Environment
2:58 pm
Tue March 29, 2011

Texas Budget Big Enough To Tax Coal?

Environmental groups propose taxing "dirty resources" such as coal to raise revenue for Texas.
Image Courtesy of rankingranqueen http://www.flickr.com/photos/81343817@N00/399081880/sizes/l/in/photostream/

A budget deficit of $27 million has some people envisioning blackjack tables and penny slots in the parts of South and East Texas. Casino lobbyists are working overtime right now. But is the shortfall enough to put a tax on things like coal or making people pay a fee for driving cars that don't pass fuel efficiency standards?

The Texas League of Conservation Voters hopes so. The environmental policy lobby group calls this "green revenue."  They laid out some suggestions today at a press  conference held at the State Capitol.

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Executions
12:09 pm
Tue March 29, 2011

Lawsuit Seeks to Overturn New Execution Procedure

A lawsuit was filed Tuesday in response to the state's switch to a new execution drug.
Photo courtesy of Andres Rueda/via Flickr

A lawsuit has been filed in Travis County District Court on behalf of two Texas inmates who want the state's new execution procedure to be declared void.  Prison officials recently switched one of the three drugs they use for lethal injections.  Maurie Levin, who represents death row inmates Cleve Foster and Humberto Leal, says the Texas Department of Criminal Justice rushed its decision and made it behind closed doors.

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Politics
9:04 am
Tue March 29, 2011

The Push for Casinos to Save the Texas Budget

Jack Pratt will help push casinos in Texas
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune for KUT News

With lawmakers ready to cut around $23 billion from the state budget - any ideas that could raise revenue are going to get a listen. Casino and Racino (that's a horse track casino) interests are at the Texas Capitol this morning trying to convince lawmakers to take the money and jobs they can offer.

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Austin
7:41 am
Tue March 29, 2011

Top Morning Stories March 29, 2011

The Austin Independent School District's board finalized district lay offs last night.
Photo by KUT News

AISD School Board Finalizes Massive Job Cuts

The Austin ISD School Board made the final decision last night to eliminate 1,153 district positions. Of those positions,  361 employees retired, resigned voluntarily or were assigned to different positions.  That leaves 792 AISD employees who now know for sure they will be out of a job after the school year. By eliminating these positions, AISD only gets about halfway to closing its $94 million budget deficit.

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Environment
4:51 pm
Mon March 28, 2011

Austin Energy Issuing Rebates For Electric Car Charging Stations

A Chevy Volt charging station on display outside the Austin Convention Center during SXSW 2011.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The city's public utility, Austin Energy, will issue its first rebate check tomorrow for a homeowner who installed an electric vehicle charging station. The rebates are worth up to $1,500. A "Level 2" charging station can be installed for about $2,400.

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Education
4:24 pm
Mon March 28, 2011

Austin School Trustees To Vote On Job Cuts, Facilities Master Plan

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and school board president Mark Williams at a board meeting in February.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The pink slips have already been sent to hundreds of employees in the Austin Independent School District. Tonight, the nine men and women on the AISD board of trustees will vote on whether to officially enact those job cuts. At the same time, a year-long process to develop a master plan for school district facilities will reach its culmination when board members are asked to approve the 10-year plan.

Both issues are highly contentious because of their broad implications for employees, students, and parents.

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Politics
11:14 am
Mon March 28, 2011

A New Proposal to Get Around Capitol Security Lines

Security lines have been a hassle for many at the Texas State Capitol
Photo by KUT News

Getting in to the Texas Capitol has been a bit of an issue during the 2011 Texas Legislative session.  Last year, metal detectors and x-ray machines were installed at each entrance to the building.  Anyone who isn't a lawmaker, staff member, or state concealed handgun license(CHL) holder, must now stop - and go through an airport-like checkpoint - before heading on to any office, committee hearing, or floor debate.  

