Lawmakers respond to Fort Hood shooting

Fourteen people are injured and several are reportedly dead, following a shooting on Fort Hood this afternoon. Details are still coming in, but Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul says four people were killed when a gunman opened fire on post. Officials say the gunman, who has not been identified, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Lawmakers are responding to today’s events. Here is a collection of the statements released so far, tonight:

Gov. Rick Perry

“Today, Ft. Hood was once again stricken by tragedy. As Texans, our first priority must be caring for the victims and their families. Ft. Hood has proven its resilience before, and will again. Texas will support those efforts in any way we can, with any resources necessary. The thoughts and prayers of all Texans are with everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Sen. John Cornyn

“Tonight, Texans’ hearts are once again very heavy. The scenes coming from Ft. Hood today are sadly too familiar and still too fresh in our memories.  No community should have to go through this horrific violence once, let alone twice. I ask that all Americans join Sandy and me in praying for the victims, their families and the entire Ft. Hood community.”

Sen. Wendy Davis

“Texans are united in deep sorrow at this terrible tragedy.  Our prayers are with the families and all those who serve at Fort Hood.”

 

 

New lawsuit filed over Texas abortion law

A second legal challenge has been filed against the state’s controversial new abortion law.

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon on behalf of several abortion providers. It’s the first legal challenge to a provision set to take effect September 1, which would require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Currently, only six clinics in Texas currently meet those standards. Abortion rights advocates warn that fewer than 10 clinics in the state would be in compliance by the time the new provision takes effect.

The lawsuit also brings a revised challenge to the requirement that doctors who perform abortions receive admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The Supreme Court of Texas upheld that provision in a recent ruling, but the new lawsuit challenges it only as it applies to clinics in McAllen and El Paso.

 

 

Capital Tonight: Preschool education sparks fierce debate in governor’s race

After weeks of fighting about fair pay for women, the two candidates for governor are turning their focus to early childhood education. Republican Greg Abbott released his plan for pre-kindergarten Monday. A day later, teachers’ groups supportive of Democrat Wendy Davis were quick to attack his proposal.

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we examined the argument behind Abbott’s proposal and heard why the Davis campaign is firing back.

CAPITAL COMMENTATORS

Another layer to the education debate started brewing Tuesday night, after the Davis campaign cited a Huffington Post article linking Abbott’s pre-K plan to a controversial scholar named Charles Murray, whose views on race, gender and education have drawn criticism.

Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, debated the significance of the Murray link in the governor’s race.

OIL SPILL IMPACT

Texas officials are touting a quick response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but what about the long-term effects? We spoke to Luke Metzger of Environment Texas about his concerns.

Supreme Court decision may increase role of money in politics

The Supreme Court has issued a new landmark ruling on campaign finance laws that could have a major impact on the midterm elections. Wednesday, the Court ruled 5-4 to reject a current law that limits how much money overall individuals can donate to candidates, political parties and political action committees. Previously, the limit was set at $123,200. Now, wealthy donors can give to candidates across the board without worrying about hitting the cap.

Supporters of the law say it will create more transparency by diverting money away from political action committees. Sen. John Cornyn., who supported the change, said in an interview with Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown that the ruling is consistent with free speech. We asked Senator Cornyn if he would be in favor of lifting all limits, even for individual candidates, a suggestion by Justice Clarence Thomas.

“I think, honestly, it’s probably better regulated by the marketplace. We see that happening in Texas in the governor’s race, without any dollar limitation on contribution. And then that could be part of the campaign where people look who’s contributing money, they can ask why, what their motive is and that can be decided by the voters in the election.”

Detractors — including the president — say it makes money play an even bigger role in the election process. Again, the ruling only overturns the overall cap; it does not overturn the limit on donations to individual candidates. That cap is still set at $2,600 per election to candidates for president or Congress.

Capital Tonight: Reassessing enrollment numbers on deadline day

A free help center in Austin was flooded with health insurance applicants Monday, the last day to begin enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. The spike resulted in technical problems for some, but a deadline extension may help ease the problem.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked how national initiatives on health care and immigration reform are affecting Texans.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS

Anne Dunkelberg of the Center for Public Policy Priorities and John Davidson with the Texas Public Policy Foundation joined us to discuss the latest enrollment data, just over four years after the health care law was passed.

