Thursday, April 30, 2015

Watch members of the Texas House and Senate debate legislation using our livestream, courtesy of the Texas Legislature....

Posted by Texas Tribune on Thursday, April 30, 2015

"This program has destroyed my life and career," said Joseph Yeno of Tyler.Eva Hershaw reports.

Posted by Texas Tribune on Thursday, April 30, 2015


It just got even harder for women in Louisiana to access abortion care.

Posted by NARAL Pro-Choice America on Thursday, April 30, 2015

Women deserve to have their birth control fully covered by health insurance, just like any other basic health care. That's why the ACA has the birth control benefit in the first place.

Posted by Cecile Richards on Thursday, April 30, 2015

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A house panel grudgingly accepts the Senate plan to give public schools letter grades, but reduces the role student assessments play in setting them.Morgan Smith reports:

Posted by Texas Tribune on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

House Moves to End High-Stakes Writing Tests

The Texas House Wednesday moved a step closer to getting rid of writing exams that are tripping up many high school students.

Writing is included in English exams given to Texas public school students at the end of fourth and seventh grades. To graduate from high school, they also must pass state exams in English I and II, both including a writing component. Critics say the tests are overly burdensome and prevent too many students from graduating.

House Bill 1164 by state Rep. Gary VanDeaver, R-Clarksville, which tentatively passed the House on a voice vote Wednesday, removes the writing portion of those exams.  

Under VanDeaver’s measure, students' writing ability would still be tested in the same years, but school districts would be given authority to create their own method of assessment. Students that don’t perform well enough on the new tests wouldn’t be able to graduate.

Legislation passed in 2013 combined the end-of-course reading and writing assessments — previously two separate four-hour tests — into one five-hour mega-exam.  The writing assessment has tripped up the largest share of the 28,000 students in Texas who aren’t on track to graduate because they failed one or more state exam, according to data from the House Research Organization.

Proponents of HB 1164 say the new system would allow students’ writing ability to be judged by a teacher who has seen their work over the course of a full year, instead of a state testing contractor with limited time to grade a number of essays.

School districts would collect aggregate test results for the entire district and individual schools and post them online. The bill's fiscal note says the new system, which would take effect with the 2016-2017 academic year, would save the state more than $30 million dollars by mid-2017.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Hispanic Christians Highlight GOP Immigration Dilemma

HOUSTON — As far as recent forums featuring Republican White House hopefuls go, Wednesday's meeting of Hispanic evangelicals here was a bit unusual. Its host is an ardent supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, a dirty phrase to many GOP primary voters. And the two potential candidates who spoke did little to back away from views on immigration that have gotten them in trouble with that conservative wing of their party.

The gathering of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference put on vivid display the disparate audiences some Republicans are speaking to on immigration as they try to pave a path to the White House. In one corner are the conservative activists in places like Iowa and South Carolina who lustily applaud as GOP speakers denounce "amnesty" on the stump. In the other corner are those who filled the ballroom here, conservative-leaning voters for whom the immigration issue strikes closer to home than it does for the average Hawkeye State powerbroker.

Samuel Rodriguez, the fiery reverend who heads the NCHLC, vowed not to let any presidential candidate off the hook. “We will press them on immigration. I will press them on immigration — I can guarantee you that," Rodriguez told reporters. “I want a presidential hopeful on the GOP side who’ll say, ‘Listen, if I’m elected president, I guarantee you I will sit down with Congress, and we will pass comprehensive immigration reform that will secure the border. It will not be amnesty, but it will provide a pathway for integration to the millions that are currently here undocumented because we are pro-faith, we are pro-family and we do not believe in separating families.' Period."

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose immigration position is considered one of his biggest liabilities among Republican primary voters, addressed the issue head-on Wednesday — to the point of overshadowing the education-reform message on which his speech was centered. He unapologetically affirmed his support for a pathway to legal status for the millions of people in the country of illegally, stressing they have to earn it.

"This country does not do well when people lurk in the shadows," Bush said. "This country does spectacularly well when everybody can pursue their God-given abilities."

The bilingual Bush worked hard to connect with the audience of hundreds of Hispanic evangelicals, not letting them forget his wife's Mexican roots and occasionally breaking into asides in Spanish that impressed at least one attendee.

