Ben Philpott

State Reporter

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Agenda Texas: Funding Pre-School Education

Photo by Pink Sherbet Photography http://www.flickr.com/photos/pinksherbet/

Agenda Texas: your inside guide on everything going on under the dome - and how it hits home.

The 83rd Texas State Legislature started with good news from the state Comptroller: Susan Combs told lawmakers they’d have more than $101 billion dollars to spend in the next session. Education advocates are already asking for more dough to head to Texas classrooms, even pre-schools.

Kara Johnson is with Texans Care for Children, a child advocacy group. She quotes a 2006 study from the Bush school at Texas A&M that shows it’s smart budgeting to support early childhood education.

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Politics
5:05 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Perry Calls for Tax Cuts as Legislature Opens

The Legislature will decide what to do now that it has more money this cycle.
Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Texas lawmakers may have $29 billion more to spend on the state budget this session than they did in 2011. Now, Gov. Rick Perry is floating the idea of tax cuts.

Perry says lawmakers will have more than $101 billion in revenue over the next two years because of the economic climate Republicans have created in Texas. Increased revenue, he says is a reason to push for keeping a tight budget and avoiding increases -- and, as he told lawmakers during the Legislature’s opening day Tuesday, to consider tax cuts.

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Politics
4:34 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Priorities for 2013 Legislature

Joe Straus, Rick Perry and David Dewhurst talk to reporters Wednesday.
Ben Philpott/KUT News

The state’s top three political leaders met with reporters today as a sign of unity heading into the legislative session.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus say strengthening the state’s economy by improving its infrastructure and its skilled workforce are the top priorities, all while controlling state spending - even as the state is flush with cash.

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Politics
5:00 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Abortion Restriction Gains Momentum Heading into Session

Gov. Perry talks to members of the Texas House
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Story as it aired on KUT 90.5

There are several expected priorities for lawmakers at the newly begun 83rd legislative session. Education, transportation and water infrastructure are high on many lawmakers list. And in a conservative legislature – social issues , like abortion, often find traction.

There are always a handful of anti-abortion bills filed during a legislative session. Some proposing to outlaw all abortions – in hopes of an eventual Supreme Court ruling leaving abortion laws up to individual states. In Texas legislators have increasingly restricted abortion rights over the last several sessions.  

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Politics
5:30 pm
Fri January 4, 2013

StateWatch Texas: 2013 Legislature Preview

StateWatch Texas: your inside guide on everything under the dome - and how it hits home.
KUT News

The 83rd Texas Legislative Session begins Tuesday. Let’s go over a short list of the expected session priorities.

It's Always the Budget

The recession and Republican opposition to raising taxes ended with about $15 billion cut from the last budget.

Now state revenues are up, but Governor Rick Perry and other leading Republicans are calling for a constitutional amendment to restrict how quickly the budget can grow.

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Women's Health
5:00 am
Fri January 4, 2013

Women's Health Program Still Has Provider Problems

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Ben Philpott's story on the WHP providers list.

The new state-funded Texas Women’s Health Program began on Jan. 1. It provides low income women in Texas with basic health screenings and contraception. State officials said the new program began with more capacity to serve clients then the program had when it was federally funded. But at least one state lawmaker believes there’s a problem with the agency’s list of providers.

Austin Democrat Donna Howard has been worried about the Women’s Health Program since the state said it would create its own version of the program. That came after the state moved to exclude clinics affiliated with abortion providers – such as Planned Parenthood – from participating, which led the federal government to announce it was pulling all funding. Howard was worried when she wrote a letter to the Health and Human Services Commission asking for information about new providers.

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Politics
10:12 am
Thu January 3, 2013

Tribcast: The Pre-Session Edition

Embezzlement allegations and pre-session chatter.
Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Tribcast on pre-session and fiscal cliff.

There's less than a week left before Texas lawmakers come back to Austin for another 140-day scramble.

On this edition of the KUT News/Texas Tribune Tribcast, Evan Smith, Ross Ramsey, Reeve Hamilton and Ben Philpott talk what to look for in the first days of the 83rd legislative session.

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Health
5:17 am
Thu January 3, 2013

Texas Takes Over Women's Health Program

The Texas Women's Health Program became fully funded by the state on January 1st.
Texas Tribune

The state of Texas launched its Women’s Health Program this week. Texas is funding the program on its own because the federal government pulled money after the state blocked Planned Parenthood from participating.

The Texas version still serves low income women who would qualify for Medicaid if they became pregnant. It will cover about 110,000 women between 18 and 44 years old with free well-woman exams, basic health and certain family planning services.

