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.

Pages

Austin Home Prices
3:10 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

What Recession? Census Says Downturn Didn't Hurt Austin Housing Market

flickr.com/winemegup

Austin’s housing market is hot. So hot, in fact, that it wasn’t seriously dampened in the recession to post-recession period.

New census data shows home values in Austin and in Travis County increased between 2007 to 2009 and 2010 to 2012. Most other large areas in the country saw home values decrease between those two periods.

Out of the country's  50 most populous cities, only nine cities saw an increase in the median home values during those periods. And Austin lead the pack:

  • Austin, TX: + $13,800
  • Denver, CO: + $9,600
  • Oklahoma City, OK: + $8,100
Read more
Life & Arts
6:32 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Interview: Austin Teen Poet Shares His Award-Winning Words

Louis Lafair, 18, is one of just five National Student Poets.
Laura Rice, KUT News

Poetry. To some, it may seem like a method of expression reserved for Valentine’s Day. But at least one Austin high schooler isn’t rolling his eyes about it.

Louis Lafair is a 2013 National Student Poet. The St. Stephen’s Episcopal School senior was honored for his work along with just four other teens from across the country. He'll now serve as a literary ambassador for the southwest region for the next year.

The award is presented by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Lafair met First Lady Michelle Obama at the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Lafair talked with KUT's Laura Rice about the honor:

Read more
Geographic Representation
7:20 am
Wed November 13, 2013

MAP: The Newest Changes to Austin's Proposed City Council Districts (Update)

A new map of Austin’s proposed council districts is ready for input, before final adoption later this year.
Credit Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission

Update: Austinites have just two more opportunities to weigh in on a proposed city council district map.

A citizens group is dividing Austin into 10 geographic districts. Starting next November, each district will elect one city council member. Everyone will vote on the mayor.

The district-drawing group is expected to approve the final map soon.

Wednesday's public meeting is at The Lodge on Dawson Road in south Austin. It starts at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday's public meeting is at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex on Hargrave Street in east Austin. It also starts at 6:30 p.m.

Click here to see an interactive version of the "official proposed final map" drawn by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Read more
Veterans Day
7:33 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Texas Veterans Stepping Up to Fill Boots of Aging Agricultural Workers

Yvonne Martinez-Higgins and her husband William have put together a business plan and a logo for their family farm. But they admit they've found the process slow and difficult.
William Higgins and Yvonne Martinez-Higgins

Agriculture is big business in Texas. Statewide, it has a $100 billion dollar economic impact.

But the industry may be at risk. The average age of a Texas farmer or rancher is 59. And fewer young people are taking over the labor-intensive work.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has set up a program to assist aging agricultural workers in Texas. They’ve also identified a population that may be well-suited for taking over the work – veterans.

Read more
Halloween Floods
3:30 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Firefighters' Dog Rescue Goes Viral, But Pets Still Lost After Austin Flood

This photo of Austin firefighters Matt Harvey and Michael Cooper rescuing a dog named Panda went viral on Facebook – but the Humane Society has still yet to identify the dog’s owner.
Preston Culver, Austin Fire Department

More than 120 pets have been brought in to the Austin Humane Society since the city's Halloween floods.

Some were rescued from the water – as seen in this photo of a dog rescue that’s been shared 7,700 times on Facebook. Others were dropped off by their owners, who need a safe place for their animals to stay while they get back on their feet.

Humane Society spokesperson Kelly Hanes says dozens of animals have been reunited with loved ones. But many others remain unclaimed – including Panda, the German Shepherd-type dog seen hugging an Austin firefighter as he carried her from the flood waters.

Read more
Election 2013
7:23 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Texas Voters Approve All 9 State Constitutional Amendments

Proposition 6 creating a bank for state water infrastructure projects, attracted the most attention among constitutional amendments.

Texas voters approved all nine state constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

The issue that received the most attention was Proposition 6. It creates a new water fund with two billion dollars from the state’s Rainy Day fund.

Propositions 1 and 4 cut property taxes for disabled veterans or their surviving spouse.

Read more
Election
7:37 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Early Voting Underway: What Voters Need to Know for the Nov. 5 Election (Update)

The Travis County Clerk's office has launched a campaign, "Keep Calm and Vote On", to educate voters on the new voter ID law.
KeepCalmVoteOn.org

Updated Friday, November 1 at 7:37am: Early voting ends today for the Nov. 5 election.

There are 19 early voting locations in Travis County and several mobile locations.

What's On the Ballot:

Read more
Austin Film Festival Interview
12:27 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

At Austin Film Festival: 'Heaven' a Harrowing Look at Sex Trafficking

Ya'Ke Smith believes there room for his films as well as those made by filmmakers such as Tyler Perry.
Derrick Terrell Williams

Disclosure: KUT is a media sponsor of the Austin Film Festival.

There are plenty of funny and flashy films at this year's Austin Film Festival but also many that deal with what you might call "big issues."

A documentary about abortion was honored at the festival. Other documentaries track issues like immigration, obesity and a Jewish person converting to Islam. Some narrative films are also highlighting "big issues."

Ya'Ke Smith is the writer of the upcoming film "Heaven." It's a follow-up to Smith's critically-praised film "Wolf." It's part of a trilogy dealing with children and sexuality. "Wolf" is about a child who is molested by his pastor. "Heaven" is about a young woman who is manipulated into sex trafficking.

