Daily Digest: Aug. 7

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


Public Education and the Rainy Day Fund:

One state lawmaker wants to let voters decide whether to pump more money into public schools. It would mean tapping the state’s rainy day fund, but only if that account is more than $10 billion.

House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, is pushing the measure this special session. Voters would need to approve the funding method through a constitutional amendment, which lawmakers also have to approve.

Supporters of Huberty’s measure say diverting money from the rainy day fund could help fund the state’s cash-strapped education system and that voters would get on board.  

“I’ve been working on education reform for 14 years, and nobody seems to want to do it,” Huberty told appropriations committee members Monday. “And sooner or later you’ve got to have the will. You have to be able to want to do this and take all the political ramifications out.”

The resolution was left pending in that committee today.

But even if the measure passes the House, its chances of passing the Senate are slim

Watch Capital Tonight at 7pm for more on the proposal and reaction from Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor.  


San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg:

This special legislative session lawmakers have been repeatedly taking aim at local governments. That’s prompted mayors to request meetings with Governor Abbott.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg got his time with the governor Monday. Nirenberg said he spoke with Abbott for about an hour and pushed back on a measure that would require voters approve property tax rate increases over a certain percentage.

“If there was one take-away, it was the fact that ‘don’t mess with Texas,'” Nirenberg told Capital Tonight. “The strength of our state is built on a rapidly urbanizing community that is located in our cities.”

Nirenberg is also against a bill that would regulate which restrooms transgender Texans can use. He urged lawmakers to listen to the people closest to the issues up for debate.

“What the state needs to do, what politicians at the state need to do is listen to the experts. When it comes to law enforcement issues, let’s listen to law enforcement experts. When it comes to issues regarding our economy, let’s be sure to listen to economists and people who are creating jobs, business owners,” Nirenberg said. “That’s not what the folks up here in the isolated area of the capitol have done with this special session agenda.”

Watch our full one on one interview with Mayor Nirenberg at 7pm.


Former Gov. Mark White Funeral Details:

A funeral for former Texas Governor Mark White will be held Wednesday in Houston. White died over the weekend at the age of 77 after fighting kidney cancer.

Gov. Abbott’s office announced Monday White will then lie in state Thursday afternoon at the Capitol. Burial will follow at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, with a private ceremony for White’s family.

White was a Democrat who served as Texas governor from 1983 to 1987. He championed public education reforms, including the landmark “no-pass, no play” policy for high school athletes.

Other measures approved during his single term included pay raises and competency tests for teachers.

“Like his predecessor John Connally, he had a vision that Texas was going to be more than just a backwater state and that the cornerstone of being a significant player on the world stage was education and so he put an enormous amount of political capital into education,” the Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg said.

White was defeated by Bill Clements in 1986 and returned to private life before running for governor again in 1990, losing in the Democratic primary to Ann Richards.


President Trump’s 200th Day in Office:

President Donald Trump is marking his 200th day in office today and promising on Twitter that he’ll be “working hard” from his private golf club in New Jersey. We’ll have the latest on the President’s agenda and the speculation swirling around possible shadow campaigns taking shape for 2020.


Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock:

Scott Braddock will also be in to discuss the 10 days left in the legislative special session. Hear his take on leadership, strategy and what passes of the 20 special session items.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm on Spectrum News.


Posted by Karina Kling


Daily Digest: Aug. 4

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


School Finance Reform:

A plan to pump $1.8 billion into Texas’ public schools has again been approved. Friday, the Texas House initially okayed a sweeping proposal to begin overhauling the state’s troubled school finance system.

The measure would increase per-pupil funding while offering extra money for school transportation and educating dyslexic students.

House members approved a similar bill during the regular legislative session. But it died after the Senate attached a private school voucher plan to it.

The measure still faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has referred to the House plan as a “Ponzi scheme,” saying it relies on state budget tricks.


Medicaid Cuts:

The Texas House gave final approval Friday to a measure that would partially reverse a controversial cut to therapy services for disabled children. But Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, first tried to add an amendment that would have funded the measure with money from the Rainy Day Fund instead of the Disaster Relief Fund. It failed. The bill now heads to the Texas Senate.


