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Top Morning Stories August 31, 2011

Williamson County commissioners approved a budget for fiscal year 2012 Tuesday.
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Williamson County commissioners approved a budget for fiscal year 2012 Tuesday.

Williamson County Approves Budget, Holds Taxes Steady

Williamson County Commissioners approved the county's 2011-2012 budget yesterday. The nearly $127 million budget keeps property taxes about the same for the average homeowner even though home values are up. That's because commissioners lowered the tax rate a bit. Property tax payments will hold steady at about $882 for the average priced home of $180,868. You can read more about the county's new budget, including what budget cuts were made, here


UT Awarded Grant to Study Impact of Oil Spills

A group of institutions led by UT Austin's Marine Sciences Institute has been awarded a $7 million grantto research how oil spills disperse in the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers will also study how oil affects the gulf's ecology. 

The grant is part of the $500 million Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative created by BP after the massive gulf oil leak last year. A UT news release says the knowledge gained could help improve the response in the event of another spill.

"People have been surprised at how quickly the oil has dispersed after this spill," says Dr. Ed Buskey, professor of marine science and lead investigator on the grant. "The only really good comparisons we have are the Ixtoc spill in the late 1970s in the Gulf and the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. In both of those cases the oil stuck around for a much longer time than it seems to have done in this case. 

Judge Blocks Abortion Sonogram Law

A federal judge has blocked key provisions of Texas’ new abortion law. It would require doctors to perform a sonogram before an abortion and to read a description of the fetus to the woman. The law passed earlier this year by state lawmakers was set to go into effect tomorrow. Governor Rick Perry said in a statement he supports Attorney General Greg Abbott in appealing the court’s decision.

Emily Ramshaw, of our political reporting partner the Texas Tribune, has a write-up this morning about how Perry's anti-abortion stance has grown more insistentover time.

Over the years, Perry's public opposition to abortion has grown ever-more emphatic, coinciding with runs for re-election in an increasingly red Texas, and now for the 2012 GOP nomination for the presidency, where he faces candidates with similarly forceful anti-abortion views.