Senate’s breakneck pace turns into a slog

After working through the weekend, Texas senators began voting on Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities Monday afternoon, giving initial approval to a bill addressing the state’s high rate of pregnancy-related deaths as well as several hot-button issues, including abortion regulations and school finance. The Senate’s breakneck race through the first six days of the special session, however...


Westlake High phenom Dakota Luther dives into first international meet

Westlake High phenom Dakota Luther dives into first international meet

Whitney Hedgepeth barely had a chance to say goodbye to Dakota Luther, her 17-year-old daughter, as she pulled up to the sidewalk at the Austin airport July 4. “I literally dropped her off on the curb,” Hedgepeth said. “I was like, ‘Bye! I love you! Go!’ ” The brief goodbye came after Hedgepeth had to make last-minute changes to her daughter’s travel plans...
How would funding for homeless be spent under Adler’s downtown plan?

How would funding for homeless be spent under Adler’s downtown plan?

Austin Mayor Steve Adler rolled out a plan earlier this month to address homelessness in Austin through increasing the taxes paid by hotel guests, but what remains unclear is how that money would be allocated. The proposal would add 1 percent to the hotel tax bill immediately and another 1 percent in 2021 to create a Tourism Public Improvement District, with some of the revenue dedicated to combating...
Feds arrive to inspect Austin police fleet in carbon monoxide case

Feds arrive to inspect Austin police fleet in carbon monoxide case

Inspectors for Ford Motor Co. and investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration arrived in Austin on Monday and will be here this week trying to figure out what is causing carbon monoxide to leak into police sport utility vehicles. The visit will be the second time officials have traveled to Austin since the city in March began reporting that the poisonous gas was leaking into...
Who’s moonlighting at Austin City Hall? Most departments don’t know

Who’s moonlighting at Austin City Hall? Most departments don’t know

An Austin Energy worker responsible for approving developers’ electric service plans provided consulting services on the side to some of those same companies. An Austin Water spokesman approved a marketing contract with a firm that built him a free website for his real estate business. An information technology analyst used city equipment to send hundreds of emails and scan and print dozens...
OFFICER FIRED: Austin police sergeant fired, accused of working off-duty shifts and lying about it

OFFICER FIRED: Austin police sergeant fired, accused of working off-duty shifts and lying about it

An Austin Police Department sergeant has been fired after Chief Brian Manley said the sergeant lied to his superiors and used his vacation time to work off-duty patrol shifts. Sgt. Richard Davis was fired Friday, a disciplinary memo shows. In January, Davis told his platoon leader that he would be out of town during South by Southwest, so he could not fill any of the overtime shifts he had initially...
Texas Senate approves, again, bill to limit local property tax hikes

Texas Senate approves, again, bill to limit local property tax hikes

The Texas Senate on Monday approved legislation that would require cities, counties and special government districts to get voter approval for property tax rate hikes of 4 percent or more. Current law allows residents to petition for a tax ratification election for increases of 8 percent or more. Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, would cut the so-called rollback rate in half and make...
Suspect in Travis County case charged with tampering with evidence ‘with intent to impair human corpse’

Suspect in Travis County case charged with tampering with evidence ‘with intent to impair human corpse’

A suspect has been charged with tampering with evidence after a person was found dead in a southwestern Travis County home Sunday, sheriff’s officials said Monday. Skye McMillon, 24, was booked into the Travis County Jail late Sunday on a charge of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence “with intent to impair human corpse.” The sheriff’s office declined...
House panel lays out $1.9 billion school funding plan

House panel lays out $1.9 billion school funding plan

After a flurry of action over the past few days in the Senate focusing on school finance reforms, the House Public Education Committee introduced its own $1.9 billion education funding fix Monday. House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, has filed House Bill 21, resurrecting a version of his big funding package that died during the regular legislative session. “We can come up...
Senate tentatively OKs commission to study school finance system

Senate tentatively OKs commission to study school finance system

The Senate tentatively passed on Monday a bill that would create a commission to study the beleaguered way that the state funds public schools. Senate Bill 16, which won unanimous approval, would require that the 13-member commission make recommendations to the governor by the start of the next regular legislative session in 2019. The group would examine include an appropriate property tax rate school...
House panel approves abortion complications bill

