• Will Abigail Fisher ever get her $100 admissions application fee back?

    Will Abigail Fisher ever get her $100 admissions application fee back? 

    According to the Supreme Court: Nope. Or at least, not yet.

    When challenging the broader scope of the University’s admissions process in her pending Supreme Court case, Fisher requested she receive reparations for her housing deposit and $100 application fee, two items she paid before being denied admissions to the University.

    Abigail Fisher had already obtained a degree from Louisiana State University — and  a job in Austin — by the time of oral arguments last year, causing some to wonder why Fisher’s case was allowed to continue at the court. Fisher was eventually allowed to stand, even as some justices wondered whether her low academic criteria would have disqualified her from admissions regardless of her race.

    The fate of the $100 will now rest with the justices of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, who the Supreme Court sent the case back down to on Monday.

  • House to begin investigation into UT Regent Wallace Hall

    Updated at 3:43 p.m.

    In an interview with The Daily Texan, Representative Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said she did not have a timeline for when the investigation into UT System Regent Wallace Hall will be complete.

    "This is something new to the committee," Alvarado said. "There is no set time frame at this point. I anticipate that as we get further into the investigation, that we will have a better idea."

    If the committee completes its investigation and feels Hall should be impeached, they will propose an article of impeachment. The Senate would then vote on the impechment.

    Alvarado said she did not have a comment on Hall's actions, or if she thought he might have been engaging in practices that harm the UT System or the state of Texas.

    "I am not prepared to say at this point. I am going to wait till we start the hearings," Alvarado said. "We are looking forward to having a full and fair investigation."

    Original story:

    The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations had a preliminary meeting today to begin an investigation into UT System Regent Wallace Hall, which could ultimately lead to his impeachment.

    According to a press release from Dan Flynn's office, House Speaker Joe Straus expanded the committee's jursidiction this morning to include regents. If Wallace Hall is impeached, he will be the first impeached Texas regent in history.

    "These impeachment proceedings will be both thorough and impartial, and we intend to use all necessary resources and powers at the Committee's disposal to ensure an effective investigation," said Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, who co-charies the transparency committee. "I am confident the Committee will bring new, nonpartisan insights on what has been a contentious series of events."

    More details coming soon.

  • Texas at the center of Voting Rights Act decision

    Gov. Rick Perry could decide to veto voting maps recently completed by the Texas Legislature as a result of today's decision from the Supreme Court, calling a new special session and allowing conservatives to pass new maps that would have not passed under the now defunct Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

    The Supreme Court ruled this morning that Section 4, which specifies what locations require federal review on their voting laws under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, to be unconstitutional as it stands. The law previously stated that places with trends of "historic discrimination" against minority voting rights would be required to seek clearance from a federal court, but today the court has ruled such standards could only be examined under "present conditions" of discrimination.

    The special session, which was created to address the issue of redistricting, is now grinding into a last minute debate as Senate Democats fillabuster a highly contentious bill on abortion regulations before the session ends at midnight. 

    Texas is one of several mostly Southern states that were previously required to seek preclearance.

    The state's voter ID law requiring a government-issued identification at voting polls, which was made unenforceable by a now overruled federal court order, is also still on the books and will go into effect today, said assistant law professor Joseph Fishkin.

    Fishkin, who teaches on voting rights and constitutional law, said civil rights groups could still appeal to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which allows for the creation of lawsuits when voter discrimination is alleged, to halt new voting maps created by a veto from Perry.

    "For the next few years there's likely going to be a regime where there will be no Section 5 coverage anywhere," Fishkin said, who believes it is unlikely the current Congress will redefine the Section 4 requirements of the Voting Rights Act. "Gov. Perry has to decide what he is going to do about this issue, which could put Texas at center of national attention about the impact of this ruling, today."

  • Former UT Law School dean hints at legal action in statement

    In a statement to the Texas Tribune, former UT Law School dean and current law professor Lawrence Sager hinted at taking legal action against UT System Regent Wallace Hall.

    Earlier on Tuesday, the Texas Tribune published an interview with Hall that stemmed from a current unpassed house resolution that would begin impeachment proceedings against Hall. The interview focused primairly on the possible impeachment, but Hall touched on a 2011 controversy where UT's Law School Dean resigned.

    "Almost immediately after the board was told of [University of Texas at Austin School of Law] Dean [Larry] Sager's half a million dollar concealed and unauthorized grant to himself, President Powers gave a statement to the press saying that "nothing illegal or improper" had taken place," Hall said in the interview to the Texas Tribune.

