Kelli Ainsworth

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Politics
9:32 am
Wed October 3, 2012

Sadler and Cruz Face Off in First Debate

No hold were barred in the first of two debates between Republican Ted Cruz (L) and Democrat Paul Sadler (R).
Gage Skidmore / Marjorie Kamys Cotera, Texas Tribune

Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Paul Sadler held the first of two planned debates in their battle to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate last night.

The debate, held in Dallas at WFAA, touched on healthcare, immigration, federal spending, foreign policy and taxes as the candidates repeatedly tried to out-lawyer one another. 

Cruz repeated his assertion that he would work to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected, stating that the law puts the United States on a path toward socialized medicine. He stated that socialized medicine leads to low quality, inefficient medical care. Sadler countered that Cruz’s position would put Texans at risk by allowing insurance companies to deny or limit insurance coverage based on preexisting conditions, and would leave many young people currently on their parents’ insurance plans without coverage.  

Regarding immigration, Sadler stated that he supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.  Cruz opposes such a pathway and wants to put an end to illegal immigration. 

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Austin
8:33 am
Mon October 1, 2012

New Short-Term Rental Ordinance Takes Effect Today

Short-term rentals, as listed by companies like HomeWay, are subject to new regulation beginning today.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Starting today, Austin residents and property owners who rent out their homes to vacationers will be subject to new licensing requirements

The Austin City Council adopted an ordinance in August requiring anyone who operates a short-term rental.  As defined by the council, the rentals are “houses and residential units rented for periods of 30 days.” The ordinance goes into effect today.

Rental operators will face different applications and licensing requirements depending on whether they occupy the property themselves (a "Type 1" rental) or use it solely as a rental property ("Type 2"). Type 1 operators and/or Type 2 operators in business before June 13, 2011, can begin applying for licenses today. Type 2 operators opening shop after June 13 will be able to apply in January.

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Texas
9:04 am
Wed September 26, 2012

ERCOT Board Examines Summer Power Usage, Makes Predictions for Fall

ERCOT predicts no demand problems for fall, winter.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says that though the Texas electric grid saw new monthly peaks in June and July, the overall electric demand fell below last summer’s record-setting numbers. 

At the Board of Directors September meeting yesterday, directors were briefed on the summer’s power grid demand and peaks over the summer and made projections for fall and winter. 

This summer, ERCOT didn’t have to issue any energy emergence alerts (EEA)—which can result in rotating outages in order to prevent a power grid overload and statewide blackout. Last summer, ERCOT issued seven EEAs. Though this summer’s weather was hotter than the state’s 15-year average, it didn’t reach the sweltering levels achieved in 2011, so air conditioner use was somewhat lower.

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Formula 1
7:46 am
Wed September 26, 2012

F1 Officials Declare Austin Track Ready to Race

Inspectors from Formula 1's governing body take a look at the Circuit of the Americas track.
Circuit of the Americas

After a visit from Formula 1 officials yesterday, Austin’s Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is right on track to host the United States Grand Prix in November, according to a press release from COTA. 

Charles Whiting, the director of racing, safety and technical matters for the Fédération Internationale de l’ Automobile (FIA), the international body that oversees F1 racing, declared Austin’s track “ready to race.”  His approval is necessary for an F1 circuit to conduct Grand Prix races.

The track was awarded a Grade 1 designation, the highest distinction that can be given to a motorsports venue.  Whiting declared that the circuit was “built to the highest quality” and that he had “no complaints whatsoever.”

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Criminal Justice
3:57 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Report: Fewer Ex-Cons Returning to Texas Prisons

The recidivism rate for ex-cons in Texas has fallen 11 percent - meaning less former felons returning behind bars.
flickr.com/hmk

Fewer Texas ex-convicts are returning to prison, according to a report released today by the National Reentry Resource Center.

The report tracked individuals released from prison between 2005 and 2007 until 2010, to see whether they returned to prison. It found that the three-year recidivism rate went down 11 percent in Texas.

Other states with significant drops in their recidivism rates were Ohio, Kansas and Michigan.

The report credits the lowered recidivism rates in many states to increased funding for programs that ease the transition from prison to society, including the 2008 Second Chance Act. The act provides federal grants to state and local governments and community organizations to provide services that ease the transition from prison to society. Funds can be used to provide employment services, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance and mentoring to prisoners and ex-cons.

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Environment
1:45 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

Seeing Smoke? Prescribed Burn West of Kyle and Buda

The City of Austin says prescribed fire a cost effective way to clear vegetation.
flickr.com/usfwsmidwest

You might see and smell smoke near Kyle and Buda this afternoon.

Austin Water's Wildland Conservation Division is planning to conduct a prescribed burn at the Onion Creek Management Unit off FM 150 west of Kyle.

The burn will cover more than 500 acres and should go on between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Kevin Thuesen is the Environmental Conservation Program Manager for the City of Austin. He says people shouldn’t be concerned.

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Texas
8:59 am
Mon September 24, 2012

Is Private Space Flight Coming to Texas?

SpaceX may begin launching rockets in Texas. This launch, from 2010, was at Cape Canaveral.
Chris Thompson/ SpaceX

A 50-acre section of land near Brownsville is subject to speculation as a potential location of a new rocket launch site, to be built by private space exploration firm SpaceX

Three recent property purchases near the proposed site in Cameron County by SpaceX could mean that the company has, in fact, picked Texas over Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico to be home to its launch site.