"This guy's talking from the inside," said Enrique Pinedo, a reverend from Florida who caught Bush's speech. Pinedo added his former governor could have been more detailed on immigration, but he cut Bush some slack, recognizing the political reality he faces. "I know that he's in the Republican Party."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is expected to announce next week whether he is running for president, addressed the conference Wednesday evening and only glossed over the hot-button issue, opting for an emphasis on religious freedom that Rodriguez predicted would come more naturally to Republicans.

"This country has been a magnet for people throughout the ages," Huckabee said, putting a positive spin on a word frequently used by the GOP's fiercest critics of immigration reform. "There's so many arguments about immigration policy — arguments about who should come and when and how.

"There's no time to argue all of those," he added before repeating a well-honed line from his stump speech, drawing loud applause. Americans should "get on our knees and thank God that we live in a country that people are trying to get into, not a country they're trying to get out of."

Huckabee has called a pathway to citizenship a "rational approach" to immigration reform, though he was much more reluctant to re-endorse the idea Wednesday. He told reporters that dealing with the millions of people in the country illegally is somewhat of an "unnecessary controversy" unless Americans are confident the border is secure.

Still, Huckabee made no bones about the political thorniness of immigration, volunteering that he has long taken heat for championing legislation in Arkansas that let undocumented immigrants qualify for in-state tuition. And he acknowledged his party is not unified on the issue as it barrels toward the 2016 presidential election. "I don't think there's a consensus," Huckabee said.

Rodriguez is hoping to fill that void and was unambiguous throughout the conference about holding Republicans' feet to the fire. The NHCLC counts more than 40,000 churches among its members and tends to line up with the GOP on social issues but sees immigration somewhat differently.

When it comes to reaching Hispanic evangelicals, Rodriguez said it will be much easier for Republicans to emphasize religious freedom rather than flesh out their views on the touchier subject of immigration.

In policy papers distributed to reporters, the NHCLC said it "reluctantly supported" President Barack Obama's executive action last year shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, preferring a congressional solution to a unilateral move. A number of White House hopefuls including Bush have said they would reverse Obama's executive action if elected.

Critics have nonetheless slapped the NHCLC with the label of "pro-amnesty," and organizations that have hardline positions on immigration reform view it with a skeptical eye.

"This is a group that has been pushing for mass immigration for a long time," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Mehlman, like others skeptical of the NHCLC, contended some groups who purport to have the best interests of Hispanics in mind are driven by a business lobby looking for cheap labor. "They're trying to influence the Republican Party — it's not entirely a grassroots movement."

Part of the NHCLC's efforts to influence the presidential conversation include a pledge it would like the candidates to sign that hints at a pathway to citizenship. Asked if he would sign the pledge, Huckabee told a reporter Wednesday he had not yet seen it.

"I'll happily read it, get to know it and give you an answer on that," Huckabee replied as Rodriguez, seated beside the might-be presidential candidate, nodded along enthusiastically.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Coerced Abortion Bill Sent Back for Rewrite

The craftsmanship of a bill authored by state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, intended to prevent women from being coerced into having abortions was met with skepticism on Wednesday by the chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, who suggested the freshman lawmaker get some "real legal folks" to help draft a better measure.

White’s House Bill 1648, which came before the committee, would make it a crime to coerce or force women to have abortions, and create a 72-hour waiting period for women who indicate they are being coerced or forced. But state affairs Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, left the measure pending after other lawmakers and some anti-abortion advocates raised concerns about the details of the bill.

“This committee has passed out a number of landmark pieces of legislation in this area, and the one thing I think we’ve learned is they have to be extremely well-crafted,” Cook said in a directive for White to beef up the bill’s language so it can withstand additional scrutiny and possible legal challenges. “My suggestion is that you get some real legal folks to help engage on this, so if you can keep this moving forward you can potentially have the success others have had.”

Cook’s remarks came after Republican state Rep. Dan Huberty of Houston, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops and Texas Alliance for Life — all of whom supported the premise of the bill — raised concerns about the unintended consequences of the legislation.

Most were rooted in the bill’s 72-hour waiting period for women who say they are being coerced into seeking the procedure. The state already imposes a 24-hour waiting period on all women seeking an abortion.

Huberty said he wanted more specifics in the bill about when women are asked about coercion in order to trigger the waiting period, while the two other groups questioned the extended waiting period altogether.

White told the committee she intended to rewrite the bill to reduce the waiting period to 48 hours and allow victims of human trafficking to opt-out of the extended waiting period.

