Laura Rice

Producer, Morning Edition

Laura joined the KUT team in April 2012. She works with Jennifer Stayton each weekday morning to bring you the latest local news during Morning Edition, hosts the noon newscast and reports for on-air and online. You'll also hear Laura with the morning news headlines on KUTX and filling in for Jennifer during the morning drive-time. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.

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AM Update
8:20 am
Tue May 8, 2012

AM Update: Voter ID Trial Delayed, Longhorns Arrested Downtown, Paul Qui Wins James Beard Award

In 2011, Gov. Rick Perry signed SB14, Texas' Voter ID law.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/texasgovernor

Texas’ Voter ID Law in Legal Limbo

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that if Texas does not hand over requested documentation by Wednesday, the trial on Texas’ Voter ID Law will most likely be delayed. A delay in the trial means that Texas will not see the law implemented in time for the November election, according to the Texas Tribune.

The trial was scheduled to start July 9, until yesterday’s decision. The DOJ is specifically requesting information on voters and state databases; the state has until Wednesday to comply, says the Tribune.

KUT News previously reported that the DOJ had previously used demographic and census data to argue the  law would have a disproportionate impact on minority citizens.

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Texas
8:48 am
Mon May 7, 2012

New Driver's License Requirements in Effect

The new requirements are focused on proving residency.
Image courtesy Department of Public Safety.

Starting today, new applicants for Texas driver’s licenses and IDs will have to meet stricter residency requirements.

First-time applicants have to meet all of the previous requirements, as well as present two additional documents that prove they live in Texas — like a current mortgage or lease agreement and a vehicle registration or title. You can view a complete list of acceptable documents to prove residency here

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AM Update
7:42 am
Mon May 7, 2012

AM Update: Central Texas Flood Watch, Sheriff Race Centers on Immigration, Lege Revisits Medicaid

South-Central Texas can expect storms in the area, beginning Monday night until Tuesday afternoon.
Photo Courtesy of National Weather Service

South-Central Texas Flood Watch

The National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for South-Central Texas, beginning today and lasting into Tuesday evening.

The flash flood impact should be highest overnight tonight into Tuesday morning. According to the advisory, average rainfall is estimated between one and two inches, with higher totals reaching into three to five inches.

“A flash flood watch is in effect for Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon for the area North and West and I-35 and HWY 90. There is a chance for locally heavy rain and flash flooding Thursday and Friday. Otherwise no hazardous weather is expected at this time.”

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Police
4:46 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Police Ramping Up Traffic Enforcement Around Schools

APD is on the lookout for unsafe drivers near area schools.
Image courtesy Austin Police

The Austin Police Department is cracking down on traffic violations around schools.

Today, APD announced an initiative to focus on drivers who speed or use their cell phones in school zones. They also want to make sure drivers don’t pass school buses or ignore crossing guards.

In 2009, Austin passed a ban on texting or using the internet while driving. This week, KUT News learned officers have only given out 26 tickets under that law since January of 2010.

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Education
1:57 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Vince Young Encourages Teens to Go to College

Former UT football star Vince Young is the spokesperson for a group encouraging Texas high school graduates to go to college.
Photo courtesy Generation Texas

UT Austin football great Vince Young is back in town today to promote higher education.

Young is the spokesperson for Generation Texas — a group that asked everyone to wear their favorite college t-shirt today in hopes of inspiring high school grads to pursue a college degree.

Young, of course, is sporting a Longhorns t-shirt. He spoke to students at Del Valle High School this morning and told KUT they seemed excited about the possibility of going to college.

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Austin
9:48 am
Fri May 4, 2012

Deep Eddy Pool Reopens

Deep Eddy Pool before closing for renovations last April.
KUT News

Deep Eddy Pool is back open today — or at least part of it.

The deep end of Deep Eddy is open today. The shallow end opens up tomorrow at 10 a.m. The oldest swimming pool in Texas, Deep Eddy has been shut down since last year for a full round of renovations.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department says the pool bottom has been replaced and the west end now features a zero depth entry. Visitors will also notice new decks and new retaining walls with seating. 

