Daily Digest: July 11

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Redistricting Trial Day 2:

The legal battle over Texas’ political maps continues in court. On day two of the state’s redistricting trial, plaintiffs argued about a lack of legislative process when redrawing some boundary lines in 2013.

One of the people testifying today was State Rep. Eric Johnson. Johnson’s a black Democrat from Dallas. He told the 3-judge panel that in 2013, when lawmakers were redrawing maps under a court order, there was no real process to provide input. According to lawyers defending Mr. Johnson and other minority voters, here’s why:

“No one in leadership reached out to the African-American representatives, to the Latino representatives and said, ‘how do we fix this?’” Allison Riggs, Southern Coalition for Social Justice senior attorney, said.

For the first time in the trial, state attorneys argued the maps could have been drawn with partisan motivation rather than racial ones. The US Supreme Court has ruled that’s not necessarily unconstitutional.

John Salazar will have the latest on the trial tonight at 7 p.m.


We’ll also be joined by former state representative Trey Martinez Fischer. He testified yesterday in the trial.


Trump/Russia Probe:

We’ll have the latest on the Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with Russian attorneys, plus reaction from lawmakers in Washington.


Local Control:

“Man your special session battle stations.” That’s the message from the Texas Municipal League heading into next week’s lawmaker overtime.

About half of Governor Abbott’s list for the special session include local control issues, or matters that cities, counties and school districts oversee or play a role in handling.

From how cities collect property taxes and set budgets, to regulating land use and restricting access to bathrooms, such topics are set to dominate debate.

“I call it the goldilocks form of government,” Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League, said. “The federal government is big and bad, cities are small and bad and somehow the state gets it just right? That can’t possibly be the case. Cities are to the state what the state is to the federal government. We’re the laboratory of democracy. Every city is different and citizens like that.”

Tune in for Sandlin’s full interview.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7 p.m.


Posted by Karina Kling



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Daily Digest: July 10 – Redistricting

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Redistricting Trial Day 1:

Texas’ redistricting trial began today in federal court in San Antonio. Three federal judges are hearing a week’s worth of testimony centered on whether the state intentionally discriminated against minorities when drawing Texas political maps in 2011. The timing of the trial is critical. The 2018 elections are just around the corner and if the judges side with the plaintiffs, it could shake up races across the state.



In 2011, Texas lawmakers drew new political boundaries. It happens every ten years after census data comes out. But the way the Republican-controlled Legislature drew the maps angered minority rights groups who called the new state and congressional maps discriminatory toward black and Latino voters. That led to a court drawing temporary maps that were used for the 2012 elections. In 2013, lawmakers adopted those maps and that’s what the state has been using ever since.


But then, this spring the federal judges ruled that three of Texas’ 36 congressional districts were drawn illegally. The judges also ruled that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities when crafting them.


The Arguments:

The state says it didn’t target Texas voters by race, but does admit it drew maps in a partisan way. It wants the legal challenge dismissed. Minority rights groups continue to argue the 2013 maps were meant to be temporary and should be redrawn because they don’t address all of the concerns first raised with the 2011 maps.



The trial is expected to last through Friday or Saturday. It’s unclear when the judges will rule.


We’ll have a full report on day 1 of the trial from San Antonio with John Salazar at 7pm.

Matt Angle, director of Texas’ Lone Star Project, will also be joining us from San Antonio to discuss why his group is pushing for the maps to be redrawn.


Special Session Proclamation:

Governor Greg Abbott has now officially called state lawmakers back to Austin for a special session. Abbott’s formal proclamation today means the Legislature will reconvene next Tuesday at 10am.

For now, the governor only asked lawmakers to extend operations of the Texas Medical Board and other state agencies set to expire this fall. Lawmakers failed to do so during the regular session that ended in May.

Once that so-called sunset legislation is passed, Abbott has promised to include 19 other priorities for the 30-day special session. Those include a private school voucher proposal, school finance reform and anti-abortion measures.


Bathroom Bill:

The so-called bathroom bill is also part of that long list of special session items. Our Max Gorden will have the story of one family fighting back against the measure.


