Politics

Politics
10:16 am
Fri January 17, 2014

Watch: Obama's NSA Reform Announcement

Obama is expected to announce changes to the NSA after revelations of a massive domestic surveillance program on US citizens and others around the globe. Obama's been fielding critics since the first of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks last June.

You can watch livestream of the announcement below: 

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Politics
8:54 am
Fri January 17, 2014

What You Should Listen For From President Obama's NSA Announcement

President Obama is expected to announce a curtailment of domestic data collection on Jan. 17 at 10 a.m.
Patrick Samansky/AP

President Obama will announce changes this morning to how the National Security Agency does its job. This comes after months of revelations of massive warrantless data gathering on US citizens and others around the globe. Obama's been fielding critics since the first of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks last June.

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Politics
6:50 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

G.P. Bush Prepares to Enter Office as Dewhurst Looks to Life After Politics

Photo mosaic of Lone Star Flag
Texas State Library and Archives

George P. Bush has more than $2.8 million to spend on his campaign for Texas Land Commissioner. His two main challengers, a Republican and a Democrat, have a combined total of around $20,000. 

Democrat John Cook, former Mayor of El Paso, reports raising about $13,000 since June. Republican David Watts's campaign finance filing this week indicates fundraising in the second half of 2013 of about $7,000. 

Dr. Brian Smith is a professor of political science at St. Edward’s University in Austin. He says what the Bush campaign is doing is a tried and true intimidation tactic.

“He’s over-raising money to scare off any potential Republican challenger,” Smith says. “If I’m a Democrat I would be, like, wow, I have to raise $3.3 million just to match him. That’s going to scare me away. If I’m a Republican, I’m going to be like, gosh, he’s got a lot of money. Let him have it.”

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Politics
3:15 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Payday Lenders In the Spotlight, As Industry Becomes an Issue in Texas Governor's Race

A payday lending business in Texas. While some states ban the practice of high-interest short-term lending, Texas' payday lending industry has proliferated in recent years.
Credit James Malone, Texas Tribune

Signs offering promises of “quick cash” can be seen all over Texas. So-called payday lenders offer short-term loans under $700, but those loans have been criticized for interest rates that can climb to 500 percent.

For some customers, taking one on leaves them in a never-ending cycle of debt. It’s controversial, and the practice is actually banned in 12 states.

Recently, it’s become an issue in this year’s governor’s race.

The topic was kicked up after the chairman of the Texas Finance Commission – William White – made comments to the El Paso Times suggesting payday lenders should be able to charge whatever fees they want. Previously unheard of, White’s comments put him in the spotlight among payday loan regulation advocates.

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Politics
2:13 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Report: Regent Didn't Violate Student Privacy Laws

UT Regent Wallace Hall
Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

After reviewing University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall's handling of information that may be confidential under federal student privacy laws, outside lawyers for the system have concluded that there was "no credible evidence of a violation of [the state government code] that would warrant a referral for criminal prosecution."

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Politics
9:04 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Davis, Abbott Announce Big Fundraising Figures

Marjorie Kamys Cotera & Bob Daemmrich via Texas Tribune

Democrat Wendy Davis pulled $8.7 million into her gubernatorial campaign coffers in the last half of 2013, and another group committed to her election as governor raised $3.5 million over the same period, the Davis campaign announced Tuesday. Minutes after she announced the combined $12.2 million haul, her expected Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbo

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Politics
10:48 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Unemployment Drug-Testing Law Delayed

Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

Texans applying for unemployment benefits will be subject to a new drug screening procedure in a program scheduled to take effect Feb. 1. But the Texas Workforce Commission said it will not be able to start the program on the state’s timetable because the United States Labor Department has not set the required parameters.

As proponents of the program raise concerns about the Labor Department’s progress, the Workforce Commission is preparing for the testing without knowing who will be tested.

