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.


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.


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.


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.

Texas lawmaker leading Sriracha delegation to California

Texans take their hot sauce seriously. And so, apparently, do its lawmakers. A so-called “Sriracha Delegation” is headed to California, in an effort to “bring the heat” home.

The Sriracha saga started when residents of the California town of Irwindale began complaining that the chili fumes from the factory were burning their eyes and causing coughing fits. Now, the company’s future is uncertain, as the city council contemplates declaring the factory a public nuisance.

That’s where Texas Rep. Jason Villalba comes in. He and other state leaders have invited Sriracha to relocate to Texas, where there are fewer regulations. Now, they are taking their offensive on the road. They will meet with the company’s CEO and tour the facility on May 12 to make their pitch in person.

“I am astonished and dismayed by the recent actions of the Irwindale City Council to further hinder the operations of local small business, Huy Fong Foods,” Villalba said. “As a long-time fan of Sriracha, I am deeply troubled that one of the fastest growing and universally beloved condiments in the world – made right here in the USA – could face such blatant obstructionism by a local city government.”

Villalba will be joined by Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and one of Attorney General Greg Abbott’s top aides, as will the state’s Director of Business Development, Jose Romano. 

Capital Tonight: Former prosecutor weighs in on Perry investigation

A special grand jury will hear evidence on Friday over whether Gov. Rick Perry broke state law by vetoing funding for the Public Integrity Unit. The agency, which oversees state corruption investigations, falls under the responsibility of the District Attorney’s office, whose head was arrested last May for drunk driving.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how investigations surrounding both the governor and the candidates to be the next Texas governor are shaking up their political futures.


Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul sat down with us to explain why the Boston bombing last April could have been prevented and what reforms can be made in mental health following this year’s Fort Hood shooting. McCaul also gave us the latest on a massive drone strike in Yemen today.


The Quorum Report‘s Harvey Kronberg offered his take on a new political ad from Greg Abbott’s campaign, meant to tie an FBI investigation more closely to his Democratic opponent for governor, Sen. Wendy Davis.

Capital Tonight: Bitcoin and the FBI become factors in governor’s race

Sen. Wendy Davis is in the headlines again this week, but not exactly in a way her campaign might have hoped.

The Dallas Morning News reports a toll road authority that had paid Sen. Davis for ongoing legal work is part of an investigation by the FBI.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we discussed whether the ongoing questions about conflicts of interest will gain more traction in the governor’s race, where Sen. Davis is seeking to win against Attorney General Greg Abbott.


Meanwhile, Abbott’s campaign for governor is going high-tech. The campaign announced this week that he will now be accepting Bitcoin contributions.

We sat down with Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, David Barer of The Dallas Morning News and KUT’s Ben Philpott to discuss the politics behind crypto-currency and the latest attack ads in the race for lieutenant governor.


Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us to check on claims by both President Barack Obama and outspoken Rep. Louie Gohmert.

Capital Tonight: Campaign politics apparent in education hearing

Politics surrounding the lieutenant governor’s race spilled over into Monday’s Senate Education Committee hearing. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Sen. Dan Patrick clashed over the implementation of new testing requirements, but the possibility that they could face off in the race for lieutenant governor was also a factor.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how policymakers are following existing legislation, as well as the possibility of introducing new regulations after the explosion of a fertilizer storage facility in West.


Congressman Roger Williams sat down with us to discuss Paul Ryan’s budget, border security, the possibility of immigration reform.


Harvey Kronberg provided his take on a potential conflict of interest regarding Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. According to The Dallas Morning News, Davis voted on legislation concerning the North Texas Tollway Authority project while she performed legal work for the organization.