Political news


Today the Texas Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill — the Pastor Protection Act — that would allow religious ministers the right to deny performing a marriage ceremony to a couple if doing so would violate his or her religious beliefs. While the bill's sponsor, Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), acknowledged an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer that could legalize same-sex marriage, he said the bill is designed to protect clergy members from potential lawsuits.  

KUT News

Elections were held this weekend in a number of cities and school districts in the Austin area, but not in Austin itself. In the Eanes Independent School District, there was a $52.5 million bond proposition, approved by 65% of the votes. Eanes ISD says the bond package addresses capital improvements, replaces buses, improves technology and returns land to campuses by moving district functions into a District Operations Center.


From the Texas Tribune: Epilepsy patients in Texas would have access to medicinal oils containing a therapeutic component found in marijuana under legislation the state Senate passed Thursday.  

Senators voted 26-5 to pass Senate Bill 339, by Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, which would legalize oils containing cannabidiol (CBD), a component found in marijuana known to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions. If the measure passes the House, by 2018, the state would be able to regulate and distribute the oils to patients whose symptoms have not responded to federally approved medication. 

This week on The Ticket: We'll break down the presidential announcement video from Hillary Clinton and interview Garry Mauro, a 4-term Texas Land Commissioner, state campaign director for multiple presidential candidates, and unofficial (for now) worker on the Clinton 2016 campaign.

The Ticket, produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune, is our new podcast focused on the 2016 presidential race.

In the second episode of The Ticket, KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root break down the presidential campaign announcement speech of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in another edition of “Stump Interrupted.”

They also talk with Mathew Dowd, who directed President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

Senate Approves Drug Testing for Political Candidates

Apr 29, 2015
Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

Any candidate seeking elected office in Texas would be required to take a drug test when he or she files to run, under a proposal that the state Senate approved Tuesday. But the idea may never take effect, since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned a similar law in the 1990s.

There wouldn’t be any consequences for failing the test under the rule, which was included as an amendment on far-reaching ethics legislation. But the results would be posted on the Texas Ethics Commission’s website.

The Ticket, produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune, is our new podcast focused on the 2016 presidential race.

In the pilot episode of The Ticket, KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root bring back the Tribune's “Stump Interrupted” feature to break down Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential announcement speech at Liberty University last month and talk with former Texas GOP Chairman and current Rand Paul campaigner Steve Munisteri.

Liang Shi / KUT News

A point of order from state representative Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) delayed a vote on a bill that would remove a key function of the Public Integrity Unit. Among the duties of the Unit, a division of the Travis County District Attorney's Office, is investigating allegations of corruption leveled against state-level officials, such as members of the Texas Legislature or employees of state agencies.

Under the bill authored by state representative Phil King (R-Weatherford), that function would go away. Investigation would be the responsibility of the Texas Rangers, an elite division of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Prosecution would be handled by the District Attorney's Office in the home county of the accused.   

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The Texas constitution requires lawmakers to pass one bill each session: the state budget, which was under (rather lengthy) discussion last week in the House and in the Senate this week. But governors can push their own to-do list at the start of each session in the form of emergency items.

In February, newly minted Gov. Greg Abbott named five of those priorities during his February State of the State speech, and today we're going to see how those bills are doing, by ranking their legislative progress so far this session.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune; Screenshot from Fox News

First there was Ted Cruz. Then yesterday, Rand Paul joined the mix. Eventually, former Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to announce his run — his second — for the Republican Presidential nomination. His first run, in 2011-12, didn’t end well.

But the former Texas Governor and his team have been working to undo past damage and build a better Perry: Perry 2.0.

Via Win Henerson

Two companion bills in the House and the Senate aim to change the way you interact with your insurance company.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced today that he will seek the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

"I have a message — a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words," he told supporters in Louisville, Ky. "We've come to take our country back."

Ben Philpott/KUT News

Texas Senator Ted Cruz heads to South Carolina today on the next leg of his presidential campaign. KUT’s Ben Philpott has been following his first week on the campaign trail. While much of the week was predictably standard fare for Cruz – and presidential candidates in general – there were a couple things that stood out.

Ben Philpott/KUT News

Seventy percent of young adults who voted in 2012 voted for President Barack Obama. Some post-election analysis said Republican nominee Mitt Romney could have won if he had split that vote in a handful of key states.

So expect to see a heavy push towards the youth vote from Republicans this election. That includes Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who's campaigning in Iowa this week. How's his message being received by young voters on the campaign trail?

The largest pharmacist association in the country has voted to discourage its members from participating in executions.

The move could make executions harder for states that have been ordering their drugs from compounding pharmacies. As we've reported, some states like Texas turned to the pharmacies after big pharmaceutical companies — under pressure from death penalty opponents — decided to stop selling their drugs to U.S. prisons.

Ben Philpott/KUT News; YouTube screenshot

From George W. Bush to Ron Paul to Rick Perry — and now Ted Cruz and, presumably, Perry together — the New Hampshire Republican Presidential Primary has had a Texan on the ticket for a while. And while Republicans in Texas may say that with pride, how do the people of New Hampshire feel about Texans in the race?

By and large, most New Hampshire residents said they weren’t feeling the “Texas fatigue” one might expect with the continual stable of Lone Star candidates. In the case of Cruz, who was there last weekend kicking off his campaign, his proposals outshone any regional biases. In the case of Perry, some primary voters showed surprising support for a candidate who placed sixth in the 2012 contest.

Ben Philpott/KUT News

Texas Senator Ted Cruz ended his first official week as a Presidential candidate in the snow in New Hampshire. As the skies spit small flakes, the kind that shut down most Texas towns but are barely noticed in New England, Cruz turned up the heat indoors with a rousing 40-minute speech that drew six standing ovations.

Tom Fergus was in the crowd of more than 200 people attending the brunch at the Portsmouth Country Club. While national media and some Republican pundits have said Cruz's campaign doesn't have the broad appeal needed to make a successful run, Fergus says Cruz's message fits right in with the "rugged individualist Yankees that we are."

KUT News

First came the announcement: Sen. Ted Cruz launched his Presidential run on Monday in front of the student body of Liberty University.

Then it was time to make some money. Cruz had a big online push and headed to New York for a couple of days of fundraising.

Now it's time for him to meet the people as an official Presidential candidate.

Livestream: One-on-One Interview with Ted Cruz

Mar 24, 2015

Texas Tribune political reporter Jay Root sits down one-on-one in New York City with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas' junior senator and the nation's first declared 2016 presidential candidate. Cruz formally announced his candidacy on Monday. The interview is set to begin shortly after 2 p.m. Watch the livestream, courtesy of the Texas Tribune, below.

Michael Stravato/Texas Tribune

Reporters and political pundits across the county are scrambling to handicap Ted Cruz's chances of winning the Republican Presidential nomination. But unlike most other expected candidates, Cruz has little campaign experience to review. He rose from relative obscurity to win his 2012 U.S. Senate race.

So what can that race tell us about Cruz’s Presidential chances?