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.”

Capital Tonight: Should the justice system treat 17-year-olds as adults?

A former teen criminal, a judge and a UT researcher were just three of the people who testified before a meeting of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Tuesday, all in an effort to answer one question: What’s the appropriate age to treat teens as adults when they commit crimes in Texas?

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we heard the evidence lawmakers are considering, including testimony from one young man who has seen the system firsthand

BEHIND THE RESEARCH

UT Senior Lecturer Michele Deitch was one of the experts asked to testify at Tuesday’s hearing. She joined us in-studio to talk about her research on juvenile offenders, teenage brain development and the potential upfront costs of raising the age a person enters the adult justice system from 17 to 18.

Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, also weighed in on the issue from a political standpoint.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FIGHT

The fight over faith and federal mandates has made it all the way to the Supreme Court, in a case that pits the arts-and-crafts store Hobby Lobby against the federal government and the Affordable Care Act. We checked in on the latest from Washington on a case that could define religious freedom for years to come.

Capital Tonight: Candidates carry equal pay fight into third week

When Wendy Davis publicly criticized her opponent, Greg Abbott, for his opposition to the Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Abbott was quick to respond with the issue of Davis’ legal work.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at how this debate is dominating the political conversation and what it means for the governor’s race going forward.

ENGAGING TEXAS HISPANIC VOTERS

Republican Rep. Jason Villalba joined us to discuss his speaking tour, which is meant to build a bridge between Hispanic voters and the GOP through the shared values of family, education and the economy.

ON THE AGENDA

Harvey Kronberg of the Quorum Report spoke with us about how the attacks from both gubernatorial candidates are resonating with voters, what Republicans need to do to win more Hispanic votes, and the latest in the lieutenant governor’s race.

Capital Tonight: Where does the equal pay issue go from here?

All eyes were on the race for governor this week — specifically the debate over equal pay between men and women.

Both Democrat Wendy Davis and Republican Greg Abbott agree women should be paid the same as men for doing the same job. The disagreement is over a proposed state law known as the Texas Equal Pay Act, and whether Abbott would have supported it.

In Friday’s Capital Tonight, we looked back at how the debate got started and reviewed where the candidates stand.

REPORTER ROUNDTABLE

Will the equal pay issue mark a turning point for the Davis campaign, or is it too far out from November to make a difference? We discussed that question and more with Robert Garrett of The Dallas Morning News, Mike Ward of the Houston Chronicle and our own Karina Kling, whose interview with Beth Cubriel of the Republican Party of Texas sparked much of the week’s debate.

CAMPAIGN FACT-CHECK

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is claiming his opponent, Sen. Dan Patrick, wants to increase the gas and sales tax. But is that claim true? Gardner Selby with PolitiFact Texas and the Austin American-Statesman joined us for a fact check.

Abbott clears the air on fair pay legislation stance

UPDATED to include clarification from the Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office

Weeks after first being asked the question, Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is taking a stand on a Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Act. He told the Associated Press today he would not sign a Texas version into law. The question was first posed to Abbott during an interview with WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics. Democrats began attacking his position on fair pay when he declined to take a firm position on the issue.

Campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch told the AP:

“Because wage discrimination is already against the law and because legal avenues already exist for victims of discrimination, Greg Abbott would have not signed this law.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis authored the Texas Fair Pay Act, which extended the statute of limitations for bringing lawsuits against employers accused of pay discrimination. The legislation garnered bipartisan support in the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Rick Perry.

The issue moved front and center in the Governor’s race, when two high profile Republican woman stumbled in response to questions over the party’s position on fair pay. In one instance, Republican Party of Texas Executive Director Beth Cubriel told Capital Tonight that equal pay legislation was unnecessary. Instead, she said, ”Men are better negotiators and I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators.”

The Davis campaign was quick to respond to Abbott’s declaration. The campaign pointed to a San Antonio Express News report that the Attorney General’s office pays female assistant attorneys general less than male ones. In a statement, campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas said:

“On the day that Texans discover Greg Abbott pays women less than men in his office, he announces he would veto equal pay legislation that would help his employees address this discrimination. Texans are tired of business as usual from Greg Abbott and support Wendy Davis’ fight on economic fairness for all hardworking Texans.”

UPDATED

In an email to Capital Tonight, the Attorney General’s office said there are various reasons for pay discrepancies that are not gender related. According to the AG’s office, there are seven different AAG classifications and 50 unique job titles with “variety of job duties, experience and qualifications.”  Abbott’s office says some discrepancies in pay can be attributed to varying years of service and experience as a licensed attorney. Assistant Attorneys General also work in different legal practice areas which are “subject to different labor market forces, which means that salaries within an AAG classification will inevitably differ.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.