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Politics
10:30 am
Thu July 2, 2015

Prosecutors Developing Criminal Case Against Paxton

Prosecutors plan to start presenting evidence next month to a grand jury in pursuit of a first-degree felony securities fraud indictment of state Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Callie Richmond/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: The potential criminal case against Attorney General Ken Paxton is apparently growing more serious, with the state's top lawyer hiring heavyweight legal counsel of his own as special prosecutors prepare to take felony charges before a Collin County grand jury.

Late Wednesday, special prosecutor Kent Schaffer said he and co-counsel Brian Wice plan to start presenting evidence to the grand jury in less than a month that Paxton violated the Texas Securities Act. 

"We'll be pursuing an indictment for first-degree felony securities fraud," Schaffer said, confirming a WFAA report.

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Music
9:03 am
Thu July 2, 2015

Petition Suggests Giving Priced-Out Venues Rent Control. But Is That Possible in Austin?

The crowd at an event protesting the Hyatt hotel development adjacent to Cheer Up Charlies.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Last week downtown Austin music venue Holy Mountain announced it will close its doors this fall because of rising rent prices. Advocates say more music venues will begin to fall as Austin rents increase — the club's neighbor Red 7 is also staring down a rent hike. So some Austinites and out of town music-boosters are floating a solution.

A 500-plus signature petition on change.org is proposing a simple solution to the Austin City Council: rent control. 

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Wayback Wednesday
4:33 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Austin's Referendum That Would've Legalized Sexuality-Based Housing Discrimination

Jim Obergefell (second from left) celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage last week. Still, he said, housing discrimination remains an issue for the LGBTQ community.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Last week’s Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges represents a monumental step in the movement for LGBTQ equal rights, but it wasn’t the final footfall in Texas. As the case's lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell put it last week in a rally at the State Capitol, issues surrounding employment and fair housing protections aren’t codified in Texas state law.

But, in Austin, the city council passed a sexual preference employment protection in August of 1975, and a “public accommodations ordinance” that banned discrimination based on sexual preference in 1976. So why, despite those progressive policies, did an Austin organization lead an initiative to allow discrimination on the basis of sexual preference? 

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Energy & Environment
2:12 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

Austin Remains in Stage Two Water Restrictions, Maybe Forever

Austin's Stage 2 water restrictions may become permanent, despite the recent rainfall.
Austin Monitor

Austin will remain in Stage 2 water restrictions despite above average rainfall for the year and the historic amount that fell in May. The city is also examining whether to adopt those restrictions permanently.

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Energy & Environment
12:48 pm
Wed July 1, 2015

What's Next for Local Drilling Bans in Texas?

A new state law bans local bans on hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking. Some towns, like Denton, find their local bans have become unenforceable.
Mose Buchele/KUT News

This year state lawmakers severely restricted the ability of Texas towns to regulate local oil and gas drilling.

A law known as House Bill 40 was a reaction to a fracking ban passed by voters in the North Texas city of Denton.

Denton has come to represent local fracking bans and clashes between local governments and the oil and gas industry. But while Denton was the first city in Texas to ban fracking, it wasn't the first city to ban drilling within city limits.

That practice goes back years, according to a survey by the Texas Municipal League.

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Texas Standard
11:01 am
Wed July 1, 2015

Why One Texas Legislator Wants a Special Session On Marriage Equality

Revelers rallied in downtown Austin Friday after SCOTUS legalized same-sex marriage. State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) says we should 'divorce marriage from government if we want to protect it.'
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

Recent polls suggest the majority of Americans agree with the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, but opposition to same-sex marriage remains prevalent in southern states like Texas and Louisiana.

Just this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that county clerks don’t need to issue marriage licenses if doing so goes against their faith. Paxton and other opponents of same-sex marriage argue that the government shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with how someone practices their faith.