Reporter Roundtable:

We’ll be joined by Lauren McGaughy of the Dallas Morning News and Jay Root of the Texas Tribune to discuss the past week in Texas politics.


Washington Latest:

The Department of Justice is cracking down on leaks. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says department and intelligence leaks are hurting national security. The announcement comes after classified information involving the Trump Administration and White House was reported nationwide.

“We will investigate and continue to bring criminals to justice, we will not allow rogue anonymous sources to sell out our country,” Sessions said.

The president has spoken out the against leaks and complained that Sessions has not been tough enough.

Sessions says the department is now reviewing guidelines related to subpoenas of journalists.


Watch for the latest on these stories and more on Capital Tonight at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: Aug. 3

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


House Approves Reversing Medicaid Therapy Rate Cuts:

The Texas House gave unanimous approval to a proposal that would partially reverse controversial cuts to therapy services for disabled Texas children. It’s not on the special session call, but lawmakers are urging Gov. Greg Abbott to add it. We’ll have the latest on how House members are pushing it forward and we’ll be joined by Rachel Hammon, executive director of the Texas Association for Home Care and Hospice.


Bathroom Bill Battle Continues:

The so-called bathroom bill remains stalled in the Texas House. So supporters of it gathered at the Capitol today to urge a vote. But opponents were also there pushing back.

Pastors and other supporters want the House to vote on a version of the so-called bathroom bill which would limit which restroom transgender people can use. Their argument throughout the debate is that it will keep sexual predators from entering bathrooms. Today, some also said it’s about upholding their faith and morals.

“We don’t have the latitude to make up our own value system,” Dave Welch with the Texas Pastor Council, said. “We are compelled to go by the one who created us and gave us his order.”

But also in the Capitol today, LGBT rights groups held a listening session with transgender Texans urging lawmakers to let the bill die.

“This bill would inflict real harm on more than 14,000 transgender youth across the state of Texas,” Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign President, said.

Coming up on Capital Tonight at 7, the nation’s largest LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organization says it’s seen an increase in transgender people calling in to suicide hotlines. Hear why groups are worried it could be a sign of what’s to come if the bathroom bill passes.


Ethics Reform:

A bipartisan group of lawmakers are trying to get Gov. Abbott to add ethics reform legislation to the special session call. He says he’ll consider it if they pass his 20 priority items.

But lawmakers aren’t the only ones calling on the Governor to expand the call. Adrian Shelley and Carol Birch of the government watchdog group Public Citizen join us to explain.


Cornyn Border bill:

President Trump may now have an important ally in his quest to build a border wall, Texas Senator and Majority Whip John Cornyn. Cornyn unveiled a bill today that would invest 15 billion dollars over four years in border security. That includes paying for the president’s long-promised wall… and adding thousands more Border Patrol agents.

Republicans can’t do it alone though. This bill requires 60 votes to avoid the filibuster, so that means eight Democrats would have to support it.

Cornyn says the strength of his bill is — it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution — and it can solve multiple problems.

“The idea of physical infrastructure along the border is not a new concept, and in fact, Hidalgo County, Texas, where this levee wall system exists is a dual-use tool to provide border patrol to tactical infrastructure they need and to allow local communities to get the flood control that they want,” Cornyn said.

The bill contains two controversial measures. It would require undocumented minors to be screened quickly so they can more immediately be sent back to their home country.

The bill would also punish sanctuary cities by taking away federal funds.


Join us for these stories and more on Capital Tonight at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: July 25

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


Bathroom Bill:

It’s considered the most controversial item on the special session agenda, and today, the Texas Senate has been debating the so-called “bathroom bill” for hours. The measure would limit where transgender people can use the restroom in the state. 

Democrats tried to derail the bill before debate even began. Sen. Kirk Watson. D-Austin, raised a point of order, arguing the bill isn’t relevant to the special session call. That’s because this version of the bathroom bill has a provision keeping gender separation in sports. 

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick eventually overturned the point of order, which was upheld by a Senate vote, and debate on the bill carried on. 

