Straus appoints Central Texas lawmakers to leadership posts

January 31st, 2013 at 6:25 pm by under Politics

Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio (Texas House of Representatives)

On Thursday, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, released his list of committees assignments for the 83rd Regular Legislative Session. Five Central Texas lawmakers secured leadership posts:

  • Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin – Culture, Recreation & Tourism (Vice Chair)
  • Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin – Administration (Vice Chair)
  • Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin – Public Health (Vice Chair)
  • Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs – Rules & Resolutions (Vice Chair)
  • Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels – Special Purpose Districts (Vice Chair)

“These are charges that I take very seriously as the critical work of these committee will have an impact on the entire state and obviously in the Texas Hill Country, as well,” said Miller. “ I will help see to it that protecting private property rights, our state’s vital natural resources, and doing what is right for Texas will be priority components of our collective agenda.”

Central Texas members of the influential House Appropriations Committee – the budget writers – include:

  • Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin
  • Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin
  • Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock

“I look forward to supporting (Speaker Straus’s) goals of properly and transparently funding government’s core responsibilities while meeting the challenges of robust population growth,” Howard said. “I intend to be an effective advocate on the committee for restoring funds to public education and family planning programs that were so dramatically cut last session.

This list shows Central Texas lawmakers increased their power in the House this session. Last regular session, the delegation filled one less leadership role:

  • Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin – Administration (Vice Chair)
  • Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin – Joint Committee on Aging (Chair)
  • Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin – Public Health (Vice Chair)
  • Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels – Joint Committee on Oversight of Edwards Aquifer (Co-chair)


Preview: Perry’s State of the State

January 28th, 2013 at 10:42 am by under Politics

Inside the State of the State address Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011 (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)

Tuesday’s State of the State could determine the state of Rick Perry’s political future for years to come. The speech will launch his seventh legislative session as governor and indicate how likely it would be to make another run for this office or possibly another stab at leading the nation as president.

The address is at 11 a.m. Tuesday during a joint session of the House and Senate. This is a chance for Perry to lay out the issues he wants state lawmakers to tackle in the current legislative session. So far, he has mentioned:

  • Tax relief, based on billions in the state’s surplus
  • Infrastructure and energy improvements, possibly using the rainy day fund for water supplies
  • Making the small business tax exemption permanent
  • Controlling college tuition, in an effort to bolster the state’s workforce
  • Drug screening welfare applicants
  • Expanding the ban on abortion, based on the pain felt by the fetus

Perry has not ruled out running for either office, though he has indicated he would wait to make any announcement until after the session. But after a year of very public campaign stumbles, people will be watching closely to see if he has the ability to bounce back.

In Session. In-depth: Sen. Kirk Watson

January 25th, 2013 at 5:58 pm by under Politics

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin (Courtesy: Texas Senate)

This Sunday on KXAN’s “In Session, In-depth,” State Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin talks about the need for transportation funding and Democrats’ statewide chances for the future.

Plus, Ben Wear of the Austin-American Statesman, Brandi Grissom of the Texas Tribune, and Robert Garrett of the Dallas Morning News weigh in on gun legislation and infrastructure challenges in the budget.

Join us for “In Session, In-depth” this Sunday morning at 8:30 on KXAN News.

Filed Legislation: Two-week Tally

January 21st, 2013 at 2:02 pm by under Politics

In case you’re keeping count this Texas Legislative Session, here’s a look at the total number of filed legislation, so far. By Day 14 of 140, it’s definitely adding up, but lawmakers still have a long way to go to hit their final tally last session.


83rd Regular Session To-date – 949

  • Bills – 748
  • Resolutions – 201


82nd Regular Session Final Total – 10,315

  • Bills – 5,796
  • Resolutions – 4,519

In Session. In-depth: Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples

January 18th, 2013 at 1:27 pm by under Politics

Texas Ag Commissioner Todd Staples

This Sunday on KXAN’s “In Session, In-depth,” Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples talks about legislative proposals to address the state’s water infrastructure concerns, plus his take on the future of border security in Texas.

