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Judge Rules Key Part of Abortion Law Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Austin has struck another blow to the state’s new abortion laws. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Friday that the portion of the law requiring medical and structural upgrades is unconstitutional. That provision of House Bill 2, which passed last legislative session, was set to take effect on Monday.

The costly upgrades would have forced more than a dozen abortion clinics out of business, leaving seven operating abortion clinics in the state.

This latest lawsuit was filed by Whole Women’s Health, which was already forced to close its Austin facility because its lease was running out and they couldn’t afford to wait for a ruling. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the law would put an undue burden on women who would be forced to travel hundreds of miles for care.

Supporters of the law say the regulations were meant to improve safety.

Two other provisions of the state’s stricter abortion regulations were challenged earlier this year. Back in March, a federal appeals court upheld new rules requiring doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. They also upheld stricter limits on the way doctors prescribe abortion inducing drugs. That case could end up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gov. Perry Office Confirms He Will Appear for Processing

Gov. Rick Perry will appear at the Travis County Justice Complex at 5:00 this evening to be booked on felony charges. A grand jury indicted Perry on Friday on abuse of official capacity and coercion charges.

The charges stem from 2013 when Perry threatened to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not resign. He followed through and cut $7.5 million when she refused.

Perry and his team of high profile attorneys have maintained that Perry was well within his rights as governor to veto any legislation he saw fit. In regard to the veto threat, Perry attorney David Botsford said, “if he had in, fact said to Rosemary Lehmberg: ‘I do not approve of your conduct. I am not going to fund the Public Integrity Unit unless and until you have resigned.’ There is absolutely no question as a matter of law that that conduct is protected and it is not illegal.”

 

Craddick Elected Railroad Commission Chair

The Texas Railroad Commission unanimously elected Christi Craddick as chairwoman, Tuesday. Craddick was elected to the three member commission in 2012. She will replace Barry Smitherman, who will be leaving the commission following an unsuccessful run for Attorney General.

In recent months, Craddick has been working closely with Red State Women, which is PAC aimed at engaging female voters in Texas. Executive Director Cari Christman released this statement:

“Texas will be well served with Christi Craddick at the helm of the Texas Railroad Commission. As Commissioner, Christi has been an unrelenting crusader for Texans, protecting jobs from the ever-encroaching EPA and looking for ways to improve and innovate our oil and gas industry. A strong Republican female, Christi continues to be a trailblazer and a role model for the women of our great state.”

Abbott Campaign Launches ‘Major’ Statewide Ad

The Greg Abbott campaign announced Thursday it is launching a “major statewide television ad buy.”

The ad features Attorney General Abbott’s mother-in-law discussing his values. The 30-second spot is in Spanish.

The Republican nominee for governor has often reminded voters that if he wins, his wife Cecilia would become the state’s first Latina First Lady.

This is not the first Spanish-language ad the Abbott campaign has released during the general election season. Back in June, another one aired during the World Cup on Spanish-language stations. Abbott faces the Democratic nominee, State Sen. Wendy Davis, in November.

Capital Tonight: Religious, Medical Communities Weigh In on Border Crisis

The border crisis has spawned concern over health care, or the lack thereof. Accusations of serious disease are being flung at the thousands of children crossing the border, but the experts say that may not be an accurate depiction. We discussed the situation with medical experts at the national and state level to see if the finger-pointing is merited.

Plus, religious organizations have worked hard to further the dialogue surrounding the Texas immigration crisis. Bishop Joe Vásquez of the Austin Diocese joined us Wednesday to explain why they are contacting Congress directly, and what they hope to accomplish.

ABORTION LAW UPDATE

A controversial law that could eventually shut down all but six abortion clinics in the state of Texas has returned to the spotlight. A new study suggests women are getting 13 percent fewer legal abortions one year after the law passed. We looked into the law’s effects and explained why more research is necessary.

WORKFORCE REPORT

Texas has been praised recently for its booming industry and skyrocketing population, but with such a fast-growing number of young people comes the need for adequate job training. State Comptroller Susan Combs explained a new study on the Texas workforce and talked about long-term plans to meet employers’ needs.

CARBON EMISSION CLASH

The Obama administration is attempting to cut carbon emissions from power plants, but Senate Republicans are united in disapproval. Find out why the Environmental Protection Agency is in hot water, and what the regulations could mean for Texas.

 

Powers to Remain UT Austin President until 2015

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers will likely keep his job until 2015, according to a statement from the head of the UT System, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

Last week, word leaked that Cigarroa had asked President Powers to offer his resignation before a Thursday meeting of the UT Board of Regents or be fired. Cigarroa had suggested he leave in October of this year.

Powers sent a letter in response, offering to stay on until June 2, 2015 so he can see through some of the long-term initiatives he’s started. Cigarroa accepted that offer this afternoon. Powers has led UT’s flagship university since 2006, but has often found himself at odds with the governor-appointed regents. Cigarroa has described his own relationship with Powers as “fractured” and lacking trust.

Cigarroa says the UT Board of Regents will start searching for Powers’ replacement next month. That process will include faculty, students and at least two current presidents of other UT campuses, along with at least one member of the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents was expected to consider Powers’ employment at a meeting scheduled for Thursday.

