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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Developing
12:01 pm
Tue December 21, 2010

Texas Adds Four Congressional Seats

Texas added the most population over the decade
U.S. Census Bureau

UPDATE:  U.S. Census interactive map added at 12:50 p.m.

Texas now has 25,145,561 residents.  That number was released this morning by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The additional 4-million residents the state has added since 2000 brought an additional 4 U.S. House seats to the state.  Those seats will be divvied up during the 2011 Texas Legislative session. 

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Politics
11:02 am
Tue December 21, 2010

Family Feud: GOP Edition

The Speaker's election could be a one party race
Picture by Erik Reyna for KUT News

State House member Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) says he has collected a enough signatures to force the Republican caucus to take a vote on who will be the next House Speaker

In a e-mail statement released this morning, Rep. Chisum says the party needs the caucus to meet to select "one conservative candidate" for Speaker of the House. 

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Politics
5:12 pm
Mon December 20, 2010

Howard/Neil Race Not Quite Over

Dan Neil, the Republican in the race for House District 48, has filed a challenge against Democrat State House member Donna Howard.  Howard won re-election by 16 votes on Election Day.  That number was trimmed to 12 during an official re-count.  Now, Neil says a number of factors have lead him to file the challenge.

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Texas
4:04 pm
Thu December 16, 2010

Avoid at Christmas: Fruitcake, Family Drama and Mexico

State officials say stay away from Mexico over the holidays
Picture by KUT

In a move that seems to be becoming a holiday tradition, the Texas Department of Public Safety released it's annual call for Texans to avoid Mexico over the holidays.  DPS sighted increased violence, kidnappings, assault and rape along the boarder as reasons Texans should stay away.

In a press release today, DPS Director Steven C. McCraw says that while the department knows people safely travel and vacation in Mexico on a daily basis, the increase in violence is also a reality.

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Austin
2:54 pm
Thu December 16, 2010

Cats and Dogs (and people) Sleeping Together...Mass Hysteria!

The Austin Humane Society gets ready to sleep with the animals
picture courtesy the Austin Humane Society

Workers and volunteers at the Austin Humane Society will spend the night at the shelter to honor all of the animals that will be homeless during the holidays.  The 5th annual sleep over starts tonight at 7 with a visit from Santa.  After the jolly fat guy poses for pictures with the shelter pets, the dogs will be allowed to run around an indoor dog park.  While all cats will be allowed to roam around the shelter as well.  Shelter staff and volunteers will spend the night all around the shelter, including dog kennels, cat rooms and play areas

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Arts and Culture
2:08 pm
Thu December 16, 2010

KOOP Radio Turns 16

KOOP went on the air 16 years ago in Austin.
Logo courtesy KOOP

The Austin city council passed a proclamation today to recognize KOOP radio's 16 years of public service broadcasting in Austin. KOOP delivers an eclectic mix of music and public affairs programming, all created and run by station volunteers.

Kim McCarson is the station's executive director, one of its few paid positions.  She says KOOP is the only cooperatively run station in the US.

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Austin
1:15 pm
Thu December 16, 2010

Remembering Jennifer Gale

Jennifer Gale was ever-present at Austin city council meetings
Photo courtesy flickr.com/Patrick Dentler

The Austin city council opened today's council meeting with a tribute to Jennifer Gale.  Gale was ever-present at council meetings and ran for Mayor and several other elected positions over the years.  She was also homeless.  Gale was found dead two years ago tomorrow in front of a church near the UT-Austin campus.

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2012 Presidential Election
11:54 am
Thu December 16, 2010

Tea Party Caucus Announced

Sen. Patrick (R-Houston) hopes to strengthen Tea Party voice at Texas Capitol
Dan Patrick

The Tea Party played a big role in this year's national and state elections.  Now, one Texas lawmaker hopes to strengthen the loosely structured group's voice at the Texas Capitol.  In a release today, Tea Party caucus chair Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) announced the first 49 members of the caucus.  Sen. Patrick said he wants the caucus to keep the power the party showed at the polls going during the 2011 legislative session.

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Health
10:42 am
Thu December 16, 2010

Texas Healthcare Lawsuit Heard Today

Abbott and Texas hope to get ruling against new healthcare law
Photo courtesy Texas Attorney General

Attorneys General from Texas and 19 other states appeared in federal district court in Florida today to argue over the constitutionality of President Obama's new federal healthcare law.  Today’s oral argument was the final court proceeding for the suit.  U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson is expected to rule on the law’s constitutionality sometime next year.

