Gun Violence
4:57 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Amid Calls For Gun Control, Some Push For Weapons At School

David Thweatt, the school superintendent in Harrold, Texas, is seen in 2008. Troubled by school shootings around the country, Thweatt decided to arm school staff.
Tony Gutierrez AP

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 2:16 pm

A growing number of lawmakers are indicating they are open to considering new gun control measures in the wake of Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn. But while much of the national debate has focused on limiting access to guns, others are suggesting that schools should arm themselves to defend against attacks.

David Thweatt, school superintendent for the small Texas town of Harrold, northwest of Fort Worth, decided in 2006 that it was time to arm his staff. There's only one school in Harrold, a K-12 with 103 students.

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The Lead
8:23 am
Tue December 18, 2012

The Lead: Texas Gun Laws, AG Warns About Senior Scam

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for unseasonably warm weather today ahead of a cold front in time for the holidays. Here’s some stories from KUT News, StateImpact Texas and the Texas Tribune: 

“In Texas, five bills relating to firearms had already been filed ahead of the session before Friday. A couple were related to the state’s permit to carry concealed handguns; one would reduce the hours of instruction needed to acquire a permit.

So far only one bill, by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Kingland, attempts to expand where a person can carry a gun in Texas. It would allow people with concealed-carry permits or officials, including school board members and superintendents, to bring guns to school board meetings.”

“The attorney general’s office says hundreds of seniors in east Texas were scammed by a company called Syam Tax Services.

Spokesman Jerry Strickland said the company sought out elderly Texans at churches and senior residences, told them they may be eligible for cash benefits, and fraudulently filed tax returns claiming refunds in their name, which the IRS demanded its victims repay.”

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11:29 am
Mon December 17, 2012

Amid Investigations, CPRIT's Future Uncertain

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

In 2008, when the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas embarked on its mission to cure cancer, the $3 billion program was welcomed with fanfare by voters who had passed a constitutional amendment to establish it.

Four years later, CPRIT’s future is far from certain, as the quasi-governmental agency and its fast-shrinking cast of advisers face accusations of impropriety and criminal and civil investigations.

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2012 Presidential Election
10:30 am
Mon December 17, 2012

A Month After the Election, Texas Casts Its Electoral Votes

Texas members of the electoral college will cast their presidential ballots at the Capitol this afteroon
Liang Shi

Though the election was called for President Barack Obama over a month ago, members of the Electoral College will officially cast their votes today.

Texas electors will meet to cast the state’s electoral votes this afternoon at the Capitol.Texas has 38 electoral votes – the second highest of any state, behind California – which were won by Mitt Romney. 

Each party selects 38 potential electors who promise to vote for that party’s candidate, should they win the state’s popular vote.  Because Mitt Romney won Texas, the 38 Republican electors will cast their votes for him today.

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The Lead
8:55 am
Mon December 17, 2012

The Lead: Newtown Tragedy Aftermath; AISD Meeting Tonight

Good morning. The National Weather Service says sunny and warm temperatures are on tap today, with an expect high in the low 70s.

The aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut continues. Here’s a round-up of Newtown reporting and related news from KUT News and other sources:  

“The Austin school district police force took time Friday, in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school shootings, to reassure parents that the district is doing all it can to keep campuses safe.

The district already has armed officers at all middle and high schools in Austin, with regular armed patrols at elementary schools.”

Austin Police chief Art Acevedo announced on Twitter last night that APD was stepping up their presence around schools this morning:

“People of ATX may notice visible Law enforcement presence in school zones in morning. Please drive safely & report suspicious behavior.”

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The Lead
8:57 am
Fri December 14, 2012

The Lead: The Texas School Finance Lawsuit, Explained; UT Pumps Breaks on New HQ

Good morning! The National Weather Service says cloudy weather and drizzle will define this Friday, with a greater chance for thunderstorms this weekend. (Got your John Aielli-approved KUT Rain Gauge handy? Share any rainfall totals on Twitter with hashtag #KUTgarden.) Here’s some overnight stories from KUT News:

“A school finance lawsuit underway now could transform how we pay for public education in Texas.

About 600 school districts are suing the state. Arguments started nine weeks ago and could last another month or longer and a decision is not expected until after the next legislative session ends.”

“After East Texas landowner Mike Bishop won a temporary restraining order against the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this week, a Nacogdoches County judge reversed that order Thursday.

Ruling in favor of the Canadian company behind the controversial pipeline, TransCanada, Nacogdoches County Court at Law Judge Jack Sinz reversed the restraining order, allowing TransCanada to continue construction on Bishop’s land.”

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The Lead
8:51 am
Thu December 13, 2012

The Lead: Austin Pet Registration, North Texas Earthquake, The Top Bars for DWI Arrests

Good morning. The National Weather Service says Austin will warm to the mid 60s today before scattered showers and thunderstorms blow in this weekend. Here’s KUT News’ top overnight stories:

The group that advises Austin City Council on animal matters met to consider the possibility of having a new rule: that every year, pet owners register their cats and dogs with the city.