The Brownsville Herald reports that public records in Cameron County show that SpaceX bought three pieces of property between June and September near the proposed site, under the name of Dogleg Park, LLC. The address listed for Dogleg Park on the deeds for these properties is the address of SpaceX’s Hawthorne, Calif. headquarters.

SpaceX has not yet commented on or released any statements about the purchased land.

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Arts and Culture
1:03 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

Celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, Austin Style

flickr.com/serfs-up

If you’re feeling holiday withdrawal during the weeks between Labor Day and Halloween, there’s good news: today you can celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the quirky holiday. International Talk Like a Pirate Day was created in 2002 after columnist Dave Barry wrote a piece in the Miami Herald about the piratical exploits of Oregonians John Baur and Mark Summers (otherwise known by their pirate aliases, Ol’ Chumbucket and Cap’n Slappy). Baur and Summers began Talk Like a Pirate Day among their circle of friends while playing racquetball in 1995 and appealed to Barry to publicize the event seven years later. 

Today, International Talk Like a Pirate Day is celebrated with events all over the world, from Texas to Japan.

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Texas
10:00 am
Wed September 19, 2012

Houston Wants to Follow Austin's Food Truck Lead

Food trucks are a popular stop along South Congress. Houston food truck owners want more lenient rules for operation.
flickr.com/Matt Peoples

While food trucks have been embraced in Austin and can be found clustered throughout the city, Houston food truck owners are struggling to change city ordinances that impose limits on their operations. 

Yesterday, dozens of food truck operators and enthusiasts came before the Houston City Council to petition for changes in mobile food unit ordinance, which bans food trucks that use propane stoves and grills from operating in the busy downtown area.

The Houston Mobile Food Unit Collective has proposed that the mobile food unit ordinances be amended to allow trucks with propane tanks under 40 pounds to operate downtown, eliminate the required 60 feet of space between trucks and permit food trucks to provide up to three tables and six chairs for patrons.

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AM Update: 9/19/12
8:57 am
Wed September 19, 2012

AM Update: Immigrant Housing Law Under Review, Huston-Tillotson Grant, Rain Helps Edwards Aquifer

A panel of judges at the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana is set to review a Texas immigration case today.
flickr.com/wallyg

The first day of autumn is still a few days away but Central Texas is already enjoying more fall-like temperatures thanks to a weak cold front. Here's a look at today's morning headlines:

Appeals Court to Review Immigration Housing Law

The 5th Circuit US Court of appeals is set to review a proposed law that would ban illegal immigrants from renting homes in Farmer’s Branch, a suburb of Dallas.

The law requires that all renters in Farmer’s Branch fill out paperwork proving their immigration status.  Illegal immigrants could be denied housing or be evicted from their current home. Under the law, landlords who knowingly continue rent to illegal immigrants would be subject to fines and revocation of their renter’s license.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund sued the city to prevent the law from being enforced. A district court ruled that the law was unconstitutional on the grounds that regulating immigration law is a federal prerogative.  A three-judge panel from the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision in March. The full membership of the court will review the earlier decision today.

Huston-Tillotson Gets Nearly $2 Million Grant

Huston-Tillotson University in Austin is getting more than $1.9 million in federal funding.

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Austin
12:04 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

Headliners Announced for 2012 Texas Book Festival

photo courtesy Texas Book Festival

First Lady Laura Bush announced the lineup for the 2012 Texas Book Festival this morning. This year’s festival will feature Cheryl Strayed, Tony Danza, Robert Caro, Junot Díaz, Jewel, Jeffrey Toobin, Zane, Tim O’Brien, Justin Cronin, and David Maraniss, among others. The full lineup of 250 authors across all literary genres can be found online at texasbookfestival.org.

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AM Update: 9/12/12
9:01 am
Wed September 12, 2012

AM Update: State Retirement Plans, Assange, Wikileaks and SXSW, Prosecutorial Misconduct

Texas lawmakers are looking at possible ways to slice up state retirement plans.
flickr.com/brotherM

Lawmakers Look at Retirement Plans

Texas lawmakers are scheduled to examine some retirement programs this morning – including the Employees Retirement System of Texas and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas.

The Texas House Committee on Pensions, Investments & Financial Services wants to know the viability of the plans as they are now. And they’ll look at what might happen to the retirement plans if they are switched from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans or some combination of the two.

TRS is the largest public retirement system in the state, with more than 1.3 million people are on the plan.

Assange’s Legal Threat to SXSW

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange threatened the South by Southwest festival with legal action if it proceeded with its planned showing of the documentary Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies in 2012. That's according to London’s The Guardian.

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AM Update: 9/10/12
8:47 am
Mon September 10, 2012

AM Update: Single-Sex Schools, Controversial Highway, Texas vs. the Feds

The AISD School Board is looking into turning Pearce Middle School into a single-sex school.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It's back to work and school today but with cooler temperatures highs in the mid-90s. Here's a look at some of the big stories developing today:

AISD Looks at Single-Sex Education Options

The Austin  School Board is taking another look at single-sex middle schools this evening.

AISD Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen had wanted to create single-sex schools at Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools as soon as next school year. But the idea met resistance from some school board members and parents. If the board decides to go forward with the plan, it won’t go into effect until at least 2014-2015.

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