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News Brief
5:32 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Top Morning Stories March 28, 2011

Grammy award-winning bluesman Pinetop Perkins' funeral is at 5 p.m. Monday in Austin.
Photo by Carl Lender at Flickr, http://www.flickr.com/photos/43547797@N00

Pinetop Perkins' Funeral Today

Funeral services will be held in Austin today for legendary blues pianist Pinetop Perkins.  He passed away last week at the age of 97.  Perkins was the oldest Grammy award winner ever.  His funeral will be at 5 p.m. at the Cook-Walden Funeral Home on North Lamar Blvd. 

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news roundup
12:15 pm
Sun March 27, 2011

Sunday News Roundup for March 27, 2011

A stack of pancakes from Austin's Kerby Lane Cafe.
Photo by Kevin Liuzzo http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinliuzzo/

An Austin man with dual US-Egyptian citizenship has reportedly been detained in Syria, a country whose authoritarian regime has been rattled by an uprising.  Syria’s state run news agency, Sana, claims a man “confessed” to selling photos and videos of protests.

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Environment
3:49 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

Austin Skyline To Dim For Earth Hour Tonight

Major downtown buildings will turn off their lights for an hour starting at 8:30 pm.
Photo by Justin Fain at Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/fainspawn/3993122523/

Austin's skyline will be noticeably darker from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm as the city participates in Earth Hour, an annual event held across the globe to raise awareness about energy conservation and climate change. 

Mayor Lee Leffingwell held a press conference yesterday to announce the list of buildings that will be going dark tonight (security lights excluded):

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Nuclear Power
1:45 pm
Sat March 26, 2011

NRG Slows Expansion As Feds Review Nuclear Regulations

NRG announced this week it will slow an expansion to add two units to the South Texas Project nuclear power plant in Matagorda County. NRG is waiting to see how federal regulators at the Nuclear Regulator Commission react to the nuclear crisis in Japan.

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Education
3:26 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Round Rock ISD Lays Off 280 Employees

Round Rock ISD is dismissing 280 people, mostly teachers, because it is expecting a $60 million reduction in state funding..
Photo by Forty Two http://www.flickr.com/photos/samxf42/

About 280 employees in the Round Rock Independent School District began learning this afternoon that they will no longer be employed next school year. RRISD is facing an estimated $60 million reduction in state funding.

Districts in Texas are required to notify contracted employees within 45 days of the end of the school year if they are losing their jobs. Austin ISD, the largest school district in Central Texas, has said it is eliminating more than 1,100 positions. RRISD is the second largest district in the region.

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Education
2:34 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

East Austin Charter School Wants To Lease Eastside Memorial High

Southwest Key operates a charter school in East Austin and wants to lease the Eastside Memorial High building to expand its prep academy.
Photo by KUT News

Southwest Key, a national non-profit that operates a charter school in East Austin, is offering to lease Eastside Memorial High School and operate a prep academy in the building. Eastside Memorial currently houses a Global Tech High School and a Green Tech High School.  The Green Tech High was the only school in Austin ISD to be ranked "academically unacceptable" last year by the Texas Education Agency.

"That school has been low-performing for 11 or 12 consecutive years," communications consultant Paul Saldaña told KUT News. Saldaña's firm, Brisa Communications, is advocating on behalf of Southwest Key.

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Arts and Culture
1:09 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Local Arrowheads Poke Holes in History of Man in the Americas

Some of the artifacts discovered at the Buttermilk Creek site.
Image Courtesy of Texas A&M University and Michael R. Waters

It's a find that gives new meaning to the expression, "I'm not from Texas, but I got here as fast as I could."

Researchers have discovered artifacts that could push back the arrival of man in the Lone Star State by over 2,000 years.  The arrowheads, from the Buttermilk Creek excavation site 40 miles north of Austin, are different from the type associated with the Clovis people, once thought to be Texas' earliest human inhabitants.

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Politics
12:58 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Possible Drug Testing for Unemployment Benefits

People collecting unemployment benefits, like some at this Texas Workforce Commission office, would be required to submit to drug testing under a bill in the Texas House
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

A proposal at the State Capitol would require drug testing for anyone who files an unemployment benefits claim, disqualifying them from benefits if they test positive.  The bill is one in a series filed by Representative Ken Legler (R-Pasadena) to combat what he calls fraud among people collecting benefits.

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