Texas
7:54 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Bill Could Increase Availability to Texas Mental Health Care

Ruth Jones McClendon has filed legislation that would separate funding for 'civic' and 'forensic' mental health patients.
ruthmcclendon.org

New attention could be coming to a bill filed by a State Representative out of San Antonio. Democrat Ruth Jones McClendon filed the bill in November but the topic is timely.

McClendon says House Bill 205 would increase the availability of mental health beds provided by the state.

She says, right now, Texas provides one pool of funding for beds for two main categories of people in need of mental health services: those unable to make sound decisions and those detained for mental evaluation after a crime.

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Politics
7:14 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Mental Health Gun Laws Unlikely To Reduce Shootings

State Senator Jeff Klein (L-R), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins congratulate New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after he signed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act on Tuesday.
Hans Pennink Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu January 17, 2013 10:11 am

States aren't likely to prevent many shootings by requiring mental health professionals to report potentially violent patients, psychiatrists and psychologists say.

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Arts and Culture
6:15 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Sundance Festival has Texas Tinge

Elise Gardner in "Spark," playing at Slamdance Film Festival.
Annie Silverstein

The Sundance Film Festival gets under way today in Park City, Utah. The 10-day festival features more than 100 films by directors from around the world. Ten of those are Texas filmmakers, and Austin’s film community helped bring those films to the silver screen.

A group of local filmmakers and critics assembled in a screening room at Austin Studios last week. They were there to watch short films and clips from a full-length feature making its debut at Sundance. But it was a little hard keep track of just who did what.

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Politics
5:24 am
Thu January 17, 2013

Business Group Calls for Tax Cuts

The Legislature has $101 billion to work with this cycle.
Lizzie Chen for KUT News

When Texas lawmakers found out they’d have more than $101 billion to spend this legislative session, some immediately began calling for tax cuts. Now one prominent business lobbying group has laid out its idea for what those cuts could look like.

For Bill Hammond, it’s a simple formula: Keep taxes low and the Texas economic engine keeps on chugging. Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, says making permanent the business tax exemption for companies that bring in less than $1 million in gross receipts would really fuel the economy, as would allowing those making more than that to exempt their first $1 million.

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Austin
5:05 am
Thu January 17, 2013

City May Try Again on Affordable Housing Bond

The bond for affordable housing was the only one that lost in November.
Mose Buchele, KUT News

The Austin City Council could take the first step toward another bond package aimed at affordable housing today. The proposal from council members Sheryl Cole, Bill Spelman and Chris Riley tells city staff to start preparing for a bond election, although it does not specify a dollar amount.

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Politics
7:29 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Seven State Parks Could Close Under Proposed Budget

McKinney Falls State Park near Austin. State budget propposals don't specify which parks could be closed.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department would close seven state parks during the 2014-2015 biennium under preliminary budget proposals from the House and Senate, and at least one group is ready to fight to keep them open.

In discussions before the legislative session began, the parks and wildlife department requested that the Legislative Budget Board allocate an additional $18.9 million from the sporting goods sales tax to keep all parks operational. The preliminary House and Senate budgets, released Tuesday, call for only an additional $6.9 million over the next biennium from that tax.

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Gun Violence
5:40 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Looking to Media for Causes of Violence

Media violence influences but doesn't cause real-life violence, a UT professor says.
flickr.com/kcdstm

President Obama’s call to ban assault weapons, place limits on high-capacity magazines and enact other controls on gun ownership has upset a lot of powerful interests in Texas.

Some politicians say one of the major causes of gun violence is pop culture -- TV, music and video games. KUT’s Nathan Bernier spoke with Dominic Lasorsa, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas who has studied the role of TV violence in society.

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Environment
5:37 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

LCRA Proposes Relief for Rice Farmers

Rice mills and related businesses in southeast Texas have suffered from the water shortages in recent years.
Jeff Heimsath/StateImpact Texas

The Lower Colorado River Authority approved a plan this week that could ease the strain on the Highland Lakes in the future. For StateImpact Texas, David Barer explains plans to build a new reservoir for downstream rice farmers.

It’s a decision that should have very positive impacts for the basin from top to bottom. So, looking forward for the board and staff moving forward in that.