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In Black America Podcast
10:39 am
Wed July 1, 2015

The Thrill Is Gone: Remembering The Legendary B.B. King

In this June 20, 2008 photo, musician B.B. King performs at the opening night of the 87th season of the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. King died Thursday, May 14, 2015, peacefully in his sleep at his Las Vegas home at age 89, his lawyer said.
Credit AP Photo/Dan Steinberg

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with legendary blues musician B.B. King. King died on May 14, 2015. He was 89.

The winner of 15 Grammy Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center Honors, and more, King leaves a legacy of influence on American music. Coming from the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta, he remained true to the blues, and won millions of fans including the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy and U.S. Presidents.

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Education
10:14 am
Wed July 1, 2015

Not All School Districts Warm to Miller's Food Initiative

Despite the Agriculture Commissioner's lifting a ban on deep fryers in public schools, many say they don't want them back, anyway.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From the Texas Tribune: Students eager to purchase soda and fried foods when they return to school in the fall may be disappointed, despite Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller's recent announcement that both will be welcome back on Texas public school campuses after a 10-year ban. 

To the dismay of nutritionists and public health experts, Miller reversed the department's ban on soda machines and deep fat fryers in mid-June as part of a new state nutrition policy calling for more local foods, community engagement and training to help schools serve meals that are "attractive and taste great." 

But many large school districts aren't warming to Miller's initiative.

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Texas
8:22 am
Wed July 1, 2015

State Employees' Same-Sex Spouses and Their Children Are Now Eligible for Benefits

Diane Jones and Bryna Wortham stand with Rev. Richard Bates at their wedding ceremony at the Travis County Courthouse on June 26, 2015
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

Today is the first day state employees can apply for benefits on behalf of their same-sex spouses and their children.

Every year, during the summer's open enrollment period, Cathy Terrell's typically pretty busy. Terrell and her team manage the benefits of close to 333,000 state employees and retirees with the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS). The ERS oversees the benefits of every state agency excluding the UT and Texas A&M systems.

After last week's Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in every state, Terrell realized this open enrollment season will be busier than ever.

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Health
11:37 am
Tue June 30, 2015

Austin Regional Clinic to Stop Taking Unvaccinated Children as Patients

Austin Regional Clinic officials say unvaccinated pediatric patients pose health risks to other hospital patients.
US Army Corps of Engineers/flickr

The Austin Regional Clinic will stop accepting new unvaccinated pediatric patients — that is, children whose parents have opted them out of routine vaccinations. The ARC announced its new policy this morning.

The regional health system, which has locations in Austin plus six surrounding cities, cites patient safety as the reason for the new regulation, set to take effect Wednesday.

“Parents who are unwilling to commit to a vaccination schedule will need to find another physician outside of ARC,” clinic officials said in the release.

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Abortion
3:04 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Supreme Court Temporarily Halts Texas Abortion Rules

Credit Eric Schlegel, Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked some elements of Texas' House Bill 2, which puts new restrictions on abortion clinics in the state. Abortion providers say the rules in question, which were to go into effect July 1, would have forced as many as 10 abortion clinics to close.

That would have left Texas with as few as eight abortion clinics, mostly in big cities.

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Same-Sex Marriage
2:35 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Jim Obergefell: I'm 'Humbled To Be a Part' of Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Case

Jim Obergefell (second from left) celebrates the outcome of his landmark same-sex marriage case at the Texas Capitol.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The plaintiff at the heart of last week's historic Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage is trekking the country on a multi-state tour that brought him to Austin today. Jim Obergefell is the named plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges.

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Arts Eclectic
1:39 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Doctuh Mistuh's Summer Double Feature

In recent years, the production company Doctuh Mistuh has staged crowd-pleasing musical versions of Evil Dead, Silence of the Lambs, and Reefer Madness; it's safe to say that pop culture musical theater is in their wheelhouse. So it's not too surprising that they're the company that secured the rights to produce the regional premiere of Heathers, the Musical, based on the 1988 dark comedy cult film. 