House panel approves abortion complications bill

The House State Affairs Committee on Monday approved 8-3 a bill that would require doctors to report to the state abortion-related complications or face fines and loss of their license to practice medicine. Voting no were Democrats Helen Giddings of DeSoto, Jessica Farrar of Houston and Eddie Rodriguez of Austin. House Bill 13 by state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, would require physicians...
Motorcyclist critically injured in western Travis County crash

Motorcyclist critically injured in western Travis County crash

WESTERN TRAVIS COUNTY Motorcyclist critically injured in crash A motorcyclist was critically injured after he crashed on Southwest Parkway in western Travis County on Monday afternoon. The man, who was found unconscious and estimated to be in his 40s, was taken to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. The two outside...
Texas business group airing new ads opposing ‘bathroom bills’

Texas business group airing new ads opposing ‘bathroom bills’

Two new radio advertisements critical of proposals in the Texas Legislature to restrict transgender-friendly bathroom policies are hitting the airwaves this week, part of a $1 million ad campaign by the state’s main business lobbying group to oppose the so-called ”bathroom bills.” In the ads funded by the Texas Association of Business, two Republicans — former state State Rep...
JUST IN: Man arrested after threatening judge, precinct office in over 500 emails, police say

JUST IN: Man arrested after threatening judge, precinct office in over 500 emails, police say

A man was arrested after being accused of threatening a judge and his office staff through email for an eviction notice he received, according to a police affidavit. On March 9, 25-year-old Abdulmomin Ghuman was handed an eviction notice from his apartment at 3400 Harmon Ave. by a Deputy Constable, the affidavit said. Ghuman then went on an emailing spree about the eviction, sending hundreds of messages...
BREAKING: Motorcycle crash causes critical injuries, shuts down some Southwest Parkway lanes

BREAKING: Motorcycle crash causes critical injuries, shuts down some Southwest Parkway lanes

A motorcyclist was critically injured after he crashed on Southwest Parkway in western Travis County at 4:12 p.m. The two outside lanes of Southwest Parkway have been shut down, Travis County sheriff’s officials said. The man, who is unconscious and estimated to be in his 40s, was taken to St. David’s South Austin Medical Center with life-threatening injuries, EMS officials said.
MTV reality star catches Alex Jones on vacation in Hawaii

MTV reality star catches Alex Jones on vacation in Hawaii

What could a popular conspiracy theorist and a reality star possibly have in common? A mutual appreciation for snorkeling and vacation destinations, for starters.  You might remember Spencer Pratt as one half of “Speidi,” the supercouple featured on MTV’s 2000s reality show “The Hills.” He and his wife, Heidi Montag, recently traveled to Hawaii, and Pratt...
PEC director disputes claim that ‘retaliation’ led CEO to resign

PEC director disputes claim that ‘retaliation’ led CEO to resign

The Pedernales Electric Cooperative board member at the center of controversy regarding his racially tinged Facebook post last November said Monday that there was never any retaliation against co-op employees who complained about it, contradicting allegations from the utility’s former chief executive before he resigned in protest in May and received $1.1 million in separation pay. James Oakley...
Senate tentatively OKs private school scholarship bill

Senate tentatively OKs private school scholarship bill

The Texas Senate on Monday tentatively passed 19-12 a bill that would create a private school scholarship program for students with disabilities who want to leave public schools. Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill; Sens. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, crossed party lines to oppose it. “Most of our students who...
Texas newspapers no longer employ any staff editorial cartoonists 

Texas newspapers no longer employ any staff editorial cartoonists 

After the Houston Chronicle laid off its Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Nick Anderson, last week, a Washington Post piece made note that despite being “the second largest state in the union -- and the home of so many historically colorful political voices,” Texas is now without a political cartoonist on staff at one of its newspapers.  The move follows similar position...
Austin lawmaker blasts Dan Patrick over his immigrant deaths comment

Austin lawmaker blasts Dan Patrick over his immigrant deaths comment

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, excoriated Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Monday after he linked “sanctuary city” policies with the deaths of 10 people in a trailer in San Antonio. “I hope that Lt. Gov. Patrick puts people first in his future public statements,” Rogriguez said in a statement. “Because when 10 people from any background perish under such horrific circumstances...
Police: Sellers using phone app to sell car robbed Georgetown buyer

Police: Sellers using phone app to sell car robbed Georgetown buyer

Three people have been accused of offering a car for sale in Georgetown on a phone app and then robbing the man who came to buy the vehicle, according to an arrest affidavit. Cornell Jayshaun Mack-Taylor, 21, of Austin; Tavia Alvarez, 23 of Highland, N.Y., and Tylan Louis Seaborn, 17, of Austin were all charged with engaging in organized criminal activity. The charge is a first-degree felony punishable...
Gov. Abbott predicts the House will 'outperform’ in special session’

