Ben Philpott

Senior Reporter, State Politics and Policy

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT. 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 has been named Radio Journalist of the Year by the Houston Press club three times.

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
9:04 am
Tue March 29, 2011

The Push for Casinos to Save the Texas Budget

Jack Pratt will help push casinos in Texas
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune for KUT News

With lawmakers ready to cut around $23 billion from the state budget - any ideas that could raise revenue are going to get a listen. Casino and Racino (that's a horse track casino) interests are at the Texas Capitol this morning trying to convince lawmakers to take the money and jobs they can offer.

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Politics
11:14 am
Mon March 28, 2011

A New Proposal to Get Around Capitol Security Lines

Security lines have been a hassle for many at the Texas State Capitol
Photo by KUT News

Getting in to the Texas Capitol has been a bit of an issue during the 2011 Texas Legislative session.  Last year, metal detectors and x-ray machines were installed at each entrance to the building.  Anyone who isn't a lawmaker, staff member, or state concealed handgun license(CHL) holder, must now stop - and go through an airport-like checkpoint - before heading on to any office, committee hearing, or floor debate.  

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Politics
12:44 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

Testimony Begins on State House Redistricting

Lawmakers are hard a work drawing new State House maps.
Map courtesy Texas Legislative Council

The House Redistricting Committee has begun taking testimony on what the state's new House district map should look like. Based on 2010 Census data it looks like rural West Texas is going to lose representation. While the population growth in South and Central Texas counties means those areas will gain a few seats.

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Politics
12:12 pm
Thu March 24, 2011

Voter ID Clears the Texas House

A bill that would require voters to show ID at the polls is one step closer to the Governor's desk.
Photo by KUT News

After years of Republican attempts and procedural blocks by Democrats, a voter ID bill has passed the Texas House and Senate.  The bill passed the House on 3rd reading today on a 101-48 vote.  Today's debate and vote took just minutes, compared to the 11 hours the House spent debating amendments Wednesday.  The bill now goes back to the Senate.  That chamber can either agree with the House changes to the bill or ask for a conference committee to work out the differences.

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Politics
1:51 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

Procedural Delays Mark Voter ID Debate

The vote ID bill is one step closer to the governor's desk.
Photo by KUT News

UPDATE, 11:07 p.m.:

After nearly 12 hours of debate, about a dozen "points of order" and more than 60 amendments the House has given initial approval of a voter ID bill.  The highly partisan bill has one more vote in the House before heading to a conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill.  Democrats have tried to block the bill for several years, saying it could lead to voter suppression among minority voters.  As the debate finally wrapped up Republicans had four of the party's Hispanic members speak in favor of the bill.

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Politics
12:37 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

The Budget Bill Heads to the House

Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts will bring the budget to the floor on April 1st.
The Texas Tribune

The House Budget Bill is on its way to the full House for a vote.  

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Politics
12:48 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Voter ID Debate Begins in the Texas House

The highly partisan bill is expected to pass the Texas House this week
picture by KUT

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.:  A point of order on Voter ID bill has been sustained. The bill is headed back to committee for a clean-up. The language in the bill said "Days"; the bill's analysis said "Business Days," so the bill was sent back to clarify the discrepancy.

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Health
12:13 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

1st Birthday for Federal Healthcare Bill

A birthday those opposed to the Federal Law aren't celebrating
Photo by KUT News

O.K.  We're actually a couple of days early, since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.  But advocacy groups have been celebrating/commiserating the anniversary for the last week…so we thought we'd give you a sampling of what's already out there.

Political parties are saying pretty much what each has been saying over the last year.  Democtrats seem to be keeping quite so far... but those on the "Right" are vocal about their displeasure.

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Politics
2:34 pm
Thu March 17, 2011

Federal Healthcare Law Unwelcome in House Committee

Texas Lawmakers Have Ideas to Keep the Healthcare Law Out of Texas
Texas Tribune

The Texas House Committee on State Sovereignty took up a handful of bills today - all with the stated goal of protecting Texas from the Federal Healthcare law.  The bills use different tactics to nullify the federal law.  With one by Rep.

