Campus Palestine protests, Paxton sues Biden, political deepfakes: This Week in Texas Politics

This Week in Texas Politics was filled with more campus protesting, but there were several other big stories that happened this week. 

FOX 7 Austin's chief political reporter Rudy Koski and our panel of political analysts break down the big headlines from this week.

RUDY KOSKI: Let's march through it all, and we'll begin with our headlines from our panel. And we'll start first with political analyst Mark Wiggins. Mark, what's your headline?  

MARK WIGGINS: Pennsylvania billionaire deep faking lies to Texas voters.  

RUDY KOSKI: Annie Spilman with Main Street Relations. Annie, what's your headline for the week?  

ANNIE SPILMAN: Vehicle inspections are going away in 2025.  

RUDY KOSKI: And Philip Jankowski with the Dallas Morning News. Philip, what's your headline?  

PHIL JANKOWSKI: Protests testing Republicans commitments to free speech. 

RELATED: UT Austin protest: Arrested protesters continue to be released from jail

RUDY KOSKI: The outbreak of anti-Israel, pro-Palestine protests on college campuses prompted a strong response. Several congressional and state lawmakers say foreign students expressing support for the terror group Hamas should have visas revoked and deported. Phil, Texas Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne is a leading voice in that move. 

PHILIP JANKOWWSKI: Yeah, she announced this week that she's got a law and that she wants to get passed called the Hamas Supporters Have No Home Here Act. Say that three times fast. Most of the demonstrators at these campuses would say that their rallies aren't anti-Semitic or even pro-terrorist. But that's not stopping Republicans like her from labeling them as such.  

RELATED: Democratic US Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and his wife are indicted over ties to Azerbaijan

RUDY KOSKI: Well, the mudslinging in the state House runoff races is certainly intensifying this week. Hard-right groups sending out mailers described as a deep fake, which had a photoshopped image of House Speaker Dade Phelan being embraced by Nancy Pelosi and then standing at a podium at a Democrat fundraising event. That ad comes as a House hearing on AI was held here in Austin. Mark, that just may help a rewrite on a law that's already there in regards to deepfakes.  

MARK WIGGINS: Rudy, I mean this without a trace of hyperbole. I think this is one of the most important issues when it comes to securing elections. I mean, think about this. Billionaires who don't even live in Texas are using AI to create deep fakes that are meant to deceive millions of Texas voters. And right now, there's absolutely nothing that voters can do to verify whether what they're being shown is even real or not. So, I think a ban on political deepfakes, frankly, is must-pass legislation next session.  

RELATED: Paxton sues Biden Administration over gun sales requirement: 'Come and take it'

RUDY KOSKI: Ken Paxton back in the news. He made a surprise appearance at the Trump Hush Money Trial and then announced a multi-state lawsuit against the Biden administration. The efforts to close what's known as the gun show loophole. Both are red meat moments, and it's kind of strange. I didn't see Trump mentioning that Paxton was there. Did you Annie?  

ANNIE SPILMAN: You know, I was watching some of the national news yesterday, and they showed some footage of Paxton there and made note of it. You know, I would, on a business standpoint, like to speak to the gun law loophole. You know, currently we've got brick and mortar business owners selling guns who pay the money and do with the paperwork to be licensed, in their respective state. So this new gun law does level the playing field, in this case, by virtually outlawing private sales of firearms between individuals, unless they comply with these new regs regarding licensing and background checks, if they're selling guns repeatedly. And I don't think it's any surprise that this law is being challenged in court by Second Amendment activists and general Paxton.  

RELATED: Texas Panhandle wildfire hearings: Prescribed burns, utility maintenance big topics in day 2

RUDY KOSKI: A report on the Panhandle wildfire came out this week. That report from a special House committee is recommending some legislation on some things in regards to better powerline inspections and maintenance, better communications, and the possible formation of a special state air force to respond to wildfire outbreaks. Philip, any surprises in the report on that one?  

PHILIP JANKOWSKI: Yeah. Two things surprised me. One really was just kind of seeing when you read it all and recognizing the vastness of that fire. The other thing that surprised me was the consistency in what caused these fires. There were several fires, but most of them were caused by old, broken down electrical poles and wires that that weren't just the cause for the big fire, but many of these of these smaller ones.  

MARK WIGGINS: You know, Rudy, you and I have covered these sort of things for a long time. And it's frustrating because these postmortems always contain a few similarities, a lack of regulation and a lack of preparation. And oftentimes those are driven by a lack of funding.  

RUDY KOSKI: After the big fires in Bastrop, we had some changes. The PUC was told to start monitoring these power companies and their power lines and to track them. They're doing that. They just started doing it right before the outbreak. So, Annie, is it just a tweaking or do we need a bigger hammer?  

ANNIE SPILMAN: I spoke to one of the members of the committee and asked him what especially stood out after hearing testimony, and he emphatically said, we need help to fund our volunteer fire departments.  

RUDY KOSKI: Let's wrap it up, and we will now go to our one word for the week from our panel. And we'll start with Mark, what's your word?  

MARK WIGGINS: Deep fake. 

ANNIE SPILMAN: Well, in honor of small businesses during the small business week resilience.  

PHILIP JANKOWSKI: Indicted? Just recognizing what's going on with Henry Cuellar today.  

RUDY KOSKI: And with that, we'll close it out. Another week in Texas politics.  

An extended discussion can be found on the FOX 7 Austin YouTube page.