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Politics
5:08 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Texans React to Gun Control Proposal

Gov. Rick Perry opposes the president's gun control measures.
Liang Shi, KUT News

President Obama’s call today for a series of stronger gun control measures met with immediate opposition here in Texas.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement calling for prayer and said that “guns require a finger to pull the trigger.”

Gun advocates, like Bill Titus of the Texas Concealed Handgun Association, criticized the efficacy and intent of President Obama’s proposals.

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Health
4:08 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

UT Researchers Create New Bacteria Designed to Improve Vaccinations

Sixty-one new strains of bacteria created by UT researchers may improve vaccinations.
flickr.com/v1ctor

UT researchers have developed 61 new strains of genetically-engineered bacteria, which they say could improve and transform vaccines.

The strains of E. Coli are part of a new class of adjuvants, which are substances mixed in with vaccines that stimulate and improve the human body’s immune response to vaccinations. M. Stephen Trent, an associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at UT who worked on the research, said these new strains gives the medical field more options for vaccine development.

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Health
4:03 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Tamiflu Drug Availability Becomes Spotty in Texas

The Texas Department of State Health Services is encouraging people to get vaccinated as the flu continues to spread in Texas.
flickr.com/sanofi-pasteur

An early, widespread flu outbreak in Texas is putting a strain on the supply of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, a Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson said Wednesday.

Tamiflu is a prescription drug that both fights flu symptoms and prevents the spread of the flu to the rest of the body. But because of Texas’ flu outbreak, Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson Chris Van Deusen said there are small spot shortages of the drug.

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Politics
4:00 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

No Medicaid Expansion in Texas, Dewhurst Says

The state will not make more people eligible for Medicaid next year.
Texas Tribune

State Senate leaders say they want to improve the quality of Medicaid in Texas, but that doesn’t mean expanding it to cover more people.

The Affordable Care Act would broaden the pool of people who qualify for Medicaid in 2014 in states that choose to do that. But Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst says an expansion in Texas is off the table.

Dewhurst says he doesn’t support what he calls a “one size fits all plan” for Medicaid.

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Arts and Culture
3:50 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Frontera Fest Celebrates 20th Year

Hyde Park Theatre

Good news, theater junkies.  Frontera Fest 2013, the festival that exhibits veteran and up-and-coming playwrights of Austin, began yesterday.

The festival features plays, choreography, comedy improv, monologues, avant-garde, and all creative utterances of over 250 performers on the “fringe” of the theater world.

Rest assured, it’s friggin’ fringe-tastic. 

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Lake Travis ISD
2:13 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Lockdown Lifted at Lake Travis ISD Schools

Update 3:45pm: Lake Travis ISD says nothing has been found in the area where a suspicious person was reported and the lockdown has been lifted at all schools. 

Update 2:35pm: The lockdown has been lifted at Lake Travis ISD schools, except for Lake Travis Elementary School and the district's Education Development Center, where the report of suspicious activity originated.

Update 2:15pm: Lake Travis ISD spokesman Marco Alvarado says the lockdown was in response to a report of suspicious activity at the district's Education Development Center near Lake Travis Elementary. 

Alvarado said there were no reports of any weapons at this point.

EARLIER: All schools in Lake Travis are on lockdown, following reports of a suspicious individual at an unnamed building. 

Schools in the Lake Travis ISD include Lake Travis High School, Hudson Bend Middle School , Lake Travis Middle School, Bee Cave Elementary School, Lake Pointe Elementary School, Lake Travis Elementary School, Lakeway Elementary School, and Serene Hills Elementary School.  

No more details are available at this time; KUT News is waiting to hear back from the Lakeway Police Department, and will update this post with more information once it becomes available. 

Health
1:56 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Possible EMS Program Would Expand Coverage

Flickr user edolnx, bit.ly/ZDRVTb

The Commissioners Court didn’t renew an Austin/Travis County EMS contract last night. They’ll wait until next week to do that. But county commissioners did show some love for a new proposal that would create a unit of paramedics roaming the city in trucks tending to those sick and injured Austinites in need of assistance.

Sounds familiar right? Strangely enough, they’re not ambulances. 

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