Join us for these stories and the latest out of Washington tonight on Capital Tonight at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling


Daily Digest: July 6

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Voter ID law:

The Trump administration says Texas has fixed any discriminatory effects of its Voter ID law. The Justice Department is now asking a judge to not take further action. The DOJ under former President Obama had previously joined minority rights groups in challenging the 2011 law. But the new administration told the judge that Texas lawmakers fixed the measure in May by adopting a weaker version. The judge has twice ruled that the original law intentionally discriminated against minorities. We’ll have reaction from both sides tonight at 7pm.



While groups are protesting the proposed health care bill outside of Sen. John Cornyn’s Austin office, Sen. Ted Cruz will be holding a town hall to discuss the issue tonight at 6pm. Earlier today, Cruz told a San Antonio radio station he didn’t know if the Senate could pass the bill.

“It is precarious,” Cruz said. He added the GOP’s Senate majority “is so narrow, I don’t know if we can get it done or not.”

Capital Tonight host Karina Kling will also be sitting down with Sen. Cruz later this evening. You can catch that full interview on Friday’s edition of Capital Tonight at 7pm.


Putin/Trump meeting:

Tomorrow, the eyes of the world will be on one of the most anticipated meetings between two of the most powerful men on the planet. President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany.

The White House is downplaying the critical encounter. And our Washington reporter Alberto Pimienta will have more tonight on the likelihood of whether the President will bring up Russia’s meddling in the presidential election.


North Korea missile:

President Trump says he’s considering quote “pretty severe things” in response to North Korea’s test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Experts say such a missile could reach Alaska. Paul Miller is the associate director of the Clements Center for National Security at UT-Austin. Hear his take on what options the country has to deal with the threat tonight at 7.


Republicans and the environment:

Can you be a Republican and an environmentalist? There are some out there — and one who recently described himself as just that joins us tonight.  Hear Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton’s stance on climate change and the state of Texas energy.


Capital Tonight airs nightly at 7.


Posted by Karina Kling




Daily Digest: July 5

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Texas Medicaid cuts:

Some special needs kids have lost critical therapy services since the state let $350 million in Medicaid cuts take effect in December. The cuts have prompted government reimbursement that’s offered to providers to fall up to 50 percent.

Our Max Gorden is speaking with an in-home therapy provider to find out how the cuts have affected his patients. Groups are also concerned the Texas cuts could be a preview of what’s to come nationwide if proposed Medicaid cuts being considered by Republicans in Congress are passed.


Sen. Ted Cruz on mini Texas tour:

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is on a state tour of sorts during Congress’ July 4th recess. And he’s already gotten an earful.

Cruz took part in an Independence Day parade in McAllen yesterday. He shook hands with supporters, but was also confronted by protesters in the Democratic stronghold. Some shared their frustrations with Cruz’s stance on health care. Others were angry about his support for President Trump’s stance on immigration and the proposed border wall.

But in his comments to local media, Cruz stayed focused on the day’s celebrations. “You know it’s a wonderful opportunity for all of us to celebrate what brings us together, what makes America unique, which is the freedom that’s protected in the Constitution, protected in the Bill of Rights, the freedom that every American, every Texan has,” Cruz said.

Cruz’s Texas trip comes as negotiations continue behind closed doors regarding the health care bill currently stalled in the Senate.

The junior Texas senator will be in San Antonio and Austin tomorrow.


Political Analysts:

Our political analysts, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi, will be in tonight to discuss the latest New Yorker piece — America’s Future is Texas. We’ll also discuss the upcoming special session and the latest chatter about stall tactics or pressuring lawmakers to pass priority bills.


Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm.


(The AP and CNN contributed to this post)


Posted by Karina Kling




Daily Digest: June 30

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Same-sex marriage benefits ruling:

The Texas Supreme Court has thrown out a lower court ruling that said gay spouses are legally entitled to government-subsidized workplace benefits. The state high court unanimously ordered a trial court to reconsider a case challenging Houston’s benefits policy.

Friday’s decision is a major reversal for the all-Republican high court. It had previously refused to even consider the case after the US Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage. In their decision, justices suggested a landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage does not fully address the right to marriage benefits.


