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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Protesters were arrested for occupying UT President Bill Powers' office yesterday.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

UT Students Protest for Workers Rights

The Daily Texan reports a total of 19 protesters, not all of them students, were arrested yesterday for occupying UT President Bill Powers’ office. They were there in protest against alleged sweatshop-like conditions where UT apparel is produced.

The protesters are members of the Make UT Sweatshop-Free Coalition and included 17 students and two members who are not students.

According to the Texan, the demands of the protestors was a request for the University to switch to the Workers Rights Consortium, an independent monitoring organization that conducts investigations of working conditions in factories. A statement on the WRC homepage specifically mentions their goal to protect the rights of workers who make clothes.

KUT News

Austin has made yet another “best of” list. This time, it’s Austin-Bergstrom International Airport that’s getting the accolades — or more precisely, the ABIA outpost of The Salt Lick.

That’s right — the website Food Republic ranks The Salt Lick at ABIA as Number Four on its list of “The World’s Best Airport Restaurants.”

The website says:

Texas barbecue doesn’t get much better than Salt Lick BBQ and an outpost of the preternaturally popular 800-seat restaurant in Driftwood is located in the West Terminal (but fills the entire airport with the bewitching scent of brisket). Try a sloppy, but satisfying, pulled pork sandwich topped with slaw and Original Recipe barbecue sauce for a taste of Hill Country on the tarmac.

Free curly fries are among the freebies businesses offer customers this Tax Day.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/wwny

Some retailers are trying to ease the burden of Tax Day with free and discounted products.

Here's a look at some of the businesses offering a little something extra this April 17 – at participating locations, of course.

Update: Looking to get that midnight postmark? Sorry, but Austin's post offices are no longer staying open until midnight for tax day. Read more here.


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11:59 p.m. is the deadline to have your tax returns postmarked. The General Mail Facility at 8225 Cross Park Drive near Anderson Lane and U.S. 290 East will be collecting mail until midnight to help procrastinators.

But unlike in years past, post office officials don’t expect a huge late-night rush. Many people now use the internet to submit their tax forms. Sam Bolen is a spokesperson for the U.S. Postal Service. Bolen says he’s not sure how much longer Austin will have a post office open late for Tax Day.

A ruling will be issued today on the school finance trial.
flickr.com/59937401@N07

Schools Finance Lawsuits Get Court Date

A tentative trial date is set for four Texas school finance lawsuits.  State District Judge John Dietz has set the trial for October 22.

Hundreds of school districts from across the state are unhappy with the way Texas distributes money. Attorney Mark Trachtenberg, who represents 86 of those districts, says state funding cuts have contributed to depriving districts of the resources they need to meet standards set by the state itself.

Gov. Perry called on legislators to back his "Budget Compact" today.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry is calling on state lawmakers to cut spending and keep taxes level in the state’s next budget. Perry unveiled details of the “Texas Budget Compact” in Houston today.

“By keeping this tight rein on spending, we can build a more solid, predictable economy that doesn’t put off tough decisions until, in some cases, it’s too late to deal with them,” Gov. Perry told the crowd in Houston. In details noted on the Governor’s website, Perry also called to “preserve a strong Rainy Day Fund” and “cut unnecessary and duplicative government programs and agencies.”

The state is in the middle of a two year budget passed by lawmakers in 2011. That budget cycle cut spending by $15 billion.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Governor Rick Perry to Unveil Budget Pledge

From the Texas Tribune, Governor Rick Perry is focusing on the state’s financial future. He’ll be in Houston this afternoon to talk about a budget plan.

Perry will unveil a pledge he’ll ask politicians to sign. It promises to cut spending, keep taxes the same and set strict limits on how much government can expand. It’s his first major move as governor since dropping out of the presidential race.

Perry says this pledge will “lead to a stronger Texas.” But some state Democrats aren’t so sure.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/bwjones

The Texas Medical Board has approved guidelines for the use of adult stem cells.

The new rules say that the procedure must be part of a clinical trial and have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration or an institutional review board. Leigh Hopper, a spokesperson for the Texas Medical Board says these institutions will make sure the use of adult stem cells is safe, ethical and that patients give informed consent.

Hopper says board members felt that since patients already have access to adult stem cells, the procedure needs to be regulated.

“Since this is occurring right now, the majority of the board felt that it was important to put some sort of framework in place to protect patients,” said Hopper.

Cruz, Leppert, James and Dewhurst will face off in a debate tonight.
Photo by Allen Otto, Texas Tribune

Tonight the top Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate will meet in Dallas for a televised debate.

The debate will feature Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert and former SMU Football star and ESPN commentator Craig James. The candidates are vying to fill Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat. Hutchison has announced she will not seek another term.

Jim Henson is the Director of the Texas Politics Project at UT Austin. He says the debate represents the first time that the U.S. Senate race has taken the full spotlight. It’s been overshadowed by the struggle to set a primary date and by the GOP presidential nomination.

Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

APD Officer Killed in the Line of Duty to be Buried Today

Today, APD Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron will be buried in San Angelo. The local funeral will begin at 10 a.m., followed a procession to Lawnhaven Memorial Gardens where Padron will be laid to rest.

Padron was remembered in Austin on Wednesday with a funeral, police honors service and procession.

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The percentage of low-income residents in Austin is going up. That’s according to the Community Action Network’s third annual Community Dashboard report, released this morning.

Photo for KUT News by Nasha Lee Lee

Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron will remembered today in a service at Shoreline Church at 15201 Burnet Road. The public is invited to pay their respects.

For those who cannot attend, the funeral will be available to watch online on the church's website.

Immediately following the service, the congregation will exit the church and attend a police ceremony on the lawn which will include a police air unit flyover and a final radio call.

Padron's body will then be taken to San Angelo for burial.

Photo courtesy Liz Davenport via Flickr

The rate of teen pregnancies in Texas fell by 15 percent from 2007 to 2010.

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the number of 15 to 19 year-old girls having babies in Texas dropped from nearly 62 in every 1,000 to about 52 per 1,000.

54,281 Texas teens gave birth in 2007. That number went down by 6,530 to 47,751 in 2010.

Photo by flickr.com/alphachimpstudio

MoPac Improvement Plan Makes Move for New Funding

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has offered a preliminary proposal to acquire $135 million for the MoPac Improvement Plan.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) notified Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board (CAMPO) of an unexpected funding windfall of $135 million. During a CAMPO work session last night, CTRMA requested that they receive the new funding to begin the improvements to MoPac.

Photo by KUT News

There will soon be some changes at Capital Metro. Riders probably won’t notice but many drivers and mechanics will.

Capital Metro is required to change its labor structure after the Texas legislature passed a law, Senate Bill 650, last May that basically requires transit workers to either become state employees or become employees of a competitively-bid private contractor. 

To receive federal transit funding, Capital Metro employees initially needed to retain their right to collective bargaining, but the requirement was at odds with state law prohibiting collective bargaining and the right to strike for public employees. A third-party, StarTran, was installed to resolve the impasse – but SB 650 did away with that arrangement.

KUT News

Update (5:49 p.m.): 24-year-old Brandon Montgomery Daniel has been charged with capital murder after allegedly shooting and killing Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron last night. In a press conference at 5:00p.m. this evening, Police Chief Art Acevedo said Daniel moved to Austin from Fort Collins, Colorado about a year ago.

Acevedo also noted that this was the first time during his tenure as Police Chief that two officers were involved in deadly encounters in the same day. "This is the most trying day of my five years here," said a teary-eyed Acevedo. "There are a lot of tears flowing, there is a lot of hurt."

Acevedo praised the Wal-Mart employees who were able to detain Daniel at the scene after the shooting. "That selfless act is the beginning of the healing process for this department."

Update (12:24 p.m.): Details continue to emerge about Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron, and the shooting last night at an area Wal-Mart that took his life.

In a fundraising email soliciting contributions for Officer Padron’s family, The 100 Club of Central Texas says:

A former Marine, Officer Padron had been with APD for more than three years. Prior to that, he had been a Bergstrom International Airport police officer and before then served 14 years with the San Angelo Police Department in West Texas. He leaves behind two daughters, ages 10 and 6 as well as parents and other family members who live in San Angelo.

At a press conference this morning, APD characterized Padron’s shooter as an Asian adult male. The Network of Asian American Organizations issued the following statement this morning:

As you are aware, early this morning a man believed to be Asian shot and killed Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron at the Walmart on Parmer and IH-35.

On behalf of the Network of Asian American Organizations and the Asian community, we would like to send our condolences, thoughts and prayers to the family, friends and colleagues of Officer Padron. The NAAO fully supports the Austin Police Department and the City of Austin.

Photo courtesy pqui via Twitter

Today is "Top Chef Paul Qui" day in Austin.  Mayor Lee Leffingwell presented Qui with a certificate declaring the honor yesterday.

Earlier this year, Qui won the ninth season of Bravo's "Top Chef" – known as "Top Chef: Texas."

Qui posted a picture of the certificate on Twitter. It states that Qui represented Austin and the State of Texas admirably and has an official seal. Qui told Eater Austin the honor was "cool. I did not expect that at all."

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

The news comes as no surprise to locals: the Austin area is still growing — and fast.

New numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau show the population of the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area was the second fastest-growing metro area in the country between April 2010 and July 2011.

In just that 15-month period, the population went up by 3.9 percent—that’s a gain of more than 67,000 people and put the total population at close to 1.8 million.

Photo Courtesy of National Weather Service

Governor Perry to Tour Tornado Damaged Areas

Governor Rick Perry is scheduled to take an aerial tour of the Dallas-Fort Worth area damaged by tornadoes today. Perry plans to tour Lancaster, one of the hardest hit areas by the storms, according to the Texas Tribune.

The National Weather Service estimates up to a dozen tornadoes touched down in North Texas on Tuesday—one of those tornadoes was rated an E-F-3 with winds of up to 165 miles-per-hour.

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