But representatives for the two anti-abortion groups said they’d prefer for the waiting period to be uniform for all women, fearing that extended waiting periods could endanger women by tipping off their coercers.

Alliance for Life’s concerns about the bill highlighted ongoing tension between the state’s two most prominent anti-abortion groups. Texas Right to Life endorsed White’s measure, including the extended waiting period.

When Cook questioned John Seago, a Texas Right to Life lobbyist, about whether he feared the waiting period would put women at risk, Seago responded that he didn’t understand that argument.

Questions were also raised about the definition of coercion used in the bill, indicating that the bill defined coercion within the scope of bribery and not abortion.

White, who said she was coerced into having an abortion and wanted to prevent other women from suffering similar ordeals, vowed to address those concerns and make the fixes in a substitute bill that would be provided to the committee.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

The chronic overcrowding led to another problem: Animal Services did not respond to 29 percent of high-priority calls...

Posted by Austin American-Statesman on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made an impassioned appeal in Houston Wednesday to the Hispanic evangelicals whose support...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Lawmakers from both chambers gathered Wednesday to lend support to a range of bills that would limit the loan size and...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reaction to the Texas State student’s performance art project ranged from supportive to critical.

Posted by Texas Monthly on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

#MISSING Have you seen Matthew Ramirez?Matthew was last seen on April 17, 2015 in #Austin, #Texas.He may still be in...

Posted by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Texas conspiracy theorists are convinced: the Obama administration, the military, and Wal-Mart are planning to impose "...

Posted by The Rachel Maddow Show on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Texas’ governor just told the State Guard to keep an eye on the U.S. military.""With 34 days until fish-or-cut-bait time on June 1, the Legislature doesn’t have both oars in the water." #txlege

Posted by Texas Organizing Project on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Texas health officials recently changed doctor reimbursement rates to make it easier for low-income women to obtain...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Wednesday, a Texas House panel will hear Republican Rep. Ron Simmons' proposal that critics say would further...

Posted by Texas Women's Coalition on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gov. Abbott said he wants to make sure Jade Helm 15 doesn't risk anyone's safety or infringe on their constitutional, property or civil rights.

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Senate approved the ethics measure, Senate Bill 19, with a 30-1 vote after an hours-long debate. The amendment with the drug testing rule was approved 22-9. The measure now goes to the House.

Posted by Texas Women's Coalition on Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Texas’ voter ID law will receive a fresh round of legal scrutiny in New Orleans on Tuesday as attorneys argue whether...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Texas House Committee on Public Health heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would allow marijuana-based oils to treat severely epileptic children.

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bring Back Our Girls protest brings Houston-area Nigerian Americ - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Bring Back Our Girls protest brings Houston-area Nigerian Americ - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Why are more women dying from childbirth in the U.S. than in Saudi Arabia or the UK?

Why are more women dying from childbirth in the U.S. than in Saudi Arabia or the UK?

"I would tell them how unrealistic it is to document every time you help a child when you have a hundred of them, and how this results in so many teachers passing students who should be failing."

Posted by MindShift on Monday, April 27, 2015

No one is exempt from jury duty in Texas, not even the governor. Today, Governor Greg Abbott reported to a Travis County...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Monday, April 27, 2015

Dalea Lugo Political Blogger :: Transgender Texans bring concerns to the Capitol k...

Dalea Lugo Political Blogger :: Transgender Texans bring concerns to the Capitol k...: Transgender Texans seek understanding in light of so-called "bathroom bills." The proposed bills would make it a crime... Posted b...

Transgender Texans bring concerns to the Capitol kvue

Transgender Texans seek understanding in light of so-called "bathroom bills." The proposed bills would make it a crime...

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

If the Texas Legislature has to come back for special sessions after its current session ends, it might not be because...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Monday, April 27, 2015

Leadership like this hurts our state. Republican Donna Campbell's preoccupation with fringe issues, like...

Posted by Texas Democratic Party on Monday, April 27, 2015

Small-“d” democracy should guide both the Supreme Court and the Texas Legislature in this matter.Texas voters deserve a...

Posted by Texas Women's Coalition on Monday, April 27, 2015

"I needed to be present at the Capitol as I went through my physical transition — to be seen, to be available to answer...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Monday, April 27, 2015

A Conversation With HUD Secretary Julián Castro

Wining and Dining Disclosure Bills Advance

Legislation that would shed light on the rampant wining and dining of state lawmakers by lobbyists, once stuck in a Senate committee, suddenly came unstuck Monday. 