If Austin Animal Services’ Abigail Smith is able to sell her idea to city staff and then to city council,  Austin will start a huge database with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of pet owners – along with the animal’s information.

"People love Austin. They are moving here in droves. And they bring their kids with them. And they enroll their kids in the local school district. But the school district can’t build fast enough to accommodate everyone. So some campuses are getting really, really crowded.

The Austin school district will build two new elementary schools in north Austin over the next couple of years and add classrooms at other campuses. But that’s not going to be enough to fix the problem."

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4:51 pm
Wed December 12, 2012

Listen: Bill Clinton Describes 'The Dumbest Thing' He Ever Heard

Clinton adressed the Dell World 2012 conference today.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Bill Clinton on Texas' Lost Supercollider

Former president Bill Clinton was in Austin today to speak at Dell's annual business and technology conference. He touted Dell’s announcement of a partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative University – and also recalled a forehead-slapping a moment with a former Texas Senator.

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The Lead
9:01 am
Wed December 12, 2012

The Lead: Austin Job and Population Growth; Comptroller Delivers Millions to Formula 1

Good morning! The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a sunny and cool day, with highs inching up into the low 60s. Here’s some stories KUT News and our partners have been working on:

“Angelos Angelou, an economic forecaster, expects 130,000 people to move to Austin over the next two years. But Angelou warns there’s a kryptonite to this super story.

‘The only factor that can reduce our growth is transportation, if we don’t build our infrastructure, if we have gridlock just like the Silicon Valley did in the ’80s,’ Angelou said.”

“The Austin-area job market is expected to be among the strongest in the nation next year. That’s according to an employment outlook survey by the HR consulting firm Manpower. A quarter of companies in the Austin area said they plan to hire more employees in the first three months of next year.”

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10:35 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Incentives for Business Scrutinized in Texas

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The billions of dollars in incentives that Texas hands out to businesses each year are set to draw fresh scrutiny this week on the heels of a New York Times series that raised new questions about the practice while also ruffling some feathers.

On December 3, the Times devoted Part 2 of its three-part “United States of Subsidies” series to Texas. The article alleged that the state gives out $19.1 billion a year in business incentives, far more than any other state. (Disclosure: The Texas Tribune has a content partnership with The New York Times.)

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The Lead
8:56 am
Tue December 11, 2012

The Lead: Worker’s Comp Reform, UT Law Prof Sparks Controversy

Good morning. The National Weather Service says a freeze warning is still in effect through 10 a.m., before Austin warms to the mid-50s this afternoon. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on:

“When the Senate Committee on State Affairs of state lawmakers got together Monday at the Capitol, they were urged to require companies to provide workers’ compensation insurance.

The Texas Department of Insurance says one out of five employees in the state works for a company that does not provide workers’ comp. That number has stayed relatively unchanged for two decades.”

“State Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), has announced his intention to challenge current speaker Rep. Joe Straus (R-San Antonio.)

Following the announcement another Straus challenger – Rep. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) – dropped out and put his support behind Simpson.”

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The Lead
8:46 am
Mon December 10, 2012

The Lead: Cold Snap Hits Austin, More Rumblings on 2013 Lege

Good morning. Hope you’re bundled this chilly and blustery Monday. Here’s some of KUT News’ top weekend stories:

“Texas lawmakers cut billions from public school funding formulas in 2011. Now one Republican leader says he hopes that money can be restored in the upcoming legislative session.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, is not promising, but he hopes lawmakers will restore about $4 billion cut from the state funding formulas last year. In an interview with the Associated Press, Straus did promise $2 billion in new funding, enough to cover enrollment growth.”

“In less than a month, Texas lawmakers will convene in Austin for the 2013 legislative session. A couple of bills already filed would have a huge effect on which lawmakers get to come back in future sessions.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, and Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, have each filed a bill to create term limits for elected officials. Larson’s proposal would limit all statewide elected officials and legislators to 12 years in office. Eltife’s would limit consecutive terms for statewide offices including governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.”

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The Lead
8:58 am
Fri December 7, 2012

The Lead: Economic Incentives & Texas, Council OKs WTP4 Funds

Good morning. The National Weather Service says we can expect a mix of foggy mornings and warmer afternoons, until a cold front blows in Sunday. Here's some of KUT News' top overnight stories. 

“The Austin City Council has approved tax incentives for Visa, which wants to expand operations in Austin with about 800 new jobs. KUT’s Jennifer Stayton spoke with Louise Story of the New York Times about her recent article on such subsidies that showed Texas gives out more than any other state. One way it does this is through reimbursements of school districts’ tax abatements.”

“The difficulty is that the city has already paid $359 million for the project.  That was the original cost the city approved for construction of WTP4. Council members said they thought the $359 million figure was set in stone, but obviously it wasn’t. Sheryl Cole, the city’s mayor pro-tem, looked for ways to come up with the money.

‘We received a memo and there was some thoughts at some point about selling property to deal with cost overruns associated with Water Treatment Plant 4,’ Cole said. ‘Can I get any information about that?’”