ON THE AGENDA

Harvey Kronberg weighed in on the health care debate as well and gave an update on the new fight over public education in the governor’s race.

Capital Tonight: Taking a closer look at Texas enrollment numbers

With just days left to start enrolling, the eyes of federal health officials are on Texas. In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is making one last push in Austin, and why the state is so important for the law’s success.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News and Erica Grieder of Texas Monthly joined us to talk about the week’s biggest takeaways, from a significant ruling on abortion law to a continued fight over fair pay legislation.

CHECKING THE FACTS

Plus, Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas joined us to take a closer look at one claim about the cost of a health care plan in Texas, along with a surprising take on Senator Ted Cruz’s travel history.

Capital Tonight: Land commissioner details oil spill containment efforts

The clock is counting down for those who haven’t already tried to enroll for health insurance. White House officials say more than six million Americans have signed up under the Affordable Care Act, marking a milestone for the Obama administration heading into the March 31 deadline.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at a marathon effort to get people signed up in East Austin over the span of 36 hours, non-stop.

DEADLINE DELAY

Of course, federal officials have since announced a major exception to the original deadline —one that has critics of the law fuming. Our Capital Commentators explored the political fallout from the latest delay, and they reacted to a new federal court ruling that upholds the abortion restrictions passed last summer.

OIL SPILL UPDATE

Crews on the coast are moving quickly to stop the spread of a massive oil spill in Galveston Bay. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson joined us with the latest on how his agency is helping coordinate the response.

Federal appeals court upholds abortion restrictions

A federal appeals court has ruled to uphold the new abortion restrictions passed last summer.

The ruling does not come as a surprise, following the court’s decision in October to overturn a temporary injunction put in place by a lower federal court.

Opponents of the law argued earlier this year that it places an undue burden on women. In its ruling, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said the law does not meet that standard.

The new law requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and places strict limits on how abortion inducing drugs are administered. A third provision, which would go into effect in September, would require clinics to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Only six abortion providers in the state currently meet those standards.

 

Capital Tonight: Public education chair talks frankly about school funding

Students starting high school for the first time next year will have a brand new slate of graduation options ahead of them. In the meantime, lawmakers are still wrestling with the complex process of implementing those changes, which were passed last legislative session.

In Wednesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard the concerns some lawmakers have about whether the pathways to graduation are too complicated for students and parents to navigate. Plus, we talked to the Public Education Committee Chair, Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, about how counselors and increased funding will play a role in making the new law go more smoothly in the future.

BOND INFORMATION

Voters across Central Texas will have bond propositions to consider on the May ballot. But figuring out where exactly the money goes and how it affects local debt can by a tricky task. State Comptroller Susan Combs joined us in-studio next to talk about her office’s efforts to increase transparency with a helpful new website.

DEADLINE DELAY

The Obama administration is giving people more time to sign up for health insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act. The deadline to sign up was slated for March 31st, but The White House had hinted last week an extension was in the works. We spoke to enrollment experts in Austin to see how they’re dealing with the change.

Perry critical of latest Obamacare deadline extension

Gov. Rick Perry is taking the Obama administration to task, after the White House announced yet another Affordable Care Act deadline extension. The open enrollment deadline is Friday. This latest extension gives customers who have already started the enrollment process more time to finish it.

There have already been several Obamacare deadline extensions. Notably, the Obama administration took similar action in late last year, when they relaxed the deadline to secure coverage by Jan. 1. “As was the case for the December deadline, we’re going to want to make sure that people who are already in line can finish their enrollment,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Republicans already highly critical of the president’s health care plan are pointing to this latest extension as another failure for the Obama administration. In a statement, Gov. Rick Perry said:

“Whether it’s deadlines or red lines, it’s clear we can’t trust President Obama to back up what he says, from adhering to his own disastrous health care policy to standing up to those who threaten democracy and freedom in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Crimea and elsewhere around the world.

In every policy decision he makes we see a feckless, meandering and muddled strategy that ultimately leaves the administration, and increasingly the United States, embarrassed by the lack of conviction and discipline we expect and deserve from the leader of the free world.”