Texas

Texas
3:50 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Last Stand or Last Call? Alcohol on Alamo Grounds Sparks Revolt

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas dispute plans to allow alcohol at a site on the Alamo grounds.
flickr.com/petirrojo

The General Land Office is allowing beer, wine and liquor to be served outside of the Alamo – and for some, that decision isn’t going down easy.

A decision from the GLO allows for alcohol to be served during private events at Alamo Hall, on the grounds of the famous San Antonio mission that serves as a symbol of Texas independence.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas serves as the Alamo’s longtime caretaker. It’s disputing the GLO’s decision. 

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Texas
2:51 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Sen. Cornyn Calls on FBI to Release Ft. Hood Shooting Report

Sen. John Cornyn (right) has asked FBI Director Robert Mueller (left) to make its findings in the Ft. Hood shooting public.
FBI, U.S. Senate

U.S. Senator John Cornyn has called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to release its report into the 2009 Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead. The FBI tells KUT News it will do so as soon as possible.

This morning, Sen. Cornyn issued a statement referring to a story from FOX News stating the report will “include eighteen (18) formal recommendations for corrective and enhancing measures on matters ranging from FBI policies and operations to information systems infrastructure, review protocols and training."

“This report is a matter of tremendous public importance, and I call on you to release an unclassified version of it as soon as possible,” Cornyn writes to FBI Director Robert Mueller. “ … The key findings and recommendations of this report must be made public, so we can glean any and all lessons from this incident.  The American people and specifically the Fort Hood community in Texas have the right to know.”

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Texas
4:18 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Gas Prices Inching Back Up

After a recent lull, gas prices are inching back up locally and statewide.
Erik Reyna for KUT News

For the first time in months, gas prices are up across Texas.

AAA Texas reports that the average price of gas is up seven cents, to $3.23 per gallon. The average in Austin is $3.19.

You can get cheaper gas the further north you go – three gas stations in Round Rock are selling gas at $3.02.

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Economy
4:47 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

Sales Tax Collections Leap in June

Texas sales tax saw a 15 percent boost in June over last year.

Almost two billion dollars in Texas sales taxes were collected in June – some 15 percent more than the state collected in June last year.

Austin's share of sales taxes comes to about $12.5 million in revenue, which is up more than 10 percent from the same time last year.

"Sales tax revenue has increased for 27 consecutive months in Texas,” Comptroller Susan Combs says in a statement. “Strong business spending in industries such as manufacturing and oil and natural gas boosted the latest sales tax collections. Revenue from consumer spending in the retail trade and restaurant sectors also did well."

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Texas
4:11 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Video: Inside a Fireworks Stand

Sales started somewhat slowly at American Fireworks, but sellers expect them to pick up closer to the Fourth.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Plan on shooting some fireworks off this July 4th?

KUT News recently traveled out to a fireworks stand along Highway 290 to see how sellers were faring. Sales are up from last year, when a ban on fireworks was in effect, but American Fireworks proprietor Keith Coober noted the challenges in a business where you can sales only come on the Fourth and New Year’s.

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Texas
4:28 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Austin Vigil for Lesbian Teens Shot in Portland, Texas

Kristene Chapa (left) and Mollie Olgin (right).
getequal.org

Recent high school graduates Mollie Olgin, 19, and Kristene Chapa, 18, were recently shot in the head while walking through a community park in Portland, Texas – a tragedy that has set off a nationwide series of vigils.

The lesbian couple was found Saturday morning by park visitors, with wounds to their heads from a large caliber weapon. Olgin died at the scene of the crime; Chapa is in critical but stable condition at a local hospital.

An Austin vigil for Olgin and Chapa, organized by grassroots LGBT advocacy group GetEQUAL, is happening tonight.

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Business
4:37 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Franchisors Help Vets Get Down to Business

Steve Dixon, vice-president of Texas Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center, speaking this morning.
Chip Skambis

Austin military veterans and Texas-based entrepreneurs have launched an online portal to connect vets and their spouses to openings in franchise employment and ownership.

The initiative aims to help improve the high unemployment rate among veterans, which has reached 7.2% in Texas.