The author of the two bills, Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, had complained that he was beginning to hear the “death rattle” on Senate Bills 585 and 586 after they sat bottled up for several weeks in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

But he got a public hearing on Monday, and the committee voted the bills out unanimously. 

“I’m real gratified,” Watson said. “It continues to move this conversation that needs to happen and is part of the governor’s goals for the session.” Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has said he wants to "dedicate this session to ethics reform." 

Watson's bills would close a loophole that has made a mockery of the 1990s era law that was supposed to require lobbyists to report the names of the lawmakers they’re showering with drinks and taking to fancy dinners. Technically, under current law, a lobbyist who spends more than $114 on any one state official has to report the name of the person who's being entertained with food and drink.

But the law allows lobbyists to team up so each keeps his or her share of the tab below the disclosure trigger. Now a tiny percentage — less than 5 percent at last count — of the entertainment ever appears on detailed lobbyist spending reports. 

In the Texas House, meanwhile, lawmakers passed on a voice vote a bill designed to tighten ethical guidelines and increase transparency in local government contracting.

The legislation, House Bill 23, would require enhanced disclosure for local government employees who get wined and dined by contractors and for the first time would extend disclosure requirements to close family members.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Video: Gov. Greg Abbott Reports for Jury Duty

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Health Agency Mergers Get House Look

The state’s massive health and human services system would be partially consolidated under a bill heard by the House Human Services Committee on Monday evening. 

Under House Bill 2304 by Four Price, R-Amarillo, three of the state’s five health and human services agencies — the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of Aging and Disability Services and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services — would be merged into one “mega-agency” next year.

A recommendation to also consolidate the two other agencies — the Department of State Health Services and the Department of Family and Protective Services — would be left to a committee of four senators, four House members and three public citizens.

That proposal takes a more “graduated approach” to restructuring the agencies, said Price, who stressed that the current agency structure means that “services are fragmented across the system.”

The bill is expected to eventually pass the committee. Its Senate companion, SB 200, passed the full Senate earlier this month.

HB 2304 comes amid controversy at the Health and Human Services Commission over how the agency awarded a $20 million contract to a private company outside of the competitive bidding process.

Kyle Janek, head of the embattled agency, answered questions from lawmakers about how contracting and procurement would work at the newly organized agency, saying administrative consolidation would improve contract oversight.

“Many of the difficulties that we’ve had are because of the fact that we’re not yet complete in that,” he said.

Still, concerns about the new agency structure remain. Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities, wrote Monday that the group would testify about its many concerns with the bill, including “the redirection of agency talent from programs and services to re-structuring” and “the dilution of expertise when agency advisory councils are merged into a single body.”

The bill has gone through several rounds of changes since it was filed this year — a chain of events started last year when the Sunset Advisory Commission recommended that all five agencies be consolidated in the hopes of making them more efficient.

But as the scandal developed at the health commission, lawmakers slowed down their approach to the ambitious recommendations amid enhanced scrutiny of the executive management of the Health and Human Services Commission.

Price said “the brakes have been tapped significantly” on consolidation after two reports published this year — one commissioned by Gov. Greg Abbott, and the other by the state auditor’s office — found the Health and Human Service Commission’s management had made serious missteps in its handling of a private contract for fraud detection software.

“It is now more clear than ever that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has been riddled with operational, managerial, structural and procedural problems that go far beyond any individual or contract,” Abbott said in a statement at the time. “That is unacceptable.”

The five agencies within the HHSC system have about 54,000 employees and a budget of about $34.5 billion, according to the Sunset Advisory Commission.

HB 2304 could see significant changes as it continues along the legislative process. Last week, Price pulled a separate Sunset bill that would reorganize services at DSHS, the state’s public health agency, from the House floor after debate over the bill morphed into a debate over abortion regulations.

The bill is expected to be left pending in committee.

Disclosure: The Center for Public Policy Priorities is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Lawmakers Look to Ban Abortion From Health Plans

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect the committee vote.

Health insurers could be prohibited from offering Texans plans covering abortions under a proposal by Republican state Sen. Larry Taylor of Friendswood that passed a Senate committee Monday.

