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Top Morning Stories January 14, 2011

Photo by KUT News

Heightened Security for Top State Office Holders

In the wake of the Arizona shootings last weekend, eyes have turned to state legislatures, many which have convened in the past week, to see how lawmakers would react. Here in Texas, state police appear to have beefed up their presence at the Capitol building. As Ross Ramsey reports in today's Texas Tribune, "of course, this being Texas, if you present a concealed-handgun license, you can come into the Capitol with or without your weapon and skip security entirely. There are other checkpoints inside the Capitol if you want to enter the House and Senate galleries, where the public can sit and watch government in action. Firearms aren’t allowed there."

Straus, who kept his speakership, now has a full-time security detail. Gov. Rick Perry  has long had one. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has one. So does Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general. Jerry Patterson, the state’s land commissioner, doesn’t have a security detail but, when asked about it, he said he has one in his boot and another in his belt. He’s the poster child for gun-toting officeholders in Texas. As a state senator, he was the author of the state’s concealed carry law. He’s a gun nut — just ask him.

Soldier Killed

A West Texas soldier has been killed in Afghanistan. (KUT had previously reported he had died in Iraq. We regret the error.) The Defense Department says 30-year-old Sgt. Omar Aceves of El Paso died Wednesday in Ghazni after an IED attack. 5,869 American military personnel have died during the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 522 were from Texas.

City Council Ignores Neighborhood Concerns over PUD

The Austin city council has tentatively approved construction of a 96-foot tall office building on Barton Springs road – just across from the Long Center for Performing Arts.  The development is an example of recent battles between neighborhood associations and the city over whether or not Austin should allow some developments to by-pass construction ordinances.  The building in question will be 36 feet taller than the maximum height allowed by the city’s neighborhood plan in return for certain construction concessions from the builder.

Lawmakers Get First Look At Budget Details

From KERA in Dallas, Shelley Kofler reports, that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Thursday told reporters the Senate’s first budget draft eliminates about 8,000 state jobs. That’s a little more than 3% of current state workers including employees at universities and colleges. Texans get a look at details Tuesday.

Emily Donahue is a former grants writer for KUT. She previously served as news director and helped launch KUT’s news department in 2001.