One member, UT Regent Wallace Hall, is under investigation from a legislative committee for what some have called a witch hunt to oust Powers.

You can read Cigarroa’s full response below.

Statement from Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. regarding UT Austin President Bill Powers

Today UT Austin President Bill Powers submitted a letter of resignation, effective June 2, 2015, and I have accepted it.

President Powers, who has led great advancements for the University, has expressed a desire to remain in his position long enough to complete several important initiatives, lead the University through the upcoming legislative session, and allow for a smooth transition to new leadership. I honor his commitment to UT Austin and agree that this is the best course forward.

Next month, Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster plans to initiate an exhaustive national search process that will utilize a search advisory committee to assist in the selection of UT Austin’s next president. The committee will include representation of faculty, deans, students and community representatives of the University, as well as at least two current presidents from UT institutions and at least one member of the Board of Regents.

There is no doubt that UT Austin is the crown jewel of public higher education in Texas. As chancellor, I have done everything in my power to provide UT Austin with the resources it needs to reach even higher vistas, to ultimately achieve its goal to be recognized as the finest public research university in America. I believe that is a goal well within our sights.

President Powers is an admired leader who, as I’ve said before, has advanced the University in many ways. He is concluding a record-breaking $3 billion capital campaign, has worked with the UT System and the Board of Regents in the past year to establish the Dell Medical School and to launch construction of a $310 million Engineering Education and Research Center – which together will be a major catalyst for UT Austin to achieve the ranking and recognition it deserves – and he has earned the reputation as a national leader in higher education.

It is, however, time for an orderly change in leadership. While ultimately productive, the past years have not been without struggle and, at times, conflict and controversy. There was no single incident that prompted my decision to ask President Powers for his resignation last week, but a long history of issues with communication, responsiveness and a willingness to collaborate.

I truly believe that it is time for a fresh start and a chance to build a strong relationship. We will all be successful if we keep the future of UT in our hearts and minds. I sincerely thank the UT Austin faculty, students, staff and the UT System’s Faculty Advisory Council for their important input over the past week.

Pew Poll: 1 in 10 Americans Don’t Care about Politics

A new poll on national politics shows 1 in 10 Americans couldn’t care less about national politics.

The numbers come from the Washington-based Pew Research Center. According to their 2014 Political Polarization and Typology Survey, around 10 percent of Americans are what they call “bystanders” in the political system.

Those are people who haven’t registered to vote and mostly ignore government and public affairs. Bystanders are also overwhelmingly likely to have never contributed to a political campaign. The Pew study shows 38 percent of them are under 30 and nearly a third are Hispanic. But the biggest deciding factor seems to be education. The poll shows 67 percent of the politically disengaged didn’t pursue a degree beyond high school.

The Pew study is part of a bigger report on the nation’s political attitudes. It also includes a quiz to find out where you fit in on the political spectrum, which you can take here.

 

Patrick demands apology for draft-dodging accusations

Republican lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Dan Patrick says claims that he dodged the draft during the Vietnam War are false and he is demanding an apology from runoff opponent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Questions over Patrick’s war service were raised during a press conference with Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson earlier Thursday. Patterson, who is endorsing Dewhurst, made the case that based on the draft lottery system and Patrick’s date of birth, he would have been called into service.

Patrick said Thursday that he was drafted in 1972. However, he was deemed medically ineligible due to childhood injuries. Patrick reportedly suffered from bone cysts and had broken his right leg twice. He says he also suffered a serious knee injury while playing high school sports.

“While I greatly appreciate the military service of both David Dewhurst and Jerry Patterson, the fact that they would attempt to smear me, and question my patriotism, is reprehensible.” Patrick said. “These men have no honor; they know no shame.”

 

Patrick to Dewhurst: “There he goes again”

Sen. Dan Patrick is keeping the hits coming with a new anti-David Dewhurst television spot. The new ad, which is airing statewide, calls into question what Patrick calls Dewhurst’s “desperate campaign tactics.”

“When David Dewhurst is desperate, he spends his vast fortune personally attacking his opponents with lies,” Patrick said.  “We have seen it before.”

Yesterday, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst picked up an endorsement from former rival Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Patterson, who placed fourth in the four person primary race, had thus far refrained from a formal endorsement. He had, however, been outspoken in his disdain for Sen. Patrick. In an interview here on Capital Tonight last month, he made it clear he had no intention of lending his support to the Patrick campaign.  “Politics is a gloves off sport,” he said. “But you can’t respect a person who makes stuff up along the way.” 

Patrick attacks Dewhurst on immigration in new TV ad

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Sen. Dan Patrick is out with his second attack ad in less than a week. This time, he’s going after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on immigration. He accuses Dewhurst of failing to secure the border and allowing the Senate to expand in-state tuition and free healthcare for illegal immigrants on his watch.

The ad started airing this morning on Fox News in 14 Texas markets. You can watch the ad here:

Dewhurst and Patrick are facing off in the Republican primary runoff election on May 27. The winner will take on Democratic Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in November.