KUT-FM: Ben Philpott, KUT News | KERA News

KUT-FM: Ben Philpott, KUT News

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

State lawmakers are back in Austin to kick off some legislative overtime.

And, as it's been reported over and over and over again, the special session is needed because lawmakers couldn’t pass a bill to keep a handful of state agencies open and operating. That got some of our listeners wondering if lawmakers could’ve spend their time at the Capitol a little more efficiently.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a special session of the Texas Legislature to begin July 18.

"Considering all the successes of the 85th legislative session, we should not be where we are today," he said. "A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the Legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session."

Last week, Texas made national news when state lawmakers got into a shouting match that escalated into shoving and even death threats.

But anger among politicians working at the Texas Capitol had been growing for weeks, and some lay blame for that at the feet of a small group of extremely conservative lawmakers. They call themselves the Texas Freedom Caucus

Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas – its history, how it has changed, whom it affects and its future. 

It's just a week until the start of the 85th session of the Texas Legislature. And, while you've probably heard lots of stories about lawmaker priorities for the 140-day session, it's not always about what bills are being debated, but whether the Texas House or Senate is leading the charge.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently released his top 10 priorities for the 2017 legislative session. And now with several hundred bills filed, we have some glimpses of how he plans to meet his goals.

You've heard it all before. Texas is a red state. Democrats are hoping that shade of red will fade this November as voter registrations increase, but could more voters actually change the outcome? 


By now you've probably heard what Super Tuesday means in terms of the delegate count for the presidential nominating contests. There are almost 2,000 delegates up for grabs across 12 states for the two parties today. But how are those special votes divided up in a primary or caucus?


As he pursues the GOP presidential nomination, a key part of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s Iowa strategy has been to visit all 99 counties in that state — a strategy called "the full Grassley, named after an Iowa U.S. Senator who visits each county every year. 

But, some have criticized the Cruz campaign for spending more time last week in rural parts of the state in an effort to hit every county, instead of going to the Hawkeye State’s population centers.


Gov. Greg Abbott has directed the Texas Health & Human Services Commission's Refugee Resettlement Program to not help place Syrian refugees in the state. No one is questioning his ability to block that state program from working with Syrian refugees. But does his power extend to the non-profits that are using federal money to help resettle refugees in Texas?


Constitutional elections in Texas don't draw many voters. Over the last three elections, no more than 8 percent of registered voters have gone to the polls, and typically, it’s propositions like this cycle's Proposition 5, a statewide vote on constitutionally mandated population limits for road funding, that might keep people away.


The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce wraps up its annual national convention in Houston today. Yesterday the event jumped into the national spotlight, as protestors interrupted a speech by GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush.


The State of Texas has yet to file an appeal over a ruling against the state's voter identification law. Last week the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law violated the Voting Rights Act.

But where do things stand now, and does the ruling mean Texans don't have to bring a photo ID when they vote this fall?

Monday is the first day of early voting for the May 27 Democratic and Republican primary runoff elections.

The Republican race for Agriculture Commissioner is between two former state legislators, Stephenville's Sid Miller and Longview's Tommy Merritt. And unlike the other GOP primaries, this one hasn't only focused on who's the most conservative – for the most part.

That's because for Miller, this race is about conservative credentials. And he'll quickly let you know that he's got empirical data on his side.

"You know Rice University took all the votes … and ranked the legislators from one to 50 on how conservative they were. And I was ranked No. 2 and my opponent was ranked the most liberal of the Republicans," Miller says.

Last week’s GOP primary showed the continued strength of the Tea Party in Texas. But it also showed a weakening of another stalwart Republican demographic: the businessperson.

First, a disclaimer: The results don't prove anything definitive. One election does not a trend make. And it's not hard to find people who say the state's business leaders still have a large role in Republican Party politics.

"I think the business community hasn't lost its voice," Rice University Political Science department chair Mark Jones says. "But its influence is much less then it was say 10 years ago."

George P. Bush is expected to win Tuesday's GOP primary for land commissioner. Ben Phillpott of KUT brings the story of the young Bush's low-key campaign and outreach to Hispanic voters.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, has issued a statement responding to an article released over the weekend that points to inconsistencies in her accounting of her life story.

The article, written by Wayne Slater of The Dallas Morning News, pointed to a couple of details from the story Davis has used during her campaign for Governor: specifically, that Davis was not a divorced mother at 19, but instead 21. Slater also highlights that while Davis initially paid her way through college, her second husband helped pay for her final years at Texas Christian University and Harvard Law School.

Conservatives have jumped on the story, calling Davis a liar. Talk show host Rush Limbaugh called her a "genuine head case" on his program today, saying she had "made stuff up" and would have been "really poor and destitute were it not for a man" – a reference to her second husband, lawyer Jeff Davis.

In 2014, Texas voters might just see something they haven't experienced in two decades — a competitive race for governor.

Current Republican Gov. Rick Perry isn't running for re-election, so it's an open race, with new faces and new optimism for Texas Democrats.

Earlier this year, the Democrats were once again facing the prospect of scrambling to find someone to run as their candidate. Then, on June 25, state Sen. Wendy Davis came to the Capitol in Austin wearing running shoes and ready to block a restrictive abortion bill.

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We're going to hear now about drawing and redrawing the political map in two big states, beginning with Texas, where the legislature has had some legendary battles over the years, few more contentious than those involving revising legislative and congressional districts. One of the more dramatic saw Democratic lawmakers fleeing the state in an effort to block the process.

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry has been aboard a bus touring Iowa hoping to score an upset in next Tuesday's caucuses. Perry spent Thursday trying to reverse the surge that challenger Rick Santorum has seen in a recent poll.

KUT News

Governor Rick Perry wrapped up his first bus tour of Iowa this past Sunday. He's trying to drum up support for the January 3 caucuses. The message of the week was: vote the outsider into Washington - and shake things up.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is trying to reclaim a place in the top tier of the Republican presidential field — and his campaign is betting a barnstorming bus tour of Iowa is the key to exceeding expectations in the state's Jan. 3 caucuses.