Lt. Gov. Dewhurst

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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Capital Tonight: Special session all but guaranteed

Extended Session

With only three days left in the regular session, a key part of the overall budget deal has been rejected by the House, at least in its current form. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is signalling that a special session is more than just a possibility.

Click the image below to hear the latest from the Capitol, with insight from Wayne Slater of The Dallas Morning News, Brandi Grissom from the Texas Tribune, Ryan Poppe of Texas Public Radio and the Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg.

Education Update

Amid all the budget back-and-forth, questions remain over two House and Senate education bills that have yet to make it to the Governor’s desk.

Senator Leticia Van de Putte is on the committee tasked with working out the differences. She joined us to talk about what the final product could look like.

Rainy Day Relief

Recovery efforts are still underway for the parts of Bastrop County hit by wildfires.

Our John Salazar spoke to elected officials to find out how much money they’re setting aside from the Rainy Day Fund, and the specific relief it will bring.

Lt. Gov. Dewhurst applauds budget deal

“The budget for the State of Texas demonstrates our commitment to funding our priorities while maintaining our commitment to fiscal responsibility. I applaud the hard work of Sen. Tommy Williams, Rep. Jim Pitts, and all of our conferees for delivering a budget that cuts taxes for Texans, holds spending down, and adequately funds public education. This budget builds upon the strong foundation that has allowed the private sector to grow and create jobs in Texas and should be the model to turn our country around.” -Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

Combs hints at plans for lieutenant governor race

For the first time, State Comptroller Susan Combs is offering some hints as to her future political plans. Combs’ name has often been mentioned as a possible candidate for lieutenant governor. Until now, she has maintained that she is focused on the current legislative session and the job at hand.

That all changed Tuesday. In an interview with Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown, Combs stopped just short of confirming she is indeed planning a run for lieutenant governor. She said,

“I think anybody that runs for office has to consult their family. So my husband and I are going to go to the ranch in Big Bend in about two weeks and have a heart-to-heart chat about what it is we want to do together. And then I will announce it right there after.”

If she does decide to run, Combs would face off in a primary against other big name Republicans including sitting Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

You can watch our full interview on Capital Tonight, live at 7 p.m.

Capital Tonight: Medicaid, payday lending bills threatened by looming deadlines

The odds for Medicaid expansion are shrinking.

Wednesday, House Democrats held a last-minute press conference to say that any chance of expanding the program under the Affordable Care Act is nearly dead.

Meanwhile, Texas lawmakers are scrambling to get support for a statewide law regulating payday lenders. Rep. Mike Villarreal joined us to talk about his effort to keep the measure alive.

Charter School Rally

The number of charter schools in Texas could drastically increase if legislation continues to move forward this session. Republican Sen. Dan Patrick spoke to hundreds of parents, teachers and students at a rally outside the Capitol Wednesday, vowing he’ll do everything he can to see the state pass its first major charter school bill since 2001.

The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg joined us to talk about that issue and more. Click the logo below to watch the full episode.

Inside Out

Several deadlines are looming that could doom the chances of any bill not already scheduled for a House or Senate floor debate. We spoke with former Democratic State Senator Hector Uribe and former Republican State Representative Aaron Peña about the pressure that process brings.

 

Texas GOP lawmakers respond to State of the Union

Texas republicans were quick to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Here’s a collection of some of their email statements. 

Sen. Ted Cruz:

President Obama only knows how to grow government, not the economy.

Under President Obama, the economy is entering its fifth year of substandard annual growth – 0.8% on average — compared to an average of 3.3% for the last 70 years.

If the President’s big-government policies were enacted, they would make it harder for the 23 million people out of work to find a job, harder for young people coming out of school to find their first job, and harder for Hispanics and African Americans struggling to achieve the American dream.

There is potential for real bipartisan cooperation in Congress to get the economy growing and help people get back to work, but expanding government spending, debt, taxes, and control of the economy will only make the problem worse.

Sen. John Cornyn

“Each year the President has promised, pledged, and pivoted, but American families continue to confront persistently high unemployment, rising health care costs, and the prospect of losing more of their hard-earned paychecks to tax increases.

“If we want to grow the nation’s economy and create jobs, Washington needs to embrace the Texas model. I will continue to push this President to adopt our proven formula of limited government, low taxes, and sensible regulations – because America can, and should, do much better.”

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst:

At a time in our nation’s history when Americans should be coming together to heal our more perfect Union, President Barack Obama is once again delivering a State of the Union speech that panders to the liberal elite, while creating more division among Americans.

President Obama says he wants to attract more jobs to America, get Americans the skills that they need, and ensure everyone has a chance of success. Mr. President, actions speak louder than words.

President Obama is proposing an answer to America’s economic crisis.  Well, I can answer that in one word, five letters: Texas.  If only he’d listen.

I have worked with conservative leaders to build the best business climate in the world right here in the Lone Star State. What exactly does that mean? It means cutting taxes 51 times in the last decade. It means cutting the state budget by billions of dollars. It means stopping all liberal attempts at imposing a state income tax. It means having the lightest regulatory hand in the country.  It means getting government out of your lives.  And It means not caving in to unions who care more about lining their coffers than in helping to produce jobs.

And what has that commitment to fiscally conservative policies meant for Texas?  According to the Texas Comptroller, Texas’ GDP for 2013 will grow 3.4%, compared to 1.7% for the rest of America.  Our economy is growing at twice the rate of the rest of the country.  We’ve been rated the #1 state to do business. We’re the nation’s top exporting state – and have been for 10 years running. We are ranked 48th out of 50 states in per capita state spending.  And we’ve created more jobs than any other state in the nation by leaps and bounds. To put that into perspective, for the last three years we’ve created more jobs than all other 49 states combined.

