Mary Mattia

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Weather
1:36 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

Drought Conditions Improve Across Central Texas

The drought conditions have improved across Central and Eastern Texas from the July 10 map (left) to the July 17 map (right).
U.S. Drought Monitor

Recent rain has lifted much of the Austin area from “severe” to “moderate” drought.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor map shows an improvement across almost all of Central Texas. Williamson County went from extreme drought down to severe. And areas around Bastrop have improved to abnormally dry.

In fact, 12 percent of the state – much of Eastern Texas – is now classified as completely out of drought conditions.

Victor Murphy is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He says it will still be a while before all of Texas sees long-term drought recovery.

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Business
9:49 am
Thu July 19, 2012

TABC Trying to Speed Up Alcohol Licensing

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Committee is trying to streamline the permit process for alcohol sales.
Caleb Miller for KUT News

The House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures met Wednesday to take a look at streamlining the alcoholic licensing and permitting process.

According to the Texas Tribune, interim Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) director Sherry Cooke told the committee that her agency wants to consolidate the processes for beer and liquor licenses.

The issue is that there are two separate processes for receiving a beer license and liquor licenses. Some of the applications for those permits can be processed through TABC, but others have to involve county courts.

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AM Update 7/19/12
9:00 am
Thu July 19, 2012

AM Update: Inmate Executed With Single Drug, Juvenile Inmate Violence, Dewhurst and Cruz's History

Hearn was the first Texas inmate to be executed using a single-drug.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Texas Inmate Put to Death Using Single-Drug Concoction

The State of Texas executed Yokamon Hearn yesterday evening. He was put to death for the 1998 carjacking and murder of 23-year-old Frank Meziere in Dallas.

Hearn was the sixth prisoner executed in the state so far this year.

He was the first put to death using a single drug lethal injection procedure. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice switched to the single drug because of a shortage of the two other drugs normally used in lethal injections.

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AM Update 7/18/12
8:11 am
Wed July 18, 2012

AM Update: Leppert Endorses Dewhurst, Governor's Mansion Re-Opens, 'Linsanity' Returns to Houston

Tom Leppert endorsed David Dewhurst (l), following a second debate between Dewhurst and Ted Cruz (r).
WFAA

Leppert Endorses Dewhurst Following Debate

Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert endorsed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst after last night's debate between Dewhurst and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz.

Cruz and Dewhurst are in a runoff for the Republican nomination to vie for retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat.

During the debate in Dallas, Dewhurst and Cruz traded barbs about each other’s honesty and fitness for the senate seat. While they found some common ground in their disapproval of the current federal healthcare reform, Dewhurst, unlike Cruz, expressed support for providing assistance to the “elderly, frail, disabled and children.”

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AM Update 7/16/12
7:51 am
Mon July 16, 2012

AM Update: Storm Wrap-Up, Lawmakers on Veterans and Foster Care, Reduced Water Restrictions

Austin received as much as five inches of rain last night, causing flooding, a few road closures, and power outages.
KUT News

Sunday's Storm Affects Austin Roads, Power

As much as four to five inches of rain fell over Austin and Round Rock last night.

About two and a quarter inches were recorded in downtown Austin.

Heavy rains required the Lower Colorado River Authority to open some floodgates at the Tom Miller Dam to keep Lake Austin within its operating range.

About 20 Austin Energy customers remained without power late this morning. At 8 p.m. Sunday, the storm knocked out power to as many as 5,000 Austin Energy customers.

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Texas
9:15 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Military Lawyers to Discuss Jury Issue in Fort Hood Murder Trial Hearing Today

The jury questionnaire will be sent to the military jury pool before Maj. Nidal Hasan's murder trial starts Aug. 20.
flickr.com/fabliaux

Military prosecutors and defense attorneys cannot agree on the pre-trial questions that the jury will be asked for the Fort Hood murder trial. They are discussing the issue today at a hearing for the Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 shooting.

Maj. Nidal Hasan’s murder trial begins on Aug. 20. Hasan’s attorneys want the jurors to return the form a month before the trail begins, so they need to have the form sent out soon. The judge will decide on the questionnaire that will be sent to the military jury pool.

Hasan faces the death penalty if he’s convicted of the 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the Fort Hood shooting rampage.

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AM Update 7/12/2012
7:51 am
Thu July 12, 2012

AM Update: AISD Grad Rates Rising, Burn Ban Lifted, Texas Looks at the Affordable Care Act

AISD hopes to have the graduation rate up to 90 percent by 2014.
Laura Rice, KUT News

AISD Graduation Rates Continue to Rise

For the third year in a row, graduation rates are up in the Austin Independent School District.

The class of 2011 graduated 80 percent of students – that's up just over a percentage from last year and about six percent higher than than in 2008.

The Texas Education Agency says AISD made significant jumps in graduation rates specifically for economically-disadvantaged students and students who are still learning English. Debra Reedy, the Director of Assessment and Accountability for AISD, is pleased with those gains.

“That’s kind of been our goal, certainly in the last couple of years, to really focus on those gaps within those student groups and to try to decrease the gaps,” Reedy says.

