Gov. Rick Perry

Senate approves non-abortion measures

The Texas Senate took a pair of quick votes Thursday morning and approved transportation and criminal justice measures. Both are part of Gov. Rick Perry’s call during the 83rd Texas Legislature’s second special session, in addition to the highly-emotional issue of abortion regulation.

The transportation measure approved by the full Senate involves a proposed constitutional amendment that would pump $900 million annually into road building from oil and gas taxes. If approved by members of the House, the measure would go to voters in November because it involves tapping into the state’s savings account, often referred to as the Rainy Day Fund.

Many lawmakers point out that this is only a partial fix, since Texas transportation leaders say the state needs about $4 billion more for roads per year just to meet current traffic needs. Meantime, the House is working on a different transportation measure, so it’s uncertain if the Senate’s version will get that chamber’s approval.

The Senate Thursday also approved a bill that updates Texas law following a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling banning sentences of life in prison for 17-year-old capital murder defendants.

Abbott announces record-breaking fundraising figures

Whatever his future political plans, Attorney General Greg Abbott has more than enough money in his war chest to launch a formidable campaign.

Finance Director Sarah Whitley announced Tuesday he’s raised nearly $5 million in just the last two weeks. As of the January filing period, Abbott has about $18 million in the bank. These latest totals would bring that to nearly $23 million. 

Most expect that Abbott will run for governor. Gov. Rick Perry’s announcement earlier this week seemed to solidify those plans. Abbott has not made any official announcement, but he is set to embark on a five-city meet and greet campaign this weekend. It is possible he could make his plans known then.


Perry praises abortion bill’s passage

Gov. Rick Perry issued this statement today following the House approval of HB-2.

“The tremendous outpouring of support for this legislation has demonstrated how Texas stands for life, and I commend everyone who wore blue, turned out and spoke up in support of life in our state. Now is not the time to waver, however, as the Senate continues its important work in support of women’s health and protecting the lives of our most vulnerable Texans.”

Perry appeals West FEMA aid denial

Gov. Rick Perry today appealed the federal government’s decision to deny FEMA aid to the town of West. In June, FEMA said it reviewed the state’s appeal to help West, but decided the impact from the explosion was “not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.” In his letter to President Obama, Perry asks that the government reconsider that decision.

Fourteen people were killed and hundreds of homes and buildings were destroyed when the West Fertilizer Plant exploded in April. The blast leveled a school and a nursing home and left dozens of people homeless. The state estimates the damage at more than $35 million.

“The scope of damage caused by April’s explosion has devastated this small community, and further inaction by the Obama Administration to deny additional federal aid is simply unacceptable,” Gov. Perry said. “On behalf of the people of West and McLennan County, I am appealing the president’s decision in order to get this community assistance they qualify for, deserve and need to get back on their feet and on the road to recovery.”

You can read Perry’s full letter, below.

Abbott, Texas Democrats respond to Perry announcement

Texas politicians were quick to respond to news that the 2014 race for governor would be an open one.

Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a press release less than an hour after Gov. Rick Perry’s announcement. Abbott is expected to make a bid to succeed Perry, but he’s waiting to make it official. Instead, Abbott chose to praise Perry for his work as governor:

“It has been a tremendous honor to work alongside Governor Rick Perry to help lead the great State of Texas. As Governor, Rick Perry has fought for lower taxes, less regulation and more job creation – all of which have helped Texas claim the best business climate in the nation. Along the way, Governor Perry has kept Washington in check, working to block an intrusive federal government from meddling in our personal lives and preventing the heavy-hand of government from stifling small businesses in Texas.

Our work together is not done, and over the next year and a half, we will continue our work to keep Texas the very best state for attracting jobs, raising families and advancing freedom.”

The Texas Democratic Party had a different take on the Perry’s time in office. They called it a “failed governorship” and hinted at a strong candidate of their own.

“While thousands of Texans throughout the state rally to protect women’s rights and make their voices heard during the second Special Session, Perry continues to focus on his own agenda and interests.

Texans know how Perry has failed as a leader. After his three terms as governor, one out of four Texans still lack health insurance, and our public education system has been gutted.

Rick Perry has made a mockery of our democracy.

The Texas Democratic Party is getting the ground ready for our gubernatorial candidate. We will run an aggressive campaign to Turn Texas Blue and defeat Greg Abbott, and any other Republican candidate for governor. The new era in Texas politics is beginning.” 

Perry: ‘I will not seek reelection as governor of Texas’

After months of speculation from political pundits, Republican Gov. Rick Perry announced today that he won’t run for governor again, but left the door open for a possible presidential run.

The announcement took place at a Caterpillar equipment facility in San Antonio, where Perry touted the state’s record on job creation.

“Texas works because we have less government, less spending, fairer regulations and lower taxes,” the governor said.

Perry has held the state’s top political office since 2000, when he stepped in after then-governor George W. Bush became president. As the longest-serving governor in the state’s history, he has appointed the heads of every state agency.

The move sets up a chain reaction for Texas Republicans seeking statewide office. Attorney General Greg Abbott, also a Republican, is expected to announce a run for governor, and the offices of comptroller, land commissioner and agriculture commissioner will all be open.

As for Perry’s future plans, the governor is still keeping quiet about another bid for his party’s presidential nomination.

“Any future announcements I will announce in due time,” Perry said.


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.