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AM Update
8:51 am
Fri May 4, 2012

AM Update: H-E-B Recall, Crash Investigation Clears MetroRail, New Driver's License Requirements

H-E-B has recalled 19 products due to salmonella concerns.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/djwhitebread

H-E-B Recalls Meals

Central Texas-based grocery store H-E-B has announced a “voluntary and precautionary recall” for its Asian Ready-to-Eat meals. According to the grocer:  

The recall involves 19 Ready-to-Eat entrées and meals sold in 40 stores in Texas including one store in Houston. The product was available at the Grab 'N Go section in H-E-B Delis. The product(s) come in a 4 ounce, 8 ounce, 12 ounce, 24 ounce black plastic containers with a clear lid, single serve sizes and to-go containers … Any product sold prior to 5/3/12 is affected and should be returned to any H-E-B store for a full refund.

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AM Update
8:05 am
Thu May 3, 2012

AM Update: Texas State Joins Sun Belt Conference, Cyclists Ride for Safety, Lawmakers Talk Taxes

A “ghost bike” represents a cyclist killed while on a ride. In a demonstration tonight, cyclists hope to spur changes that will help prevent crashes involving cyclists.
Photo courtesy Jason Thompson via the Please BE KIND to Cyclists Facebook page

Texas State University Celebrates Move to the Sun Belt Conference

Texas State University is holding a reception for students today to mark the upcoming move to the Sun Belt Conference. The reception will give students an opportunity to meet and visit with head coaches and athletic administrators to discuss the move.

Texas State University President Denise Trauth announced yesterday that the university will join the Sun Belt Conference in 2013-2014 season.

Right now, eleven schools participate in the Sun Belt Conference. Georgia State will also join the conference in 2013. Texas State and Georgia State will join Arkansas State, Arkansas-Little Rock, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, South Alabama, Troy and Western Kentucky.

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Austin
1:19 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Is Austin's Texting Ban Making a Difference?

Austin drivers may not be paying much attention to the ban on texting while driving.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

In Austin, it’s illegal to use your cell phone for anything other than phone calls while driving. That includes texting and surfing the internet. The ban went into effect January 1, 2010.

But is the ban making a difference?

The Austin Police Department told KUT that officers have written just 26 citations for texting while driving since the city’s ban took effect.

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AM Update
8:03 am
Wed May 2, 2012

AM Update: Tuition Rising at UT, A&M, Cameras Fail in Train Crash, Help Decide Bond Spending Tonight

University of Texas and Texas A&M are both considering tuition hikes.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Tuition Going Up at UT, Texas A&M

Tuition at schools in the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems could have their tuition raised this week.

The University of Texas System regents will meet today to consider increasing rates (page 37 of agenda) at all nine of its campuses over the next two years. If the recommendations are approved, tuition for in-state residents at UT Austin would increase 2.6 percent annually for two years. Out-of-state tuition would increase 3.6 percent. The raise in tuition would raise an estimated $25 million. Rates at Texas A&M's main campus in College Station would not go up (page 14), but all other A&M campuses would see a ten dollar per credit hour increase for undergraduate classes.

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Street Closures
8:52 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Traffic Trouble: All Southbound Lanes Closed on I-35 Near U.S. 183

View Major IH-35 - Southbound Closure in a larger map

Update: All lanes have been reopened, reports TxDOT.

Original Post: The Texas Department of Transportation says all southbound lanes of North Interstate 35 are closed just south of the U.S. 183 exit because of a major crash.

Traffic is being detoured to the access road.

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AM Update
8:01 am
Tue May 1, 2012

AM Update: County Considers Apple Again, West Texas Wildfires, San Marcos Talks Alcohol in Parks

Travis County commissioners will review an Apple incentives deal this morning
Photo courtesy flickr.com/atmtx

County Considers Apple Incentives, Again

The Travis County Commissioners Court will review an economic agreement with computing giant Apple today.

The City of Austin has pledged an estimated $8 million in tax rebates to bring the company here, and the state’s Texas Enterprise Fund is offering another $21 million in incentives. But in order for those to go through, the county must also approve a deal to bring Apple here. It would involve Travis County giving Apple between $5.4 and $6.4 million dollars in tax rebates over 15 years. So far, the agreement has been discussed at several Commissioners Court meetings, but hasn’t been finalized yet.

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Capital Metro
10:39 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Fatality in Cap Metro Train Collision

An image of the collision this morning.
Photo courtesy Twitter user JenelleS_KVUE, http://yfrog.com/mnhspfwj

Update 1 p.m.: Capital Metro says complete rail service should be back on regular schedule by 1:15 p.m.

Update 10:30 a.m.: A 32 year-old man was killed in a Capital Metro rail collision this morning. Two children were also in the car with the unnamed man, and were taken to Dell Children’s Hospital. Capital Metro spokesperson Misty Whited tells KUT she’s learned the children are in stable condition.