    Later in the day, the Texas Tribune published a statement from Sager, who said Hall made several "false and defamatory remarks regarding my actions."

    "In the interview, Mr. Hall said that I concealed an unauthorized grant to myself. Both assertions are demonstrably false," Sager said in his statement to the Texas Tribune. "It is hard not to conclude that Mr. Hall has willfully and maliciously misstated these facts to serve some end other than the truth.  His remarks are baldly defamatory and cannot go unchallenged.  Legal action may be the only effective resort."

    The Daily Texan has reached out to Sager, but he has not responded yet for comment.

  • LIVEBLOG: Abortion legislation in Senate

    Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, speaks as she begins a filibuster in an effort to kill an abortion bill, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in Austin, Texas
    Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, speaks as she begins a filibuster in an effort to kill an abortion bill, Tuesday, June 25, 2013, in Austin, Texas

    Please read our up to date blog posting here about the recent actions on the abortion legislation. 

    10:30 p.m. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst ruled that Sen. Donna Campbell's, R-New Braunfels, point of order was sustained, and he issued the third strike against Sen. Wendy Davis's, D-Fort Worth, filibuster.

    However, democrats in the Senate immediately challenged the decision, and debate has ensured on the issue.

    Follow Bobby Blanchard @bobbycblanchard for live updates.

    10:08 p.m.: Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, raised a point of order against Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, for going off topic.

    Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and others were still debating the point of order as of 10:08 p.m. If it is ruled against Davis, the filibuster will likely be over.

    9:10 p.m.: Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, just has two hours and fifty minutes to go before the special session ends. 

    During her filrbuster, Davis has been issued two warnings. One for going off topic and another for recieving assistance with her back brace. If Davis is issued a third warning, the filibuster is likely to end. 

    Davis has spent the past hour going through the bill, line by line.

    "I am going through this bill anaylsis, bit-by-bit, because I have something to say, about all of it," Davis said. 

    7:35 p.m.:  Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has been issued another warning for violating one of the filibuster rules. This is her second. If she is issued a third rule, the filibuster will end.

    Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, raised a point of order agaisnt Davis, for recieving assistance with her back brace. According to the rules, Davis cannot drink, eat, sit down or lean on anything during her filibuster. She also cannot use the restroom.

    "A filibuster is an endurance contest and it’s to be made unaided and unassisted," Williams said.

    Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst said there was no precedent for the challenge, so he put the point of order to a debate and vote in the Senate Chamber. Senators spent more than 10 minutes debating and speaking on the point of order. In a vote of 17-11, the Senate voted to sustain the point of order and issued Davis her second warning.

    6:39 p.m.: Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, has spent more than 30 minutes questioning Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, during her filibuster Tuesday evening.

    Watson asked Davis many questions. He has asked her to clarify different aspects of the bill, to recall points of debate on the bill and to speak on why the American Medicial Association might oppose the bill. Watson has also asked Davis if anything in the abortion legislation would do anything to reduce the number of unwanted pregancies that end in abortions.

    Davis must survive until midnight. She cannot drink, eat, sit down or lean on anything during her filibuster. She also cannot use the restroom.

    6:04 p.m.: Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, survived several rounds of questions and challenges from fellow senators during her filibuster Tuesday afternoon, but she suffered a strike against her for drifting off topic.

    Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, raised several points of orders against Davis, challenging the topics she was discussing were not related to SB5, the abortion legislation. The first point of order for Davis speaking of Planned Parenthood's funding. Another point of order was for Davis speaking about Roe v. Wade.

    Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst overruled Nichols's second point of order. However, he agreed with Nichols' first point of order regarding Planned Parenthood's funding, and he warned Davis that she needed to stay on topic.

    3:55 p.m.: Following several hours of reading previously unheard testimonies, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, switched to reading personal stories submitted by volunteers during her filibuster.

    However, she was interrupted when lawmakers began to question her.

    "Do you think the traditions of the Texas Senate are more important than women's health?" asked Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville.

    Deuell also challenged Davis' claim that clinics in Texas be closed by the passage of SB5. 

    There are eight hours left before the special session ends and time runs out.

    2:30 p.m.: Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, continued giving personal testimony past 2 p.m. Davis is reading from 31 personal testimonies given by volunteers that were not read before the House State Affairs committee late last week.

    Here are five quotes from personal testimonies so far:

    1). "Roe v. Wade has not been overturned. This bill is about access and women's health."

    2). "You are cordially not invited to share that experience [making a family] with me."

    3). "The message the Legislature is sending with these bills is that a woman's role is solely to have children."