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Texas
4:58 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

$300 Million More in State Coffers

State Comptroller Susan Combs told lawmakers Monday that the Texas wallet is a little greener than first thought.
Image by KUT News

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says the state has more money to spend. 

In a letter to Texas lawmakers today, Combs says sales tax receipts in recent months had increased enough for her to raise her pervious revenue estimate by 300-million dollars for the current budget.  She also increased the amount of money lawmakers have to spend in the next budget. 

The increase helps a little but does not make a huge dent in the multi-billion dollar budget hole.

Politics
9:25 am
Wed March 9, 2011

Former Speaker Craddick Falls at Committee Hearing

Rep. Tom Craddick (R-Midland)
Photo by KUT News

Former Speaker Tom Craddick fell to the ground during a House Transportation committee hearing this morning at the Capitol.  The Dallas Morning News is reporting Craddick was at the meeting to lay out his bill banning texting while driving when he apparently fainted and fell to the ground.

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Education
4:05 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Hochberg Files Bill To Illustrate Education Cuts District-By-District

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

It's not often that state lawmakers admit they don't like the bill they just filed, but that's exactly what State Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston) did today after filing HB 2485.  The bill is accompanied by a spreadsheet that shows how drastic cuts to public education would affect individual school districts.

"We'll be laying out a budget that cuts $9.8 billion out of the schools.  But that's a number that doesn't mean anything to a legislator unless they know that means you're taking between $500 and $2,500 dollars per WADA (weighted average daily attendance) out of their local district," Hochberg said.

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Politics
2:45 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

House Passes Sonogram Bill

The House gives final passage to sonogram bill
picture by KUT

The Texas House easily passed a controversial sonogram/abortion bill on 3rd reading today.  The bill now goes back to the Senate.  Senators there can either agree with the House changes to the bill or ask for a House/Senate conference committee to hammer out the differences.  The committee is the most likely route.  The bill would require all women to view a sonogram and hear the fetus heartbeat before having

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Texas
9:01 am
Sun March 6, 2011

Your Sunday Cup O' Joe (AKA the Sunday News Brief for March 6,2011)

Coffee, Coffee...Buzz, Buzz
Picture by KUT News

Make sure to get outside today.  Sure it's a little cold this morning.  But yesterday's strong winds are gone and we'll get into the lower 70's today.  But before you head out...here's some info on what's been going on in Texas to start your day:

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Austin
12:02 pm
Fri March 4, 2011

Hutto Mayor David Begier Has Died

Hutto Mayor David Begier
City of Hutto

 

The Mayor of Hutto has passed away.  The city says Mayor David Begier died last night from complications related to heart bypass surgery.  Begier was first elected mayor of Hutto in May 2009.  "He was known in the community.  He's going to be missed tremendously, " said Hutto city manager Edward Broussard, "there's a large hole in people's hearts this morning as they’re finding out the news."  

Broussard said one of the mayor's major accomplishments was getting Temple College to agree to open a campus in Hutto.    Mayor David Begier was 69 years old.

Politics
4:28 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Capitol Press Corps Twitter-pated Over Governor Perry's Block

Gov. Perry celebrates on Election Night
Picture by KUT News

Here's a story that's been around the world and back again in just a couple of days.  

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Texas
8:56 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Mexico Spring Break Warnings: The 2011 Edition

The DPS has released its annual "Don't Go To Mexico" campaign.
Map courtesy Google Maps

Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano...the middle of March in Texas sees the migration of college students to the coast for some fun,  sun and relaxation during spring break.  One other yearly tradition is the Department of Public Safety warning the young partiers to keep it all north of the boarder border.

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2012 Presidential Election
1:18 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Gov. Perry Lags Behind in Tea Party 2012 Straw Poll

Gov. Perry talking at 2010 State GOP convention
Picture courtesy The Texas Tribune

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that Governor Rick Perry didn't fair very well in a Presidential straw poll taken over the weekend at a Tea Party event in Arizona. 

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Politics
2:36 pm
Fri February 25, 2011

Texas AG Responds to President's DOMA Decision

Attorney General Greg Abbott
Photo courtesy Texas Attorney General

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has weighed in on President Obama's decision to no longer have the U.S. Justice Department defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act banning recognition of same-sex marriage. 

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