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Marriage
1:09 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

Texas AG: Clerks Can Refuse Marriage Licenses to Same-Sex Couples (Updated)

Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

UPDATE Monday 1 p.m. A Texas State Senator is asking the Department of Justice to monitor and intervene, if necessary, in Texas' implementation of the Supreme Court's ruling that legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide.

The request comes after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory opinion yesterday, saying some government officials could refuse to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, if they object on religious grounds.

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Same-Sex Marriage
12:09 pm
Mon June 29, 2015

First Austin Couple in Line For Marriage License Gets Legally Married

Rev. Karen Thompson of Austin's Metropolitan Community Church marries Lupe Garcia, left, and Cindy Stocking on June 27, 2015.
Veronica Zaragovia/KUT News

The first same-sex couple to get to the Travis County Clerk’s Office on Friday, before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, was legally married over the weekend.

At their ceremony on Saturday, Lupe Garcia and Cindy Stocking seemed calm, as though they’d stood at the altar together before with Reverend Karen Thompson, but they were getting married for the first time.

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Texas
10:54 am
Mon June 29, 2015

Many Central Texas Counties Now Issuing Marriage Licenses to All Couples

The Travis County Clerk issued 313 marriage licenses Friday to both same- and different-gender couples.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

After the Supreme Court decision Friday legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, some county clerks around the U.S. began issuing licenses right away, including Travis County in Texas. Other counties held out, though, citing a need for updated forms that incorporated the new rule.

Those forms had been distributed by Monday, so more counties opened up marriage licenses to both same- and different-sex couples Monday morning. This is despite a statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that called the Supreme Court's decision "lawless" and said that Texas county clerks could opt-out of issuing licenses to same-sex couples if it violates the clerk's religious beliefs. They'd still face lawsuits if they did so, he said, but the state would provide pro bono representation in those cases.

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Transportation
10:43 am
Mon June 29, 2015

More Rain Means More Potholes on Austin Streets

Cyclists and motorists beware: The amount of potholes on Austin's roads has nearly doubled, thanks to all the rain, and the traffic.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The drenching rains that have fallen on Austin this year have provided sizable benefits: Reservoirs are recovering, lawns are green, and this summer will be cooler as a result. (Maybe a little more humid, too.)

But there are, of course, downsides to the rain, most notably the serious damage to lives and property from flooding. Austin’s infrastructure is taking a hit, too, and you don’t have to go far to find it. It’s right underneath you. 

Yes, we’re talking about potholes. Those holes in the road form thanks to two things: water and traffic, both of which Austin has plenty of lately.

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Education
9:40 am
Mon June 29, 2015

Supreme Court Will Revisit UT Affirmative Action Case

Fisher v UT, which deals with the school's using race as a factor in its admissions process, will be revisited by the U.S. Supreme Court.
KUT News

Today, the Supreme Court decided that it would take up the case of Fisher v the University of Texas at Austin, a suit dealing with a controversial admissions case at UT Austin. A white woman, Abigail Fisher, sued the school in 2008, claiming the university rejected her based on her race. The University says race is one of a few special circumstances it considers in admissions.

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KUT Weekend
7:40 pm
Fri June 26, 2015

Listen to Our Weekly News Podcast!

KUT Weekend brings you our favorite stories from the KUT newsroom. Updated Fridays!

Texas Standard
1:59 pm
Fri June 26, 2015

What the Decision on Same-Sex Marriage Means to One Texas Family

'I'm very excited,' says Ronald 'Ronnie' Macklin.
Texas for Marriage/facebook

From Texas Standard:

The Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in favor of same-sex marriage today. All 50 states are now required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Ronald “Ronnie” Macklin and his partner, Fritz Johnson-Macklin, are one of those couples. From the Austin suburb of Pflugerville, Ronnie joined Texas Standard to talk about his family’s story –  just minutes after learning about the Supreme Court decision.

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