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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Agenda Texas
11:48 am
Mon November 18, 2013

How Do Texas Republicans' Gun Policies Compare with Public Opinion?

Gun rights are front and center in the 2014 GOP primary election.
KUT News

Several races in the 2014 GOP primary appear promising for advocates of expanding gun rights in Texas.

Top Republican candidates are making sure primary voters know they’re opposed to any gun control efforts at the federal level – with some even proposing ways to loosen current Texas law.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has included a couple of gun-related proposals as part of a major policy paper released by his gubernatorial campaign. As spelled out in his “We the People” plan, Abbott would allow Texans to openly carry handguns and allow guns to be brought on college campuses.

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Agenda Texas
12:52 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Texas Democrats Slow to Follow Davis Onto the Ballot

At separate events, Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis filed for governor in Austin on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.
Jack Plunkett/Erika Rich, Texas Tribune

It’s filing time for Texas candidates running in the March party primaries. The gubernatorial frontrunners – Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis – have already filled out their paperwork.

But there’s a big difference between the two candidates in terms of what’s below each of them on the ballot.

Attorney General Abbott leads a very crowded ballot in several statewide race  – including a four-way race for the GOP Lieutenant Governor nomination. And there could be equally contentious fights among Republicans up and down the ballot. There are currently 36 Republicans expected to run in 14 statewide races. 

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Agenda Texas
4:49 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Why Haven't Austin's Floods Drawn Political Attention from State Leaders?

The American Red Cross hands out hot lunches to residents of the Onion Creek community. The neighborhood was devastated by torrential rains that fell on Oct. 31.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

When an explosion leveled the town of West, state and federal politicians descended on the town, alongside state and federal aid workers.

But so far, the deadly flooding in southeast Austin and Travis County has not received the same kind of attention.

So why the difference in response?

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Election Day
5:58 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Three Ways Voter ID Could Affect You This Election Day

This election day is the first featuring Texas' new voter I.D. law.
Photo by KUT News

It’s Election Day and, if you didn’t vote early, today is your final chance to cast a ballot on nine proposed state constitutional amendments, along with a few local elections.

This election is also the first one with the state’s new voter ID law in place.

For Agenda Texas, KUT's Ben Philpott breaks down what you should expect at the polls this Election Day.

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Agenda Texas
11:16 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Abbott Would Limit State and Local Spending as Governor

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sep. 28, 2013. Abbott released his first major policy plan this week.
Callie Richmond, flickr.com/thetexastribune

The leading Republican in the race to be the next Texas Governor has released his first major policy plan of the campaign. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s “Working Texas” plan includes several proposals for restraining state and local government spending. 

Parts of the plan are a nod to proposals in Governor Rick Perry’s 2012 Texas Budget Compact. That includes linking the state’s constitutional spending cap to population growth and inflation instead of growth in personal incomes.

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Haunted Houses
3:31 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Austin's House of Torment Named One of Country's Best Haunts

Austin's House of Torment was recently named among the nation's best haunted houses.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Looking for a good scare before Halloween? Heading to a local haunted house is always a good idea. And if you live in Texas, you're lucky enough to be near three of the country's best haunts.

According to a new ranking by Hauntworld.com, the self described "World's #1 Haunted House Website, Texas has four of the top 13 haunted house in the country. 

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Agenda Texas
6:03 am
Fri October 18, 2013

The 9 State Propositions Texans Will Vote On Next Week

Prop 6 is getting most of the attention this election.
KUT News

Early voting begins Monday on nine proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. Constitutional elections traditionally draw less than 10 percent of registered voters to the polls. But the changes being proposed could have widespread effects on Texas in the future.

Below you’ll find the Secretary of State's explanation of each of the Joint Resolutions passed in the House and Senate that created the amendment propositions, along with the ballot language you’ll see when voting. We’ve also included links to groups for or against passage on individual propositions, if there are any.

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Agenda Texas
8:10 am
Thu October 17, 2013

For Texas' Ted Cruz, Shutdown Ends with Little Political Damage

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has made it through the shutdown without hurting his support in Texas.
KUT News

The federal government shutdown is over, for now. But the battle over who gets the blame for the congressional meltdown will likely extend through the 2014 party primaries and general election. So how did the shutdown affect the political landscape in Texas?

A recent Rasmussen poll found 78 percent of the country would vote to get rid of the entire Congress and start over. And yesterday, the Houston Chronicle expressed regret for its endorsement of Sen.Ted Cruz in the 2012 Senate race. Sounds like there are dark days ahead for our Congressional incumbents in Texas.

Actually … no, says Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith.

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Agenda Texas
10:17 am
Wed October 16, 2013

Texans Could Vote to Help Cut Veterans' Property Taxes

Voters could give property tax breaks to soldiers and their families on November 5th.
Photo by KUT News

When Texans go to the polls beginning Monday, they’ll have the chance to vote on nine constitutional propositions. Two of them would cut property taxes for disabled veterans or their surviving spouse. 

Both propositions have their origins in an oversight and look to tweak current laws to give returning Texas veterans and their families property tax breaks.

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ACL Cancellation
8:46 am
Sun October 13, 2013

Heavy Rains Soak Austin, Central Texas; ACL Festival Cancels Final Day

A flood warning remains in effect along the Colorado River for Travis and Bastrop Counties, and a flash flood watch for Central Texas remains in effect until this evening.
YNN Austin

Because of the weather, all of Austin Parks and Recreation systems trails are closed. Parks and Recreation also closed the Barton Springs Pool because of flooding, and all of Austin's golf courses are also closed. The Austin Police Department is urging limited driving on roads. 

