Mark Dewey


With President Obama and some legislators from both parties pushing immigration reform, Texas’s Sen. John Cornyn says he does not support a comprehensive overhaul of the country’s immigration laws.

Instead, he advocates stricter enforcement of existing laws.

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Temperatures in Central Texas approached record levels today. But after a few days of warmer-than-normal weather, many of the area’s plants are at risk of blooming too soon.

When the soil starts to warm, that’s a signal to many trees, shrubs, and flowers that spring is here, said Daphne Richards, a horticulturist with Texas A&M AgriLife.

courtesy Dell Inc.

Update: This article has been edited to correct when Larry Stern saw fliers for Dell on the UT campus. It was not 1981, but some point later in the 1980s.

Dell says that recent talk of a buyout is only speculation, but there’s still a whole lot of speculating going on, including about how a possible deal might work, and what it might mean for Austin.

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Sections of I-35 and MoPac are singled out in a new report as being among the 100 top traffic challenges in the Texas.

The report (PDF) by TRIP, a national transportation research group, identifies four problem areas here in Austin. The worst and the toughest to fix, they say, is a stretch of U.S. 290 from MoPac to Farm Road 1826. The road offers no access for emergency vehicles during rush hours.

Callie Hernandez/KUT News

Austin has come out on top, almost, in an economic ranking of U.S. cities.

The Milken Institute said Austin is the second best performing city, based on measures like job growth and wage increases. The study’s author, Ross De Vol, say technology is the region’s big wealth driver.

De Vol says what Austin needs to catch No. 1 city San Jose is more money for growing businesses.

Liang Shi for KUT

President Obama’s call today for a series of stronger gun control measures met with immediate opposition here in Texas.

Gov. Rick Perry issued a statement calling for prayer and said that “guns require a finger to pull the trigger.”

Gun advocates, like Bill Titus of the Texas Concealed Handgun Association, criticized the efficacy and intent of President Obama’s proposals.

The National Rifle Association is asking its members to contact Travis County Commissioners-- publishing Commissioners’ names, phone numbers and email addresses on the NRA website.

Travis County is considering banning gun shows at the County Expo Center and the NRA is asking its members to get involved.  Commissioners’ staffers say they’re getting up to 200 emails each day, along with calls and faxes, many from out-of-state.

County Judge Sam Biscoe says Commissioners will probably vote on the issue next Tuesday, but the outcome may depend on legal issues.

The City of Austin is considering policy changes aimed at reducing gun violence and illegal gun trafficking.

Council member Mike Martinez says "there is a broad national conversation about curbing gun violence," and he thinks the city has a responsibility "to do everything we can do." 

A subcommittee consisting of Martinez, along with fellow council members Laura Morrison and Chris Riley, will meet next Tuesday to consider legal options and to hear opinions from the Mayor's staff and Police Chief Art Acevedo.  

KUT News staff

State lawmakers want a do-over on the idea of letting private interests develop parts of the Capitol complex. The Sunset Advisory Commission today put a freeze on all development proposals.

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, says the Legislature made a mistake two years ago when it put the framework in place.

If you need more proof of a changing Austin, try this: average prices for a new “luxury” condominium downtown passed $1 million for the first time last year.

That’s according to Charles Heimsath, whose company, Capitol Market Research, compiled the numbers.  He says prices are high because supply is limited to only four buildings – the Four Seasons Residences, the Austonian, the W Residences, and the Spring Condominium tower– with no new ones under construction.

Heimsath says there are no downtown condo projects currently under construction, because it’s hard for developers to borrow money.

Update: Here’s more details on the tax break the Circuit of the Americas may be able to capitalize on:  It’s called accelerated depreciation, and gives COTA a fast, seven-year write off on the value of their investment, which may have been as much as $400 million. 

COTA officials says they’re pleased to have the tax break, but say they did not lobby for it. “We did monitor the issue as it moved forward, but were not directly involved in pursuing the extension itself," says spokesperson Ali Putnam.

Jason Wiseman/Texas Tribune

A business lobbying group that’s been a big supporter of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR exams, has called for some changes, saying that the program may have gone overboard in trying to introduce accountability so quickly.