Gov. Abbott predicts the House will 'outperform’ in special session’

Gov. Greg Abbott expressed confidence in a pair of radio interviews Monday that the Texas House will deliver on much of his special session agenda. “The impression I get is that the House is taking my agenda very, very seriously and that they will be passing out a lot of the pieces of legislation I have offered up,” Abbott told Sergio Sanchez and Tim Sullivan on 710 AM KURV in the Rio...
Senate begins voting on long list of Gov. Abbott’s priorities

Senate begins voting on long list of Gov. Abbott’s priorities

After working through the weekend, Texas senators met Monday afternoon to begin voting on bills designated as special session priorities by Gov. Greg Abbott. First on the agenda was a bill to extend until 2023 a state task force studying Texas’ high rate of pregnancy-related deaths. In addition to identifying at-risk populations and offering solutions, Senate Bill 17 requires the Maternal...
Kids who lose a father to death, divorce, jail feel it in their DNA, new study finds

Kids who lose a father to death, divorce, jail feel it in their DNA, new study finds

A new study looked at the saliva of 2,420 children enrolled in the federally funded Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Researchers wondered: Would it matter if children did not have a father actively involved in their lives because of death, prison or divorce? Father’s matter, as new study points out. The study “ Father Loss and Child Telomere...
House panel to consider $1.8 billion school funding bill Monday

House panel to consider $1.8 billion school funding bill Monday

Following a flurry of action over the past few days in the Senate to pass major school finance reforms, the House Public Education Committee will introduce its own $1.8 billion education funding fix on Monday. House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, has filed House Bill 21, which is similar to the $1.5 billion funding plan he filed during regular session — it was also labeled...
JUST IN: 2nd suspect in attack on transgender activist charged, admits targeting victim, police say

JUST IN: 2nd suspect in attack on transgender activist charged, admits targeting victim, police say

The second suspect in an attack on a transgender woman last week admitted to Austin police that he targeted the victim because of her gender identity, according to court papers filed Monday. Rayshad Deloach, 17, and his brother, Raymond, have both been accused of carjacking and mugging Stephanie Martinez, an Austin transgender activist. Both face aggravated kidnapping and robbery charges...
TxDOT: Cap Metro must pay to put buses on future I-35 toll lanes

TxDOT: Cap Metro must pay to put buses on future I-35 toll lanes

Capital Metro, which hopes one day to run “rapid” buses on free-flowing Interstate 35 toll lanes, will have to pay at least $18 million for that opportunity. And the agency has to make that decision soon, even though the toll lanes are years away from being built. Under pressure from the Texas Department of Transportation, which is well into planning and environmental studies for a $4...

Community news: Fitness event benefits vets with PTSD

TRAVIS COUNTY NORTH AUSTIN Fitness event benefits vets Make A Vet Sweat and the Naturally Fit Federation will host the MAVS Charity Classic & Gala on Aug. 5 at the Westin Hotel Austin, 11301 Domain Drive. The charity event will include a bodybuilding showcase from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and a formal dinner and gala from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Central Texas donors, businesses and fitness enthusiast can participate...
Raising quintuplets? What another Austin-area mom can tell the Hodges family

Raising quintuplets? What another Austin-area mom can tell the Hodges family

Sunday, we wrote about the last Hodges quintuplet leaving Seton Medical Center after being born on March 24.  Liz and Daniel Hodges headed home with daughter Teagan and sons Connell, Liam, Nolan and Dillon. The quintuplets join 2-year-old big brother Rowan at home. Daniel and Liz Hodges, of Temple, along with their 2-year-old son Rowan, hold their quintuplets, from left, Nolan...
Three new restaurants coming to Bastrop soon

Three new restaurants coming to Bastrop soon

Three new restaurants are set to open soon in Bastrop, including a Denny’s, Burger King and Cici’s Pizza. The city’s economic development corporation announced Monday that site plans had been approved for the Denny’s and Burger King, both set to open on the corner of Childers Avenue and Texas 71 in the Bastrop Station shopping center. The restaurants are working through the...
Gov. Greg Abbott says Kid Rock Senate run will ‘shake up Washington’