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AM Update 7/11/2012
7:37 am
Wed July 11, 2012

AM Update: Travis County Tax Exemptions, Texas Tops for Business, Border Patrol Relocates Agents

A historic property on San Gabriel Street in Austin.

Tax Cap Added for Historic Homes; Exemption Increased for Elderly, Disabled

Travis County Commissioners voted to add a cap on historical tax exemptions. The new policy matches the City of Austin’s cap of $2,500 a year.

Historic home owners argued that a higher exemption is necessary for them to maintain the facades of their homes. County Judge Sam Biscoe says the county will continue to look at the impact of the historical tax exemptions.

Commissioners also voted to increase the tax exemption for Travis County homeowners who are 65 and older and for those with disabilities. The amount of value that had been taken off a home for taxing purposes had been $65,000 a year. They raised it to $70,000 annually.

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Austin
12:44 pm
Mon July 9, 2012

Cap Metro Says New Highway Bill is Good for Austin Transit

Capital Metro says federal bill provides stability for the growth of public transit.
KUT News

Capital Metro is celebrating the recent passage of a federal highway bill. The bill authorizes $105 billion for spending on transportation projects nationwide over a two-year period

The new transportation law is called "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" or MAP-21.

Capital Metro says the law provides much-needed stability. Capital Metro officials say MAP-21 gives a stable source of funding that's necessary for projects like bus and facility improvements.

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Texas
9:50 am
Mon July 9, 2012

Controversial Texas Voter ID Law Begins Federal Trial

The trial for the new Texas Voter ID law begins today.

The controversial Voter ID Law that passed last year in the Texas State Legislature is going before a federal court. The trial begins today to determine if Texas can implement the law, which requires voters to show government-issued photo identification.

The state says the law will prevent voter fraud. The Justice Department worries it will disenfranchise Hispanic voters and claims it violates the federal Voting Rights Act.  A disproportionate number of minorities in Texas lack the necessary identification, which would prevent them from voting. Texas will have to persuade a three-judge panel of the law’s legality.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus says during the 2008 and 2010 elections there was only one case of voter fraud in over 13 million ballots cast.

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AM Update 7/9/12
7:29 am
Mon July 9, 2012

AM Update: STAAR Retesting Begins, Legislators Look at Funding, Durant to Olympics

Kevin Durant, right, is nominated to play for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics in London.

STAAR Retesting Begins Today

Students across Texas who didn’t pass subjects of the STAAR exam will begin retaking the tests today.

Last year’s ninth-graders were the only students who had to pass the tests to graduate on time as seniors. Next year, the passing requirement will affect both ninth and tenth-graders. The STAAR test will continue to phase-in to each grade, eventually completely replacing the TAKS test.

Also starting next year, the STAAR exam will make up 15 percent of a high school student’s final grade in a subject.

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AM Update 7/5/12
7:07 am
Thu July 5, 2012

AM Update: Austin Doctor Dies, Overturned Convictions in Texas, Youth Football World Championships

Team USA beat Austria 70-7 in the semifinals and will play Canada in the Under-19 World Championships.
IFAF U-19 World Championship

Beloved Austin Family Doctor Dies

Dr. Mathis Blackstock, a well-known Austin doctor, died Tuesday from melanoma. He was 87.

According to his obituary, Dr. Blackstock remained engaged with former patients and doctors at the Blackstock Family Health Center, named for him, until about two weeks ago. In the 1970s, he helped found a clinic at the San Jose Catholic Church in South Austin in order to serve underprivileged patients.

The funeral for Blackstock will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, 4700 Grover Ave. Dr. Blackstock is survived by three children and a wife of 63 years.

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AM Update 7/2/12
7:35 am
Mon July 2, 2012

AM Update: Last Day to Register for Run-offs, 'Sit and Lie' in East Austin, Longhorns to London

The deadline to register to vote in the July 31 Run-off Election is today.
KUT News

Deadline to Register to Vote in Run-off Elections

Today is the last day to register to vote in the July 31 Primary Run-off election.

You can find a registration form at VoteTexas.gov or at local libraries or post offices. Forms must be post-marked by today.

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AM Update
7:18 am
Thu June 28, 2012

AM Update: Local Population Boom, Former UT Swimmers to Olympics, 'Stand Your Ground' Sentence

Texas Dominates Population Growth

Round Rock is ranked second and Austin is ranked third on a list of the country’s fastest-growing large cities.

New estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show Round Rock’s population increased by 4.8 percent from April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2011.

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AM Update 6/27/12
8:05 am
Wed June 27, 2012

AM Update: DPS Completes 'Roadcheck 2012,' Sewage Spill in SE Travis Co., Colorado Wildfires

DPS troopers recently completed a three day effort to crackdown on unsafe commercial vehicles.
KUT News

Texas Department of Public Safety Completes ‘Roadcheck 2012’

Earlier this month, DPS troopers and civilian inspectors joined forces to make the roads safer in Texas. Inspecting more than 8,000 commercial vehicles, over a three-day period, the department issued thousands of citations and removed 1,763 vehicles and 243 drivers from the roads, according to a statement issued yesterday.

The program checks 18-wheelers, buses, and other commercial vehicles for things like unsafe brakes and tires. Drivers’ logs, driving time limits and licenses are also inspected.

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