If President Obama would pay attention to the Texas Miracle, our nation wouldn’t be falling behind China today. While many Americans continue to lose hope because they cannot find a job, President Obama continues to plunge our nation further and further into debt.

For centuries, Americans have given their lives, toiled with their hands, spent years learning – all in the hopes that they would provide a better life for their children and grandchildren. It is the foundation of the American Dream — the Dream that President Obama is making more difficult to achieve with each passing day.

In Texas, we fight for the American Dream daily, and I will not relent in this battle. Texas is a place of big dreams and quiet miracles. It’s a place where every day, anybody from any background can scale heights as improbable as they are breathtaking.

And maybe that’s why Washington just won’t pay attention.

 


Investigation into Dewhurst campaign manager widens to federal level

The man accused of stealing money from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s campaign coffers is now being investigated at the federal level. 

The Dallas Morning News reports Dewhurst campaign manager Kenneth “Buddy” Barfield is accused of taking at least $1 million from Dewhurst’s U.S. Senate campaign. Barfield is already accused of stealing at least $600,000 from Dewhurst’s state campaign committee.

The Dewhurst campaign first notified Travis County officials that something was wrong back in December, when an accountant noticed discrepancies in bank statements. A spokesman for Dewhurst told the Morning News that the investigation into the Senate account began not long after.

Signs of the alleged embezzlement showed up in campaign finance reports last month, when the Dewhurst campaign reported $3.3 million raised in the last reporting period. However, just $1.97 million in cash on hand was reported.

State audit critical of CPRIT operations

The credibility of the state’s cancer research agency was dealt another blow, today.  As was first reported by the Dallas Morning News, state auditors are calling for extensive reforms at the embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.  The 100-page report lays out problems in seven key areas including how CPRIT evaluated research grant applications to how it managed contract agreements.

The audit questions the agency’s transparency, addresses possible conflicts of interest, and raises red flags over relationship between some of its management and its donors.  It also urges the legislature to take a closer look at the laws governing the agency.

CPRIT is currently under criminal and civil investigations over the way it awarded cancer research grants.  The audit states that “By not ensuring that all grant applications are properly evaluated and documented, CPRIT weakens its ability to ensure that its award decisions best align with the agency’s mission.”

At least one bill aimed at overhauling the agency is expected to be filed, soon.  Sen. Wendy Davis called on Gov. Rick Perry to make that legislation an emergency item this legislative session.  Already the agency has put future grants on hold until some of the management and operational concerns are addressed.

In a statement today, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said:

“I appreciate the good work the State Auditor has performed in identifying areas the Legislature needs to address to make CPRIT more accountable and transparent to the taxpayers of Texas. When the problems were discovered, Governor Perry, Speaker Straus and I immediately called for a moratorium on all CPRIT’s funding. Going forward, funding for CPRIT will continue only once complete confidence and trust is restored to the agency by the people of Texas. Despite this setback, I’m still committed to the noble purpose approved by the voters to help deliver promising cures to cancer victims to save their lives. I fully expect to address the concerns this Session and return CPRIT to its original mission of defeating cancer.”

 

The full audit is posted, below: 

 

Dewhurst raises $3.3M, left with $1.97M

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst raised $3.3 million dollars in the last reporting period, but he only has $1.97 million in cash on hand. 

The Dewhurst campaign is still recovering from an alleged embezzelment scandal.  No charges have been filed, but the Dewhurst camp is accusing former campaign manager Kenneth Barfield of stealling at least $600,000 from the campaign.  Some estimates say the final total may end up at more than a $1 million in missing money.

Dewhurst has been Lieutenant Govenror since 2003 and has committed to another run in 2014.

In a statement today, campaign spokesman Enrique Marquez said:

“Across the Lone Star State, Texans support David Dewhurst’s conservative, pro-growth agenda that has already made Texas the Number One job creator in America. David is honored and humbled by the friendship of those who believe in him and believe that Texas must remain the beacon for conservative values across America.”

 

 

 

 

Capital Tonight: Guns, teachers and women’s health

Lawmakers took an early weekend, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of big news in Texas politics.

 

After a full day in court, a Texas judge denied Planned Parenthood’s request to rejoin the state’s Women’s Health Program. This was just the latest go-round in court for the nonprofit, which hasn’t been receiving any state funding since the New Year as a result of action lawmakers took last session.

Earlier in the day, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst made waves by calling for gun a training program for Texas teachers. Speaking at a Texas Public Policy Foundation luncheon, he suggested school districts could opt in to the program, and choose which faculty members would be armed. He stressed that state funding would be necessary, because standard training for a conceal-and-carry license would not be sufficient.

“As someone who’s on his third renewal of my concealed handgun license in Texas, but has gone through the USA’s Air Force in weapons training, and I was in the CIA, and I was posted abroad, and I’ve gone through extensive weapons training — 8 hours of instruction and two hours on the range is not sufficient.”

 

  
 

The biggest class of freshman Representatives in decades has descended on the State Capitol — 41 to be exact. Over the next five months, we’re going to be taking a closer look at what kind of mark they’re making. This week, we talk to Republican Rep. Jason Villalba.  

 

 
 
We also heard from the Dallas Morning News’s Christy Hoppe  and  Corrie MacLaggan with Reuters, Plus KUT’s Ben Philpott as part of our new Reporter Roundtable segment.
 
Click the link below to view the entire episode online.