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Politics
3:40 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

In Austin, Cruz Calls Obama Actions "Dangerous and Terrifying"

Sen. Ted Cruz (R) says Democrats are to blame for last government shutdown, and can control whether it happens again.
Ben Philpott/KUT

Texas Senator Ted Cruz was in Austin today speaking at the Texas Public Policy Foundation's annual policy orientation. He spent his time attacking what he sees as a disregard for federal laws by President Obama.

Senator Cruz’s speech to lawmakers, policy wonks and grassroots activists gave several examples of the President using executive authority to supersede federal laws. Pointing specifically to immigration reform, marijuana prosecutions and the Affordable Care Act.

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Politics
12:00 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

NSA Says It Would Welcome Public Advocate At FISA Court

The National Security Agency headquarters building in Fort Meade, Md.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 11:45 am

  • NSA's John Inglis on why you need a haystack
  • NSA's John Inglis compares what Edward Snowden did to arson

The National Security Agency "would welcome" the creation of a public advocate's position at the court that oversees its electronic surveillance programs, said its outgoing deputy director.

John C. "Chris" Inglis, who retires Friday after more than seven years as the NSA's No. 2, told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep that "I would only put the caveat on there that it needs to be operationally efficient."

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2014 Governor's Race
8:44 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Education Funding to Play Key Role in Texas Governor's Race

State Senator Wendy Davis, the presumed Democratic nominee for Texas Governor and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the presumed GOP nominee.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera & Bob Daemmrich via Texas Tribune

The first time State Senator Wendy Davis made waves as a Texas lawmaker was during the 2011 legislative session when she filibustered a budget that cut four billion dollars in funding for public schools.

“It’s the first time that we’ve ever done this in state history and the funding of public education and it’s a cut that I simply cannot stand for," Davis said during that filibuster.

But stand she did, pushing the 2011 legislature into a special session, where the budget plan were eventually approved anyway with the cuts included.

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Politics
7:48 am
Fri January 10, 2014

Texas House Race Draws Focus to Vietnamese Voters

Republicans Nghi Ho, left, and Al Hoang are running for the state House seat now held by Democratic Rep. Hubert Vo.
Michael Stravato

Nghi Ho and Al Hoang, the Republicans who are vying to unseat Rep. Hubert Vo, are talking about the usual issues, like abortion. They are also talking about some unlikely topics, like the Communist government in Vietnam, the birthplace of all three candidates running in the southwest Harris County district, which includes most of Alief.

“It shows that a place like Alief has come a long way from what it was when it was first established as a fairly Anglo suburb of Houston,” said Mustafa Tameez, a political consultant for Vo’s first race.

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Politics
10:45 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Senate Votes To Move Ahead On Extending Unemployment Benefits

President Obama listens as Katherine Hackett of Moodus, Conn., speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, on Tuesday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Tue January 7, 2014 12:25 pm

This post was updated at 12:00 p.m. ET.

A three-month extension of federal unemployment benefits for 1.3 million jobless Americans won a key procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

The 60-37 vote indicates there's enough Republican support to move the Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which expired on Dec. 28, forward to a full vote. As The Associated Press writes, the measure "is the leading edge of a Democratic program that also includes raising the minimum wage and closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and corporations."

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Politics
9:48 am
Fri January 3, 2014

Stockman Enters Legal Grey Area with Bitcoin Donations

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, holds a QR code linked to a Bitcoin account at an event at the NYC Bitcoin Center in New York on Dec. 31, 2013.
imgur.com

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, a Friendswood Republican with a history of flouting campaign finance laws, entered a new legal gray area this week when he announced his campaign can now accept donations in Bitcoin, a private virtual currency.

Stockman, who is challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas in this year’s Republican primary, was attending an event promoting the NYC Bitcoin Center in New York's financial district earlier this week when he told a reporter with Business Insider that his campaign could now accept Bitcoin donations. Stockman appeared to confirm the report by posting it on Facebook and Twitter.

