Austin

News, events, and entertainment happening in and around Austin and the Central Texas counties of Travis, Hays, Caldwell, Bastrop and Williamson

Senate Committee OKs Voter ID

For the third consecutive session, Texas GOP members are trying to get a Voter ID bill through the Senate. A Committee of the Whole Tuesday voted in favor of the bill, which would require voters to show photo ID, such as a driver’s license, military ID, personal ID card, or passport, before voting.

Photo by KUT News.

Texas Senate Releases Its Draft Budget Proposal

First the House, now the Senate has released its projected cuts. The Texas Senate released its first draft state budget proposal yesterday, following the House's first draft budget released last week.  It's $2.3 billion bigger than the House proposal at $158.7 billion. 

Photo by KUT News

City officials will hold a public meeting tonight to discuss the future of Bull Creek District Park and get input from the community about that future.  The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 Water St.

Photo by KUT News.

Picture by KUT News

Good morning from the KUT Newsroom.  We hope the high cedar and mold counts don't have you feeling like us (nothing like going through a box of tissue first thing in the morning).  Anyway...plenty of news to pass along this morning.

Austin ISD Goes Over Facilities Plan...again:

Photo by KUT News

With temperatures barely breaking into the 60s this weekend, a dip in Barton Springs Pool might not be the first thing on your mind. But it will be your last chance to enjoy the swimming hole until mid-March.

This is a video produced by opponents of a proposed disc golf course at Roy Guerrero Colorado River Park in South East Austin. The video is intended to advance one side of the argument, but it still gives you an idea of what the area looks like. 

For unbiased reporting on the city's plans, check out some of KUT's coverage here and here.

Image by Tommy Klumker http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomask/

We received more hard data today showing how more people are moving to Austin and looking for work.  The latest unemployment survey from the Texas Workforce Commission shows the workforce in the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos area increased from 892,700 in December 2009 to 909,300 last month, a difference of 16,600.

Erik Reyna

Before organizers can take a census of Austin's homeless community, they count volunteers.

This year they're coming up short.

One-hundred more people are needed Sunday from 1 pm to 7 pm to gather demographic information on who is homeless in Austin and Travis County.  Homeless advocates say the annual count is essential to show the city, county and nonprofit groups where to allocate their resources to best serve the area's most vulnerable community.  The numbers are also used to calculate the amount of federal funding Austin receives for certain aid programs.

Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News.

Willingham Probe Continues

The Texas Forensic Science Commission will once again take up the Cameron Todd Willingham arson case today.  The panel will consider testimony it heard earlier this month from fire experts who differed on whether the original investigation was sound.  Some experts say investigators relied on flawed science and that the fire should not have been ruled arson. 

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News.

Photo by KUT News

Hundreds gathered around the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue on the UT campus this morning for a ceremony before the community march to Huston-Tillotson University. Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, some state lawmakers and Austin school officials were there.

Photo courtesy of the City of Austin.

Funeral Services Pending for Emma Long

Image by Erik Reyna for KUT News

People at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless are handing out more than 200 blankets at 1 p.m. today. The cold weather has created a huge demand for blankets among homeless people, and Austinites have donated generously, ARCH interim executive director Mike Abkowitz told KUT News.

"We've been distributing blankets throughout the cold weather season, but we know there's just more and more need," Abkowitz said.

Image courtesy City of Austin

No a huge surprise here; Abigail Smith was already named the lone finalist for the job. But now it's official. City Manager Marc Ott just announced he has selected the director of a no kill animal shelter in Ithaca, New York to run the Town Lake Animal Center in Austin.

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."

Photo by KUT News

The state comptroller's office reports that Austin will see a 13% increase in sales tax revenue for January.

Texas took in over $1.81 billion for December, a 9% jump over December 2009.  In a news release, Comptroller Susan Combs noted that this is the ninth straight month of year-to-year gains.  In her budget estimate released earlier this week, Combs predicted sales tax revenue to continue rising this year and through the next biennium.

