Politics

Politics
8:09 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Four Presidents Will Be in Austin for the LBJ Civil Rights Summit

Four U.S. Presidents are heading to Austin for the Civil Rights Summit.
LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas

Four U.S. Presidents headline a three-day summit in Austin this week, kicking off a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Life before the act can sometimes seem foreign to those of us who came after the landmark legislation was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Organizers say that alone is a great reason to hold a summit.

"Of course it's appropriate to look back. I mean, I myself am a child of the segregated South. So I grew up in that world and I know in ways that our students really don't, what things were like before this legislation,"  LBJ School of Public Affairs Dean Robert Hutchings says.

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Money in Politics
10:32 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Supreme Court Strikes Down Overall Limits On Political Contributions

People wait in line for the beginning of the 2013-2014 Supreme Court term in Washington on Oct. 7. The court heard the first major case on campaign contribution limits since 2010's landmark Citizens United.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 11:34 am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down an overall cap on the amount that large campaign donors can give to parties and candidates in a two-year election cycle.

In a 5-4 decision split between conservatives and liberals on the high court, the court said the limits were a violation of the First Amendment.

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Politics
8:13 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Marijuana: A Potential Cash Crop for Texas Farmers?

Candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture, Kinky Friedman at the KUT studios.
Mike Lee, KUT

Vanishing salmon and fields trashed by trespassers are the most common agricultural side effects of marijuana growth in California, experts there say. The idea agriculture commissioner candidate Kinky Friedman promotes of a hemp farming utopia brought on by the legalization of marijuana in Texas, they say, might be more pipe dream than reality.

"It is the green thread that weaves its way through all of our lives," Friedman said of marijuana during an interview with The Texas Tribune's Evan Smith. "This is not about long-haired hippies smokin' dope. It is about the future of Texas."

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Lower Colorado River Authority
10:34 am
Tue April 1, 2014

New LCRA Team: Varied Experience, Highly Paid

Community members attending an LCRA meeting in 2011. Phil Wilson, the water authority's new general manager, could take home over half a million dollars annually.
I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Editor's note: This report comes from KUT's reporting partner, the Austin Monitor

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s new general manager Phil Wilson received a hefty pay increase when he moved from the hot seat at the Texas Department of Transportation to another hot seat at the state-created water and power authority two months ago. And his pay increase could get even heftier.

Wilson’s annual base salary has been set at $425,000, according to LCRA spokeswoman Clara Tuma in an email response to questions from the Austin Monitor. In addition, Wilson could receive a bonus of up to 25 percent of his salary, Tuma indicated.  Wilson’s salary and any bonus are determined by LCRA’s 15 member board of directors, which hired him late last year. He took over the job on Feb. 3.

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Politics
5:00 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Tax Cut Promises Lead Campaigns, But May Be Hard to Fulfill

With tax revenues up, the call for tax cuts is getting louder.
Todd Wiseman & Mikhail Popov, Texas Tribune

Several Texas Republican candidates are pushing the idea of cutting taxes in the 2015 legislative session. That includes cutting property taxes and the state’s business tax.

The State of Texas has been flush with cash the last two years. There was a nearly $9 billion dollar surplus in 2013. With another $2.6 billion dollar surplus reported for 2014.

"Our current trends suggest that we're going to do even better than that with the continued health of the oil and gas industry," says Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association. "The prospects for next session look very good on the money front and I think that's going to give the Legislature a number of options." 

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Lt. Governor Race
8:41 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Immigration Rhetoric in Lt. Gov Race Disappoints Some Hispanic Republicans

In a commercial, Lt. Gov candidate Dan Patrick touts his opposition to in-state tuition at Texas universities for qualifying undocumented children.
YouTube

Before the March primary, a handful of Hispanic Republican leaders questioned the tone on immigration among some GOP candidates – especially statements from State Sen. Dan Patrick, who’s running for Lieutenant Governor.

This year's Republican primary has been an exercise in running to the right of everyone else on the ballot. In the race for Lieutenant Governor, candidates began pushing further and further rightward when talking about border security. 

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Online Privacy
3:28 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Obama Meets Internet CEOs To Discuss Privacy Issues

Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his Feb. 24 keynote address at the Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.
David Ramos Getty Images

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 5:22 pm

Leaders of high-tech companies, including Google and Facebook, descended on the White House Friday for a meeting with President Obama on the subject of privacy. The meeting itself was private. But aides say Obama wanted to hear from the CEOs about their concerns with the government's high-tech surveillance.

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Austin City Council
11:22 am
Wed March 19, 2014

Council Member Mike Martinez Joins Race for Austin Mayor

Austin City Council member Mike Martinez, photographed in 2012.
KUT News

Austin City Council member Mike Martinez announced this morning he will run for mayor.

