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
8:49 am
Tue May 15, 2012

AM Update: Round Rock Soldier Death, Austin Musician Passes Away, Travis County Talks F1

Specialist Alex Hernandez III hailed from Round Rock.
Image courtesy U.S. Department of Defense

Round Rock Soldier Dies in Afghanistan

The U.S. Department of Defense has released the name of a Central Texas soldier who died in Afghanistan. Specialist Alex Hernandez III of Round Rock died Saturday in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

The 25th Combat Aviation Brigade says Hernandez was found unresponsive in his room.

Alex Hernandez was based in Hawaii . He was 21.

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Austin
2:52 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

Gimme Shelter: 'No Kill' Has New Animal Center Straining

Like a rolling stone: A puppy at the Austin Animal Center shortly after its opening last year.

The Austin Animal Shelter, which opened last November, already has more animals than it can hold. The city says it’s taken in about 140 more pets than this time last year, and is adopting out fewer animals.

But why does the newly built Austin Animal Center have less space than the Town Lake Animal Center, the city’s former shelter?  

City spokeswoman Patricia Fraga says when the Austin Animal Center was designed three years ago, organizers didn’t take into account that Austin would be a “no kill” city. “So, what’s happening now is we’re keeping animals longer,” Fraga says. “We’re not euthanizing animals for space, so we have animals that are living at the shelter longer than they would have previously.”

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Weather
1:04 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

In Houston, Billboards Go Digital This Hurricane Season

Digital billboards like this one can display emergency alerts.
Photo courtesy Clear Channel Outdoor

The Texas Gulf Coast is preparing for the upcoming hurricane season.

Today emergency and traffic officials tested digital billboards that will provide emergency messages throughout the Houston area.

Drivers saw a message that said, “Emergency Alert: This is only a test.”

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Texas Primaries
10:13 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Early Voting in Texas Primaries Starts Today

From one election to the next: Early voting in state and county primaries kicks off today.
Photo by KUT News

It's time to vote – again. On the heels of Austin's city election Saturday, early voting for the state and county primaries starts today, and runs through May 25.

The primary was originally scheduled for March but was pushed back because of disagreements over redistricting. Voters will get to choose the party nominees for President, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, among others.

In Travis County, voters will cast primary ballots for offices including district attorney, sheriff, and more.

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AM Update
8:12 am
Mon May 14, 2012

AM Update: Austin Election Recap, MoPac Toll Lanes Meeting, Drug Violence in Nuevo Leon

The scene Saturday at Scholz Garten, the Leffingwell campaign's election night spot.
Photo by Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Low-Turnout Election Returns Incumbents to Council

Voters returned all four incumbents on the Austin City Council – including Mayor Lee Leffingwell – to the dais on Saturday.

The council members’ fates were revealed as soon as early voting totals were released, with the incumbents – Leffingwell, Place 2 council member Mike Martinez, Place 5 council member Bill Spelman, and Place 6 council member Sheryl Cole – all leading by comfortable margins.

Many of the council members commented on the exceedingly low-turnout in the election – just under five percent in early voting, and roughly the same amount on election day. Similarly, many of the council members also endorsed the idea of moving municipal elections to November, and moving to a form of geographic representation for the city council. Voters will most likely have a chance to vote on those proposals this November.

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Business
3:15 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Asian Chambers of Commerce Merge to Serve Growing Population

Austin’s Asian population is growing – and now it’s leading to some big changes for two organizations that support Asian businesses.
Photo courtesy Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce

Austin’s population is more Asian than Texas as a whole – but it has a lower percentage of Asian-owned businesses.  That’s one reason two local chambers of Commerce are merging.

Today the Texas Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Asian American Chamber of Commerce officially joined forces to form one group: the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce.

Board member Ying McGuire says the united chamber will offer help to Asian-Americans, immigrants and refugees.

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AM Update
7:54 am
Fri May 11, 2012

AM Update: City Elections Tomorrow, Central Texas Weather Rundown, World's Longest Guitar Solo

Who will work here come June? You decide on Saturday.
KUT News

City Elections Tomorrow

Election Day is tomorrow for the Austin municipal elections. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Fourteen candidates are running for four seats on the Austin City Council, including mayor.

Perhaps the most closely watched aspect of the election is the challenge to Mayor Lee Leffingwell by former council member Brigid Shea. Shea accused Leffingwell earlier this week of violating campaign finance laws, and throughout the campaign, has maintained that Austin is becoming more unaffordable

That's a common refrain among political challengers – that they will protect the citizenry's collective pocketbook better than the last guy.  But in the case of Shea, currently a community strategist and consultant, the arrival of huge companies like Apple and Formula One cast her position in a different light. 

