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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Holiday Giving
11:11 am
Fri November 29, 2013

'Santa to a Senior' Brings Holiday Cheer to Austin's Elderly

The program encourages Austinites to spread a little holiday cheer to an older person in need.
flickr.com/davekellam

The holidays can be a difficult time of year for older people. Many live alone and are on fixed incomes.

The local Home Instead Senior Care offices are encouraging Central Texans to “Be a Santa to a Senior” by purchasing gifts for area seniors in need.

The group has identified more than 1,000 older people in the Austin area who could use a little holiday cheer. Many have lost a spouse or don’t have immediate family in the area.

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Philippine Typhoon
7:46 am
Wed November 27, 2013

PHOTOS: Central Texans Hold Vigil for Typhoon Haiyan Victims

Members of Austin's Filipino community and others gathered downtown last night to honor Typhoon Haiyan victims.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

The Network of Asian American Organizations estimates there are about 4,000 people in the Filipino community in the Austin metro area. Some had direct ties to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan.

Central Texans involved in the Network of Asian American Organizations and other supporters gathered at Austin City Hall on Tuesday to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims and to raise money for the recovery.

KUT's Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon took these photos at the candlelight vigil:

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Geographic Representation
7:49 am
Tue November 26, 2013

MAP: With 10-1 Map In the Books, Austin Concludes Redistricting (Update)

Update: Austin’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted unanimously last night to certify the district maps for future city council elections.

The group split the city into ten districts. Starting next November, voters in each district will elect a single city council member. Previously, all council members were elected at-large.

Check out this interactive version of the district map:

View Larger Map

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Winter Weather
12:27 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Winter Weather Advisory Canceled; Warmer, Drier Weather Ahead (Update)

Temperatures are expected to rise in the Austin area over the next few days.
National Weather Service

Update: Rain is expected to continue today through the Austin area but our chances of freezing precipitation have gone down considerably.

While sleet is still possible, forecasters don’t expect any of that frozen precipitation to accumulate.

Corey Van Pelt is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Austin/San Antonio. He says the outlook is warmer and drier as the week continues.

“It looks like by tomorrow afternoon this upper low moves through, so then we’ll get some drier weather behind it. It’ll still be cool though, Wednesday and Thursday mornings we’re expecting temperatures down in the 20's in the morning but then they warm back up into the 50's during the today. And it looks like by next weekend we’re back in the 60's, close to 70.”

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Weather
6:15 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Cold, Wet Weather in the Forecast

A winter weather advisory is in effect from noon Friday until noon Saturday for parts of the Hill Country.
National Weather Service

Parts of the Northern and Western Hill Country are under a winter weather advisory beginning at noon today. This includes the cities of Kerrville and Fredericksburg.

The National Weather Service says an Arctic blast of cold air is bringing near-freezing temperatures and light rain to the area. That could turn into light freezing rain tonight and into tomorrow morning. The weather service doesn’t expect the ice to accumulate – but still warns roads could be slick – especially bridges and overpasses.

The winter weather advisory is in effect for parts of the Hill Country through noon on Saturday.

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Halloween Floods
11:10 am
Wed November 20, 2013

Austin, Travis Co. Flood Damage Falls Short of FEMA Aid Threshold

In this Nov. 4 photo, Maria Isabel Fabian tries to salvage an heirloom tablecloth from her flood-damaged home in Dove Springs. Damage from the Halloween floods is estimated at over $14 million.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The region's Halloween’s floods caused some $14 million in damage in Travis County. But it doesn’t look like the county will get federal assistance.

That’s what Emergency Management coordinator Pete Baldwin told the Travis County Commissioner’s Court yesterday. In order to get Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance, the state has to have at least $35 million in damage.

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Formula 1
8:38 am
Mon November 18, 2013

Record Airport Travel Expected as Austin F1 Ends; Downtown Road Closures Persist (MAP)

Sunset at the Circuit of the Americas on Thursday. Officials at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport say today’s F1 exodus could mean the airport’s busiest departure day ever.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

More than 113,000 people attended Austin’s Formula 1 Grand Prix race on Sunday. Race fans watched Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel speed to a record-breaking eighth consecutive victory.

Many of the out-of-town visitors here for the F1 races will be making their way back home today. Officials at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport predict today could be the busiest departure day ever.

Austin-Bergstrom set a record of more than 21,000 departures the Monday after last year’s race.

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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
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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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