His campaign will officially kick off April 5, with Martinez planning campaign announcements in each of Austin's 10 new City Council districts.

"Because of the new district system and because we have moved our election to November, obviously it‘s going to be the highest voter turnout in a mayoral election than we have ever seen in the history of Austin," Martinez says. "Typically in May we see 30 to 40 thousand voters. We anticipate well over 200,000 voters in this November election, so that will be a major, major difference this year.” 

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2014 Texas Elections
4:47 pm
Tue March 18, 2014

An Interview With Controversial Conservative Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sulivan and Empower Texans handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars during 2014 state primaries.
Texas Tribune

Candidates backed by the most conservative wing of the Texas Republican Party were the big winners in March's state primaries. Support from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and local Tea Party groups have gotten much of the credit for those wins. But support from a conservative policy group called Empower Texans also helped carry the day.

The group's leader, Michael Quinn Sullivan, has taken some heat for what's been called his efforts to purify the GOP, working to get rid of Republicans he says aren’t sufficiently conservative.

Sullivan stopped by KUT to speak with Ben Philpott about what would be different in a Legislature run by his kind of Republicans.

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Politics
4:18 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Activists Plan to Carry Guns on Sixth Street During SXSW Wednesday

Twitter pictures captured from a similar walk last Saturday.
Twitter user @SocialMatchbox and David Yoakum/Twitter user @davidb00ts

Update: About forty gun activists marched from the Capital and down Sixth Street today, many openly carrying black powder revolvers and rifles strapped across their backs. The rally occurred right in the middle of the South by Southwest festival. 

“We’re trying to get open carry of hand guns passed," says Chris Way from Fort Hood. That’s be a lot easier than carrying an AR-15 over the street. Really all it is, is we don’t want the government in our lives and we don’t want telling me how to protect my family and my little one.” 

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SXSW 2014
12:33 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

WATCH: Gov. Rick Perry Talks Pot on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' in Austin

Jimmy Kimmel is broadcasting his late night show from Austin the week of South by Southwest.
youtube.com/JimmyKimmelLive

Governor Rick Perry appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night.

The talk show has relocated to Austin for the week of South by Southwest. Gov. Perry got a mix of cheers and boos when introduced. He hinted he may run again for president, saying “America is a great place for second chances.”

Perry and Kimmel also talked about efforts towards decriminalizing marijuana.

"For over a decade we’ve lowered the penalties," Perry told Kimmel. "We’re trying to be smart about it. You don’t want to ruin a kid’s life for having a joint.”

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Politics
4:46 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Call for Buc-ee's Boycott After Owners Endorse Dan Patrick

Texas convenience store chain Buc-ee's has waded into controversy with its owners' endorsement of Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor.
flickr.com/jenniferwoodardmaderazo

Buc-ee's, the Texas convenience store known for their clean restrooms and beaver mascot, is now the subject of a boycott.

U.S. Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is encouraging a boycott after owners of the business endorsed Republican State Sen. Dan Patrick for Lieutenant Governor.

Castro sent a tweet saying he won't gas up there because Patrick is a "fear mongering immigrant basher:" 

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Politics
10:12 am
Tue March 11, 2014

Texas Tea Party Taking Power Back From Conservative Business Groups

Sen Dan Patrick (R-Houston) lead the Tea Party charge on Primary night.
Bob Daemmrich Texas Tribune

Last week’s GOP primary showed the continued strength of the Tea Party in Texas. But it also showed a weakening of another stalwart Republican demographic: the businessperson.

First, a disclaimer: The results don't prove anything definitive. One election does not a trend make. And it's not hard to find people who say the state's business leaders still have a large role in Republican Party politics.

"I think the business community hasn't lost its voice," Rice University Political Science department chair Mark Jones says. "But its influence is much less then it was say 10 years ago."

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SXSW 2014
12:02 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Edward Snowden Speaks at SXSW Interactive

Edward Snowden's revelations have launched debates about surveillance, privacy, and democracy, but not everyone agrees he should speak at South by Southwest.
livestream.com/texastribune

Update: Edward Snowden made the case for online privacy in his South by Southwest video appearance today. 

Speaking via Skype, and superimposed over an image of the Constitution, Snowden said it needs to be easier for people to interact with secure data.

"If any journalist in the world gets an email from somebody saying, 'Hey, I have something that the public might want to know about,' they need to be able to open it, they need to be able to access that information, they need to be able to have the communication," Snowden said. "Whether they’re a journalist, or an activist, or even your grandma."

NPR has a live blog of Snowden's remarks you can read here.

Original story (10:55 a.m.): Edward Snowden is scheduled to speak via video from Moscow this morning at South by Southwest Interactive.

