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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Austin
10:06 am
Sun April 24, 2011

Sunday Morning Round-Up: April 24, 2011

Did the "Bug Bunny" visit your house?
Photo by KUT News

Good morning Austin! We here at the KUT Sunday Morning Round-Up hope you have a nice day planed. Just make sure you don't do any charcoal grilling (propane is o.k.) and don't "smoke-em-if-you-got-em" if you're in a park today. The city's burn ban will remain in place until conditions change.

That means rain and less wind basically. We may get that rain component tomorrow. The forecast is calling for a 50% chance of rain Monday.

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Politics
5:17 pm
Wed April 20, 2011

Comptroller Offeres Additional Credit Protection

Comptroller Combs offeres 2nd credit monitoring discount.
Photo Courtesy the Texas Tribune for KUT News

Comptroller Susan Combs is continuing to clean up the privacy mess her office made when it exposed the Social Security numbers and birth dates of about 3.5 million Texans. In a press release, Combs said her office had negotiated a 2nd discounted credit monitoring subscription for those affected by the security breach.

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Politics
12:18 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

State Employees Warned of Phone Scam Linked to Data Snafu

Attorney General Greg Abbott announces an organized scam against people whose information was released online.
Photo courtesy The Texas Tribune for KUT News

Texans affected by an internet security breach by the Comptroller's office are now being targeted by a new telephone scam. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott released a statement today saying a state employee reported to the AG that they received a phone call from someone claiming to be with the Employees Retirement System of Texas.

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Politics
2:04 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Dueling Sides of the Texas Budget Debate Make Noise at the Capitol

American's for Prosperity-Texas leader Peggy Venable warns lawmakers to cut state spending.
Photo by KUT News

Political battles are often fought on the right or left of a topic.  But today ideology was divided by the North and South sides of the Capitol.  

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Politics
3:28 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

School Finance Pops Up in House Committee

Lawmakers will have to change the school funding system to mach the billions cut in public ed.
Photo by KUT News

So what does cutting the state's public education budget by about $7.8 billion dollars look like?

Based on a bill by Rep. Scott Hochberg (D-Houston), it looks pretty ugly. But he says with the amount of money lawmakers in the House just voted to give to schools during the state budget debate, there's not a pretty way to get money to schools.

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Politics
12:35 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Football Helmet Bill Working Its Way Through the Texas House

The helmet bill hopes to keep unsafe equipment off the field.
Photo by KUT News

A bill in the Texas House that hopes to reduce head injuries in middle and high school athletics received initial approval today. The bill by Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito) would prohibit the use of all football helmets in use 16 years.  It would also require any 10-year-old helmets to be reconditioned at least once every 10 years.

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Politics
1:41 pm
Mon April 4, 2011

Texas Lawmaker Tackle Feral Hog Legislation

A bill up in the House could allow Texans to hunt feral hogs from helecopters.
Photo by flickr.com/pierceplace532/

O.K...Maybe "tackle" was NOT the right word to use on this bill, because the bill passed without ANY debate. Rep. Sid Miller's bill passed 137 - 9.

The proposal wasn't exactly a new idea. The bill passed the House in 2009, but never got a hearing in the Senate, according to Rep. Miller (R-Stephenville).

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Politics
5:31 pm
Sun April 3, 2011

Texas House Budget Debate - Part II

Debate today is going much faster than Friday/Saturday.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

If you're watching the Texas House budget debate today - don't blink.  

While it took about 16 hours to get through the first three articles of the budget Friday, lawmakers are zooming through their debate on the remaining parts of the budget.  

Many amendments are simply being withdrawn - or moved to Article XI in the budget.  That's the place were projects without funding go to hang out just in case money can be found to fund them.  

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Politics
12:39 am
Sat April 2, 2011

Texas House Closes Budget Debate for the Night

Lawmakers will break until Sunday.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas House has ended debate for the night on the state budget.  Lawmakers were able to get through the first 3 articles of the $164 billion bill - that includes general government (I), health and human services (II) and education (III).

Politics
8:48 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

Budget Protesters Fill Hall Outside Texas House

ADAPT protestors mourning the "death" of several state programs.
Photo by KUT News

House Democrats aren't the only ones not happy about the spending cuts made in that chamber's version of the state budget.  ADAPT of Texas, a grassroots disability rights group, has a full protest on the 2nd floor landing right outside the House chamber.  Their chants have been heard over the last couple of hours anytime the debate in chambers hits a lull.  The ADAPT website lists several reasons for their opposition to the things the group says the bill does:

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Politics
6:48 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

House Moves to Education Section of State Budget

The education debate begins in the House.
Photo courtesy the Texas Tribune for KUT News

Family planning was the target in in Article II of the budget. The Windham School District (an education system run in state prisons) appears to be the piggy bank for Article III. The first three amendments take about $1.1 million from Windham to pay for other educational programs. The fourth takes sweeps the entire Windham budget, $84 million, for other programs.

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Politics
5:07 pm
Fri April 1, 2011

Picking On Family Planning

Republicans had several amendments to move money out of family planning.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

The House is taking up the 371 pre-filed state budget amendments article by article.  There are 11 articles in the budget, although Article 11 is mostly a repository for projects that are not going to get funding. 

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Politics
9:59 am
Fri April 1, 2011

Budget Debate Begins in the Texas House

Debate on HB 1 could last throughout the night.
Photo by KUT News

The Texas House is off and running this morning on HB 1, the state budget bill. The $164 billion dollar budget is about $23 billion less than the budget passed in the 2009 legislative session. It also does not take into account population and enrollment growth in many state agencies and programs, like K-12 public education.

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Politics
6:35 pm
Thu March 31, 2011

Cracking open the 'Rainy Day Fund'

A long weekend of debates on the state budget began Thursday morning.
Photo by Ryland Barton for KUT News

Because Texas doesn’t have enough money to run the state for the rest of the fiscal year, legislators gave initial approval to HB 275 today, authorizing a $3.1 billion withdrawal from the so-called rainy day fund to help  pay for a more than $4 billion supplemental appropriation. That bill is also set for final passage on Friday.

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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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