Many of the arguments today are similar to the ones discussed during the regular session. Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and other supporters say it’s meant to protect against voyeurism and sexual predators — ensuring people use the restroom on their birth certificate. 

“it is about the privacy and protection of our small children and our young girls and women,” Kolkhorst said during debate.

But opponents say it could lead to violence against transgender people and could “out” transgender school children.

“We are proposing a measure here that would allow schools to cause bullying,” Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said.  

The issue has brought hundreds to the Capitol to speak out against it. Today that growing group included police officers. Hear why many law enforcement officials say this bill won’t make Texans safer tonight at 7.


House Passes Sunset Bill:

The Texas House has given final approval to an agency oversight bill that forced lawmakers into overtime. It extends the lives of the Texas Medical Board and other agencies that were set to expire in September if lawmakers didn’t act.

The Senate quickly passed its own version during a late-night session last week.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick let the typically routine bill die during the regular session in order to force the governor to call lawmakers back to tackle a host of conservative priorities.


Medicaid Therapy Rate Cuts:

A House panel voted unanimously today to restore funding to the Medicaid therapy rate cuts that went into effect in December. In 2015, lawmakers voted to slash $350 million to Medicaid children’s therapy services. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, vowed to restore the cuts during the regular session but efforts with the Senate failed. Lawmakers decided to mostly maintain the cuts.

So, House members have revived the debate and are trying to reverse the cuts yet again. It’s a long shot, since it’s not on Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20-item special session agenda.

Still, parents of affected children are hopeful. Hear from them at 7pm.


School Finance:

A plan to pump nearly two billion dollars into Texas public schools has been approved by a House panel. A big part of the bill would increase per-student funding by about $200. That would help reduce recapture payments that property-wealthy school districts pay to the state – to be redistributed to property poor ones. House members tried to pass a similar measure in the regular session — but the proposal died after the Senate tacked on a voucher amendment to the bill.

At 7, House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty joins us to discuss the legislation, the House’s continued opposition to vouchers and what he thinks will actually pass this special session.


Repealing Obamacare:

Sen. John McCain got a standing ovation before casting a key health care vote. He voted to move ahead on repealing the Obama health law.

McCain’s battling brain cancer and returned to the Capitol for the first time since his diagnosis.

Our Washington reporter will have the latest on the health care vote and what comes next.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling



Daily Digest: July 24

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 Set to Pass Slew of Bills:

After a whirlwind weekend of committee hearings, the Texas Senate is now trying to pass measures approved by the committees in order to quickly send them to the House. Sixteen bills are set to be heard on the Senate floor Monday. A measure to extend the work of the state’s Task Force on Maternal Mortality has already been initially approved by the full chamber. Senators are also set to debate school finance and choice issues, a bill to limit where transgender Texans can use the restroom and property tax reform, to name a few. Check out the full list here. Our Max Gorden is following the Senate proceedings and will have the latest on what happened tonight at 7pm.


House Action:

Meanwhile, the lower chamber took up and passed one of two sunset bills that would extend the lives of several agencies set to expire in September. After that, the House Public Education Committee is meeting to tackle school finance legislation. Our Jeff Stensland is following the House.


Teacher Retirement Benefits:

Retired teachers are hoping for some health care help during the special session. Legislation making its way through the Texas Senate would pump $212 million into the state-run health insurance system for retired teachers.

It would be paid for by delaying payments to health care companies that provide Medicaid through a privatized system. But even with the one-time additional money, the system will see a significant shortfall in the coming years. Tim Lee, executive director of the Texas Retired Teachers Association, joins us at 7pm to discuss the importance of the additional dollars and the continued concern over the projected shortfall for the future.


On the Agenda:

The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg will also be in with his take on how the special session is going so far, including the politics at play.


Join us tonight at 7 for the latest on these stories and more.

Capital Tonight airs weeknights on Spectrum News.


Posted by Karina Kling


Daily Digest: July 21

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


As promised, the Texas Senate is quickly getting to work to pass Gov. Greg Abbott’s 20 special session agenda items. Three different committees are meeting today. You can keep up with all the action here.


