Political news

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Some Texas lawmakers and their staffs will be getting a course in CPR training, starting this week.

The Texas Society Anesthesiologists is organizing the training sessions, with help from the American Heart Association and the Seton Family of Hospitals.  State Rep. John Zerwas (R-Simonton) is an anestheologist and former society president.  He performed CPR on then-State Rep. Edmund Kuempel, after the Seguin Republican suffered a near-fatal heart attack and collapsed in a Capitol elevator during the 2009 legislative session. 

Picture by KUT News

The Texas Senate has added its take on the 2012-2013 Texas budget to the ongoing debate.  The Senate's version spends $158.7 billion.  That's $2.3 billion more than the Texas House's version of the bill.  The additional money includes about $500 million more for both the public education and higher education budgets.

Photo by Torrie Hardcastle for KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry designated pre-abortion sonograms as emergency legislation today at the annual Rally for Life. The rally marks the 38th anniversary of what Perry calls the “tragic” Roe v. Wade court decision, which gave women the legal right to abortion.

Photo by Chris Kosho/KUT.

Gov. Rick Perry has declared two more emergency items for the 2011 legislative session. The new emergency items include legislation that would require voters to show identification at the ballot box, and a bill calling for a new balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Fiscal discipline, balanced budgets and the integrity of the ballot box are critical to the people of Texas,”  Perry said in a press release today.  “Under this emergency declaration, Texas lawmakers will be able to address these priority issues more quickly.”

Since U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s announcement last week that she will not seek re-election to the in 2012, names of several possible candidates, from both major parties, are beginning to surface. And while it’s still early, the GOP appears to be in prime shape to keep the seat regardless of who runs, according to a recent Public Policy Polling poll.

Photo by Chris Kosho for KUT News

Updated at 1:40 pm: We have added audio of Governor Perry's speech and swearing-in ceremony. You may listen to that here, or download the mp3 by right clicking on the player and choosing "Save Link As..."

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Culture war issues might figure less prominently in Texas education politics after the five freshmen members of the State Board of Education are sworn in tomorrow. Two of those five are moderate Republicans replacing socially conservative members of the board who often voted as part of a bloc on controversial issues.

Because religious conservatives did not increase their numbers on the board in the last election, their voting bloc has effectively been reduced from seven members to five.

picture courtesy Michael Williams


Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams appears ready to make his campaign to replace U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison a full time job.  Ross Ramsey over at KUT's political reporting partner The Texas Tribune, says Williams will resign his commissioner's seat to focus his efforts on the race for higher office.

Image courtesy office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Update at 1:30 pm:  Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, KUT's political reporting partner, reports that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst told him, "I'm really focused right now on this session.  I've got my plate full."  Dewhurst said he will talk about his political plans after the session.

Earlier:  Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced this morning that she will not seek another term in the Senate in 2012, according to a press aide to the senator.

Image by KUT

The first wave of political rhetoric to follow Saturday's shooting in Tucson, Arizona speculated on whether Jared Loughner was influenced by far right extremism or socialist dogma.

picture courtesy of The Texas Tribune

The referees have been named for the election battle between State Representative Donna Howard (D-Austin) and her Republican challenger Dan Neil.  Texas House Speaker Joe Straus sent out an e-mail today with a list of the 9 lawmakers on the House Select Committee on Election Contest.

Photo by KUT News

The Texas Senate was expected to take up its rules for the 2011 legislative session today.  But, they did not.  In fact they gaveled in and gaveled out in 10 minutes.  

Photo by KUT News

Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus held their 1st weekly breakfast of the 2011 legislative session today.  After the meal (which included eggs, according to Speaker Straus) they met with the Capitol press corps to say basically the same thing they've been saying for the last years:  The state will balance the budget without any revenue increases.  

Texas Governor Rick Perry has handed out the first assignments for lawmakers in the 2011 legislative session.  In separate speeches before lawmakers in the House and Senate, Mr. Perry announced he was making the protection of private property rights and eminent domain along with abolishing sanctuary cities in Texas emergency items for the session.

Ben Philpott/KUT

Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio has been re-elected as speaker of the Texas House by a 132-15 vote; two Republicans abstained. He fended off a challenge from conservatives who wanted to replace him with one of their own. Some conservative groups warned the speaker’s vote would serve as a litmus test for lawmakers’ performance at the end of the session.

Image by Matt Largey for KUT News

Former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison for money laundering and conspiracy.

DeLay was sentenced by senior judge Pat Priest to three years for the conspiracy conviction and five years for money laundering. The five years sentence was probated. That means DeLay would serve ten year probation instead.

DeLay is being booked right now at the Travis County jail, but will be released on $20,000 bond pending appeal.

Earlier details.

Image Courtesy StarMama http://www.flickr.com/photos/thestarmama/

Political junkies who don't have time to spend all day at the Capitol can watch the Texas legislative session unfold from behind a TV or computer monitor.

Here's how you can do it:

After today's eagerly awaited revenue estimate from the Texas Comptroller, it appears we are not much closer to knowing how deep and how wide the state's dreaded budget shortfall will be.

Listen to KUT's Ben Philpott talk about it with KUT freelancer Gretch Sanders.

Comptroller Susan Combs' revenue estimate, issued this morning, predicts the state will generate $72.2 billion to spend in the 2012-13 biennium, the two year time span for which legislators must draft a budget in the once-every-two-years session that begins tomorrow.

So that's how much money is coming in, but we won't know how big the budget gap is (and consequently, how severe cuts to government could be) until we receive a baseline budget from the Legislative Budget Board. No exact date has been set, but it is not expected for a couple weeks.

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.