KUT's Laura Rice talked with Smith before a cast reading of that script on Wednesday.

Read more
Austin Film Festival
8:54 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Slideshow: Famous Faces at the 20th Annual Austin Film Festival (Update)

Actor Paul Sorvino on the red carpet for the Texas premiere of "Last I Heard."
Jorge Corona for KUT

Disclosure: KUT is a media sponsor of the Austin Film Festival.

The Austin Film Festival is underway. Many famous actors and filmmakers are in town for the event.

Update: If actor Paul Sorvino looks like a mobster to you, there's good reason. He's played those types of roles in movies such as "Goodfellas" and "Romeo + Juliet."

Sorvino was in Austin for the Texas Premiere of "Last I Heard." In the new film, he plays another mafia-type. But this story follows his exit from prison and his entrance back into modern life and into the lives of family and friends.

Update (Oct. 29, 7:20 a.m.): The new film by Joel & Ethan Coen had its Texas Premiere last night at the Austin Film Festival. The star of "Inside Llewyn Davis" – Oscar Isaac – was on hand to walk the red carpet. Music producer T-Bone Burnett also walked the red carpet outside of the Paramount Theatre. He's won multiple Grammy and Academy Awards for his work.

Read more
Austin
1:45 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Austin Audit Finds City Vehicles Spend Too Much Time in Repair Shop

The audit found the City of Austin especially has a hard time keeping emergency vehicles out of the repair shop.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

The City of Austin Auditor’s office says city vehicles seem to have a problem with breakdowns.

The vehicles aren’t always getting preventative maintenance and they’re spending more time in repair shops than the best practices standard.

Local politics news service In Fact Daily reports that the city’s Fleet Services Department doesn’t have enough repair space.

Read more
Austin Film Festival Interview
11:11 am
Tue October 29, 2013

MacGruber No More? Will Forte Takes Dramatic Turn in 'Nebraska'

Forte on the red carpet for the Texas Premiere of "Nebraska" at the Austin Film Festival.
Jorge Corona for KUT News

Disclosure: KUT is a media sponsor of the Austin Film Festival.

Will Forte of Saturday Night Live fame is probably best known for his character and film "MacGruber" – a mullet-sporting, inept version of MacGyver.

But the comedian takes on a serious role in “Nebraska” – a black and white film from director Alexander Payne about a father-son road trip. Forte is David Grant – a stereo salesman from Montana with a lackluster love life and a rocky relationship with his family.

Forte’s Grant is not only the straight-man through much of the movie but, in many scenes, seems to be the only sane-man.

KUT's Laura Rice talked with Forte before the movie's Texas Premiere at the Austin Film Festival.

Read more
Austin Film Festival
7:24 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Interview: Susan Sarandon on Her Career, Family and New Phase of Life

Sarandon shared a picture of herself at Austin's Mexic-Arte Museum.
@SusanSarandon

Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon has a storied career of longer than four decades. She was in Austin this weekend to receive yet another accolade.

The Austin Film Festival honored Sarandon for her “extraordinary contribution to filmmaking.”

KUT’s Laura Rice talked with Sarandon shortly after she accepted her award.

On Being Honored for Her Overall Achievements:

"I would like it to be a mid-life achievement award because I get nervous getting on a plane after a life achievement award."

Read more
Austin Film Festival
7:35 am
Thu October 24, 2013

Hundreds of Volunteers Take a Starring Role at the Austin Film Festival

Adolfo Bernal puts his computer skills to work in registration for the Austin Film Festival.
Laura Rice, KUT News

Disclosure: KUT is a media sponsor of the Austin Film Festival.

Actors, writers and directors will be making their way to Central Texas over the next week for the Austin Film Festival.

The 20th annual festival will screen more than 180 films and feature more than 80 panels with industry pros.

About a dozen staffers work year-round to make it all happen. But the Austin Film Festival also relies on hundreds of volunteers. A contingent of those volunteers have been doing this for years – and donate countless hours to the fest.

Sara Ricke has been volunteering with the Austin Film Festival for the past seven years. And it’s safe to say, she loves it.

Read more
Transportation
3:48 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Travis County Commissioners Support Long-Delayed SH 45 SW

The proposed 4-lane toll road would connect FM 1626 in Hays County and MoPac in Travis County.
Texas Department of Transportation

Travis County Commissioners have approved a resolution by a vote of 4-to-0 supporting the construction of State Highway 45 Southwest.  Commissioner Gerald Daugherty pushed for the resolution, after campaigning on getting the roadway built. He says population growth and traffic congestion demands action. And he believes the road could be built while protecting natural resources, despite a pending environmental review from TxDOT and push-back from environmentalists and stakeholders in the area. 

Read more
West Plant Explosion
11:30 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Investigation Into West, Texas Explosion Stopped Due to Shutdown

An apartment complex near the West Fertilizer Plant was destroyed in the April explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The government shutdown has halted the federal investigation into the West Fertilizer Plant explosion. The explosion in April killed 15 people and injured hundreds of others.

“Some of the brightest scientists in the world are home today rather than doing their work to protect, and give us information so that we can have the right rules and regulations to protect our environment,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, said during a press conference yesterday. “The monitoring and enforcement is not being done as it should be done.” Cardin chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife.

The ranks of furloughed workers includes most employees on the Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial accidents such as the West Fertilizer Plant explosion.

Read more

Pages