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.

Capital Tonight: New fallout in debate over pay discrimination

The fight over equal pay for men and women continues in the race for governor, and the latest dust-up stems from an interview that aired here on Capital Tonight.

This time, Republican candidate Greg Abbott is responding to a statement made by Republican Party of Texas Executive Director Beth Cubriel about Democratic candidate Wendy Davis’ call for a state version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

“Is it really fair to clog up the courts with litigation that you can take through another avenue and put that ahead of litigation that can only go through the state courts? I don’t think so,” Cubriel said. “Men are better negotiators and I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators.”

In Tuesday’s Capital Tonight, we looked at the slew of responses that followed Cubriel’s statement, and what the business community says the argument should really be about.

VIEW FROM CONGRESS

Congressman Lloyd Doggett joined us in-studio to comment on the governor’s race, along with how enrollment numbers are adding up ahead of the looming March 31 deadline.

Plus, our Capitol Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, debated the significance of the fight over wage discrimination.

UKRAINE UPDATE

And new updates from Ukraine are coming in every minute. Global affairs professor Jeremi Suri joined us to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, including a very specific role Texas could play.

Abbott campaign distances itself from RPT equal pay remarks

Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is responding to controversial comments regarding pay equality by a top Republican Party of Texas official.

On Monday’s Capital Tonight, Executive Director Beth Cubriel said equal pay laws were unnecessary and the solution for pay discrimination lies outside of legislation. ”Men are better negotiators and I would encourage women, instead of pursuing the courts for action, to become better negotiators.”

Those remarks drew a swift response from the Wendy Davis campaign and other Democratic groups, including the Lone Star Project, Battleground Texas and the Texas Democratic Party. They have been firing shots at Abbott over the issue since last week, when Abbott declined to say if he would have supported the Texas Equal Pay Act.

In a statement to Capital Tonight Tuesday afternoon, the Abbott campaign distanced itself from Cubriel’s remarks. Spokesman Matt Hirsch said: 

“Greg Abbott supports equal pay, and he supports Texas and federal law that provides legal avenues for victims of discrimination. The Texas Constitution and both state and federal law guarantee a woman’s right to equal pay in Texas. Equal pay is the law in Texas, and as Governor, Greg Abbott will continue to ensure it’s enforced.

Greg Abbott believes it’s inappropriate to ever blame the victim of discrimination, and he remains focused on ensuring greater prosperity and opportunity for all women and Texans. As a father of a teenage daughter and a husband to a former teacher, Greg Abbott will ensure that growing prosperity in Texas touches all families.”

Lawmakers passed a Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Act during the 2013 legislative session. The law allowed a discrimination suit to be filed when the wrong-doing is discovered. Under current law in Texas, there is a 180-day time frame to file such a lawsuit.

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the legislation, saying it was unnecessary since a federal version already exists. Supporters of the bill, however, say the law would have allowed women to sue in state court, rather than federal court, which is easier and cheaper.

 

 

Capital Tonight: New group enters fray over pay discrimination

A new group is hoping to secure the votes of Texas women for Republicans, even as the Democratic party fields two female candidates at the top of the general election ticket.

The Red State Women PAC is putting its support behind Attorney General Greg Abbott for governor on issues ranging from pay discrimination to women’s health. In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we took a look at how the group is faring in a combative election environment.

ON THE AGENDA

Harvey Kronberg provided commentary on what to expect on the GOP ticket for the 2016 presidential election and why one Republican lieutenant governor candidate is backing out of a closed-door debate.

GREEN ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY

While the Green Party has maintained its platform and status as a grassroots organization, the party will also have a record number of Green candidates on the ballot this November. We took St. Patrick’s Day as an opportunity to check in on where the party stands.

Intern Showcase: The Prison of Drugs

In this short documentary TWC News Intern Matthew Bogard explores the interconnected relationship between drug policy and imprisonment rates. By examining previous political initiatives and prison statistics, this investigative report aims to determine what kind of narcotic penal system is the most effective. Additionally, this report focuses on the institutional incentives of private and state-run prisons to provide a comprehensive look at America’s prisons and drug laws.

Click the image below to watch.