Printice Gary, whose terms were scheduled to expire this month.

Aliseda is the managing attorney for Loya Incurance Group and a municipal judge. He graduated from Texas A&M University. Hildebrand is chairman and CEO of Hilcorp Energy Company and is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. He received both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Texas.

The third appointment, Paul Foster, is currently a sitting member of the board. All three will serve six-year terms, set to expire in 2019.

The appointments come as the board faces new scrutiny from Texas lawmakers. Wednesday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called for a joint committee of higher education lawmakers to investigate the board of regents.

The Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Education Governance, Excellence & Transparency will be co-chaired by Sen. Kel Seliger and Rep. Dan Branch. No date has been set for hearings to begin, but the committee would have subpoena power and could bring in sitting regents for testimony. Dewhurst has alluded to personal attacks on Powers and his family by the regents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.