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2015 Legislature
4:43 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Fracking Bill Gets Tentative OK from Texas House

A bill that would override local fracking bans in Texas was tentatively approved by members of the House on April 17, 2015, with a vote of 122 to 18.
Eddie Seal, Texas Tribune

A bill that would override local fracking bans in Texas was approved by members of the House, after several hours of debate. 

The bill is aimed at blocking cities from banning activities like hydraulic fracturing. Last year, voters in the city of Denton approved a ban on fracking in their city limits.

State Rep. Drew Darby, a Republican from San Angelo and the bill's author, says it’s intended to preserve the state government’s right to regulate oil and gas activity.

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Austin
3:08 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Austin Tries to Head Off Another Lifeguard Shortage

A lifeguard at the Northwest Park pool.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

Last year, we met Redding McArdle outside Hyde Park’s Shipe Pool. The two-year-old wore blue arm floats and a bathing suit, but the gates to the pool were locked, and McArdle had a slightly dejected look on his face.

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Crime & Justice
2:58 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Drunk Driving Awareness March

Surviving family members of victims of drunk driving and APD officers march around the Texas Capitol to raise awareness. Central Texas mother Nancy Pratt (centered) lost her daughter Brianne in a DWI crash in 2013.
Anthony Green/KUT News

Austin police Chief Art Acevedo and Texas state representative Jason Villalba joined AAA Texas, community members and leaders Friday in honoring local lives lost to drinking and driving. 

A press conference was followed by a silent march around a cloud-covered Texas Capitol for the city's third annual March for Change. Last year, Texas drivers experienced more than 24,000 alcohol related crashes that resulted in over 1,000 deaths, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

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KUT Weekend
12:05 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Listen to Our Weekly News Podcast!

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

Agenda Texas
11:24 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Agenda Texas: Here's a Look at This Session's Buffet of Tax Cut Proposals

Todd Wiseman via Texas Tribune

There's a buffet of tax cuts lying before state lawmakers this session, and cut supporters say the state wins no matter what gets put on its plate.

Lawmakers have served up plans to cut business franchise taxes, slice sales tax rates and even nibbled around the idea of a proposal to phase out property taxes entirely. While some of these proposals won’t make the plate this session, the state is prepped to approve billions in tax cuts before the legislature’s regular session gavels out in six weeks.

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2015 Legislature
8:02 am
Fri April 17, 2015

John Legend Heads to the Lege to Drum Up Support for Criminal Justice Bills

Musician John Legend spoke at the Texas Capitol yesterday along with other lawmakers including Houston Democratic Sen. Rodney Ellis.
Sarah Montgomery for KUT

John Legend is well-known for his music. He’s won Grammys and, most recently, he and Chicago rapper Common won an Academy Award for the original song “Glory” from the film Selma. During his acceptance speech, Legend used the podium to draw attention to the high incarceration rate in the U.S.

Yesterday, he came to the Texas Capitol to continue that advocacy and kick off a national campaign called Free America, which aims to drop the country’s incarceration rate.

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Two Guys on Your Head
7:14 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Does Money Really Make You Happy?

Credit flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/

The idea that money doesn't make you happy is easy to get behind if you have it, but if you don't it can be a hard concept to buy into (pun intended). Yet the correlation between money and happiness is more complicated then one might think.

In this edition of Two Guys on Your Head Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke explain the relationship between money, security, opportunity, memory and happiness.

Politics
6:11 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Public Integrity Unit Move Halted, For Now

Democrat's Point of Order sends bill back to committee
Liang Shi KUT News

A point of order from state representative Mary Gonzalez (D-El Paso) delayed a vote on a bill that would remove a key function of the Public Integrity Unit. Among the duties of the Unit, a division of the Travis County District Attorney's Office, is investigating allegations of corruption leveled against state-level officials, such as members of the Texas Legislature or employees of state agencies.

Under the bill authored by state representative Phil King (R-Weatherford), that function would go away. Investigation would be the responsibility of the Texas Rangers, an elite division of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Prosecution would be handled by the District Attorney's Office in the home county of the accused.   

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Texas Standard
2:54 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

Is the Houston-Dallas Bullet Train Plan De-Railed?

A high-speed train similar to this one could connect Dallas and Houston - but not if some state legislators get their way.
facebook.com/texascentral

This story comes from Texas Standard.

Do anti high-speed rail efforts in the Texas legislature and in DC mean it’s an idea that’s going nowhere fast?

Aman Batheja is following the issue for the Texas Tribune.

On Who is Opposed to High-Speed Rail:

“The issue here is the rural communities between Dallas and Houston … The mayors of Dallas and Houston and a majority of the elected officials there strongly support the train project – they’re very strongly behind it. It’s the rural communities that are trying to figure out what’s in it for them.”