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12:41 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Texas Rep. Gohmert Sole Vote to Keep 'Lunatic' in Federal Law

Rep. Gohmert defended the word "lunatic" on the House floor.

Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to modernize archaic legal language by striking the term “lunatic” from federal law. The measure passed resoundingly, with only one vote against: conservative East Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert.

Former Austin scribe Jennifer Bendery writes for Huffington Post that while Gohmert’s office didn’t expand upon the representative’s vote, his words in the House chamber provided some context:

"To keep spending and not pay the price, that is immoral," Gohmert said. "That's why we shouldn't eliminate the word 'lunatic.' It really has application around this town. … We want to eliminate the word 'lunatic' from the federal code?" Gohmert asked. "That's lunacy."

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The Lead
8:34 am
Thu December 6, 2012

The Lead: Timing Debate on Drawing Council Districts, Christmas Charity Shuttered

Good morning. The National Weather Service says once this morning’s dense fog burns off, Austin can expect another mild day with highs in the 70s. Here’s KUT News’ top stories this Thursday morning:

“In 2014, Austinites will have their first chance to elect City Council members in single-member districts. But there’s lots of work to do designing the new council districts between now and then. And each step of the process needs to be timed just right for everything to be ready on time.

It’s the city auditor’s job to set that all-important timeline. According to the proposition schedule, the redistricting commission that will draw the maps has until next December to present a final plan. The auditor wants to extend that deadline until April 2014, and that makes Prop 3 proponent Roger Borgelt, a campaign and election lawyer, nervous.”

“A Travis County judge has ordered the Austin and Travis County Christmas Bureau to shut down. The Christmas Bureau helped Austin police raise money for the needy for 25 years, but last week it became the subject of a criminal investigation.”

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4:35 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Texas Twang Fixin' To Ride Off Into The Sunset

Lyndon Johnson, then the vice president-elect, with a prize-winning Hereford bull on his ranch near Johnson City, Texas, in 1960. Linguists say the twang that has long been synonymous with Texans is fading.

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 7:25 pm

When most people think of Texas — and what makes a Texan — one of the first things that might come to mind is the way Lyndon Johnson or the late Gov. Ann Richards spoke.

But these days, "talking Texan" sounds a whole lot different than it did just a few decades ago.

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1:05 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Texas Petition Demands End to Police Shootings of Dogs

Lily the dog was killed by a Fort Worth police officer earlier this year. Now the dog's owners are calling for statewide police training standards.
Cindy and Mark Boling, via change.org

A Fort Worth couple lost their family pet in a police shooting earlier this year. Now the couple’s call for statewide police training standards when dealing with dogs has garnered nearly 90,000 signatures.

Cindy and Mark Boling have uploaded a petition to Change.org calling for standardized training, after losing their five year old border collie/English setter mix Lily this spring.

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The Lead
8:48 am
Wed December 5, 2012

The Lead: Public Pensions Studied, Fact Checking John Cornyn

Good morning! The National Weather Service says Austin’s in for a sunny and mild day after this morning’s chilly start. Here’s some of KUT News’ top stories:

“Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says there are ‘warning signs’ for some of the Texas’ public pension plans. A report out today from her office singles out the city of Houston in particular. Combs says the state’s biggest pension funds, the Employee Retirement System of Texas and the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, are stable. But her efforts to do a comprehensive assessment, she says, were stymied by a lack of information.”

During his opening remarks Tuesday at a daylong conference on immigration and the economy, former President George W. Bush urged the nation’s leaders to debate immigration reform with compassion and kindness.

In a brief appearance at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Bush did not advocate for a specific solution. But his statements indicated he supports policies similar to those he championed during his presidency, when immigration reform was last debated in Congress.

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Criminal Justice
12:15 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Report: Adjust Policy on Who Gets Sent to State Jails

Nick Cowie for Texas Tribune

A new report argues that state jails aren't meeting their goal of helping to reduce crime by intensively treating short-term, nonviolent inmates, and it recommends that judges no longer be able to sentence felons to state jails without a rehabilitation plan.

The report, published Monday by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, says that those convicted of nonviolent felonies and normally sentenced to months in a state-operated jail should instead be released with community supervision. That can include treatment programs, community service, strictly enforced probation conditions and the threat of incarceration if certain conditions are violated. The report's suggestions were based on recent data concerning the number of felons who commit crimes after being released from state jails.

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9:55 am
Mon December 3, 2012

Texas Democrats See Path to Medicaid Expansion

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Despite Gov. Rick Perry’s firm opposition to a key tenet of federal health reform — expanding the state’s Medicaid program for those with low incomes — Texas Democrats remain optimistic that the 2013 legislative session can yield a deal that brings in billions in additional federal dollars.

It will be a tough sell: No Republican lawmakers have gone on record supporting the Medicaid expansion, which would add an estimated 1.8 million Texans onto the joint state-federal health plan by 2022.

But state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said fiscal conservatives have an incentive to reach an agreement “because the alternative is going to cost us much more economically and dig a much deeper hole in our budget.”

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