Capital Tonight: State sees renewed focus on health care issues

Problems continue to plague the Affordable Care Act’s online exchange, and the Obama administration is working on damage control. Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped foot in what some might call unfriendly Texas territory to try and address the website’s problems.



The clock is ticking on a federal judge’s decision whether or not to delay a controversial health care law. We sat down with Christy Hoppe of The Dallas Morning News, Scott Braddock from the Quorum Report and Becca Aaronson of the Texas Tribune to look at the politics and legal issues behind the state’s new abortion law.


Sen. Wendy Davis was back in D.C. Friday, preparing for a tough campaign for governor.
We caught up with the latest on her efforts from Washington, plus Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas joined us for a fact check of a new opposition ad.

Capital Tonight: Veterans, lawmakers push for ballot measures

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte joined military members at an event in San Antonio to rally support for Propositions 1 and 4. The first ballot measure would provide a tax break to the wives or husbands of service members who were killed in action. If passed, they would not have to pay property taxes where they currently live. Proposition 4 takes that concept further, allowing disabled veterans in Texas who receive donated homes to get a break on their property taxes, relative to their disability level.

In Thursday’s Capital Tonight, we spoke to one wounded veteran about what the measures mean to him, plus we checked in on hearings in Washington over the federal government’s flawed health care enrollment website.


As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, a book published just this month takes readers to the political climate surrounding the city just a few years before the events of November 22, 1963 in Dealey Plaza.

We sat down with Bill Minutaglio, co-author of “Dallas 1963,” to talk about his research and his upcoming appearance at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday.


Republican candidate Lisa Fritsch is the latest entrant in the Texas governor’s race. She joined us for a one-on-one interview about what separates her from her conservative counterparts.

Capital Tonight: Lawmaker weighs in on regent investigation, voter ID

The investigation of a University of Texas regent continued Wednesday, with damaging testimony from a former UT system employee. Just down the road, another high-profile hearing wrapped up after final arguments regarding a controversial new abortion law.


Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer is part of the eight-member panel looking into UT Regent Wallace Hall. He joined us for a one-on-one interview about the committee’s fact-finding mission, voter ID law and recent controversy over his legal name.


Gov. Rick Perry continued his visit to Israel Wednesday, joining President Shimon Peres for a signing ceremony to formalize plans to bring a Texas A&M campus to the Middle East. Perry and the university announced plans for a Nazareth branch earlier this week. Click the logo below to watch Wednesday night’s full episode.

Coach controversy ‘fair game’ in regent hearing

A state representative says last month’s controversy over a phone call to Alabama coach Nick Saban’s agent is “fair game” in the investigation of a UT regent.

Speaking to Capital Tonight’s Paul Brown, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said if University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall did set up contact with Saban’s agent while representing himself as a regent, it could become part of the hearing process.

“This inquiry is about Wallace Hall, whether it be his acts or his omissions, things he should have done and things he should not have done,” Rep. Martinez Fischer said. “And quite frankly, I believe it’s fair game and I intend to ask questions on it.”

Hall has admitted to taking part in a phone call between former regent Tom Hicks and Jimmy Sexton, who represents Saban, about whether the Alabama coach might replace UT’s Mack Brown if he retires. Hall told the Associated Press he simply made the introduction between the two, then withdrew from the process. 

Rep. Martinez Fischer is part of an eight-member panel looking into Hall’s conduct as a regent. Hall is accused of using his office to oust UT President Bill Powers and of misrepresenting himself in his application for the regent position. Hall’s lawyers contend their client is being targeted for doing his job.



Patrick launches second statewide television ad

Lieutenant governor candidate Sen. Dan Patrick on Wednesday launched his second statewide television ad. The new 30-second spot targets incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and criticizes his budget leadership during the last legislative session.

“The only thing you need to know about the lieutenant governor’s current budget is that every Democrat praised and voted for it,” Patrick said. “As a conservative Republican, I didn’t.”