    4). "I fear for my daughter's future in a state that values my daughter's right to carry a gun on a college campus over the right to her body."

    5). "It makes me sad as a Texan to see my home state moving back to the 1950s."

    1:00 p.m.: Shortly before 1 p.m., Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, began giving personal testimony from people who she said were denied an opportunity to speak at a hearing on HB60 last week.

    "Because that testimony was not allowed, I thought it was particularly appropriate today to give voice to [those] people," Davis said.

    Davis said she has 31 personal testimonies prepared for the Seante. She has 11 hours left to go in her fillisbuster before the special session ends.

    12:45 p.m.: Despite an outburst from the gallery, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, is still conducting her filibuster.

    A man in the gallery started to shout at Davis that "abortion is genocide" during her filibuster, although he was quickly escorted out. Davis did not stop speaking during the outburst.

    Davis has read personal testimony from Texas ACOG, Texas Hospitals Associated and several physicians.

    12:03 p.m.: ​During her filibuster, Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, referenced a tweet from Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst that stirred up controversy last week.

    On June 19, Dewhurst sent a Twitter message that included a picture of a map of Texas showing the many abortion clinics that would close if SB5 passed. The picture said "If SB5 passes, it would essentially ban abortion statewide."

    We fought to pass SB5 thru the Senate last night, & this is why! #StandWithTXChildren #txlege pic.twitter.com/fJbQSJur7i

    "We know why," Davis said of the bill's justification for being passed by conservatives. "Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst's tweet told us why."

    Davis began reading personal testimony to the body just before noon.

    11:50 a.m.: Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, began her filibuster Tuesday by rehashing the history of SB5 and other abortion legislation in the state.

    She also began by discussing the ways she believed the bill could negatively impact women's health if passed.

    "This bans abortion before a woman might receive important information about her health," Davis said. "Fewer than 2 percent of abortions occur after 20 weeks. And while it is uncommon, it is important that a woman and her doctor have every option available."

    Supporters of SB5 and other abortion legislation claim the bill would make abortion safer for women in Texas.

    11:37 a.m.: Because the Texas Senate brought up abortion legislation before discussing transportation funding or sentencing guidelines legislation, it is likely those bills will not pass during the first special session.

    Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Forth Worth, has expressed to reporters and fellow lawmakers that she will filibuster the abortion legislation until the special session ends Tuesday night. This means the Senate is likely not going to get a chance to pass legislation on transportation funding, or sentencing guidelines for 17-year-olds who are found guilty of capital murder. All three of these issues — abortion, transportation funding and sentencing guidelines, were issues Texas Gov. Rick Perry added to the special session.

    While the first special session ends Tuesday night, Perry can always call another special session at anytime he wishes.

    11:30 a.m.: Lieutenant David Dewhurst called the Senate to order at about 11:10 a.m.

    Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, immediately introduced abortion legislation in SB5. Hegar explained the bill out, prompting Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth to immediately begin her filibuster.

    Davis first took issue with the way the bill was brought to the Senate.

    “We all know that these bills were filed during the regular session,” Davis said.

    Davis pointed out that bills on abortions restrictions failed to be heard during the regular session because such legislation did not have two-thirds support in the Senate to get the bill on the floor. In the special session bills can be started without the traditional “two-thirds” rule.

    10:54 a.m.:  It is almost 11 a.m. and the Senate has not yet convened to discuss legislation. 

    While all eyes are on the Texas Senate for an expected filibuster on abortion legislation, many Texas higher education stakeholders are looking to the House. 

    Today, Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, may attempt to bring up a resolution in the House that would begin impeachment proceedings on UT System Regent Wallace Hall. Pitts filed the resolution during the special session after months of accusing the regents of engaging in a “witch-hunt” against UT President William Powers Jr. 

    Hall would be the first Texas higher education regent to ever be impeached.

    If the resolution passes in the House, a committee would be set up by House Speaker Joe Straus. If the committee decided it wanted Hall impeached, it would be up to the full Senate to vote on the impeachment.

    10:08 a.m.: Following days of intense debate and civic protest, the Texas Senate is meeting Tuesday morning to debate pending abortion legislation in the last day of the special session.

    Lawmakers in the Senate will convene sometime after 10 a.m. to begin debate on SB5, a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and likely close many clinics in Texas where women can obtain an abortion. Democrats in the Senate have pledged to filibuster the bill. 

    The Senate is also expected to take up bills on transportation funding and a bill on sentencing guidelines for 17-year-olds who are found guilty of capital murder.