Gov. Greg Abbott says Kid Rock Senate run will ‘shake up Washington’

A few days after Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller took to Facebook to endorse Kid Rock in his Michigan Senate run, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted out, “IT’S HAPPENING!”  The Sunday tweet was in reference to a poll that shows the rap-rock artist with a 4-point lead over opponent Debbie Stabenow. “THIS will shake up Washington,” Abbott claimed.  The...
Texas Senate honors Austin man killed in Greece

Texas Senate honors Austin man killed in Greece

The Texas Senate on Monday honored Bakari Henderson of Austin, who was killed July 7 in Greece. “Bakari was one of our own,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, noting that Henderson had been a messenger in the Senate and an intern for House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Watson also praised Henderson, 22, for a strong work ethic and introduced senators to Henderson’s parents, brother...
Why haven’t the Wilks brothers given Gov. Abbott so much as a straw of deer semen this election cycle?

Why haven’t the Wilks brothers given Gov. Abbott so much as a straw of deer semen this election cycle?

FILE – In this Dec. 29, 2015, file photo, Farris Wilks watches Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz speak in the community center named after his mother in Cisco, Texas. The “Reigniting the Promise Community Rally” was sponsored by the Keep the Promise Super PAC and held at the Myrtle Wilks Community Center in Cisco.  (Ronald W. Erdrich/Abilene...
Survivors: Truck in deadly incident had up to 200 people at one point

Survivors: Truck in deadly incident had up to 200 people at one point

3 p.m. update: Immigrants who survived a trip inside a big rig in which eight people were found dead in San Antonio this weekend told police as many as 180 to 200 people had been in the trailer at some point during the trip, according to court documents. A criminal complaint filed Monday against James Mathew Bradley Jr., also outlines the danger and cost of crossing the Texas-Mexico border illegally...
Trial delay likely for men accused of shooting at Travis County judge

Trial delay likely for men accused of shooting at Travis County judge

10:45 a.m. The October trial of three men suspected of trying to kill Travis County state district Judge Julie Kocurek will likely be pushed back to 2018. But before he decides anything, U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel said he wants attorneys for the defendants to file a motion by next week formally requesting the delay. Yeakel hinted that the new trial date would be Feb. 5. Lawyers for Chimene Onyeri and Marcellus...
WEATHER UPDATE: Firefighters battle four house fires in Cedar Park, Leander during storm

WEATHER UPDATE: Firefighters battle four house fires in Cedar Park, Leander during storm

7:40 p.m. update: Firefighters battled four house fires at once in Leander and Cedar Park during this afternoon’s thunderstorm, said the Austin Fire Department, which assisted in the fire response. No injuries were reported, but all four homes suffered significant damage, Austin fire officials said. The homes were in the 2500 block of Paden Circle in Cedar Park, the 2300 block of Lookout...

Community news: Artwork sought for Dove Springs Recreation Center

TRAVIS COUNTY AUSTIN Artwork sought for rec center Art in Public Places, a program of the city of Austin’s Cultural Arts Division, is seeking a professional visual artist, or artist team, to design and fabricate artwork for the Dove Springs Recreation Center, 5801 Ainez Drive. An informational meeting will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Cultural Arts Division offices, 201 E. Second...
Body found in house in Deer Creek Ranch in Southwest Travis County

Body found in house in Deer Creek Ranch in Southwest Travis County

Travis County sheriff’s deputies responded Sunday at 10:30 a.m. to a home in the Deer Creek subdivision for a welfare check and found a deceased person. The body may have sat in the home for up to a week, deputies say, and it was in an advanced stage of decomposition when they discovered it. An autopsy will be performed on Tuesday morning, said Capt. Craig Smith of the sheriff’s office...

Hernandez, Tucker power Fresno over Express

Teoscar Hernandez hit a two-run home run and Preston Tucker added a two-run homer and had two hits as the Fresno Grizzlies beat the Round Rock Express 11-8 Sunday in a Pacific Coast League game at Fresno, Calif. The home run by Hernandez capped a three-run fifth inning and gave the Grizzlies a 5-3 lead. Jon Kemmer had hit a solo home run earlier in the inning. The Grizzlies added four runs in the...
H-E-B issues recall for ground beef packaged Sunday at Buda store