Plus, Peggy Ficak of the San Antonio Express-News, Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, and Karen Brooks of the Dallas Morning News/Community Impact take part in our roundtable, weighing in on lawmakers’ budget proposals.

Join us for “In Session, In-depth” this Sunday morning at 8:30 on KXAN News.

Session ’13: Opening Day Expectations

January 7th, 2013 at 6:26 pm by under Politics

Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio (Texas House of Representatives)

Lawmakers and their families will crowd the chamber floors at the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday, as the 83rd Legislative Session officially begins. Both the House and Senate will convene at noon.

Members will be sworn in, then elect their own leaders. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is set to become the President Pro Tem of the Senate.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio (Texas Senate)

It is largely a ceremonial post as the lieutenant governor actually runs the Texas Senate. But the post does mean that Van de Putte will be in line to become governor, right after Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is expected to retain his role as leader of the House, though he faces conservative competition from sophomore Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview.

Gov. Rick Perry will also address each chamber, laying out his vision for the session ahead. In the past, he has also declared some early emergency items for lawmakers to begin tackling in their first sixty days at the Capitol. Some have suspected Perry’s first issue this session might be abortion-related, as he has already shown strong support for “fetal pain” legislation.

In Session, In-depth: Rep. Donna Howard

January 4th, 2013 at 12:48 pm by under Politics

Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin (Texas House of Representatives)

This Sunday on the inaugural edition of KXAN’s “In Session, In-depth,” Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, weighs in on the Texas Women’s Health Program and the recent legal decision that kept Planned Parenthood out of the mix.

Plus, Jay Root of the Texas Tribune, Wayne Slater of the Dallas Morning News and Tim Eaton of the Austin-American Statesman take part in our political roundtable to talk about the state’s water woes, tapping the rainy day fund and why school finance might not be one of the big topics this legislative session.

Join us for “In Session, In-depth” this Sunday morning at 8:30 on KXAN News.

Texas House increases its media credential limit to 20

December 3rd, 2012 at 3:09 pm by under Politics

How many reporters can you fit in the Texas House chamber before it gets too crowded? Well, House Administration Chairman Charlie Geren didn’t want to take any chances last legislative session, so he limited the number to ten per media outlet. Read our original post.

Not quite a wrench in coverage, but it certainly cut down the wish list for several newsrooms. Those requesting more than the acceptable amount:

  • -KVUE – 62
  • -KEYE – 36
  • -KXAN – 23
  • -Texas Tribune – 23 (one person co-credentialed with KUT)
  • -News 8 Austin (now YNN) – 21

Texas State Capitol (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)

In the past, there was no limit. But after the soaring amount requested in 2011 – 227 total – Geren and the House Business Operations office pointed to a lack of space as the reasoning behind the cap.

Geren – a Fort Worth Republican – still holds his post and still makes the decision regarding credentials, but he has eased up this time around. For the upcoming session starting in January, news outlets may receive up to 20, according to an official in the business office.

Like last session, a non-credentialed journalist must still apply on a case-by-case basis for admittance to the House floor – a temporary pass. Make a call, swing by the office, fill out a form and head to the lower chamber to hang out with your credentialed colleagues.

Certainly some extra work, but a little easier than before. Applications are now being accepted.

ACL Festival and Texas-OU Game Weather Forecasts

October 10th, 2012 at 3:30 pm by under Weather

Thursday Evening Update:  Rain chances are a little higher now, due to a slightly more southerly track of a west coast storm. The good news: Highest rain chance is late Saturday night, and early Sunday–likely after the festival has ended for the night, though scattered showers will be possible during the entire weekend. Just keep a poncho handy.

Here is the latest Austin City Limits Music Festival and Texas-Oklahoma game forecast.  If there happens to be “breaking” weather during either event, we will keep you updated here about what’s happening. If there is rain in the area, you can zoom right down to Zilker Park or Cotton Bowl stadium using our Interactive Radar.