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Politics
12:30 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

As Year Begins, Texas Governor's Race Will Heat Up

Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott speaks at a NE Tarrant Tea Party meeting at Concordia Lutheran Church in Bedford on Nov. 12. State Sen. Wendy Davis, who is also running for governor, speaks to veterans at Luby's in Forest Hill the day before.
Mark Graham / Cooper Neil via the Texas Tribune

State Sen. Wendy Davis, who got off to a slow and often rocky start in her race for Texas governor, will ring in the New Year with a much bigger bank account and an aggressive new strategy designed to keep front-running candidate Greg Abbott on the defensive. 

For Abbott, a three-term attorney general, it’s steady as she goes: He’ll keep unveiling carefully crafted policy initiatives and tying Davis to President Obama while remaining hyper-cautious in his own dealings with the news media — lest he become the first Republican in nearly a quarter-century to blow a governor’s race.

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Politics
4:31 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Former First Lady Barbara Bush Is Hospitalized

Former first lady Barbara Bush in March 2012.
Tom Pennington Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 1, 2014 4:10 am

Barbara Bush, 88, is in a hospital in Houston with a respiratory-related issue, according to her husband's office.

She was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Monday, a statement from the office of former President George H.W. Bush reads.

The statement says the former first lady "is in great spirits."

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Politics
5:56 pm
Sun December 29, 2013

Harold Simmons, GOP Mega-Donor, Dead at 82

Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who passed away on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013.
Texas Tribune

Harold Simmons, a Dallas businessman and billionaire, philanthropist and Republican mega-donor, died Saturday at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. He was 82.

His death was first reported by The Dallas Morning News. Simmons’ wife, Annette, told the paper he had been “very sick for the last two weeks” and said the family had celebrated Christmas at the hospital.

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Affordable Care Act
11:01 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

How to Find, Comment On Proposed Texas Rules for Health Insurance Navigators

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promoted the Affordable Care Act and federal health insurance exchanges in Austin on Aug. 8, 2013.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the proposed rules from the Texas Department of Insurance.

You may have heard the term navigators lately – they’re the volunteers who can help people sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

They go through an online federal training to learn how to help people navigate the federally-run marketplace, though they can't tell anyone which plan to buy. Earlier this year, a number of agencies in Texas received almost $11 million collectively to pay for their training.

Now the Texas Department of Insurance has written proposed state rules that would add 40 hours of training and require a background check for navigators.

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Gay Marriage
4:01 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

New Mexico's High Court OKs Same-Sex Marriage

Gail Stockman, 60 (left), and Beth Black, 58, of Albuquerque, N.M., prepare to marry at a massive wedding in August, along with other same-sex couples.
Russell Contreras AP

Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 5:22 pm

New Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that same-sex marriage is legal, validating initiatives in several counties allowing the practice in the absence of a specific state law.

The ruling on Thursday means that New Mexico joins 16 states and the District of Columbia in allowing gay marriage.

The Associated Press says:

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Voter ID Law
4:37 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Report: 'Lackadaisical' Texas Leadership Does Nothing to Encourage Voting

Jim Harrington (middle) argues against current voter registration procedures.
Roy Varney for KUT News

Texas' new voter ID  laws can be used to discourage minorities and women from voting. 

That's according to the nonprofit Texas Civil Rights Project. Today, it released a 63-page report criticizing the states' voter registration procedures, and a lack of voting registration opportunities.

Last June, the United States Supreme Court overturned a portion of the Voting Rights Act. The act was originally intended to protect voters from discrimination in voting matters, but the Supreme Court ruled that the application of the act, covering large parts of the South, was outdated.

After the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas instituted a voter identification law. The law requires registered voters to present a valid form of identification to vote. The Texas Civil Rights Project would like to see the voter ID law overturned, because they say it can be used to deter minority populations from voting. 

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Politics
12:51 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Note to Texas Candidates: Female Voters Cast More Ballots Than Men

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte greeted female supporters on Nov. 26, 2013 at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Texas Democrats see themselves as having at least one potential advantage in next year’s statewide elections: two women at the top of the ticket.

Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and lieutenant governor hopeful Leticia van de Putte are hoping to attract more women voters to the polls.

But both Democrats and Republicans in Texas have particular challenges in courting the female vote.

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