Andrew Weber

Web Producer

Andrew Weber is a web producer for KUT News. A graduate of St. Edward's University with a degree in English, Andrew has previously interned with The Texas Tribune, The Austin American-Statesman and KOOP Radio.

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Lawmakers could be the next group on the state payroll to undergo drug screenings.

The Senate Committee on State Affairs heard testimony on SB 612 today, which would require drug testing for elected officials.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville,  told fellow Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houton, in committee this morning that his bill would serve as a counterpoint to bills that would drug test citizens who get state benefits.

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Ordering the most recent Jodi Picoult novel or maybe a nice throw blanket on Amazon?

Now you can get a robust, full-bodied cabernet to complement them both.

Today, Amazon opened up their wine delivery service up to the Lone Star state, offering over 350 wines and 2,200 labels from across the world.

Tamir Kalifa for KUT News

Has the afterglow worn off?

The doting South by Southwest masses have slinked back to Williamsburg and Echo Park, doubtless telling tales about this “locals only” barbecue joint called The Salt Lick. But as they stumble out of their Austin-induced atrophy, some might ask the harsh question: Is Austin really that great?

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Texas’ official motto is “friendship.” And the state’s long drawn on its welcoming ways to attract tourism and convention crowds from all over.

One example of Texas hospitality is its event trust funds: the Major Events Trust Fund and the Events Trust Fund. (And that’s not counting the Motor Sports Events Trust Fund and the Special Events Trust Fund.)

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

UPDATE 5:59 The Senate Committee on Education heard SB 1575 this afternoon from educators and parents supporting the so-called voucher program that would give parents money to move their children from public to private schools. 

The bill’s author Senator Donna Campbell of New Braunfels said that parents and students should have a choice in schooling and claim that failing public schools set back children across the state.

lonestar.edu

Authorities in Cypress, just outside Houston, say at least 11 students at the Lone Star College campus were stabbed this morning at the Cy-Fair campus.

Authorities say they have arrested one man suspected of the attacks and may be searching for another suspect. The school's website says that campus police and the Harris County Sheriff's Department are searching vehicles exiting area parking lots.

So far, 4 victims have been airlifted to a nearby hospital.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

In a hugely anticipated announcement this morning, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell made it official: Google Fiber is coming to Austin.

The ultra-fast Internet service -- offering speeds more than 100 times faster than connections available now -- will "change how we live and how we work in ways we don't even know about yet," said Leffingwell.

Google says its first Fiber customer in Austin will get service sometime in the middle of 2014.

In a hugely anticipated announcement this morning, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell made it official: Google Fiber is coming to Austin.

The ultra-fast Internet service -- offering speeds more than 100 times faster than connections available now -- will "change how we live and how we work in ways we don't even know about yet," said Leffingwell.

Google says its first Fiber customer in Austin will get service sometime in the middle of 2014.

flickr.com/disrupsean

Today, all the eyes of Texas are upon the House, which is debating the budget in what is probably one of the busiest (and longest) days for the Texas legislature.

But all that hustle and bustle on the east end of the Capitol isn’t all that’s going on.

A bill that passed today in the Senate targets the Austin City Council and Travis County by proposing limits to a city’s ability to limit gun purchases or ban including gun shows.

flickr.com/h-bomb

The Texas House of Representatives named pecan pie as the state's official pie on Wednesday.

State Rep. Marsha Farney (R-Georgetown) sponsored the resolution. She's a first-year representative and this was her first bill.

So, despite the simplicity of the topic, other lawmakers gave her a hard time in a sort of rite of passage. They asked for amendments including making it illegal to use chocolate in the recipe and requiring only Texas pecans be used in pecan pies statewide.

KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to those responsible for the shootings of Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia.

At a press conference today, Gov. Perry vowed that those responsible would be caught.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

UPDATE: The Texas Department of Public safety has arrested the man responsible for breaking into a DPS license office last night.

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger says 40-year-old Kenneth James Vanlue was arrested on charges of criminal mischief and burglary of a building.

“Both charges are felonies. No evidence that sensitive information was compromised. However, there was extensive property damage inside the building," Vinger said.

dontmesswithtexas.org

The Texas Department of Transportation is reinvigorating its perennial “Don’t Mess with Texas” campaign this year to reduce littering among younger Texans.

A 2009 survey from the agency showed that over half of all “active litterers” in Texas were between the ages of 16 and 34, despite 95 percent levels of campaign awareness across all Texas drivers.

Andrew Weber for KUT News

The Historical Landmark Commission of Austin meets tonight to decide the future of four grants to preserve historical landmarks.

And every project may not get their slice of the $126,000 that’s been requested this year.

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Another battle is brewing in the Texas Legislature over local control, this time over trees. The city of Austin’s ability to regulate heritage trees on private land may be in jeopardy.

House Bill 1377 received a hearing in the house Urban Affairs committee yesterday. Dubbed an "Austin bashing" bill by the City Council, HB 1377 would limit a city’s power to regulate and preserve trees by making a uniform law for all Texas cities to follow. 

Liang Shi for KUT

UPDATE (4/4/13): Senate Bill 507 by State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) passed the Senate unanimously today.

The bill would limit public private partnerships, or P3’s, in the area around the Capitol grounds.  The bill is closely related to SB 894 by State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston).

Last month Watson even likened his bill to a failsafe for Whitmire’s initial bill in a committee hearing last month. 

Jillian Schantz Patrick/KUT News

Travis County Commissioners met today and spent a lengthy amount of time discussing a bill that may not see legislative light of day.

HB 3348 from Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, would amend the Texas Constitution to give cities and counties flexibility in setting property tax rates – allowing them to set a tax rate of a specific dollar amount instead of the 20 percent traditionally used for property tax exemptions.  

flickr.com/roofless

The cost of groceries in Texas has gone up as a result of drought conditions in Texas and across the country.

A survey from the Texas Farmers Bureau finds that the price of a uniform basket of goods for an average Texas shopper is $46.40, a five and a half percent rise over last fiscal quarter.

flickr.com/disrupsean

A bill offering incentives to attract manufacturers of guns, ammo and related hardware to Texas will go to the full Senate for a vote.

SB 1467 would offer tax breakers to firearms makers at a time when other states may shy away from sponsoring the industry and the bill’s author, Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, calls laws that limit firearms manufacturing “unwarranted intrusions.”

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

City officials say they're making progress on the Waller Creek Tunnel Project.

Construction crews at Waterloo Park have wrapped up excavating the tunnel and are moving on to building a treatment plant that will help filter floodwaters.

UW Green Futures Lab/Scan Design Foundation/Gehl Architects

The Austin City Council had parking on its mind today. And now Austin is one step closer to eliminating minimum parking requirements for many downtown businesses, and looking at a program could to lessen the number of cars entering downtown. 

Pilot Parking Program

The council heard a briefing on parking program encouraging businesses to reduce car commuting. The program could begin as soon as April, if the council approves a measure next week.

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