Ben Philpott

Senior Reporter, State Politics and Policy

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT. He’s also co-host of The Ticket 2016, a podcast produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune covering the presidential election. Ben 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 four 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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This week on The Ticket: We'll break down the presidential announcement video from Hillary Clinton and interview Garry Mauro, a 4-term Texas Land Commissioner, state campaign director for multiple presidential candidates, and unofficial (for now) worker on the Clinton 2016 campaign.

Cooper Neill/Texas Tribune

The Texas House gave final approval Monday to a bill that would change how schools report how much of their student body is vaccinated. The bill passed, 98 to 40, but only after a loud and long debate.

Right now school districts anonymously collect data on how many kids are vaccinated and then report that data district-wide. Austin Independent School District has an overall vaccination exemption rate of 1.6 percent, for instance. The bill that passed out of the House Monday would break down the data for individual schools.

The Ticket, produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune, is our new podcast focused on the 2016 presidential race.

In the second episode of The Ticket, KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root break down the presidential campaign announcement speech of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in another edition of “Stump Interrupted.”

They also talk with Mathew Dowd, who directed President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

The Ticket, produced by KUT and the Texas Tribune, is our new podcast focused on the 2016 presidential race.

In the pilot episode of The Ticket, KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root bring back the Tribune's “Stump Interrupted” feature to break down Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential announcement speech at Liberty University last month and talk with former Texas GOP Chairman and current Rand Paul campaigner Steve Munisteri.

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.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The Texas constitution requires lawmakers to pass one bill each session: the state budget, which was under (rather lengthy) discussion last week in the House and in the Senate this week. But governors can push their own to-do list at the start of each session in the form of emergency items.

In February, newly minted Gov. Greg Abbott named five of those priorities during his February State of the State speech, and today we're going to see how those bills are doing, by ranking their legislative progress so far this session.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune; Screenshot from Fox News

First there was Ted Cruz. Then yesterday, Rand Paul joined the mix. Eventually, former Texas Governor Rick Perry is expected to announce his run — his second — for the Republican Presidential nomination. His first run, in 2011-12, didn’t end well.

But the former Texas Governor and his team have been working to undo past damage and build a better Perry: Perry 2.0.

Ben Philpott/KUT News

Texas Senator Ted Cruz heads to South Carolina today on the next leg of his presidential campaign. KUT’s Ben Philpott has been following his first week on the campaign trail. While much of the week was predictably standard fare for Cruz – and presidential candidates in general – there were a couple things that stood out.

Ben Philpott/KUT News

Seventy percent of young adults who voted in 2012 voted for President Barack Obama. Some post-election analysis said Republican nominee Mitt Romney could have won if he had split that vote in a handful of key states.

So expect to see a heavy push towards the youth vote from Republicans this election. That includes Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who's campaigning in Iowa this week. How's his message being received by young voters on the campaign trail?

Ben Philpott/KUT News; YouTube screenshot

From George W. Bush to Ron Paul to Rick Perry — and now Ted Cruz and, presumably, Perry together — the New Hampshire Republican Presidential Primary has had a Texan on the ticket for a while. And while Republicans in Texas may say that with pride, how do the people of New Hampshire feel about Texans in the race?

By and large, most New Hampshire residents said they weren’t feeling the “Texas fatigue” one might expect with the continual stable of Lone Star candidates. In the case of Cruz, who was there last weekend kicking off his campaign, his proposals outshone any regional biases. In the case of Perry, some primary voters showed surprising support for a candidate who placed sixth in the 2012 contest.

Ben Philpott/KUT News

Texas Senator Ted Cruz ended his first official week as a Presidential candidate in the snow in New Hampshire. As the skies spit small flakes, the kind that shut down most Texas towns but are barely noticed in New England, Cruz turned up the heat indoors with a rousing 40-minute speech that drew six standing ovations.

