Texas

Texas A&M
12:11 pm
Fri October 19, 2012

A&M Evacuated Amid Bomb Threat (Updated)

emergency.tamu.edu

Updated 4:15pm: The A&M campus is now reopened, according to the university's emergency website:

Read more
Texas
7:35 am
Fri October 19, 2012

'Dire' State of Central Texas Lakes Costing Area Millions

The "Sometimes Islands" of Lake Travis have become permanent fixtures on the lake over the past few years.
flickr.com/daleremote

State lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss the Texas drought and how extremely low Central Texas lake levels are hurting the economy. 

The Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation, & Tourism heard testimony from Travis County Commissioner Karen Huber and the Central Texas Water Coalition. Both Commissioner Huber and the Coalition are seeking assistance from the state for the populations living and working around the lakes. They told lawmakers that funding and assistance is needed to support the impacted communities.

Huber recounted stories she's heard from several Lake Travis business owners:

"One gas station owner says he has shut 3 of his 4 gas stations. Another business owner who owns several business on the lake says he is raiding his kids' college funds for two years. My partners and I have cashed in every IRA we have tucked away. And we are running out of options."

Read more
Texas
8:47 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Abbott Sides With East Texas Cheerleaders in Bible Verses Case

A judge is expected to decide today if a group of cheerleaders can use Bible verses at public high school football games.
KUHF

A Hardin County Judge is expected to rule today on whether to allow a group of high school cheerleaders to continue to display Bible verses at football games.

The Kountze High School cheerleaders are seeking a temporary injunction after Kountze Independent School District officials told the cheerleaders they could no longer use scripture on banners. An atheist group complained about the displays.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says he’ll defend the East Texas cheerleaders.

Read more
Texas
12:29 pm
Wed October 17, 2012

North Texas Makes Most Requests to Withhold Information; Austin Ranks 14th

Out of all Texas cities, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (pictured above) receives the most confidentiality requests from the Metroplex area.
Gage Skidmore, Texas Tribune

Suburbs and cities surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex rank highest in the state for petitions to the Texas Attorney General's office to withhold municipal information, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.

Under the Texas Public Information Act, citizens and the media can make requests to state agencies for government records. In normal circumstances, the agency has to respond to the request within 10 days and provide the requested information or documents in a timely manner. 

However, if the agency believes that the request touches on information that the government has an interest in keeping confidential, they can petition the Attorney General’s office for the right to deny the request. The Attorney General’s office then has 45 days to rule on whether the information can be fully or partially withheld, or must be released.  

The study looked at the number of petitions to the Attorney General’s office to withhold information requested under the Public Information Act per 100,000 in population in Texas’s 20 largest cities. Seven of the 10 cities that submitted the most requests to Abbott’s office to withhold information were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 

Read more
Texas
7:32 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Recall: 8,200 Pounds of Uninspected Meat Products Made, Distributed in Texas

Though packages were labeled with the USDA mark of inspection, federal officials say they were not inspected by the USDA.
U.S. Department of Agriculture/Lao Chareune

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced Monday that a Dallas-based beef and pork distributor, Lao Chareune Foods, has recalled 8,200 pounds of meat.

The products being recalled weren’t inspected and were mislabeled. 

Lao Chareune is recalling 3 oz. and 8 .oz packages of “Pork Snack Stick;” 3.2 oz. packages of “Seasoned Fried Beef;” 1.76 oz. packages of “Fried Pork Skins;” and 1.2 oz. packages of “Sliced Fried Pork Ears.” 

Read more
Texas
4:48 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

State Sen. Mario Gallegos Dies at 62

Democratic State Sen. Mario Gallegos passed away today.
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

State Senator Mario Gallegos died today.  

Gallegos was elected to the Texas State Senate in 1994. He was the first Hispanic Senator elected to represent Harris County.

Family members say he died due to complications from a 2007 liver transplant. Gallegos famously came to the Senate floor just days before the transplant to block voter photo ID legislation being pushed by Republicans in 2007. He was 62.

Texas
3:51 pm
Tue October 16, 2012

Feral Foodies: Texas Parks and Wildlife Offers Wild Game Recipes on YouTube

Texas Parks and Wildlife is promoting a series of videos promoting cooking with wild game.
flickr.com/craigoneal

What to do with a feral hog?

After dropping that pesky critter – perhaps while leaning out the door of a hard-banking helicopter over western Hays County, hitting it at nighttime with a .458 SOCOM round from your hog-optimized AR-15 while the pilot lights it up from above – you could just let it lie there.

Or you could make feral hog tacos. 

If slow-cooking feral pork butt over hardwood charcoal doesn't come naturally to you, don't worry. Help is here from Texas Parks and Wildlife. A new video series from Parks and Wildlife features four recipes from local chef Jesse Griffith's book Afield : A Chef's Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish.

Read more
Formula 1
8:31 am
Tue October 16, 2012

Fire Chief Wants His District to Keep Some F1 Sales Tax Revenue

The red buildings represent ESD #11 fire stations. The green buildings represent Austin Fire Department stations.
Travis County ESD #11

The fire chief who leads the emergency service district around the Circuit of the Americas track is going before the Travis County Commissioners today to ask them to consider a tax deal if the track area is annexed by the City of Austin.