H-E-B issues recall for ground beef packaged Sunday at Buda store

H-E-B has issued a precautionary recall for ground beef sold at its Buda store on Sunday. The recall is issued only for 80 percent lean ground chuck sold on Styrofoam trays that were packaged on Sunday with a time stamp later than 4:30 p.m. and sold at the Buda store, 15300 S IH 35 Frontage Road. Customers can return the product to the store for a full refund. For information, call 855-432-4438. The...
EXCLUSIVE: Feds arrive to inspect APD fleet in carbon monoxide case

EXCLUSIVE: Feds arrive to inspect APD fleet in carbon monoxide case

Inspectors for Ford Motor Company and investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be on the ground in Austin this week trying to figure out what is causing carbon monoxide to leak into police sport utility vehicles, city officials confirmed to the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV Sunday. The visit will be the second time officials have traveled to Austin since the...

Senate panel OKs mail-in ballot fraud bill

The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill Sunday that would set up safeguards to prevent mail-in ballot fraud in Texas and increase penalties for people who try to steal others’ votes. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones and a process for correcting errors...
Senate panel OKs bill requiring voter approval for annexations

Senate panel OKs bill requiring voter approval for annexations

A state Senate panel approved a bill Sunday that would give residents targeted for annexation by cities in large Texas counties the opportunity to reject such efforts, one of several bills being considered during a 30-day special legislative session that would curb the authority of cities, including Austin. Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, is largely identical to its previous...
Senate plan to direct lottery money to teacher pay gets cold reception

Senate plan to direct lottery money to teacher pay gets cold reception

Some public education advocates pressed lawmakers on Sunday to reconsider a plan to use existing lottery revenue earmarked for schools specifically on teacher pay raises and bonuses. “We’re saying take those dollars and move them over to teacher salaries and so you now have that void. And so districts are being asked to make those cuts,” said Jesús Chávez, former Round...
Bill targeting government employee union dues heads to Senate

Bill targeting government employee union dues heads to Senate

A Senate panel approved a bill 6-3 Sunday that would prohibit payroll deductions of labor organization dues. Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville was the only Republican to vote against the bill. Those speaking against the bill during the three-hour hearing of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee included teachers, health workers and correctional officers. Senate Bill 7 doesn’t apply to...
Lightning strikes cause two separate house fires, three displaced

Lightning strikes cause two separate house fires, three displaced

Firefighters battled two house fires north of Austin on Sunday afternoon, both caused by lightning strikes within minutes of each other. One caused three people to be displaced, officials said. The first fire was reported in the 15000 block of Bended Knee, near Avery Ranch around 3:15 p.m. Sunday, the Austin Fire Department said. Lightning had struck the home amid heavy storms, and the fire was confined...
Austin adding to streak of 100-degree temperature days this week

Austin adding to streak of 100-degree temperature days this week

Austin will continue a streak of triple-digit temperatures this week, with highs topping 100 degrees every day until Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, and not a sign of rain in the forecast. The weather service warned Sunday of elevated temperatures through the week, particularly in the afternoons. South Central Texas and areas east of Interstate 35 will see temperatures in the...
Hodges quintuplets head home to Temple after stay in Austin hospital

Hodges quintuplets head home to Temple after stay in Austin hospital

The Hodges family has grown by five. On July 23, after four months of one or more of the quintuplets being kept in the neonatal intensive care unit at Seton Medical Center Austin, Liz and Daniel Hodges prepared to take their new brood home to Temple on Sunday. “Looking at these babies, you know that miracles exist,” Liz Hodges said. “Being born three months premature and seeing how...
San Antonio immigrant deaths: What Gov. Abbott, Dan Patrick are saying

San Antonio immigrant deaths: What Gov. Abbott, Dan Patrick are saying

State and local officials were reacting Sunday to reports of the deaths of nine immigrants in a truck found outside of San Antonio. Gov. Greg Abbott: “The loss of these lives is a heartbreaking tragedy. Human trafficking is an epidemic that Texas is working to eradicate. To that end, Texas will continue to provide protection for the victims who have been robbed of their most basic rights, and...
San Antonio immigrant smuggling deaths come amid shift toward Texas

San Antonio immigrant smuggling deaths come amid shift toward Texas

At least nine immigrants died and 30 were hospitalized after authorities in San Antonio discovered an overheated tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning in what the police chief called a “horrific” human trafficking crime. Police found the truck after a store employee making the rounds late Saturday night was approached by someone from the truck asking for water,...
Senate panel unanimously approves anti-voter fraud bill