Tom Fergus was in the crowd of more than 200 people attending the brunch at the Portsmouth Country Club. While national media and some Republican pundits have said Cruz's campaign doesn't have the broad appeal needed to make a successful run, Fergus says Cruz's message fits right in with the "rugged individualist Yankees that we are."

KUT News

First came the announcement: Sen. Ted Cruz launched his Presidential run on Monday in front of the student body of Liberty University.

Then it was time to make some money. Cruz had a big online push and headed to New York for a couple of days of fundraising.

Now it's time for him to meet the people as an official Presidential candidate.

Michael Stravato/Texas Tribune

Reporters and political pundits across the county are scrambling to handicap Ted Cruz's chances of winning the Republican Presidential nomination. But unlike most other expected candidates, Cruz has little campaign experience to review. He rose from relative obscurity to win his 2012 U.S. Senate race.

So what can that race tell us about Cruz’s Presidential chances?

The KUT Newsroom received several first place honors in the 2015 Texas Associated Press Broadcasters awards announced today. Topping the list, reporter Joy Diaz was named Best Reporter, with Mose Buchele taking second place in the category.

Also receiving first place recognition:

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

Thursday morning at about 9:15, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant became the state’s first legally married same-sex couple.

You may have already heard about the marriage, but do you know what happened in the hour before that ceremony or the hours that followed?

Let’s spend a few minutes explaining what happened, and perhaps more importantly, what happens next.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

It's about a month into the 84th Texas Legislative session, and this week saw the first cracks in any unified front among the state's Republican leadership.

Just like every Texas legislative session – ever, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House won't always agree on things. And that was highlighted this week in the debate over border security.

Miguel Gutierrez, Jr./KUT News

The Texas School for the Deaf sits on 67 acres in between South 1st and South Congress. It looks more like a small college campus than a traditional school building. But then again, says school superintendent Claire Bugen, this isn't a traditional school.

"We serve students from age zero, in our parent/infant program, through home visits. And then when the student is 18 months old, they start to come on campus for part-time services. Now these are local students. All the way through age 22. So our continuum of services is very broad," Bugen says.

Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

Two weeks ago Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick handed out his committee assignments, and, this week, House Speaker Joe Straus did the same. That means the sounds that now fill the House and Senate chambers –  of lawmakers giving congratulatory resolutions – is about to change.

Bills often make the news only to quickly disappear from public discourse. Some, like one that moved in the Legislature this week on open carry, gain attention and momentum. Why do some bills fade away while others don't? The answer sometimes lies with House and Senate committees.

How to Pass a Bill

The journey from bill filing to governor's signature is a long and, about 70 percent of the time, unsuccessful journey.  First up, bill referral, when bills are read for the first time in either the House or Senate and then sent to a committee.

Liang Shi/KUT News

This was supposed to be a fairly quiet week at the Legislature.

For the seventh session in a row, Muslim groups from across the state came to Austin for their regular lobby day, just like the lobby day for doctors, or bikers, or any special interest group. Only this time they were met by about 25 protesters, who yelled and held signs with anti-Islamic slogans and briefly took hold of the mic during speeches.

Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, joined the fray by instructing her staff to ask any Muslims who came into her office if they would “renounce Islamic terrorist groups and announce allegiance to America and our laws.” The council on American-Islamic relations has already sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus to see if those instructions violate House ethics rules.

The legislature also broached another currently controversial topic: the Texas Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC).

Todd Wiseman & Stuart Seeger/Texas Tribune

Agenda Texas is KUT's weekly report on the Texas Legislative session. Each week we'll take a deeper look into the policies being considered and explain what they could mean for you and your life. From transportation to education to the environment and everything in between.

Two weeks down in the 84th Texas Legislature. This one was filled with the pomp of Inauguration Day, and the curious circumstance of the Texas Senate's rules for bringing up a bill. But today's Agenda Texas talks about the state budget.

Out of the billions and billions spent, there are two numbers to focus on to help understand it all.