Fire Chief Ken Bailey leads Emergency Service District #11. Emergency service districts are entities created by the state to provide services to unincorporated areas, like the land around the Circuit of the Americas track. Bailey wants the city to keep the district in place, and let the district keep some of the sales tax revenue generated by the track to hire staff to respond to potentially increased calls.

Bailey says, right now, if the City of Austin annexes the track, the city would benefit from a 0.5 percent sale tax along with property tax revenue. Instead, Bailey is proposing that ESD #11 pay the city one-third of the district's 1.5 percent sales tax: equal, he says, for the city either way.

Read more
Texas
10:44 am
Mon October 15, 2012

See an Emergency Vehicle? Move Over, or Get Pulled Over

Drivers who don't move over or slow down when passing emergency vehicles could face a fine.
flickr.com/webhostingreview

Law enforcement agencies across Central Texas are cracking down on drivers who ignore the state’s “move over” law.

When emergency responders are stopped on the roadway, drivers are required to move over a lane to pass or to slow down to 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. If the speed limit is below 25 mph, drivers are required to slow to 5 mph.

For the next three weeks, Austin Police Department officers and law enforcement officers from at 20 other departments say they will will target drivers who illegally pass emergency vehicles.

Read more
Texas
6:04 am
Thu October 11, 2012

Texas Inmate Put to Death After Court Reverses Reprieve

Jonathan Green's execution was blocked earlier this week but is now set to take place this evening.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Update: Thursday, Oct. 11, 6:04 a.m.:

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a last-minute appeal to spare Green from execution. Green received a lethal injection Wednesday night before 11 p.m. The warrant for his execution was set to expire at midnight.

Jonathan Green was the 10th inmate executed in Texas so far this year.

Original Story: Wednesday, Oct. 10, 4:13 p.m.:

A Texas death row inmate is once again facing execution this evening.

Jonathan Green’s execution was blocked on Monday when a federal judge ruled on Monday that due process was violated in Green’s competency hearing.

Read more
Texas
4:10 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Court to Hear Tom DeLay's Appeal in Money Laundering Case

Former House Speaker Tom DeLay faces jail time and probation if his conviction is upheld.
U.S. Congress

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin will hear the appeal of former U.S. House Majority Leader cum reality show contestant Tom DeLay, who was convicted of money laundering in 2010.

DeLay was found guilty by an Austin jury of conspiring to circumvent campaign finance laws and channel corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in 2002. His conviction followed a 2005 indictment on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering alongside aides John Colyandro and Jim Ellis. DeLay resigned from his position in the House as a result. In 2009, he appeared as a contestant on the TV series "Dancing With the Stars."

DeLay has been out on bond, working to have his conviction overturned for the past two years. If his conviction is upheld, he faces a sentence of three years in prison and five years probation. As a convicted felon, he would also be ineligible to run for state-level political office in Texas and ineligible to vote until he completes his probation. 

Read more
Texas
8:05 am
Fri October 5, 2012

26 Years Later: Exonerated Citizen Michael Morton Reflects

Exonerated citizen Michael Morton speaks to an attentive audience at the Texas Capitol.
Tyler Pratt for KUT News

Former Williamson County resident Michael Morton was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. Then 25 years later, he was freed after DNA evidence showed he was not guilty.

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Morton’s release. He spoke at the Texas Capitol about his experiences over the past 26 years, and the difficulties the Williamson County justice system presented in obtaining the evidence that eventually exonerated him.  

Morton told the audience: 

The odd thing about it is that The Innocence Project was willing to say “Look. Texas statute allows this. We will pay for all the expenses.  Just let us have it and we’ll do it." And for reasons that haven’t been elaborated on or maybe articulated, to mine or anyone else’s satisfaction that I’m aware of, is that they fought this. And fought this. And fought this.

Read more
Texas
2:52 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Report Finds Texas 'Energy Inefficient'

Texas wasn't ranked very high in energy efficiency according to ACEEE Scorecard
http://www.flickr.com/ixtlilton

The ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) has released its 2012 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. According to their findings, Texas didn't do so well.

The report ranks the 50 states and the District of Columbia according to their policies and programs regarding the use of energy in buildings, transportation, and industry. This year, Texas is ranked #33

Read more
Texas
8:18 am
Mon October 1, 2012

Lotto Ticket Aiding Vets Pulls in Pennies on the Dollar

The Texas Lotto scratch-off, which helps out veterans, is losing sales.
Texas Lottery

Veterans Cash is a $2 scratch-off Texas Lottery ticket that adds revenue to the Fund for Veterans' Assistance. But sales of the ticket, which made $8.1 million in 2011, have plummeted by 42 percent this year, to $4.7 million.

According to the San Antonio Express-News, since Veterans' Cash was launched in 2009, it has raised $20.8 million for the fund. The state's Fund for Veterans' Assistance awards funds through general assistance grants and the Housing4TexasHeroes program. Those programs provide veterans with services including financial assistance, transportation, counseling, housing assistance, and family services.