Extreme flooding also impacted the Travis County wastewater lift station. It spilled 500,000 gallons of wastewater earlier this morning. The lift station, located at 4504 Travis Country Circle, has been repaired by Austin Water crews. Austin Water urges residents to avoid the area's creeks, though Austin Water's drinking water supply isn't affected.

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Agenda Texas
8:00 am
Fri October 11, 2013

Expanding Reverse Mortgages on November Ballot

Proposition 5 would let Sr's purchase homes with a reverse mortgage.
Ben Philpott

Texans head to the polls later this month to vote on constitutional amendment propositions. Though water funding is receiving the most attention, there are 8 others to consider, including one that expands the use of what’s called a reverse mortgage in Texas.

A reverse mortgage is a financial tool that allows senior citizens to receive equity payments each month while staying in their home. The reverse mortgage is paid back, with interest, only after the house is sold when the owner either moves out or dies.

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2014 Governor's Race
4:30 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Could A Democrat Become Governor In Texas?

Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democratic candidate for governor, speaks at a rally in Haltom City on Oct. 3.
LM Otero AP

Originally published on Wed October 9, 2013 7:44 pm

In 2014, Texas voters might just see something they haven't experienced in two decades — a competitive race for governor.

Current Republican Gov. Rick Perry isn't running for re-election, so it's an open race, with new faces and new optimism for Texas Democrats.

Earlier this year, the Democrats were once again facing the prospect of scrambling to find someone to run as their candidate. Then, on June 25, state Sen. Wendy Davis came to the Capitol in Austin wearing running shoes and ready to block a restrictive abortion bill.

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Affordable Care Act
12:39 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

For Many Insurance Shoppers, Obamacare Marketplace is a Digital Waiting Room

Millions of uninsured Americans are experiencing delays and errors on the federal health insurance marketplace.
healthcare.gov

It’s Day Two for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace – and things are still slow going for many.

Sarah Bates is one of the uninsured Texans searching for affordable health insurance in the federal marketplace. Working over 40 hours a week as an Austin musician, she approached the marketplace skeptically.

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Agenda Texas
7:45 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Ted Cruz Rehashes His Big Week in Washington

Sen. Ted Cruz packed the AT&T Center at UT-Austin to talk about his week in Washington
Ben Philpott, KUT News

Senator Ted Cruz  told a crowd in Austin tonight that he doesn't want the federal government to shut down. But the Tea Party favorite also said a shut down would happen if President Barack Obama and Democrats in the U.S. Senate refused to let Republicans de-fund the Affordable Care Act.

A Monday deadline looms for passage of a spending measure that's currently back in the House of Representatives.

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Agenda Texas
9:33 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Women's Clinic Closed in Wake of Texas Law Offered More Than Abortions

Cadence King stands at the gate of the now closed Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan.
Ben Philpott for KUT News

A handful of clinics in Texas have closed, or are planning to, just weeks after a controversial bill restricting abortions passed the state legislature.

Planned Parenthood says the closures will hurt the women who came to the clinics for general healthcare services. Anti-abortion groups say there are other doctors for the women to go to. So who's right?

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Agenda Texas
10:41 am
Thu September 5, 2013

Has 'Cruz-Mania' Made Senator Cornyn an Afterthought?

Is Ted Cruz essenailly the Sr. Sentor from Texas?
Gage Skidmore Texas Tribune

Texas Senator John Cornyn has been in office since 2002. He’s currently the GOP minority whip. And yet, based on media appearances and general buzz, you might think Cornyn was the state’s junior Senator – second fiddle to Tea Party favorite and conservative media darling Senator Ted Cruz.

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Agenda Texas
2:26 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Can MoPac Be 'Fixed?'

New tolled lanes are coming to MoPac - but so are thousands more motorists. Accounting for projected growth, some traffic experts say maintaining MoPac’s current level of congestion would be a success.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

About a thousand people a day move to Texas. And if you’re driving on the MoPac expressway at rush hour, it might feel like every one of them is commuting with you.

That's how Sara Robertson feels most days. She's been commuting on MoPac for about eight years. “And every year it gets longer and longer,” Robertson says.

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Agenda Texas
8:50 am
Tue August 27, 2013

Some Texas Democrats Waiting on Davis Before Joining 2014 Races

Davis appears to be the key for Democrats in 2014.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The Wendy Davis Watch continues in Texas politics. The Fort Worth state senator is expected to announce in the next few days whether she will or won’t run for the Democratic nomination for Governor. But Democratic activists aren’t the only ones waiting.

So are potential Democratic candidates, as state-wide races up and down the ticket, so far, remain empty. 

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Agenda Texas
6:00 am
Fri August 23, 2013

Controversial Texas Lesson Plans Debated This Weekend

The lesson plans may be gone...but those for and against the plans continue to fight.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

You may not know it, but tomorrow, the lucky people of Tyler, Texas will have the chance to witness one of the most anticipated confrontations since Rocky III, when Rocky Balboa took on Clubber Lang.

Ok, maybe State Senator Dan Patrick (R-Houston) debating State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff (R-Mt. Pleasant) over something called CSCOPE isn’t all that scintillating. But those lesson plans created by Texas teachers were one heck of a political football during the 2013 legislative session. 

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Politics
4:56 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

OMG: Attack Websites Begin Trashing 2014 Texas Candidates

Web attacks designed to go viral, like Dan Patrick's "Dewfeed," kick off the 2014 campaign season early.
dewfeed.com

It may be too early to start running attack ads on TV and radio for the 2014 Texas general and primary elections. But it's apparently never too early to launch an attack website.

So to give you something to do heading into the weekend, we've compiled a list of some of the most prominent attack sites out there at the moment. The number will certainly grow as we get closer to the primaries in March.

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