“I’m extremely pleased that the Texas Supreme Court recognized that Texas law is still important when it comes to marriage,” Attorney General Paxton said in a statement. “While the U.S. Supreme Court declared a right to same-sex marriage, that ruling did not resolve all legal issues related to marriage.” According to the Texas Supreme Court, “Mr. Pidgeon and the Mayor, like many other litigants throughout the country, must now assist the courts in fully exploring Obergefell’s reach and ramifications, and are entitled to the opportunity to do so.”


Meanwhile, Equality Texas issued a statement saying the court’s decision marked a “sad day for Texas.”

“The Texas Supreme Court’s opinion today in the Pidgeon case clings to unconstitutional notions of “separate but equal” that were long ago laid to rest in this nation. The justices’ holding that Obergefell v. Hodges does not require equal treatment under the law for LGBT married couples is patently indefensible. This is a sad day for Texas as our highest court joins the ranks of Mississippi and Arkansas in refusing to abide by the Constitution’s mandate to recognize the dignity and equality of all persons. Equality Texas is hopeful that the City of Houston will appeal this horrendous decision to the United States Supreme Court in order to ensure equality for the marriages of all Texans.”


We will have more reaction to the Texas Supreme Court decision tonight at 7pm.


Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, pleads ‘unequivocally not guilty’

Rep. Dawnna Dukes was back in court Friday. She said she’s not guilty in her public corruption case and says she has no interest in accepting a plea deal. Hear from the embattled Dukes and whether she thinks she’ll run for reelection tonight at 7pm.


Plus, Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune, Sean Walsh of the Austin American-Statesman and James Barragan with the Dallas Morning News join our reporter roundtable. Hear their take on the benefits case, the sanctuary cities court battle this week and the latest on Paxton’s securities fraud case.


Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas will also be in to put Energy Secretary Rick Perry and State Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, to the truth-o-meter.


On the national level, our Washington, DC reporter Alberto Pimienta is following the latest fallout after President Trump’s tweets about MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosts.


Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling


Daily Digest: June 29

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


SB4 Hearing:

For the second time this week, the issue of the state’s new anti-sanctuary cities law was before a federal judge. This time in Austin.

US District Judge Sam Sparks questioned why his court should decide whether the law is constitutional before it takes effect in September. The attorney general’s office sued Travis County and Austin last month, seeking a ruling that the bill is constitutional. But the state’s four largest cities, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, are already suing in a separate San Antonio court. The state wants that case moved to Austin.

Sparks didn’t immediately rule on those efforts Thursday.


Hear from the attorneys involved in the case tonight at 7pm. Plus State Reps. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and Paul Workman, R-Austin, weigh in.


Ken Paxton Securities Fraud Hearing:

Thursday marks the first time Attorney General Ken Paxton will meet Judge Robert Johnson. Johnson is the newly-elected judge assigned to oversee Paxton’s securities fraud trial. The trial date has changed twice in recent months amid legal wrangling. The original judge overseeing the case was removed after losing jurisdiction to continue presiding over it.


Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm on Spectrum News Austin/San Antonio for these stories and more.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: June 28

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:



That’s the message health care advocates for children and the disabled are sending to their lawmakers in Washington. They rallied at the State Capitol Wednesday morning, urging senators not to make deep cuts to Medicaid as proposed in the GOP health care bill.


Many who showed up to rally say they’re worried about special needs kids. That’s because some have already lost critical therapy services since the state let $350 million in Medicaid cuts to speech, occupational and physical therapy take effect.


Children make up the majority of Medicaid recipients in Texas. Some Republican lawmakers argue that their version of the health care bill is necessary to put Medicaid on a sustainable path and give states more flexibility.


But some health care advocates say what’s currently happening in the state should be a wake-up call to what could happen nationwide.


“We’ve already seen families in Texas have lost support for their children because of cuts the Texas legislature made,” Peter Clark with Texans Care for Children said. “If the Senate health care bill passes, the cuts for Texans with disabilities would be much, much bigger.”


Coming up on Capital Tonight at 7, hear from the mother of a special needs child and why she fears what could happen under the Senate health care bill.


We’ll also be joined by Dr. Deane Waldman, director of the Center for Healthcare Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.