Bathroom Bill Hearing:

Hundreds have signed up to testify on the so-called “bathroom bill.” The measure would require transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate. Similar measures failed during the regular session. LGBT rights groups and businesses have come out against it citing discrimination and economic losses. Despite such opposition, the Republican-led committee wants to approve the bill as soon as possible so the full Senate can pass it next week.

Follow @Max_Gorden for updates throughout the day.


School Choice/Finance Hearing:

The Education Committee is discussing a bill that would offer taxpayer-funded vouchers for some special education students to leave public schools for private ones. Opponents are concerned that will open the door to broader voucher plans. But supporters say it’s about giving parents a choice and would only affect about 30,000 students. The Senate has tried to pass a voucher proposal for years but the House has overwhelmingly objected. House Democrats and rural Republicans say it would hurt traditional public schools.

The Senate committee is also considering other school finance legislation.


Abortion/Maternal Mortality Hearing:

The Health and Human Services Committee is considering a number of anti-abortion related measures. Senators are also discussing maternal mortality and patient protections regarding do-not-resuscitate orders.


Reporter Roundtable:

Bob Garrett of the Dallas Morning News, Peggy Fikac with the San Antonio Express-News and the Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock will join Karina Kling to discuss the Governor’s ambitious 20-item call, the pace of both chambers so far and the divide between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus.


PolitiFact Texas:

Gardner Selby of PolitiFact Texas will also be in to fact check Republican Congressman Pete Olson and Speaker Straus.


Join us at 7pm for the latest on all of these stories.


Posted by Karina Kling







Daily Digest: July 20 – 1on1 w/ Gov. Abbott

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


1on1 with Gov. Abbott:

Gov. Abbott told our Karina Kling that “believe it or not,” he thinks a lot will be passed in the special session. The governor has opened up the call for lawmakers to tackle 20 items he chose. He thinks both chambers are moving at a good pace.

“If you look at the pace of both the House and the Senate, and they are moving very rapidly looks like. The members of both chambers are treating this seriously, very aggressively. I think they really want to take care of business,” Abbott said.

He also thinks things will be different this time around on vouchers because it focuses solely on special needs children.

When it comes to calling lawmakers back for extra innings, here’s what the Governor had to say:


“Listen, we’re just starting. Can’t be talking as if the game is over. No UT Longhorn starts thinking about what’s going to happen next season before this season even begins.”


Watch the full interview with Gov. Abbott, including his take on bathroom legislation, vouchers, school finance reform and his ‘list’ at 7pm.


School Finance Reform:

Gov. Abbott also added school finance and increases to retired teacher benefits to the call early this morning.

This is widely seen as a nod to the House, where school finance legislation passed during the regular session. That bill died after the Senate tacked on a school voucher provision for students with special needs.

Several lawmakers filed school finance bills once the expanded call was announced. The proposals aim to send more state money to Texas schools.

Education advocates say the Governor’s move to tackle these items during the special session sends the message that he’s serious about improving education in Texas and improving the lives of educators.

They also say taking on school finance reform could be key to solving a separate item on the special session agenda.

“If lawmakers are serious about addressing rising local property taxes, school finance has to be the first place we look to fix that issue,” Mark Wiggins with the Association of Texas Professional Educators said.

Coming up at 7, hear from retired teachers on the possibility of increased benefits.


Abortion Rights Groups Sue Texas Again:

The state is once again being sued over abortion — one year after its loss at the nation’s highest court.

Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups filed a lawsuit today over a new ban on a common second-trimester abortion procedure…known as dilation and evacuation.

They’re asking a federal judge in Austin to block the new law — which goes into effect September first.

Similar laws are in effect in Mississippi and West Virginia — but have been blocked by court rulings in four other states.

The lawsuit comes one year after the US Supreme Court struck down Texas’ sweeping anti-abortion measures that prompted more than half of the states abortion clinics to close.


Property Tax Reform Panel:

Lawmakers are readying for another debate over property tax reforms during the special session. Specifically, whether to block cities and counties from raising the average tax rate above four percent unless voters agree to it.

Currently, it’s at 8 percent.

Our panel with the Texas Municipal League’s Bennett Sandlin and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Robert Henneke will discuss their opposition and support of such legislation.