127 passengers were aboard the train at the time of the collision, plus one train operator.

The collision occurred at a private drive crossing the Cap Metro rail line; out of 74 total crossings along the rail line, 13 are on private drives. Only two have crossing gates; the crossing at Oak Hill Drive (mapped below) did not have a gate, only a stop sign.

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AM Update
8:19 am
Mon April 30, 2012

AM Update: Early Voting Starts, Education Committee Meets, Toros Win Title

Early voting begins today for four positions on the Austin City Council, including mayor.
KUT News

Early Voting Begins Today

Early voting begins today in the Austin city election. There are a total of 14 candidates running for four different positions, including mayor and three city council seats.

You can find information on the candidates and their views on Austin’s pressing issues at kutnews.org. You can stream interviews with candidates for the Place 5Place 2 and Place 6 seats, and beginning today, interview with Austin’s mayoral candidates. The City of Austin has also put videos for the council candidates including those vying for mayor.

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City Council
9:00 am
Fri April 27, 2012

City Council Recap: Districting Proposal Deep Sixed, Solar Group Approved, Payday Lenders Zoned Out

A flurry of activity City Hall yesterday, as council met for the last time before the May 12 elections
Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

The big story out of the Austin City Council meeting on Thursday was the decision to withdraw a proposal that would have called for a community task force to advise on single-member council districts for future elections. A citizens group pushing to put its own districting proposal on the ballot applauded the withdrawal.

Several other items related to city elections did pass, including an item which will ask voters whether to move local elections from May to November.

The council also held a public hearing and approved an ordinance over zoning for “alternative financial services businesses,” aka payday lenders.

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City Council
10:00 am
Thu April 26, 2012

City Council Preview: Coming Down Like Cats and Dogs (And That's Just the Animal Shelter)

City Hall is hosting a council meeting that should stretch well into the evening.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

At 142-items long, saying the Austin City Council faces a full agenda today is an understatement.

Today’s regular meeting is filled with a number of contentious and convoluted issues – certainly not the stuff incumbent council members up for re-election would prefer to address on the eve of early voting. Here's a roundup of three big items up today:

1. Speaking of Voting: Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution that would create a task force to study options on organizing the city into council districts. The task force would be made up of Austin voters. (Currently council seats are elected at-large.)  The proposal has garnered pushback from a citizens group, Autinites for Geographic Representation, which is collecting signatures to put their 10-1 district plan on the ballot.

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Austin
3:25 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Johnson Family Donates $1M to Namesake Wildflower Center

Executive Director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Susan K. Rieff, Ian Turpin, Luci Baines Johnson, and UT President Bill Powers pose at the announcement of the donation.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Luci Baines Johnson and her husband have donated $1 million to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in southwest Austin. The donation will be used to help build a garden designed for children.

The daughter of the former president says it will feature a maze, an elevated walkway, and giant bird nests that kids will be able to climb into.

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Texas
1:15 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Texas Beef Industry Watches Futures in Wake of Mad Cow Discovery

Texas cattle prices may not see a big impact from a discovery of mad cow in California
Photo by KUT News

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples says he doesn’t expect the Texas beef industry will be significantly affected by a case of BSE — or mad cow disease – found in a California dairy cow.

The disease was discovered when the cow was selected for random sampling. It did not enter the food supply, and mad cow disease cannot be transmitted through milk.

Still, Staples and those in the Texas beef industry are watching the futures markets closely. Prices dropped immediately after the news of the discovery but rebounded overnight.

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Sports
4:21 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Austin Toros in NBA D-League Finals

Tonight the Toros take on L.A. for the first game of the finals.
Photo courtesy NBA Development League

Game 1 of the NBA Development League finals is tonight at the Cedar Park Center.

The Austin Toros face the Los Angeles D-Fenders . The Toros are affiliated with the San Antonio Spurs.

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Capital Metro
2:37 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Cap Metro Workers Should Keep Jobs Under Contractors

Contractors will take over employee management duties for Capital Metro in a few months.
Photo courtesy Van Sutherland via Flickr

This morning, Capital Metro bus drivers and mechanics met their soon-to-be employers. Representatives from the companies that Cap Metro is contracting out services with were at the bus garages at 4 a.m. for a quick meet and greet.

Yesterday, the Capital Metro Board of Directors voted to outsource hundreds of employees. Those include regular bus drivers and mechanics along with people who provide door-to-door services for the disabled.

A new law required Cap Metro either to outsource their workers or bring them in as state employees.

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