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Immigration
10:15 am
Tue January 1, 2013

After 2012 Election, GOP Rethinking Stance on Immigration

Protesters opposed to Arizona's controversial citizenship legislation rally at the Texas Capitol in 2011.
flickr.com/joebehr

In 2012’s presidential election, 27 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Until that number increases, Republicans will have a hard time winning a Presidential race – so party insiders say it’s time to soften the GOP’s position on immigration.

For Texas Senator John Cornyn, it’s about who’s the best fit to tackle the topic. He says if Republicans are going to seriously tackle immigration policy, Texas lawmakers are uniquely qualified to take the lead.

“I happen to believe that we in Texas understand a little bit more about some of these issues than people from other parts of the country – given our proximity to the border and given the nature of our population,” Cornyn says.

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Gun Violence
4:56 pm
Fri December 14, 2012

How to Talk to Children About the Connecticut School Shooting

Austin schoolchildren may be curious or worried about the shootings in Connecticut.
KUT News

If you have a school-age child, he or she may have come home today with questions about the Connecticut school shooting. Julia Hoke, a psychologist with the Austin Child Guidance Center, says it’s important for parents to reassure children of the safety plans in their school. You can remind them of the school’s safety measures, like checking in all visitors or having security doors.

Hoke says it’s also important to let children know the chances of a similar shooting happening at their school.

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Alamo Drafthouse
12:07 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Video: Alamo Drafthouse Names 'Don't Talk & Text' PSA Winners

An "Unforgivable" entry won the Alamo Drafthouse's "Don't Talk, Don't Text" PSA contest.
Possum Box and Alamo Drafthouse

If you've ever been to an Alamo Drafthouse theater, then you're familiar with the pre-movie videos telling patrons to shut-up and turn off their phone.

The short videos have often featured movie stars or famous directors or even former Texas Governors.

But this year the Austin-based theater chain asked its fans to produce some new "Don't Talk" PSA's.

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Thanksgiving
11:35 am
Wed November 21, 2012

The Recipe for KUT News' John Aielli-Approved Sweet Potato Pie

The newsroom's Aielli-approved desert (after a couple bites).
Ben Philpott, KUT News

When John Aielli says jump, we at KUT say "how high?" So after tasting a homemade sweet potato pie that had been brought in to share with KUT staff – and loving it – he asked for the recipe to share with his listeners.

So here you go Austin: the sweet potato pie made by the late Bettie Winn Reeves Harris of Saint Jo, Texas.

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Politics
12:43 pm
Mon November 19, 2012

Was Rick Perry the 'Worst Candidate' of 2012?

Campaign staff take down a sign after Perry ended his presidential bid.
Ben Philpott, KUT News

It wasn't a great election cycle for Texas Governor Rick Perry. After bursting on to the scene in August 2011 and racing to the top of the crowded GOP presidential field, it was a steep and speedy slide to the bottom of the heap.

Gov. Perry finally dropped out of the race just days before the South Carolina primary.

The Washington Post's political blog, "The Fix," noticed: It named Perry the "Worst Candidate of 2012."

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
4:05 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Should Texas Drug Test for Unemployment Benefits?

Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst support a program to drug test people getting unemployment benefits.
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Texas Governor Rick Perry has given his support to a bill that would have recipients of unemployment benefits submit to drug tests. Those failing a test would be denied benefits for 12 months, or until they completed a drug treatment program.

Gov. Perry told reporters every dollar the state takes from its people and spends counts, which is why he’s pushing lawmakers to pass legislation creating the drug testing program.

"Every dollar that goes to someone who uses it inappropriately is a dollar that can’t go to a Texan who needs it for housing for childcare or for medicine," Perry said.

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2013 Legislative Sesssion
1:38 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Eager Texas Lawmakers File First Bills of 2013 Session

About 7,000 bills will be filed during legislative session.
Lizzie Chen, KUT News

Today is the first day Texas lawmakers can file bills ahead of the 2013 legislative session. The 200 or so early bills are usually a hodgepodge of political statements, second attempts and high priority legislation.

The first bill filed today was by San Antonio Democrat Trey Martinez-Fischer. HB 21 would create a central database of people who have committed crimes against children or involving family or dating violence. Three of Martinez-Fischer's first five bills are focused on sex crimes.

In the second effort category, multiple lawmakers filed a bill that would ban the use of cell phones and similar electronic devices while driving. That includes Midland Republican Tom Craddick. His bill banning texting while driving passed the legislature in 2011, but was vetoed by Governor Rick Perry.

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