The Texas Children’s Lighthouse Learning Centerand The Dwyer Groupannounced their support and collaboration with the International Franchise Association in creating The Veterans Franchise (VetFran) Toolkit.

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Health
11:15 am
Thu June 28, 2012

Texas Reactions to SCOTUS’ Affordable Care Act Opinion

flickr.com/brendel

Lone star politicians are wasting no time sounding off on the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision this morning upholding the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature package of health care reforms.

Governor Rick Perry calls the opinion “a stomach punch to the American economy.”  

“Freedom was frontally attacked by passage of this monstrosity,” Perry says, “and the Court utterly failed in its duty to uphold the Constitutional limits placed on Washington. Now that the Supreme Court has abandoned us, we citizens must take action at every level of government and demand real reform, done with respect for our Constitution and our liberty.”

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Health
10:36 am
Thu June 28, 2012

SCOTUS Rules Federal Health Reform Constitutional

Todd Wiseman / Eddie Codel, Texas Tribune

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature health care legislation, is constitutional — including the individual mandate that forces Americans to carry health insurance, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The decision has far-reaching implications for Texas, where leaders have ardently opposed “Obamacare” even though the state has the country’s highest percent of uninsured residents. In addition to requiring all citizens to purchase health insurance, the law dramatically expands Medicaid, which already makes up close to a quarter of Texas’ state budget.

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AM Update 6/26/12
8:41 am
Tue June 26, 2012

AM Update: Record Electric Demand, Child Car Safety, New Tar Sands Pipeline

The ERCOT grid control center. ERCOT saw record demand for June.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

Electricity Demand Hit New June Record Yesterday

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of Texas, reported hitting a new June record for peak electric demand Monday. Electricity use peaked from 4-5 p.m., when 65,047 megawatts were needed.

A previous record occurred last June, when 63,102 megawatts were used. ERCOT’s all-time peak demand, at 68,379 megawatts, occurred last August.

Triple digit temperatures are forecast for the remainder of the week in Austin. 

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U.S. Senate
1:04 pm
Fri June 22, 2012

Cruz and Dewhurst Set to Go One-on-One in TV Debate

Jennifer Whitney, Texas Tribune

Two candidates. Two lecterns. One stage.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and former Solicitor General Ted Cruz will participate Friday night in their first televised debate since advancing to the Republican U.S. Senate runoff after the May 29 primary.

It will also be the first such event to feature only Cruz and Dewhurst, which is likely to create a different dynamic than previous debates in which they shared the stage with other candidates.

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Texas
11:36 am
Thu June 21, 2012

Advocates Worry Food Aid Cuts Could Hurt Texas Families

Todd Wiseman / Julie Jordan Scott, Texas Tribune

As Congress debates proposed cuts to programs that help feed needy families and school children, some school officials and advocates for low-income families are concerned about how the changes could affect Texans who rely on food stamps and reduced price school lunches.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, provides food for 3.6 million Texans each year. But some lawmakers argue that the program has grown too large and become too expensive, and they are looking for ways to cut SNAP in the 2012 Farm Bill.

"A lot of Texas families rely on SNAP, especially now," said Jonathan Lewis, food policy specialist for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based liberal think tank. "Families that already are having trouble paying for their electrical bill, rent and the gas in their car could struggle even more." 

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12:08 pm
Wed June 20, 2012

Governor's Mansion Restoration Nears Completion

Lead in text: 
Here’s a progress report on the restoration of the Texas Governor’s Mansion: The historic furnishings traditionally filling the building are finally being brought back in. The Office of the Governor notes that the historic collection– including a bed used by Sam Houston, and Stephen F. Austin's writing desk – is being returned to the home. The restoration began in 2007, and was derailed when an arsonist firebombed the vacant mansion in 2008. No suspect has ever been charged. The restoration is said to be completed in late July.
As the massive restoration of the Texas Governor's Mansion nears completion, pieces from the historic Governor's Mansion Collection are being moved back into the home. Owned and curated by the non-profit Friends of the Governor's Mansion, the collection was removed when the deferred maintenance project started in October 2007.
Health
2:42 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

A&M System Lands Major Federal Biosecurity Contract

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

A Texas A&M University System-led team has won a major federal contract to develop one of three new national centers — the only one led by a public university system — for developing and manufacturing medicine and vaccines to respond to pandemic diseases and bioterror threats.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the contract on Monday. The other contracts were awarded to Emergent BioSolutions in Baltimore and Novartis in North Carolina.

