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The Lead: UT Pushes for Prop 1, Domestic Partner Benefits, Video Chats in County Jails

Good Halloween morning. It’s going to warm up a bit today, with highs in the low 80s, but be prepared for a cool Halloween night, with a low of 57, according to the National Weather Service.

Here are some stories KUT has been working on:

Automatic Admission to UT Getting More Difficult:

UT President Bill Powers says that for the Summer/Fall of 2014 and Spring of 2015, UT will automatically admit Texas seniors who rank in the top 7 percent of their high school class. That’s down from the top 9 percent this Fall/Spring and the top 8 percent next Fall/Spring.

UT Makes Final Push for Prop 1:

The University of Texas is responding to criticism directed at Proposition 1, which would raise property taxes to help fund a UT medical school. Critics have said that UT has enough money to fund the project. However, UT President Bill Powers says, that a great deal of the money in the university’s coffers is already earmarked for other purposes.

Capital Metro’s F1 Costs: $122,000:

Capital Metro plans to expand its services to accommodate increased demand on Formula 1 weekend. The cost of these expanded services will total $122,000. Sponsorships totaling $46,000 will help offset some of the costs.

Lawmakers May Push for School Vouchers:

School vouchers may receive serious consideration in the upcoming state legislative session. The new chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Republican Dan Patrick, is a supporter of school vouchers. Patrick has already taken a meeting with a policy advisor for a pro-voucher group in Florida. Governor Rick Perry has also been vocal in his support for school choice and competition. Supporters of vouchers argue that they will save the state billions of dollars and provide students and parent with options other than struggling public schools.

And here are some more Austin and Texas stories from around the web:

Dallas County’s unmarried employees to get help covering partner’s health insurance (Morning News)

Dallas County Commissioners approved a measure yesterday that would provide a stipend to unmarried county employees whose domestic partners purchased separate health insurance because they aren’t eligible for coverage under the county’s benefits program. While county employees still won’t be able to add their partners to their own insurance coverage, they can receive up to the amount the county would pay to add a married employee’s spouse to their health plan. The new measure applies to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. Opponents of the measure say it makes bad economic sense, as it will cost taxpayers an extra $100,000 a year. Because the Defense of Marriage Act forbids agencies of the federal government, including the IRS, from recognizing same sex couples the stipend will be subject to taxation, unlike benefits for married couples. 

Video chatting to be available for Travis County jail inmates (Statesman)

Travis County Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of a partnership with Securus Technologies that will allow inmates to video chat with family, friends and attorneys. Video calls, except those to attorneys, will be monitored in the same way in-person visits to county jails are.  Inmates will be charged $20 for a 20-minute call to family members and friends. Video chats with their lawyers will be free. The county will keep $4.60 from each call, with the rest going to Securus. Officials plan to start the calls in the next four to six months. The video chats will not replace in-person visiting hours.

Toll road to get wildlife warning signs (Express-News)

The private company operating the Texas 130 toll road extension will install permanent signs along the 41-mile corridor warning drivers about wildlife in the area. Since the toll road opened to traffic Oct. 24, at least three incidents have occurred in which vehicles collided with animals.

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