The Express-News writes declining lotto sales "means the Texas Veterans Commission is likely to turn down a bigger percentage of applications than it already does. The commission in 2011 had 190 applications and funded 37."

Read more
Texas
8:36 am
Fri September 28, 2012

What Gave Gov. Perry Sleepless Nights on the Campaign Trail

Gov. Perry says he's sleeping better now than he was during his presidential campaign, pictured above.
KUT News

According to the Texas Tribune, Governor Rick Perry is downplaying the effects of his previously publicly unknown sleep apnea

Perry’s office released a statement to CNN on Sunday, confirming that the governor indeed had the sleep disorder, but had been diagnosed and treated during the campaign.

But on Thursday, Perry blamed pain resulting from back surgery in 2011 as keeping him awake.

“My issue was one of a hyper-fusion of that nerve in my foot that kept me awake,” Perry told The Houston Chronicle.

Read more
Criminal Justice
11:32 am
Wed September 26, 2012

Texas Executes Cleve Foster, Ninth Inmate to Die This Year

Former Army recruiter Cleve Foster was executed for the 2002 slaying of a Fort Worth woman last night.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The State of Texas executed Cleve Foster last night. He was put to death for the sexual assault and shooting death of Nyaneur Pal (“Pah”) in Fort Worth in 2002.

His attorneys say he was innocent and didn’t have proper legal defense early on. Foster’s co-defendant, Shelton Ward, died of cancer on death row in 2010.

The Austin Chronicle writes Foster was charged under Texas’ “law of parties,” which stipulates those involved in the commission of a murder can be charged with the crime, even if they didn’t directly participate in the act of murder. Foster claimed he was incapacitated at the time of Pal’s death:

In several statements Ward repeatedly claimed that he alone murdered Pal, but prosecutors have said Ward's statements are inconsistent with the evidence. DNA evidence showed both men had sex with her before her death, but Foster insists he was passed out from sleeping pills and wasn't involved in Pal's killing.

Read more
Texas
9:04 am
Wed September 26, 2012

ERCOT Board Examines Summer Power Usage, Makes Predictions for Fall

ERCOT predicts no demand problems for fall, winter.
Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says that though the Texas electric grid saw new monthly peaks in June and July, the overall electric demand fell below last summer’s record-setting numbers. 

At the Board of Directors September meeting yesterday, directors were briefed on the summer’s power grid demand and peaks over the summer and made projections for fall and winter. 

This summer, ERCOT didn’t have to issue any energy emergence alerts (EEA)—which can result in rotating outages in order to prevent a power grid overload and statewide blackout. Last summer, ERCOT issued seven EEAs. Though this summer’s weather was hotter than the state’s 15-year average, it didn’t reach the sweltering levels achieved in 2011, so air conditioner use was somewhat lower.

Read more
Criminal Justice
3:57 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Report: Fewer Ex-Cons Returning to Texas Prisons

The recidivism rate for ex-cons in Texas has fallen 11 percent - meaning less former felons returning behind bars.
flickr.com/hmk

Fewer Texas ex-convicts are returning to prison, according to a report released today by the National Reentry Resource Center.

The report tracked individuals released from prison between 2005 and 2007 until 2010, to see whether they returned to prison. It found that the three-year recidivism rate went down 11 percent in Texas.

Other states with significant drops in their recidivism rates were Ohio, Kansas and Michigan.

The report credits the lowered recidivism rates in many states to increased funding for programs that ease the transition from prison to society, including the 2008 Second Chance Act. The act provides federal grants to state and local governments and community organizations to provide services that ease the transition from prison to society. Funds can be used to provide employment services, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance and mentoring to prisoners and ex-cons.

Read more
Texas
2:42 pm
Tue September 25, 2012

Appeals Court Upholds Open Meetings Law

A posted notice for an Austin school board meeting, as required by the Texas Open Meetings Act.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

A federal appeals court is upholding a Texas law aimed at government transparency.

A group of city officials from across Texas had challenged the Texas Open Meetings Act, saying it violates their free speech rights. The law requires public officials to post notices and agendas for their meetings and restricts how officials can meet with each other to discuss public business.

The ruling today from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a lower court ruling that found the law is constitutional and does not improperly limit elected officials speech.

Read more
Travis County
8:44 am
Tue September 25, 2012

Travis County Commissioners Voting On Tax Increase

County commissioners are holding two public hearings this morning.
Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Travis County Commissioners will vote today on a property tax increase. The proposed rate would increase from 48.55 cents to 50.01 cents per $100 of taxable value.

The county says the new tax rate will increase total tax revenues from properties on the tax roll in the preceding year by nearly three percent.

Commissioners will also hear public comment on offering economic incentives to HID Global, which is considering building a manufacturing and distribution center in Northeast Austin.

The State of Texas is already offering HID Global $1.9 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund. And the City of Austin is considering offering the company close to a million dollars in rebates on taxes for real estate and equipment purchases. The city plans to hold a public hearing on the issue Sept. 27.

Read more

Pages