Daily Digest: July 19

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 Passes Sunset Bills:

It’s the main reason lawmakers are back in Austin for a special session and today, the Texas Senate approved so-called sunset legislation.

The measures are needed to keep five state agencies open, including the Texas Medical Board. The Senate quickly gave its initial approval to two bills — one to extend the agencies and one to fund them.

Senators approved keeping the agencies in question open for another two years. While there was little debate on the floor, some Senators have criticized the legislation saying it’s only kicking the can down the road, leaving lawmakers to deal with the issue again in the next two years.

But the bill passed the Senate’s initial vote unanimously and Senators will continue their fast pace to take a final vote at 12:01 a.m.

“This is a great opportunity. Getting this bill done today really gives us, opens the gate now for the other bills, the other call items, to come in from the Governor,” Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, said.

And what about those 19 other items? Coming up at 7 on Capital Tonight, we’ll take the pulse of the legislature to see which proposals lawmakers think have a shot at passing.


Political Analysts:

Republican State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, joins Democrat Harold Cook to discuss the special session, the Governor’s list and what items they think will get approved in the next 30 days.


Health Care Latest:

We’ll get to the latest out of Washington where President Trump today told Republican senators, “inaction is not an option on health care.”

Our Washington, DC reporter, Alberto Pimienta, will have the latest.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling




Daily Digest: July 18 – Special Session Day 1

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’s Special Session Fast-Track Strategy:

The Senate suspended decades-old rules Tuesday to get a sunset bill moving right along.  That move by Republicans upset Democrats who say it gives the public virtually no notice. On Capital Tonight at 7pm, we’ll discuss how that strategy is likely to remain all special session long.


House Talks Quorum Break:

Over in the lower chamber, a Republican called attention to a measure he wants passed to provide penalties if members break quorum. There’s been rumors that Democrats might do so. Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, has authored a measure to penalize any lawmaker who skips town. Hear from him at 7pm.


Lawmaker Panel:

We’ll also be joined by State Rep. Jason Villalba, R-Dallas, Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler and Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie to get their take on the next 30 days.


DNC Chair Tom Perez:

The chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, was in Austin Tuesday and stopped by the studio to talk Resistance Summer and what the national party is doing to help Texas Democrats become more competitive. Hear his full interview at 7pm.


Capital Tonight airs weeknights at 7pm.


Posted by Karina Kling






Special Session Underway: Senate Moves Quickly, House Talks Quorum Breaks

They’re back…


Day one of Texas’ Special Legislative Session has begun and key fights over rules and quorum breaks are already in the works for what’s expected to be a contentious 30 days.



First and foremost – lawmakers need to pass a so-called sunset bill. That’s the main reason they’re back. The legislation is needed to keep some critical state agencies open, like the Texas Medical Board.



The Senate is already getting to work on the measure. But the upper chamber’s quick move to take up the bill got pushback from Senate Democrats because Republicans suspended rules to hear it on day one.

Democrats said it gives the public virtually no notice.

“I have been in the Senate 30 years. I do not recall the tag rule ever being suspended,” said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.



Over on the House side, a Republican called attention to a measure he wants passed to provide penalties if members break quorum. There’s been rumors that Democrats might not show up.


Gov. Greg Abbott has put 20 items on the special session agenda he wants lawmakers to tackle. Those include a private school voucher proposal for special needs students, a so-called bathroom bill and property tax reform.



Abbott sets the agenda in the special session. But that didn’t stop Democrats from holding a press conference after the House adjourned for the day to discuss repealing a bill passed during the regular season. 

Democrats want the anti-sanctuary bill, SB 4, to go away.

It require local law enforcement officials to honor federal immigration detainer requests and gives officers expanded power to inquire about immigration status 



“We know law enforcement has said it’s going to make our communities less safe,” Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, said. “We know that there are going to be negative impacts in terms of creating fear in immigrant communities. We know that there is already fear in many of the communities that we represent.” 



Join us at 7pm for a full recap of day one of the special session, including a panel discussion with Reps. Jason Villalba, Matt Schaefer and Chris Turner.


Posted by Karina Kling