Political news

Update at 12:15 pmBoth sides have rested in the sentencing phase of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's trial.  DeLay himself is expected to address the court when it reconvenes at 1:15 pm.

The defense only called one character witness: former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert. He testified about DeLay's political motivations and values.  Under questioning from assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb, Hastert said DeLay had not expressed remorse for the crimes he was convicted of in November.

Image by Dave Burnstein for KUT News

Texas comptroller Susan Combs estimates the state will generate $72.2 billion to spend on the 2012-2013 state budget. That's $5.6 billion less than the nearly $77.8 billion the state was certified to spend last legislative session two years ago. (Read the revenue estimate report here.)

The Comptroller says the state will bring in $76.5 billion over all, but Texas is already $4.3 billion behind on its current budget. The difference amounts to $72.2 billion.

Image courtesy US Congress

Updated at 6:44 pm: Texas lawmakers are reacting with shock to a shooting in Tuscon, AZ that killed at least five people including US District Judge John Roll and critically injured US Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  NPR reports the suspected gunman has been taken into custody.

Giffords, who was re-elected to a third term in November, was hosting a "Congress on Your Corner" event at a Safeway in northwest Tucson when a gunman ran up and started shooting, according to Peter Michaels, news director of Arizona Public Media.

The suspect fired indiscriminately from about four feet away, Michaels said. A congressional official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the gunman was using an automatic weapon.

US Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) was with Giffords the day before the shooting to discuss the healthcare repeal.  

"You know what she was doing is basically the same thing I do on a regular basis throughout Central Texas," Doggett told KUT News in a phone interview.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

It's one of the most eagerly awaited events in Texas politics: on Monday, state comptroller Susan Combs will provider her revenue estimate. It's a projection of how much money the state will have to spend over the next 2012-13 biennium.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The Republican candidate who lost to State Representative Donna Howard in Austin's House District 48 has subpoenaed documents from the Travis County Clerk's Office. Dan Neil's lawyers are reviewing them today.

Mary Faro, a spokesperson for County Clerk Dana Dana DeBeauvoir, said attorneys from Howard's camp were there observing. She said the subpoena (posted below) commanded the Election's Office to provide documents locked in a closet that can only be unlocked by the County Sheriff.

KUT News

Ever since Arizona passed its controversial immigration law last year, some Texas lawmakers have been chomping at the bit for their chance to push similar legislation here.

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott sent a letter to staff this week, welcoming them back to work from the holidays and warning them they might be fired. With state lawmakers ready to begin a legislative session next week that will require closing a budget gap as big as $25 billion or more, is this an impending sign of the pain that will be wrought on Austin's economy?

Image courtesy US Department of Labor

State Representative Tryon Lewis (R-Odessa) filed House Bill 505 yesterday, a piece of legislation that would eliminate an optional state holiday celebrating labor and civil rights Cesar Chavez on March 31. The optional holiday would be replaced with Texas Hispanic Heritage Day on September 16.

U.S. Capitol
Image courtesy Andy-Beal www.flickr.com/photos/sel/

According to a new Rasmussen poll, the more things change in Washington, the more voters do not expect better results.  

Texas State Capitol Building
Image by Erik Reyna for KUT News

After months of speculation, we will finally get an idea of just how big Texas' budget shortfall is when the Comptroller Susan Combs releases her revenue estimate within the next seven days. Meanwhile, a group of mostly progressive organizations has banded together to urge a "balanced" approach to closing the budget shortfall.

Image courtesy of the Texas House of Representatives

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) appointed Representative Will Hartnett (R-Dallas) to serve as "master of discovery" to determine a winner in the Donna Howard-Dan Neil race in House District 48

Image courtesy eggrole http://www.flickr.com/photos/eggrole/4822581291/sizes/l/in/photostream/

While states like California and Washington debate the merits of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Texas State Rep. Elliot Naishtat (D-Austin) couldn't even get a hearing on his conservative medical pot bill. Naishat's proposal wouldn't legalize marijuana, but it would permit judges and juries not to send legitimately sick people to jail if they're caught puffing weed on the advice of a doctor.

Map of the population changes from 2000 to 2010
U.S. Census Bureau

UPDATE:  U.S. Census interactive map added at 12:50 p.m.

Texas now has 25,145,561 residents.  That number was released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The additional 4-million residents the state has added since 2000 brought an additional 4 U.S. House seats to the state.  Those seats will be divvied up during the 2011 Texas Legislative session. 

The Texas Capitol
Picture by Erik Reyna for KUT News

State House member Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) says he has collected a enough signatures to force the Republican caucus to take a vote on who will be the next House Speaker

In a e-mail statement released this morning, Rep. Chisum says the party needs the caucus to meet to select "one conservative candidate" for Speaker of the House. 

Dan Neil, the Republican in the race for House District 48, has filed a challenge against Democrat State House member Donna Howard.  Howard won re-election by 16 votes on Election Day.  That number was trimmed to 12 during an official re-count.  Now, Neil says a number of factors have lead him to file the challenge.

Dan Patrick

The Tea Party played a big role in this year's national and state elections.  Now, one Texas lawmaker hopes to strengthen the loosely structured group's voice at the Texas Capitol.  In a release today, Tea Party caucus chair Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) announced the first 49 members of the caucus.  Sen. Patrick said he wants the caucus to keep the power the party showed at the polls going during the 2011 legislative session.

The Republican majority in the Texas House is swelling to 101.   State Representatives Allen Ritter of Nederland and Aaron Pena of Edinburg both announced today that they were both leaving the Democratic Party. 

Texas State Capitol Building
Image courtesy Dave Wilson Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/dawilson/

Texas is one of sixteen states that offers voters the option of simply checking a box for a political party at the ballot box, forgoing the task of individually voting for each candidate. The practice is called "straight-ticket voting" or "straight-party voting" and Republican State Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) doesn't like it.

Still Burning/flickr

The same Texas state representative whose interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper went viral after he expressed doubt that President Obama was born in the US is attracting more attention for his proposal that health care officials be imprisoned for enforcing the new health care law.