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AM Update
8:21 am
Thu May 10, 2012

AM Update: UT Law School's New Dean, Sales Tax Revenues Rise, Fat Lady Sings for San Antonio Opera?

Former UT Law Dean Larry Sager tendered his resignation last December. He now works as a faculty professor.
Photo courtesy of Marsha Miller for the University of Texas

UT Announces New Dean of Law School

Ward Farnsworth, an associate dean at Boston University’s Law School, will replace Interim Dean Stefanie Lindquist as leader of the law school on June 1.

Before joining Boston University, Farnsworth clerked for Richard Posner on the 7th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Anthony Kennedy on the U. S. Supreme Court.

Farnsworth say his first order of business is "learning from the faculty, the alumni and the rest of the community down there about their views and abilities, and how we can use them to advance the mission of the school," reports the Alcade.

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Health
1:20 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Local Seniors Staying Physically, Socially Active

Some older Austinites stay active and give back through volunteering.
Photo courtesy sheilaz413 via Flickr

May is Older Americans Month — and every year.  more people fit into that category. The Administration on Aging says more than a quarter of Americans will be 60 or older by 2030.

The YMCA of Austin hosted a luncheon today for seniors to encourage them to stay physically and socially active. Research shows older adults are facing more problems with obesity than in decades past and seniors tend to spend less time socializing as they age.

Denise Thomas is the owner of Home Instead — an in-home care agency. She’s working with the YMCA to honor several area seniors who are bettering their lives and the lives of others by staying active and volunteering for groups like Meals on Wheels.

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2012 Presidential Election
9:01 am
Wed May 9, 2012

In West Virginia Primary, Texas Prisoner Gives Obama Run For His Money

Texas inmate Keith Judd won roughly 40 percent of the votes in West Virginia's Democratic primary.
Barack Obama photo courtesy of the White House; Keith Judd photo courtesy Texas Dept. of Corrections.

Texas prison inmate Keith Judd earned an unofficial 42 percent of votes in yesterday’s West Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary. President Barack Obama earned close to 58 percent.

So who is Keith Judd?

The Associated Press reports Judd is behind bars at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999. Judd paid a $2,500 fee and filed a notarized form to get on the ballot in West Virginia.

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AM Update
8:04 am
Wed May 9, 2012

AM Update: Border Patrol Overhaul, Radioactive Texas Dump Questioned, Austin Budget Talks Continue

A Texas judge has called for a hearing over a radioactive waste site in West Texas.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/kmart

New Border Patrol Strategy Focuses on Intelligence

The U.S. Border Patrol unveiled a new plan for tightening America’s borders yesterday.

The 2012-2016 Border Patrol Strategic Plan includes tactics and technologies developed over the past few years like unmanned aircraft systems – aka, drones – but also more focus on preventing risk.

The past few years have been a period of unprecedented growth in resources for the Border Patrol. Right now, there are more law enforcement officers on the border – more than 21,000 – than at any time in Border Patrol history.

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Education
12:54 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Conflict of Vision: UT Music School Director Resigns

Glenn Chandler and Douglas Dempster have opposing views about the future of UT's Butler School of Music.
Photos courtesy University of Texas at Austin

Glenn Chandler, the director of the burgeoning University of Texas Butler School of Music, has stepped down. The resignation comes at the encouragement of Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts

Chandler had served as the Butler School’s director since 2001.

Dempster says he and Chandler had different visions of the role and the future of the school of music. The core issue was that Chandler wanted the school to become its own entity separate of the College of Fine Arts. Instead, Dempster wants the school to become more integrated into the College of Fine Arts.

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Austin Energy
8:52 am
Tue May 8, 2012

Austin Energy: Power Should be Fully Restored by Mid-Morning

Austin Energy crews continue to work to restore power to all customers this morning.
Photo by I-Hwa Cheng for KUT News

Last night's storm caused power outages to around 3,000 Austin Energy customers all over the city. North Central Austin was especially hard hit.

Austin Energy spokesperson Ed Clark says 17 crews worked overnight to restore energy. Six more crews focused just on tree trimming. Clark says fallen tree limbs were a big problem in last night's storm.

Crews made repairs at about 200 locations. Two power poles were toppled and lines fell at a dozen locations. Austin Energy expects power to be back up everywhere by mid-morning.

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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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