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
6:00 am
Tue July 2, 2013

After the Rally, What’s Next for Texas Legislature's Abortion Debate

Sen. Wendy Davis speaking yesterday. “For years too many Texas politicians have tried to boost their careers by bullying women who need help with their health care," Davis said.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Texas lawmakers are back in Austin for a second special legislative session. The first one ended last week with protests and a late night filibuster to block abortion legislation. And the short time off between sessions has only galvanized activists on both sides of the issue.

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Agenda Texas
8:41 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Rules Fight Looms Over Texas Legislature's Latest Special Session

Se. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, addressing abortion-rights supporters after Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster. Lawmakers will head back to the Capitol on Monday to continue the debate of controversial abortion regulations that ended the first special session.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Gov. Rick Perry is fond of special sessions. Since 2000, he's called for 11 special sessions as governor. And, after the legislative fireworks in the final hours of the last special session, Gov. Perry called yet another special session, bringing lawmakers back to Austin to address transportation, criminal justice and abortion regulations not covered last session's call.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Perry Calls New Special Session: Abortion, Transportation & More

Protesters hoped Tuesday night would be the end of the GOP's latest bill restricting abortion in Texas - but now it doesn't look that way.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Just hours after Senate Democrats were able to use parliamentary procedure and loud advocates to block passage of an abortion bill, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has announced he's calling lawmakers back to Austin for a second special session beginning July 1st.

On the agenda so far, abortion legislation that regulates the procedure and clinics, transportation funding and the creation of a life with parole sentence for juveniles convicted of capitol murder.

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Politics
2:34 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

What's Next for SB 5, the Abortion Bill in the Texas Legislature

Abortion rights advocates blanketed the Capitol in orange this weekend. Protests and hours of debate will come down to a final vote in the Texas Senate.
Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

You're probably aware of Sunday night's marathon hearing on an omnibus abortion bill in the Texas Legislature.

The bill would restrict abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require all clinics to be certified as ambulatory surgical centers and require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. After a vote this morning, that bill is out of the House and in the Senate, where a few things could happen to either pass or block the bill before the special session ends midnight Tuesday. So let's go over a couple of the scenarios:

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Agenda Texas
8:58 am
Mon June 24, 2013

Texas House Passes Restrictive Abortion Bill (Update)

Republicans mill around empty House floor after marathon abortion debate. Democrats could show back up later this morning.
Ben Philpott

Update: House members voted 95 to 34 to pass Senate Bill 5. Now it’s back to the Senate, which already approved the bill, but will have to vote on it again – because its initial version didn’t include the abortion ban after 20 weeks.

Lawmakers are running out of time to take action during this special session. It ends tomorrow at midnight. There’s talk of a filibuster in the Senate to run out the clock.

Update: House gaveled in just after 9 a.m. A handful of Democrats have showed up.

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Agenda Texas
5:30 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

Will Changes to High School Testing Affect College Readiness?

Educators are debating the effect Texas' lowered reliance on the STAAR test will have.
flickr.com/foshydog

The Texas Legislature passed several bills this year focusing on public education. But one garnered much of the attention: House Bill 5 reduced the number of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests a student must pass to graduate high school. Instead of passing 15 different subject areas to graduate, now it’s just five.

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Agenda Texas
5:30 pm
Tue June 18, 2013

Is There a Future for Texas' Political Corruption Investigation Unit?

Governor Perry vetoed Public Integrity Unity money on Friday.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Texas Governor Rick Perry has eliminated funding to the only office in the state that investigates and prosecutes political corruption cases.

It started with a mistake that landed Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg in jail for drunk driving.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Agenda Texas: Texas Monthly Picks 10 Best Lawmakers

The Texas Monthly Best List
Graphic Courtesy Ronald Kurniawan from Texas Monthly

We talked about the people on Texas Monthly's 2013 list of worst lawmakers. Now, now let’s hear about the best. All picked using Texas Monthly Senior Executive Editor Paul Burka’s guiding principle.