Under Senate Bill 575, private health insurance plans and those offered through the federal Affordable Care Act’s marketplace could only provide coverage for abortions in cases of medical emergencies. Women seeking coverage for what Taylor calls “elective” abortions would be required to purchase supplemental health insurance plans.

“This bill is not a ban on elective abortions. In fact, this bill is all about choice,” Taylor told the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday as it considered his proposal.

The bill intends to keep premiums being paid to an insurance provider from underwriting abortion coverage, Taylor said. “Under this bill, you can choose to pay for abortions or you can choose not to pay for the abortions of others,” Taylor added.

Ten states now prohibit all health plans from covering abortion, and 15 prohibit abortion coverage on federal marketplace plans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Texas currently allows health plans to offer abortion coverage. 

Under the federal reform law, states can set their own rules for abortion coverage on insurance plans sold through the federal marketplace. In states where abortion coverage is permitted on marketplace plans, the insurance providers must separate funds that go toward abortion coverage from money that consumers pay for other medical care.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat from Laredo, said she had heard concerns that requiring women to purchase supplemental plans could lead to high premium rates and questioned whether “the practical effect of this bill would make abortion uninsurable.”

Without insurance coverage for abortions, opponents of Taylor’s bill said they also worried women may seek cheap and unsafe abortion methods and providers.

“We believe every woman should be able to make the personal decision she thinks is best for her and her family and privately purchase the insurance plan that is best for her and her family,” said Ana Rodriguez DeFrates, state policy and advocacy director for the Texas Latina Advocacy Network.

She added that the measure does not provide exceptions for rape, incest and severe fetal abnormalities.

Lawmakers in the House are considering a similar proposal by state Rep. Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, that would ban abortion coverage from federal marketplace health insurance plans. The House State Affairs Committee considered the measure earlier this month and has not voted on it.

Some anti-abortion advocates have said Farney’s measure doesn’t go far enough.

During the Senate hearing, supporters of Taylor’s measure told the committee that it would better protect Texans who oppose abortion from subsidizing the procedure for others by banning it in all health plans.

Elizabeth Graham, director of the anti-abortion Texas Right to Life, added that insurance is not necessary to pay for the procedure because abortion providers often offer payment plans to women seeking abortions.

“So no woman goes to a clinic without being able to pay for an abortion,” Graham said.

Taylor’s proposal is among several bills making their way through the Legislature that would further restrict abortion in the state two years after lawmakers passed one of the strictest abortion laws in the country. Texas’ abortion law, also known as House Bill 2, requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of an abortion clinic. It also requires facilities that perform abortions to meet the same hospital-like standards as ambulatory surgical centers, including pipelines for anesthesia and larger hallway sizes.

The passage of HB 2 has led to the closure of dozens of clinics in the state and could leave Texas with fewer than 10 clinics — all in major metropolitan areas — if the abortion law holds up against an ongoing legal challenge.

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Houston Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. said that although officers rarely search a person's vagina or anal cavity,...

Posted by Texas Women's Coalition on Monday, April 27, 2015

Bastrop County residents are questioning the exercise after map for the training exercise shows parts of California and all of Utah and Texas as "hostile territories."

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Monday, April 27, 2015

Cats Doing Cat Stuff…For Adoption!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

AUSTIN, TX – When it comes to marijuana in Texas, one particular group has high hopes of changing the law of the...

Posted by CenTex NORML Women's Alliance Community Outreach on Sunday, April 26, 2015

A total of 750 positions need to be filled. And this year, the city is offering a hiring bonus.

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Sunday, April 26, 2015

A white cross stands at the intersection where two young lives were lost when a drunk driver struck them nine years ago.

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Saturday, April 25, 2015

An ex-Rick Perry staff member is one of three judges who will consider the former governor's appeal to have his felony abuse-of-power charges dismissed.

Posted by Texas Women's Coalition on Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Texas Railroad Commission said Friday it will consider shutting down two wastewater injection wells linked by a...

Posted by Texas Women's Coalition on Sunday, April 26, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Posted by Austin American-Statesman on Saturday, April 25, 2015

Posted by Carl Whitmarsh on Saturday, April 25, 2015

Nearly 200 companies around the state have made the pledge since Texas Competes launched 10 days ago.

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015


All proceeds raised from kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals at the Rowing Dock Saturday will go toward the Stand Up for Children effort.