ACL Festival Forecast from the First Warning Weather Team


Morning:  Low clouds, patchy early fog, a patch of drizzle or rain shower possible. Low: 72

Afternoon: Mostly cloudy to partly sunny. Humid. 20% chance of a shower. South winds 10-15 mph. High: 88

Evening: Partly cloudy, warm and humid. An isolated shower possible. Temperatures falling into the 70s after sunset.



Morning: Low clouds, patchy fog, a patch of drizzle possible. Low: 72

Afternoon: Mostly cloudy to partly sunny. 20% chance of a rain shower. Breezy. South winds 10-20 mph. High: 87

Evening:  Becoming cloudy. 30% chance of a shower or t-storm. Temperatures falling into the 70s after sunset.

Late Saturday Night/Early Sunday AM: 60% chance of rain and thunderstorms, some may be strong.



Morning: Cloudy, 40% chance of rain showers. Low: 70

Afternoon: Mostly cloudy. 30% chance of a shower or t-storm. SSE winds 5-15 mph. High: 85

Evening: Partly to mostly cloudy. 20% chance of a shower or t-storm. Temperatures falling into the 70s after sunset.


TEXAS-OU Game Forecast – 11 AM Saturday, Cotton Bowl, Dallas

Cloudy morning, mostly cloudy afternoon, 20% chance of showers or a thunderstorm.

Winds: South 15-20 mph and gusting to near 30 mph.

Game temperatures: 78-85 degrees



Does Texas still need the Voting Rights Act?

September 22nd, 2012 at 5:47 pm by under Politics

Texas Tribune Festival panel discusses Voting Rights Act (Josh Hinkle/KXAN)

Does Texas still need the Voting Rights Act? Ask Rep. Burt Solomons, R-Carrolton, and he’ll tell you “probably not.” Solomons chaired the Texas House redistricting committee in the last legislative session, and now – more than a year later – the maps he shepherded still face legal hurdles partly because of that question.

Solomons – who chose not to seek another term – took part in a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival on Saturday to pick apart that topic and largely how it applies to the state’s Hispanic population.

“(The redistricting process) wasn’t so much racist,” Solomons said. “It was political…We have 101 Republicans in the House, and we exerted power.”

Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to handle attempts by southern states to suppress voting by African-Americans with maneuvers like literacy tests and poll taxes. The law said states failing to meet specific requirements with respect to voter participation would not be able to change their election procedures without preapproval from the Justice Department or the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Texas was not initially part of the preclearance requirement but was added in 1975 when Congress expanded the law to include states with a substantial non-English speaking population.

“Since that time we’ve still been marching to catch up,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). “It’s very important we have the opportunity to elect our candidate of choice…regardless of political party.”

Perales, one of Solomons’ fellow panelists, has represented Latino interests defending the Act in 2009 and successful redistricting cases in Texas and Arizona.

The conversation quickly turned to a redrawn district in South Texas currently represented by Rep. Aaron Pena, R-Edinburg, who switched parties shortly after the last election. Pena – who previously served eight years in the Texas House as a Democrat and has chosen not to return next year – was also on the panel.

As explained by another panelist – Chad Dunn a lawyer who has handled a string of recent voting-related cases – suggested mapmakers “could not find Latinos” for Pena’s district who would vote Republican. He said, as a result, they sought out white voters then went “block by block” for Latinos who did not vote.

“There are conservative Hispanics out there,” argued Pena, who also claimed that population makes up 90 percent of his community. “How – in the world we live today – does a law that was passed in 1965 apply to my situation?”

Pena’s district aside – the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled last month that Texas’ congressional redistricting maps do not comply with the Act. State Attorney General Greg Abbott has assured an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Though the redistricting maps for this election have already been set, litigation surrounding the matter could have an effect on the next elections. Democrats say the Republican-drawn maps do not accurately reflect the state’s exploding population, driven by minorities who largely tend to vote Democratic.

“Are we going to continue to have protected districts 20 years from now?” Solomons asked, regarding that growing trend.

“It’s my hope one day when I wake up in the morning that we won’t have polarized voting anymore,” Perales said. “Congress wouldn’t have to authorize the Voting Rights Act. Someday, yes, I hope everybody is voting for everybody.”