“It’s a lot about how you play on the playground with the other children," Burka said.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Thu June 13, 2013

Agenda Texas: Texas Monthly Picks 10 Worst Lawmakers

Who made the worst list, and why.
Graphic Courtesy Ronald Kurniawan from Texas Monthly

You may have heard, this week Texas Monthly magazine released its list of best and worst lawmakers for the 2013 Legislative session. So I sat down with their writers to go over who made which list and why.

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Politics
9:03 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Putting Together Texas Monthly's Best and Worst List

Texas Monthly's Best and Worst Lawmakers List
Graphic Courtesy Ronald Kurniawan from Texas Monthly

At the end of every legislative session, Texas Monthly releases lists of the best and worst lawmakers from the 140 days under the dome. It’s a tradition that’s both praised and scorned by lawmakers, often based on which list they find themselves on.

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Politics
12:57 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Texas Monthly Names the Best and Worst Legislators of 2013

Texas Monthly has released its list of best and worst lawmakers from the 2013 session.
Lizzie Chen, KUT News

Texas Monthly has released its list of the 10 best and 10 worst lawmakers during the 2013 legislative session.

For now, there's no explanation of why people ended up on either list. That comes later as the magazine hits newsstands. So without further ado, here's the list:

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Politics
5:30 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Agenda Texas: Water and Education Bills Take Next Steps

KUT News

This week marked a beginning and an end for some major legislation from the 2013 session. On Monday House Bill 5 ended as Gov. Rick Perry signed the legislation to revamp the state’s public education accountability system and graduation requirements.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Fri June 7, 2013

Agenda Texas: Higher Education Missing Construction Bonds

Property tax breaks for veterans leads this year's list of 10 propositions.
KUT News

Everything was going so well for higher education during the 2013 legislative session. With less than a week left in the session, House Higher Education committee chairman Dan Branch (R-Dallas) was pleased.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Agenda Texas: Legislature Tweaks Women's Health Program

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

The battle over funding the Women’s Health Program was one of the most contentious fights in the 2011 Texas legislative session. The program provided family planning and healthcare services for low-income women who, if they became pregnant, would qualify for Medicaid.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Agenda Texas: Redistricting Never a Quick Fix

Illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

It was supposed to end last Monday.

After 140 days, lawmakers were supposed to pack up and head home. Instead we’re now a week into a special legislative session on congressional and legislative redistricting.

It was a week some thought might be the last for a short special session. But there's nothing quick or easy about redistricting.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Fri May 31, 2013

Agenda Texas: The Post Session Horse Race Begins

Election Day is never far off for lawmakers
Photo by KUT News

The end of a legislative session usually triggers the beginning of the next election cycle. But before anyone could throw his or her hat in the ring, we had an incumbent exit the arena.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Thu May 30, 2013

Agenda Texas: Another Chance for Transportation?

Traffic is expected to only get worse after this session's inaction on transportation.
Daniel Reese

We all know traffic and road conditions are issues across Texas​ – from monster traffic jams in our cities to disintegrating rural roads in heavy oil and gas production areas.

Heading into the just completed legislative session, the Texas Department of Transportation reported just how much more money it needed just to keep things from getting worse.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Wed May 29, 2013

Agenda Texas: Can Water Pass?

Will the need for water projects carry the election in November?
Lower Colorado River Authority

Lawmakers across the Texas Capitol are tearing rotator cuffs patting themselves on the back for finding a way to pay for desperately needed water infrastructure projects.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Agenda Texas: Redistricting Court Battle

Texas is required to re-draw its electoral maps, to not run afoul of the Voting Rights Act
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

It was a busy final day in the Texas Legislature. The House adjourned at a couple minutes past five Monday. The Senate joined them about ten minutes later.

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Politics
11:46 pm
Mon May 27, 2013

Legislature Begins Special Session

Lawmakers shook hands hoping they had wrapped up their work Monday night.
Veronica Zaragovia

Monday was a busy night for Texas lawmakers.  By 5:18 both chambers had adjourned sine die, meaning without a future meeting time, to officially end the 83rd legislative session. But by 5:30, they had a future meeting time: 6 pm that night.

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