The Texas Association of Business wants to reduce the number of tests a high school senior needs to pass in order to graduate, and to push the entire program’s full implementation back three years.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin usually ranks against cosmopolitan destinations in the numerous lists it’s named in. But try this one on for size: Provo, Utah.

The metro areas of Austin and Provo lead the nation in expected household growth, according to a new study based on U.S. Census data. The projection is for Austin to grow by 7.4 percent, adding 50,000 households over the next five years.

Private jet parking at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is starting to fill up.

Airport spokesman Jim Halbrook says more than 150 private planes, ranging from corporate jets to small, propeller-driven Cessnas, have booked parking places for Formula 1 race weekend. There are still a few spots left. 

Other area airports expect to be busy, including Pflugerville's Austin Executive Airport, and airfields in Georgetown, San Marcos, and Horseshoe Bay.

For those flying commercially, Halbrook says there will be a warm Austin welcome at the baggage claim area. More than 70 volunteer hosts will be on hand to help guide visitors – many of whom will be visiting Austin for the first time – to their ground transportation and destination choices.

The head of incoming Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's transition team says that Mexico may re-evaluate its policies regarding marijuana export to the United States.

Currently, Mexico works with the United States to discourage the growing of pot within Mexico, and to prevent its shipment across the border to the United States.

But today Luis Videgaray, a top aid to Peña Nieto, characterized votes by Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana use and personal cultivation as a game changer.

The Washington Times reports that in remarks to a Mexico City radio station, Videgaray said that "obviously we can't handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status."

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

In the last presidential election, the iPhone 3G was the hottest phone on the market, and there were just a few million people on Twitter. Now almost half of American adults own smartphones and more than 500 million use Twitter. So let's check out what they're saying about voting lines! We'll be trawling the internet and adding new info here. 

Credit Phalin Ooi,

While advocates of a proposed medical school in Austin claim that the region faces a looming doctor shortage, a recent study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio seemingly argues otherwise.

The San Antonio study, led by surgeon Ronald M. Stewart, M.D., examined changes in the number of physicians throughout the state of Texas, compared with changes in the general population, in the years after Texas lawmakers limited medical liability claims in 2003.

The study found that the number of physicians practicing in Texas grew by 44 percent since 2003, which is more than double the state's 21 percent overall population growth.

In the Austin-Round Rock region, Stewart's report found that the number of physicians per 100,000 people grew from 178 to 216 from 2002 to 2012.

Circuit of the Americas

Austin’s public transit agency says it will cost an extra $122,000 to provide expanded services during the Formula One weekend next month. But CapMetro spokeswoman Erica Macioge says part of those costs will be offset by event sponsorships, sold by Cap Metro.

“The sponsorships total about $46,000,” Macioge said. “So Capital Metro is still on the hook for a good chunk of change, but we did get some sponsorships to help offset those additional costs.”

Mark Dewey for KUT News

It sounds like the setup to a joke: “AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile walk into a bar …”

But it’s no laughing matter. Despite the fact that each company devotes itself almost entirely to beating the other two in the highly-competitive mobile market, the three companies have created a new “mobile payment” venture – Isis – that launched today in Austin.

Mobile payments, also called  “digital wallets,” allow purchasers to buy products and services using a phone-based app at the point of sale, instead of with credit cards, cash, or checks.

Merchants that accept Isis payments are a mix of big-box retailers, fast food restaurants, department stores, and local merchants.

Computer chipmaker AMD announced this afternoon that it’s laying off 15 percent of its workforce. 

AMD is based in Silicon Valley, but employs about 25,000 people at its southwest Austin campus. The company says poor earnings and falling sales have forced cost-cutting measures.  

Analysts say AMD has suffered from an overall slowdown in computer sales as consumers have switched to tablets and smartphones—the same trend that has hurt Austin-based Dell.  Hans Mosesmann is an investment analyst specializing in semiconductors. He says that while AMD is slimming down today to be smaller and more flexible, the company may soon be hiring again.