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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The Texas Capitol
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.

Alfie and Oreo put aside their differences in an effort to get adopted
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

KOOP Radio Turns 16

Dec 16, 2010
The KOOP logo
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.

Jennifer Gale resting under a tree in Austin TX
Photo courtesy 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.

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.

AG Abbott greets Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum outside courthouse
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.

Dollar bill cut by scissors
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:


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.

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.

home construction in Austin TX
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. 


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.

Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) celebrates GOP victories on Election Night
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.


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.

Long hallway in the State Capitol
Photo by KUT


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.

State Representative Debbie Riddle
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.

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.

Gov. Perry's book "Fed Up!"
KUT News

Governor Perry's book, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington," has it's own place of honor among the party goers at tonight's state GOP party.  

The book doesn't come out until November 15th but it's one sale tonight for those wanting to get a jump on everyone.

Governor Perry is set to head out on a book tour after the election.

Empty Podium at Texas GOP HQ
Ben Philpott

As the National Republicans continue to watch for a national tsunami (an overused descriptor, I'll limit its use tonight.),  Texas Republicans are ready for a pretty rockin' party as well out at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch near Creedmoor.  

Travis County eSlate voting machine
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Vote Rescue is a non-partisan group urging Travis County to eschew eSlate voting machines in favor of old fashioned, hand-counted, paper ballots. Their main gripe is that the eSlate machines tabulate votes electronically, out of the view of the public eye.

"They are not accurate because the count is done secretly inside of the machine, so there is no way to know if they are [fair]," Vote Rescue's Karen Renick told us last month.