Plus, our political analysts, Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi, will be in with their take.


Posted by Karina Kling/Max Gorden




Daily Digest: June 27

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


Senate Republican leaders are working to rescue their health care bill as rebellious Republican opposition grows. Monday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the measure would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026 than President Barack Obama’s law.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has been pushing for passage and took to Twitter Tuesday to respond to a tweet that said he was leaving the door open to delaying the Senate vote. “I am closing the door,” Cornyn tweeted. “We need to do it this week before double-digit premium increases are announced for next year.”


Our DC bureau reporter Alberto Pimienta will have the latest on the Senate standoff tonight at 7. Plus, we’ll be joined by Patrick Bresette, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, to discuss what the bill could mean for Texas children.


We’ll also be joined by Lawrence Sager, a constitutional theorist and former dean of UT-Austin’s Law School, to discuss how several Supreme Court decisions on religious freedom issues could affect Texas.


Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm and follow us @TXCapTonight.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: June 26

Our daily digest is a mid-day update on the stories we’re following in Texas politics today. Here’s what we’re watching:


San Antonio is at the front lines of the fight against Senate Bill 4, the state’s new anti-sanctuary cities law. Protesters have been rallying outside the federal courthouse in San Antonio today as a judge is set to decide whether to temporarily halt the law.

Follow @VictoriaMaranan and @AleseU for updates.


The federal judge hearing arguments must decide whether to allow the law to take effect – or approve a preliminary injunction, which would halt the law while the court case plays out.


SB 4 would allow Police to ask people about their immigration status in a routine stop. It also seeks to punish cities and elected officials who refuse to comply with federal detainer requests.


Groups from El Paso, Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio each took to the podium during a rally before the hearing began and talked about how SB4 is already affecting their communities. San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller even led a prayer.


The ACLU of Texas said the fight against SB4 is just getting started.


“SB4 is an insult to our values and our freedom and everyone here who fears the effects of SB4 needs to know that we’re here with you and we’ll continue to fight until this racist and un-democratic law is dead,” Astrid Dominguez with the ACLU of Texas said.


Five Texas cities, including Austin and San Antonio, are suing the state. And last Friday, the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest, siding with the state and backing the controversial law. Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit asking a federal court to declare SB4 constitutional. An Austin court is set to consider that request on Thursday.



We’re also following several US Supreme Court decisions today including:

  1. Parts of the Trump administration’s controversial 90-day travel ban will be enforced as the Supreme Court waits to hear arguments on the case.
  2. Justices will consider whether a Colorado baker can refuse to make a wedding cake for same-sex couples — based on religious beliefs.
  3. The Supreme Court has ruled against a Texas death row inmate who said his lawyers failed to challenge a faulty jury instruction at his trial and on appeal.


The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg will also be joining us tonight. Watch Capital Tonight at 7 for the latest on these stories and more.


Posted by Karina Kling



DOJ files brief supporting Texas’ sanctuary cities ban

The US Department of Justice has officially filed a brief supporting Texas’ sanctuary cities ban. Earlier this week, an attorney with LULAC said a notice had been sent to the parties involved in the federal lawsuit challenging the state’s new immigration law indicating the Justice Department would back the state.

On Monday, a US district judge will hear the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop SB4 from going into effect as the case plays out in court.




WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in City of El Cenizo, Texas, et. al vs. Texas, et. al, commonly known as the SB4 litigation.


The lawsuit was filed by several cities trying to block Texas’s SB4 law, which prohibits localities in Texas from implementing or maintaining policies that prevent local officials from sharing immigration-related information with the federal government. Additionally, SB4 directs local officials in Texas to cooperate with immigration detainer requests issued by the federal government under federal law.


The Department primarily argues that SB4 is not preempted by the Supremacy Clause, it is not inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment, and it does not violate the Fourth Amendment.


In filing the Statement of Interest, Attorney General Sessions provided the following statement:


“President Trump has made a commitment to keep America safe and to ensure cooperation with federal immigration laws. Texas has admirably followed his lead by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes. 


“The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.”

Read the brief here.


Our reporter roundtable will weigh in on the latest with the case tonight at 7 on Capital Tonight.