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Friday, April 24, 2015

A Look at How House, Senate Budgets Compare

As the Texas House and Senate prepare to hash out a compromise on the state budget in the coming weeks, their members will have plenty of issues to resolve.

The House passed a $209.8 billion budget more than three weeks ago after nearly 18 hours of debate. More than a week ago, the Senate passed its own version of the budget, which totals $211.4 billion. This week, the House and the Senate announced who would be serving on a conference committee to resolve differences between the two plans.

Here’s a look at how the two budget proposals compare, using information from the Legislative Budget Board. Included are details on some areas where the plans diverge.

Julián Aguilar, Ryan McCrimmon, Morgan Smith, Alexa Ura, Edgar Walters, Matthew Watkins and Alana Rocha contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Perry, Cruz to Make 2016 Pitch to Jewish Donors

White House hopefuls Ted Cruz and Rick Perry are making a pilgrimage to Las Vegas as the invisible primary for Republican super-donor Sheldon Adelson's millions heats up, and the two Texans are hoping to stand out for their unwavering support of Israel and deep skepticism of President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. 

Cruz and Perry are set to speak back to back Saturday morning at the annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, an opportunity for them to redouble their long-running appeals to some of the most prominent Jewish donors in the country. Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate who sits on the RJC board, is expected to have a front-row seat for most of the confab at his Venetian resort hotel and casino. 

Along with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, Cruz and Perry will address a crowd of nearly 800 people, many of whom have given well above the $1,000 minimum to attend the conference. The four speeches make up the only part of the RJC's three-day confab open to reporters, with other big-name Republicans and their aides making more private overtures to the RJC throughout the weekend. 

Adelson, who with his wife gave more than $92 million to presidential candidates in 2012, is being closely watched as 2016 hopefuls scramble to firm up financial commitments for what will probably be the priciest-ever race for the White House. Adelson's hawkish defense views, especially on the Middle East, mesh with a GOP field prepared for foreign policy to factor prominently into the 2016 race.

Cruz and Perry have been unrelenting in their opposition to the United States' emerging agreement with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions. Cruz was among the original 47 senators who signed a letter to Tehran warning the pact could unravel under a new president, and since then he has said his only regret was not making his signature bigger. If elected, Perry has promised to scrap the agreement as his first act in office. 

RJC spokesman Mark McNulty said donors will not only be listening closely Saturday for how Cruz and Perry plan to stop a nuclear Iran. They also want to hear why the two Texans think they can win the general election, he said. 

"We've lost twice in a row," McNulty said of Republicans. "So everybody wants to know that anybody who we support can make it through and offer their argument against Secretary [Hillary] Clinton." 

In private conversations with Jewish donors, Cruz is making exactly that case — that among his declared and potential rivals, he is both the strongest ally of Israel and the most electable candidate. 

"I think that they're strategic and they're looking for somebody who has the best shot at defeating Hillary and also who's going to be a strong advocate for Israel," said Nick Muzin, a senior adviser to Cruz. "For Senator Cruz, it's not lost on them that he's a young, high-profile senator in the Republican Party who's going to have a role in the party for many years to come."

Cruz has been aggressively courting Jewish donors since he become the first major candidate to declare he is running for president last month. The effort, spearheaded by Muzin, has taken Cruz to moneyed enclaves in California, Florida and New York, where he has gained the support of Holocaust survivor and millionaire philanthropist Sam Domb. Cruz also has the backing of Trudy and Stanley Stern, a Manhattan investment banker who serves as a regional president for the pro-Israel lobby NORPAC.

A Perry spokesman did not respond to requests for comment this week on how the former governor has been reaching out to Jewish donors ahead of a likely 2016 run. But Florence Shapiro, a former state senator who sits on the RJC board, said Perry is a "longtime favorite" of the organization, dating back to his efforts as agriculture commissioner to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Texas.

"I would suggest with Perry, he already has a tremendous amount of backers that are Jewish Republicans," said Shapiro, who is part of a "Texas Leadership Committee" supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. "The idea that he's already got a record, that's already been engaged — that gives him an advantage." 

The conference is providing no shortage of fodder for Democrats who have long ridiculed Republicans as pandering to a single donor, hoping to land his largesse. They are quick to point out Adelson's millions could not save Newt Gingrich's 2012 presidential primary bid, let alone that of the eventual GOP nominee, Mitt Romney.