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Politics
11:12 am
Tue December 7, 2010

Another Round of Budget Cuts

Another round of immediate cuts are coming to state agencies.
Courtesy the Texas Tribune

The Texas Legislative leadership has sent a letter to state agencies announcing another round of immediate budget cuts. In the letter, Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus directed each agency to propose another 2.5% in cuts for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year.

A release today said the cuts were needed, even though sales tax receipts have improved, to prepare for budget reductions in the 2012-2013 biennium.

Even while calling for additional cuts, Gov. Perry had a sunny message:

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Politics
5:23 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Local Congressman Leads Call for Censure

 

The U.S. House voted today to censure Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY).  Rangel had apologized and asked for leniency from the House.  He was hoping for a private rebuke rather than a public censure after being found guilty of 11 counts of House ethics violations.  But the House overwhelmingly voted to conduct its first public rebuke since the 1980's.

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Politics
8:36 am
Tue November 30, 2010

Sen. Hutchison Fires Shot at Health Care Law

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
Photo by KUT

U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison renewed attacks on the federal heath care bill yesterday during a floor speech in the Senate.  Hutchison called some of the new law’s tax reporting requirements are an “overbearing government intrusion on free enterprise in our country” in her floor speech Monday.

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Politics
1:10 pm
Wed November 24, 2010

Farmers' Home Insurance Rates Going Up

Farmers Insurance Wants to Raise its Home Rates
Image by KUT News

Farmers Insurance wants to raise it's home insurance rate by nearly 4% next year.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Farmers' filled a 3.9% rate increase with the Texas Department of Insurance on Tuesday.  The rate would will affect about half of the company's Texas customers. 

education
4:43 pm
Mon November 22, 2010

Teachers Don't Want AISD to Cut Full Day Pre-Kindergarten

Education Austin will urge Austin School Trustees not to reduce full-day pre-kindergarten or cut back on teacher planning time.
flickr.com/laffy4k

The Austin teachers' association Education Austin is planning to stage a rally tonight outside Austin Independent School District headquarters. The local group, representing about 4,000 teachers and school staff, wants the Austin ISD school board to maintain full-day pre-kindergarten and not reduce planning time for high school teachers.

KUT’s Ben Philpott spoke with Rae Nwosu, co-president of Education Austin.

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Texas Speaker's Race
2:25 pm
Wed November 17, 2010

Speaker's Race Hits Below the Bible Belt

The Speaker's Race Gets Personal
KUT News

Over the last few days there have been reports of campaign phone calls being made to voters in Dallas and San Antonio telling Republicans the "Christian" thing to do would be to elect a new speaker.  Supporters of current Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) say the calls are anti-Semitic...since the speaker is Jewish.

This afternoon speaker  candidates Ken Paxton (R-McKenny) and Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) released a statements rejecting the idea that faith has anything to do with the race.  You can read Chisum's statement below.

 

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politics
5:56 pm
Wed November 10, 2010

Speaker Straus Rebuttal

Texas house Speaker Joe Straus has responded to Rep. Bryan Hughes's accusation that someone on his leadership team threatened to change the districts of lawmakers that don't back Straus. His statement in full is below. "These allegations are outrageous and I have a call into Rep. Hughes to insist that he name the individual with whom he had this alleged conversation.  I did not and would never authorize, allow, or condone linking redistricting in any way with the Speaker’s race, and anyone who knows me knows better than to give that assertion any credence.    When Rep.

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politics
12:02 pm
Wed November 10, 2010

Straus and Strain in the GOP

A battle is brewing in these Capitol hallways over who the House Speaker will be
Photo by KUT

UPDATE:

Today Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) withdrew his pledge for Straus. In a statement he said he made his decission after receiving a phone call from an unnamed lawmaker he says is on Straus's leadership team.

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politics
3:36 pm
Mon November 8, 2010

Texas Lawmaker Files "Arizona Style" Immigration Bill

State Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball) filed a bill today that, if adopted, would see Texas implement a similar immigration law to Arizona's.
Image courtesy Debbie Riddle Campaign

Today was the first day to file bills for the 2011 legislative session and State Representative Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball) slept on the floor outside the Chief Clerk's office for two days to ensure she would be first in line.

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2010 Midterm Elections
9:24 pm
Tue November 2, 2010

Republican Party Keeps Building

The crowd at the GOP Watch Party in Creedmor, TX, keeps up with national election results.
Photo by Chris Kosho for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry was declared a winner around 8:30.  And his opponent Bill White delivered his concession speech around 9.  But Governor Perry is still a no-show in Buda.  The initial plan was for the governor to deliver his victory speech around 10 p.m. after a parade of other GOP winners had their turn in the spotlight.  And no one seems to think there's any reason to change the plan.

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