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In the Land of the Oil Bust, the Repo Business Booms

Oil closed at its lowest price in more than six years yesterday and, while it’s risen slightly since then, some project the price to drop even further. In some parts of Texas that's bad news for almost everyone. The economic ripple effect of low prices has led to layoffs and slammed the brakes on local economies. But there’s one business that’s going through a boom in the oil patch right now: the repo man.
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More than 600 school districts from across Texas are celebrating now that Judge John Dietz from the 250th District Court found the state’s school finance system was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, state attorneys are gearing up to appeal the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.   

The lead attorney for the state in this case is Nichole Bunker-Henderson. She told the court, “It is true, as the plaintiffs have alleged, that we have all been asked to do more with less. State agencies cut nearly 10 percent of their budgets, and districts less than half of that. Our system did not collapse," she said. "It did not fall off the bridge. Perhaps the system became more efficient.”

flickr.com/rutlo

A new study reveals what most Austin drivers could tell you anyway: Traffic here is bad. But the study says Austin’s traffic has grown worse than any large metropolitan region in the last 20 years.

The yearly Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute says Austin drivers have wasted the most time in traffic since they began collecting data, more than any other city surveyed in the national study.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Two state lawmakers who led the charge to create the now-embattled Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) unveiled legislation today that they say will fix the $3 billion agency. A state audit found major problems with how CPRIT doled out grants, and the taxpayer-funded organization is under criminal investigation.

State Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) said today that CPRIT officials interpreted policies in ways that no "reasonable person would."

A confidential Justice Department memo obtained by NBC News outlines legal theories the Obama administration has used to justify killing American citizens abroad. Here are five key questions and answers about the document:

1) What is it?

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

That's a Wrap: That does it for Mayor Leffingwell's remarks. At the bottom of this post, you can view a video of the mayor's remarks. And keep reading below for a recap of the mayor's speech. 

Wages for Construction Workers: Speaking about city economic incentives, Leffingwell says he does not support a hard wage floor for construction workers on projects receiving city benefits. "I don’t think we ought to change our economic incentive policy to make it an entry-level position," he says. Instead, he says a living wage floor should count as an additional credit to businesses applying for incentives. He also floats the idea of paying a wage difference with public funds.

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Update: Dell's announcement this morning has thousands of Austin employees wondering how going private will affect them.

John Doggett is a Senior Lecturer at UT’s McCombs School of Business. He expects layoffs at Dell.

“I expect they will substantially reduce their PC group by most likely getting rid of consumer PCs and anybody in that group may lose their job," Doggett said. "They will also get out of their investor relations group because they don’t have any investors to talk to in the public. They probably will also not do any or many acquisitions... And I expect those who can leave, are going to leave. There’s going to be an exodus if they feel that their job is at risk."

Michael Dell sent an email out to employees shortly before 8:30 this morning.

(We updated the top of this post at 1:30 p.m. ET.)

Looking to head off deep, automatic spending cuts set to kick in on March 1, President Obama on Tuesday afternoon said that to avoid the negative economic effects that come with "political disfunction," Congress should move quickly to pass "a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms" that won't hurt the economy.

flickr.com/rutlo

Good morning. The National Weather Service says sunny and warm weather is the order of the day, with expected highs in the mid-70s.

Lead Story: Ten people have died in traffic accidents in Austin so far this year. That’s twice as many as this time last year.

The city has launched a survey as part of an effort to reverse that trend, looking for feedback on how to make Austin safer for cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. You can find the survey on the city’s website.

flickr.com/glasgows

Update: Austin’s Public Safety Commission voted unanimously Monday to send a resolution to local leaders aimed at reducing gun violence.

The resolution encourages the Austin City Council, Travis County Commissioners, the Austin Independent School Board and Austin Community College to stop leasing facilities for gun shows—or to require those shows to conduct background checks.

The commission also wants local law enforcement to hold gun buyback programs and to collect data on guns used in crimes.

Data provided by ECHO

The annual Austin/Travis County homeless count shows the number of homeless people living the area is down by 5.5 percent from last year to 2,121.

The Ending Community Homelessness Coalition or “ECHO” conducted the count late last month.

The count determines the level of federal funding the area will receive and helps community organizations determine which services need to be improved.

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