After the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009, federal officials realized the need to significantly improve the speed of its response to pandemics. These three centers are expected to be the lead responders in the event of a major national biological outbreak, whatever the cause. The center in College Station is expected to first come online in December 2015.

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Weather
3:31 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Insurers: Dallas Storm Damage May Exceed $400 Million

High winds destroyed a mobile home in Fannin County, outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area .
facebook.com/US.NationalWeatherService.FortWorth.gov

Powerful thunderstorms ripped through the Dallas-Fort Worth region late yesterday, producing strong winds and baseball-sized hail. Now comes the clean-up – and paying for it.

The Insurance Council of Texas notes the thunderstorm was the second extreme weather event to hit the region in the last six weeks. In April, several tornadoes unexpectedly touched down in the Metroplex area.

The insurance council estimates the cost of insured losses from the tornadoes exceeded $400 million – but adds "losses from last night’s storm could be higher."

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Politics
2:52 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Constitution's 'Supreme Being' Clause Targeted Again

Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

In January, an atheist group will lobby the state Legislature to overturn an obscure clause in the Texas Constitution — one that says candidates for public office must believe in a higher power. The group is following in the litigious footsteps of the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair, who 30 years ago challenged the same provision as an attempt to establish a state religion.

In Article 1, Section 4, the Texas Constitution states: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office, or public trust, in this State; nor shall any one be excluded from holding office on account of his religious sentiments, provided he acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being.” 

In other words, the Constitution maintains freedom of religion, but appears to bar atheists from holding state office. 

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Crime
2:20 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Allen Stanford Sentenced to Over 100 Years

A 2009 mug shot of Allen Stanford.
United States Marshals Service

Texas financier Allen Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison today, reports Agence France Presse.

Stanford was recently convicted on several charges, including fraud, after prosecutors proved he was running a Ponzi scheme with his Stanford International Bank:

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Crime
1:47 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

Will Crime Rates Continue to Go Down?

Crime rates are on a downward trend.
KUT News

Crime rates in Texas, and particularly in Austin, have been in decline over the past few years.

Most Texas jurisdictions saw declines in reported violent and property crime in the first six months of 2011 compared to 2010.

The decline comes despite a faltering economy and rising wealth disparity; despite increased gun ownership; despite lofty drop-out rates in high schools; despite depopulating Texas youth prisons, reducing their inmate numbers from 5,000 to 1,100 since 2007; despite Texas releasing more than 70,000 adult inmates per year from prison back into their home communities.

To the surprise of some criminologists, none of these factors have prevented crime rates from going down nearly across the board.

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Environment
3:32 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Texas Helping Out with New Mexico Wildfires

Fires at the White Water Baldy Complex in New Mexico on June 6th, 2012.
White Water Baldy Complex

A little more than nine months after wildfires devastated parts of Central Texas, new fires are spreading through New Mexico, burning over 278,000 acres of forest. Twenty-five states, including Texas, have sent support to help fight the blaze.

April Saginor with the Texas Forest Service says some cities in Texas like San Antonio can afford to send firefighters and aid because the state has fewer fires to battle themselves.

 

“It’s happening, but they’re much smaller than they were last year, and we were able to contain them rather quickly,” she said. “So we’re in good shape right now, but we’re waiting to see what kind of rain we get later this month.”

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Sports
1:12 pm
Fri June 8, 2012

Girls Give Shooting Guns a Shot

The ladies of Lone Star Gun Range say shooting isn't just for the guys.
Lone Star Gun Range

Saturday is the first-ever national “Take Your Daughter to the Gun Range Day." It was organized through Facebook in an effort to show that shooting isn’t just for the boys.

Supporters say learning to shoot can be a confidence-builder and can be a sport young women enjoy their whole lives.

Sandy Billingsley owns Lone Star Gun Range. She says she learned to shoot in her twenties and plans to introduce her daughter to guns at a much earlier age. But, she says, other people aren’t as enthusiastic.

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