This is Patrick’s second television ad to hit the airwaves. His last ad, which proclaimed he was the only candidate to “oppose in-state tuition for illegal immigrants,” prompted outcry from his opponents who argued the claim was untrue and produced a “false” rating from PolitiFact Texas.

Patrick is one of four Republicans on the GOP primary ballot. He faces Dewhurst, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples.

New Abbott web ad features Texas Republican women

Attorney General Greg Abbott is highlighting a recent campaign stop at the Texas Federation of Republican Women’s State Convention in his new web ad. The spot features women at last weekend’s event talking about the reasons they support his run for governor.

Abbott is seeking the GOP nomination for Governor. If he wins the Republican primary, he will likely face off against Democrat Wendy Davis in the general election.

Capital Tonight: High-profile hearings reflect larger political battles

A Texas House panel has begun hearing witness testimony in an investigation that could lead to the first impeachment of a non-elected official in state history. The transparency committee is investigating University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall, following accusations from lawmakers that he overstepped the authority of his office in an effort to oust UT Austin President Bill Powers.

Meanwhile, a hearing of a different sort continued in federal court. Women’s health groups are suing the state to stop the enforcement of some provisions of a new, stricter abortion law.


Both cases tie into longstanding political battles — whether it’s abortion, the upcoming governor’s race or the power struggle over UT Austin’s leadership. Our Capital Commentators, Harold Cook and Ted Delisi, joined us to talk about the larger implications.



New unemployment numbers are out from the Labor Department, and while they show slight improvement, many economists worry they’re a sign of a sluggish economy. Plus, our Washington bureau checks in on impending cuts to food stamp programs.

Capital Tonight: Voter ID, abortion laws face new tests

One of the most controversial laws passed this legislative session saw its first day in court Monday. Women’s groups are challenging House Bill 2, which enacts some of the strictest abortion laws in the country.

In Monday’s Capital Tonight, we heard from the plaintiffs about why they believe the law should be put on hold, and why state attorneys say their case is strong. Plus, we spoke to county election officials about how the newly implemented voter ID law will work at ground level.


We’ve talked a lot about the water initiative known as Proposition 6 leading up to the Nov. 5 election, but there are other measures to consider, including one constitutional amendment that could drastically change the process of home ownership among our aging population. We sat down with Scott Norman of Texans for Proposition 5 about why he supports the measure.


The government shutdown is over, but another federal hangup continues. The website where people can shop for health insurance is still seeing heavy delays, a problem for which President Barack Obama says there’s no excuse. We heard from the president about what’s being done to fix it, and got an update from local enrollment organizers about how the effort is going closer to home.

Dewhurst ad: ‘Texas takes the cake’

Lieutenant Governor candidate David Dewhurst is out with a new ad today, touting Texas’ job creation record.

“Over the past 10 years, Texas has added more private sector jobs than any other state,” Dewhurst says in the voice over. “If Texas was a cake, and one candle represented 10,000 private sector jobs, Texas would look like this.”

Dewhurst faces three challengers in the Republican primary. He’ll be up against Sen. Dan Patrick, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. No Democrats entered the race yet, although Sen. Leticia Van de Putte has said she is contemplating a run.

Capital Tonight: Candidates for HD 50 square off in live debate

Following former Rep. Mark Strama’s retirement, the seat for House District 50 is now open in a special election set for November 5. We sat down with three candidates for a live, hour-long debate.

The three Democratic candidates are: Celia Israel, a Realtor who has worked in state politics and has served on numerous community boards; Rico Reyes, an attorney who had a career in the U.S. Marine Corps and is now still an officer in the Marine Corps Reserves; and Jade Chang Sheppard, who runs a successful construction company, and among other things, serves on the Planned Parenthood board.

Mike VanDeWalle is also running in the HD 50 race as a Republican, but was unable to attend.

Click the image below to see the full debate, covering public education, health care, water issues, taxes and more.