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Texas
1:00 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

DPS Chief: Resume Border Security Contract Inquiry

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw gives testimony during the joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking in La Joya, Texas July 24th, 2014.
Credit Marjorie Kamys Cotera/Texas Tribune

Looking to clear the Texas Department of Public Safety's name, the agency’s top official is asking the head of the state's anti-corruption unit to renew a halted investigation into $20 million no-bid border security contracts.

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In Black America Podcast
12:31 pm
Thu April 16, 2015

The 2014 NFL Season and Super Bowl XLIX

Credit The National Football League

On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. presents highlights of the 2014 NFL season and Super Bowl XLIX. Featured on today’s program are Jarrett Bell, USA Today Sports NFL columnist, Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner, and Newy Scruggs, Sports Director with KXAS-TV.

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2015 Legislature
10:42 am
Thu April 16, 2015

Texas DREAM Act Repeal Vote Delayed, As Supporters Continue Protests

Supporters of the Texas Dream Act gather on the steps of the Capitol on April 15.
Sarah Montgomery for KUT

Today, the Senate won’t vote on a bill that would repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students, known as the Texas DREAM Act. The bill from New Braunfels Sen. Donna Campbell seemed to have enough support for a floor vote yesterday, but the bill was taken off the chamber’s intent calendar today.

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Energy & Environment
10:38 am
Thu April 16, 2015

How Austin Gardeners Can Unearth the Mysteries of Their Own Backyards

Clarence Jackson, an Environmental Scientest from the EPA, tests soil with an X-ray fluorescence analyzer as a part of The Soil Kitchen, a three-day opportunity for backyard gardeners to receive free soil tests in Austin.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT News

The City of Austin recently offered free soil testing so people could see what contaminants and nutrients they have in their yards. But, so many people wanted the testing – myself included – that the city was overwhelmed with samples.

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2015 Legislature
9:13 am
Thu April 16, 2015

'Marlise's Law' on Pregnant Women's End-of-Life Directives Gets Hearing at Capitol

The Texas House State Affairs Committee heard testimony on April 15, 2015 regarding a bill known as "Marlise's Law," about pregnant women's end of life directives.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

When Marlise Muñoz was hospitalized in 2013 with a pulmonary embolism, she was 14 weeks pregnant. Though she had told her family that she never wanted to be on life support, doctors at a Fort Worth hospital kept her on life support until a judge ruled that because she was brain dead, the medical team could take her off of the machines.

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Arts Eclectic
4:08 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

See 'Jacob's Ladder' at the Boyd Vance Theatre

Theatre en Bloc is currently staging the world premier production of Jacob's Ladder by local playwrights Dennis Bailey and David Mixner. Set in 1944 Washington, it's the story of a young Jewish staff member in the FDR White House who discovers that there is much he does not know about the war effort and what's really happening in Europe at the time.

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Austin
3:26 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Update: Immigrant Affairs Commission Appointee Steps Down

Rebecca Forest speaks at a 2011 anti-immigration rally.
Screenshot from Youtube.

Update Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 3:30 p.m. Council member Don Zimmerman confirmed that Rebecca Forest has stepped down from her appointment to the Immigrant Affairs Commission.

Of Forest's remarks, made at the 2011 rally (see the youtube video below), Zimmerman said, "I don't judge Rebecca Forest by a clumsy remark. I judge her based on ten years of knowing her, and she's not a bigoted person."

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Texas Standard
2:26 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

For Innovations in the Funeral Industry, Look No Further Than Houston

Credit Brenda Salinas

From Texas Standard:

As the demand for natural burials grows, industry experts say innovation is likely to come from Houston.

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Texas Standard
1:32 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Visiting the Deep South of the '60s — Through a Teacher's Journal

Credit Alain Stephens

Jo Ivester joins Texas Standard to talk about life in Mount Bayou, Mississippi, and what she learned through her mother’s work.

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Texas Standard
12:50 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

A Brit’s ‘Modern English’ Journey to Becoming an Austinite

Steven Walker (second from left) played guitar for 'Modern English' before moving to Austin to open a gallery.
Simon Crow/Colchester 101 Magazine

This story comes from Texas Standard.

Steven Walker has thick-rimmed glasses and full beard. He’s wearing a pearl snap shirt with a Western pattern sewn on the pockets. He looks right at home in artsy East Austin.

“People are shocked when they come in and they see all these amazing American artists on the wall and then the guy in the beard and the cowboy shirt comes up to them and says, ‘yuh alright?’ (in a British accent). It is a bit weird for them I guess,” Walker says.

Walker’s journey to Texas wasn’t direct.

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Austin
12:11 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Austin Energy Deregulation Bill Sent to Senate

Daniel Hoherd/flickr

This story has been updated since it was originally published and corrected due to an editing error.

From the Austin Monitor: A bill that could have major implications for Austin Energy and the city budget passed its first hurdle on Tuesday and now goes to the Senate floor. It could give certain Austin Energy customers the ability to break away from the utility and buy energy on the deregulated market.

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Economic Development passed Senate Bill 1945 on a six-vote majority, with Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) casting the sole opposing vote.

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