“We fully expect them to be kowtowing to Mr. Adelson, trying to out-conservative one another, trying to convince Mr. Adelson to throw them a lifeline," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters Friday on a conference call. "This should not be considered genuine outreach to the Jewish community."

Wasserman Schultz criticized Cruz for his comparison of the fight to defund Obamacare to that against Nazi Germany, saying "those kinds of loose references to the Holocaust are outrageous and unacceptable and make light of one of the worst human tragedies in history." 

Neither Cruz nor Perry is expected to linger at the RJC conference after their speeches Saturday morning. Both are due hours later at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Spring Kickoff in the Des Moines area. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Senate Approves Body Camera Legislation

Local law enforcement agencies could apply for grants to equip their officers with body cameras and could also come up with guidelines for the equipment under legislation that the Senate approved Thursday.

Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 158 by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, which would create a statewide policy for body camera programs used by law enforcement agencies.

"This is a bill that provides local law enforcement agencies with a choice," West said while laying out the bill. "A local office does not have to have a body camera program, but if they have a body camera program, there are some policies that need to have some uniformity across the state of Texas."

The measure now heads to the House, where two bills related to body cameras are also up for consideration

Body cameras are recording devices that can be affixed to law enforcement officers and used to document their actions. Their use has come into focus on the heels of a national debate about police accountability and safety. 

In Texas, Fort Worth, Sugar Land and Corpus Christi are among the cities that already have body camera programs, while several other cities, including Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, are still testing such programs. 

Before passing the chamber with a 22-8 vote, SB 158 was debated by senators concerned with the cost of the program, access for rural law enforcement agencies, open records requests and questions of personal privacy for the officers wearing the cameras. West said he hoped to secure $10 million for a grant program, which would be administered by the governor's office.

Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, questioned West about the financial commitments of the state. While the grants would provide initial resources for training, equipment purchase and policy implementation, West clarified, the state would have no long-term responsibility to maintain the programs after that money expired. 

Lawmakers also debated how the legislation could allow for local decision-making processes to remain intact. Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said she appreciated the legislation as a "carrot" that would incentivize agencies to buy into body camera programs, but expressed concerns about the sovereignty of local law enforcement agencies. 

"Your bill will require agencies statewide to do what the state tells them to do, whether or not they accept money from the state of Texas," Huffman said.

"We don't prescribe everything that should go in the policy," West responded, emphasizing that his legislation would only require them to have a policy on the books. He said that local departments would be able to determine when police officers would be allowed to turn off their cameras, for example.

Debate also shifted to open records requests.

"I believe that we are creating programs that will have a huge cost to the state of Texas," Huffman said. "I have concerns about the redacting [of records] and the man hours that is going to take." 

The legislation included an amendment introduced by Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, that said recordings not made on duty, or that were done during activities not meant to be recorded, would be exempt from public records requests.

State Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, cited examples in which both law enforcement and the public have been put at risk during routing police stops.

"Wouldn't you admit that video evidence equipment is essential in all of these cases?" Estes said on the Senate floor. When numerous cameras are documenting interactions, he added, "the truth prevails."

In the House, a bill authored by state Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, calls for Texas law enforcement officers to wear body cameras, while another bill by Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, would create a committee to study the cameras.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Bye, bye, big yellow school buses. Hello, dirt paths, boats and scooters.

Posted by The Huffington Post on Friday, April 24, 2015

Poor women who want an abortion? Check. Next on the list: Cutting access to vulnerable teenagers and women who seek an abortion under incredibly dire circumstances.

Posted by Houston Press on Friday, April 24, 2015

The state’s top events, from hanging w/ the king of barbecue to the kings and queens of opera in Fort Worth.

Posted by Texas Monthly on Friday, April 24, 2015

Dalea Lugo Political Blogger ::Cesar Chavez finally honored

Dalea Lugo Political Blogger ::

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Rubio: Being gay is not a choice - MyFoxAustin | KTBC | Fox 7 Austin | News Weather Sports

Open Carry and Police

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Promposal from straight teen to gay teen goes viral - MyFoxAustin | KTBC | Fox 7 Austin | News Weather Sports

Promposal from straight teen to gay teen goes viral - MyFoxAustin | KTBC | Fox 7 Austin | News Weather Sports

VIDEO: Man buys every flower from woman on subway, makes her cry - | Dallas-Fort Worth News, Weather, Sports

VIDEO: Man buys every flower from woman on subway, makes her cry - | Dallas-Fort Worth News, Weather, Sports

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rosie the Riveter Model Dies at 92

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After years of propaganda, the left has managed to convince most Americans that the rich don’t pay their fair share of...