Photo by Dave Bernstein for KUT News

Senate Rules Vote

The Texas Senate will vote on the rules it will use for the 82nd Legislature today.  Key among the votes is the so-called "2/3rds Vote."  State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) is expected to lead a charge that eliminates the requirement that 2/3rds of senators voting can bring legislation to the floor.  Other Republican senators may try to exempt specific legislation, such as Voter ID, immigration, and some other legislation, exempt from the rule. 

AISD Facilities Input

UPDATE at 10:50am--Travis County Sheriff's deputies report that the person involved in this morning's standoff on SH-130 has been taken into custody.  No reports of any injuries.  The 130 toll road between SH 71 and FM 812 has been reopened.

An armed driver is reportedly inside his car on the 130 toll toad this morning. The driver is not believed to be a threat to the public. He has told law enforcement officials he only intends to harm himself and not others.  Highway 130 is closed right now between 71 and FM 812 because of the incident.

Photo by Erik Reyna for KUT News.

Watch the 2011 Legislative Session from Home

DeLay's Sentencing Hearing Starts Today

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will be back in an Austin courtroom.  His sentencing hearing starts this morning.  DeLay was convicted in November on money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering charges.  Those charges were in connection to the 2002 Texas elections.  DeLay faces up to life in prison but his attorneys are asking for probation.

Texas Comptroller Announcing Revenue Estimate

Image courtesy Gabrielle Giffords' Congressional website.

All the papers lead today with the biggest national story of the weekend, a shooting in Tuscon, Arizona that killed six people, including a federal judge, and critically wounded US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Some of the most comprehensive coverage can be found from news organizations with the biggest newsrooms such as the New York Times (including their slideshow of images from the scene), NPR, the Washington Post, CNN, and the LA Times.  But it’s also worth browsing coverage from local news outlets that often have more contacts within the city and state than national media. Check out coverage from the Tuscon Citizen, the Arizona Daily Star, the Arizona Republic, and Arizona TV stations KMSB,  KOLD,  KVOA, KGUN, KNXV and KPHO.

KUT News sought local reaction from Texas lawmakers last night, and spoke on the phone with US Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) and US Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Austin). We also talked to a friend of Giffords’, Austin philanthropist Marc Winkelman, who told us Giffords “loves Austin" and has visited the city half-a-dozen times over the past five years.

Image courtesy Austin Police Department

We don't often hear about heroin busts from the Austin Police Department. But today APD tells about the arrest of 72-year-old Robert Ramos Perez. He was taken into custody around 1:30 this afternoon on the 5600 block of Westgate Boulevard.

APD say Perez was carrying 244 balloons or 91 grams of heroin. The estimated street value, according to police, is $5,000.

Perez is charged with Delivery of a Controlled Substance, a First Degree Felony in Texas.  Click on the image above to see pictures of the alleged heroin.

Image courtesy bloomsberries http://www.flickr.com/photos/fabliaux/

A Travis County lesbian couple who were married in Massachusetts cannot have their divorce blocked by Attorney General Greg Abbott, Texas' 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled today.  (Read the decision here.)

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Beall/via Flickr

Willingham Case Back in the Spotlight

A state panel in Austin today will hear from fire experts on the high-profile Cameron Todd Willingham arson case.  Willingham was convicted and put to death for an arson-ruled fire that killed his three daughters in 1991.  Some experts say the conviction was based on bad science.  The Texas Forensic Science Commission is examining the fire science used in the case, and how scientific practices have changed since the 90s. 

Image by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The City of Austin is holding a public forum next Tuesday evening in the hopes of finding out what you think about extending parking meter hours. But if you can't make that public forum, you should register your opinion on the city's online survey.

ity Council is considering extending the hours you must pay for street parking downtown from 8 a.m. until midnight. Currently, meters are active between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. The proposal would also extend meter hours city-wide from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Image courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Image by KUT News

Austin's Parks and Recreation Department will close Barton Springs Pool January 24, to remove gravel and debris that has built up at the deep end of the popular swimming hole since 1991

The Austin City Council approved the contract for the project last fall.  Officials say special precautions will be taken to safeguard the protected Barton Springs Salamander during the clean-up process, which is expected to last until March 12. 

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