Snowden, the former contractor facing felony charges for leaking classified documents revealing National Security Agency surveillance, will speak to SXSW's tech community today at 11 CST. The conversation will be moderated by Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project and Snowden’s legal advisor.

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Politics
4:47 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

How To Pick A Candidate In Texas: Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe

Rebecca Gonzalez searches for a location for an election sign at an early voting polling site Feb. 18 in San Antonio, Texas.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 2:49 pm

Jim Hogan thanks God for his victory in a statewide Texas primary election on Tuesday. His campaign clearly had little to do with it.

Hogan paid his filing fee and then did essentially nothing else.

"Not being a politician, I didn't want to spend money," he says. "I didn't buy any mailers or yard signs. I think it's a waste to spend a lot of money on these politics."

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Politics
11:29 am
Wed March 5, 2014

Texas & Travis County Primary Live Blog: Who Won, Who's In a Runoff

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Ft Worth, takes the stage as supporters at her Fort Worth headquarters cheer her victory in the primary election.
Laura Buckman, Texas Tribune

Update: The Results Are In

Election results are now in with between 99.95 and 100 percent of precincts counted statewide. Click Here for KUT's rundown of election night winners. Click Here to check out how Republicans voted across the state. Click Here to see results from the Democrats. 

One hundred percent of Travis County precincts have also reported results. But the final tallies might change just a tad because votes cast after 7 p.m. have not yet been included. The polls in Travis County were open late on Tuesday because of bad weather. Click Here for the latest from Travis County.

Overall, the night turned out to be a good one for many Tea Party candidates. KUT's Ben Philpott takes a look at that:

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Politics
11:21 am
Wed March 5, 2014

On to November: The Winners in the 2014 Texas Primaries

Attorney General Greg Abbott delivers his primary acceptance speech in San Antonio.
David Martin Davies, TPR

The results are in for the 2014 Texas Primary Elections. We now know who most of the candidates will be in the November general election, but several statewide races are headed to a runoff on May 27.

We've compiled a list of the top vote earners for the major statewide and Travis County races. The percentage of votes received (as of this writing) is shown next to each candidate's name. Races with an asterisk are heading to a runoff.

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Primary Election Day
3:10 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

You Can Now Vote Until 9 p.m. in Travis County Primaries. Here's Where.

Primary voters can cast their ballot at any polling place with a "Vote Here" sign.
KUT News

Update: It's worth noting that ballots accepted from 7 to 9 p.m. will be provisional ballots. A press release from Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has more: 

Pursuant to Texas election laws, ballots cast by individuals who arrive at a polling place after 7 p.m. but before the polls close, will be voted as provisional ballots.  Ballots cast provisionally are reviewed by a ballot board and will be accepted as long as the voter is otherwise qualified.  Votes casts by eligible voters during extended hours will be counted and included in the final tally, however, results from these ballots will not be included in this evening’s unofficial vote totals. 

“We appreciate the dedication and stamina of our election workers who will be working long into the night.” said DeBeauvoir.  “Elections wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of these steadfast and faithful citizens who conduct elections under extraordinary circumstances.” DeBeauvoir added.

Some observers are already discussing what effect those ballots could make – especially in one Travis County race. Jim Henson, director of UT-Austin's Texas Politics project, tweets "That ringing sound you hear? Calls from[Andy] Brown, [Sarah] Eckhardt to election lawyers." 

Update (2:40 p.m.): A judge has granted a request to keep Travis County polling places open an extra two hours tonight - until 9 p.m. - after icy weather caused voting officials to delay opening polls until 11am this morning.

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Politics
11:56 am
Tue March 4, 2014

On Farms, School Lunches & Gas Pumps, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Weighs In

The Agriculture Commissioner focuses on much more than cows and crops.
KUT News

When Texans – mostly farmers and ranchers – sat down to write the state constitution in the 1800's, they didn’t see the need for an elected Agriculture Commissioner.

That oversight was quickly remedied.

Texas agriculture, crops and cattle are known across the country and around the world. Its "Go Texan" campaign can be seen in grocery stores and TV ads across the state: Why buy vegetables from California, when you can pick from that (noticeably labeled) batch from Texas?

But the office does more than sell the product. It also helps farmers and ranchers successfully grow it. 

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Politics
2:29 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

The Main Thing People Think Texas' Attorney General Does (But Really Doesn't)

The state's attorney has many roles in the Attorney General's office.
flickr.com/safari_vacation

Texas' current Attorney General, Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, has his own memorable description for his job.

"My job description has been simplified over the past four years," Abbott said during a speech in April. "Because what I do is I go into the office, I sue the federal government and then I go home."

Abbott was purposely oversimplifying what his office does, but defending the state's laws is a key element.

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