Posted by Personal Liberty on Thursday, April 23, 2015

A group of students and staff members at Southport High School have been exposed to tuberculosis.Arrangements for testing has been made, and the high school said it would notify those directly affected.

Posted by Fox 59 WXIN Indianapolis on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The idea for The Street Store came from Cape Town, South Africa, where volunteers created a rent-free, pop-up shop. It's been replicated 200 times across the globe, and this was the first in Austin.

Posted by The KVUE Insider on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rosie the Riveter: Real Women Workers in World War II

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Monday, April 20, 2015

“The Secret History of Sex, Choice and Catholics” features interviews with leading experts in the fields of theology, philosophy and ethics who examine Catholic traditions, teachings and beliefs on the following key issues: Abortion & Contraception HIV & AIDS Sex & Sexuality New Reproductive Health Technologies Religion in Public Policy

Under HB 1690, allegations of corruption by an elected or appointed state official would be investigated by the Texas...

Posted by Austin American-Statesman on Monday, April 20, 2015

A move is again underway to change the Texas Railroad Commission's name, what with it having nothing to do with trains.Jim Malewitz reports:

Posted by Texas Tribune on Monday, April 20, 2015

Halftime Report on the 2015 Texas Legislature PROGRESS TEXAS FRIDAY, APRIL 17, 2015

Working Toward Justice for Cat Killed in Austin County, Texas

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

On this week's edition of WFAA-TV's Inside Texas Politics with host Shelly Slater, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Bud...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Sunday, April 19, 2015

It's hard to see a 2016 presidential bid being shaped without the direct influence of a Texas political operative. Here'...

Posted by Texas Tribune on Sunday, April 19, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015

Video: The Future of Transportation

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Uber, Lyft Back in House Headlights

Another round of sparring between Texas cities and car service companies like Lyft and Uber played out on Tuesday before a panel of Texas lawmakers. The proposal that was debated — which would let cities regulate Lyft and Uber the same way they regulate traditional taxi companies — would have the opposite effect as a bill another House committee considered last week to strip cities of that authority.

The House Urban Affairs Committee heard public testimony on House Bill 3358 by state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, which gives cities oversight of all commercial transportation services, expanding their control of taxicab and limousine services to include transportation network companies like Lyft and Uber.

“This bill is about fairness — period,” Lucio said. “If they’re going to provide the exact same service, whether it’s on a part-time basis or not, it should be done fairly.”

The companies use smartphone apps to connect people seeking a ride with freelance drivers who drive their own vehicles and set their own schedules. Ride fares are based on demand — customers pay higher rates during peak hours when more users are requesting rides. 

Lucio’s father, state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, has filed an identical bill in the Senate.

Last week, the House Transportation Committee considered an opposing measure to give that authority to the state — effectively leaving it up to Lyft and Uber to perform their own background checks and set their own prices.

Representatives for both companies criticized Lucio’s bill, saying a patchwork of unique city regulations would stifle their innovative business model.

April Mims, public policy manager for Lyft, said applying taxi regulations to transportation network companies was “forcing a square peg into a round hole.”

But traditional cab companies, whose business practices are highly regulated by cities, argue that Lyft and Uber should have to play by the same rules as everyone else. 

Ed Kargbo, president of Yellow Cab Austin, said allowing Lyft and Uber drivers to operate without city background checks was like allowing doctors or lawyers to practice without a degree just because they work part time.

The debate has focused on public safety recently, following news that an Uber driver in Houston charged with sexually assaulting a passenger had been driving for Uber without a city permit — and without passing a city background check that would have turned up his criminal record.

Lyft and Uber have clashed with Texas cities like Houston and San Antonio over allowing the companies to conduct their own driver background checks. After San Antonio’s city council issued an ordinance allowing the city to oversee driver background checks and requiring extra measures like fingerprinting, both companies said they would cease operations in the city. 

Lucio told Mims that she was being disingenuous when she said Lyft was safer than a taxi service.

“I take exception with you saying ‘safer,’” Lucio said.

State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, also grilled several witnesses, making the case that government oversight was not necessary because the free market would weed out unsafe companies.

The bill was left pending by the committee.

Disclosure: Uber is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

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