Senate panel unanimously approves anti-voter fraud bill

Update 5 p.m.: The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill Sunday that would set up safeguards to prevent mail-in ballot fraud and increase penalties for people who try to steal others’ votes. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones and a process for correcting...
Bill targeting public employee union dues advances to full Senate

Bill targeting public employee union dues advances to full Senate

6 p.m. update: The Senate Business and Commerce Committee passed SB 7, which would ban public employee payroll deductions of labor organization dues. The vote was 6-3; Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville was the only Republican to vote against the bill. Read the full story on mystatesman.com 4 p.m. update: Several government employees, attending a rare Sunday hearing of a Texas Senate committee, spoke...
Hodges quintuplets head home to Temple after 4-month stay in Austin hospital

Hodges quintuplets head home to Temple after 4-month stay in Austin hospital

The Hodges quintuplets were sent home from Seton Medical Center Austin on Sunday morning after spending four months in the neonatal intensive care unit. The quintuplets, born March 24, will go home with their parents Liz and Daniel Hodges this afternoon, the hospital reports. Seton reports that they are the first set of quintuplets born in Austin since 2010. The Hodges family is the subject of a reality-TV...
Texas Senate panel OKs new annexation rules for large cities

Texas Senate panel OKs new annexation rules for large cities

5:40 p.m. update: A bill that would give residents the opportunity to block city annexation efforts sailed through a Texas Senate committee on Sunday, clearing its path to likely approval in the Texas Legislature’s upper chamber this week. The Senate Committee on State Affairs approved Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, 7-2, with Democrats Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville...
George Strait, Ed Sheeran among guests at Louis Messina’s 70th bash

George Strait, Ed Sheeran among guests at Louis Messina’s 70th bash

Christine Messina knows a thing or two about staging events. So when her husband, music Austin titan  Louis Messina, turned the big seven-oh, she knew just what to do. She threw a tuneful party at Arlyn Studios and made sure that every detail, down to a fantasy candy counter, sang. Beau Bedford, Louis Messina and Shakey Graves at Messina’s 70th birthday party. Contributed...
UPDATE: Severe thunderstorm warnings expire in Hays, Blanco counties

UPDATE: Severe thunderstorm warnings expire in Hays, Blanco counties

4:20 p.m. update: Severe thunderstorm warnings in Blanco and Hays counties were allowed to expire on Sunday, but heavy rains and gusty winds continue to strike the area, the National Weather Service said. Storms are also still moving through northwestern Travis County, but forecasters say rain should dissipate by evening. Portions of the Hill Country have received about an inch and a half of rain...
What John McCain learned from Ted Kennedy on challenging his own party

What John McCain learned from Ted Kennedy on challenging his own party

WASHINGTON — Ted Kennedy liked to tell a favorite story about Sen. John McCain. The Massachusetts Democrat and the Arizona Republican were on the floor of the Senate and became distracted by a heated debate between two freshmen senators. Just for the fun of it, Kennedy and McCain launched into the fray. As one spoke, the other circled the chamber, pretending to be agitated. They bellowed...
Feds cut millions in funds to Texas teen pregnancy prevention programs

Feds cut millions in funds to Texas teen pregnancy prevention programs

The notice came to Jenifer DeAtley quietly, without warning, in the form of yet-to-be-explained letters from the federal government that said $4.6 million in funding over the next four years for her organization’s sex education programming was being eliminated. The director of EngenderHealth, which runs teen pregnancy prevention programs at three charter schools in eastern Travis County and...

Traffic report for July 24, 2017

Interstate 35 (Travis County): The ramps in both directions to eastbound U.S. 290 will be closed from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night; detour to the access road. Alternating lane closures on the access roads in both directions across Walnut Creek from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night. Reduced to one northbound lane between Corral Lane and Teri Road from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday night; expect brief ramp...

Community news: Meet library director finalists Thursday

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN Meet library director finalists The Austin Public Library and the city of Austin will host a town hall for the public to meet the finalists for the director of libraries position from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. The meeting will be at the Carver Branch, 1161 Angelina St. Candidates will give a short speech of three to five minutes each and then take audience questions. An...

Achievements: Students earn Eagle Scout rank

Students earn Eagle Scout rank The following students have earned the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts: Blake Baudek, 16, son of Mark and Mona Baudek of Round Rock, oversaw a project to build a large dog agility course, close in four kennels, build four sturdy benches and donate much-needed supplies to the Williamson County Animal Shelter. Baudek is a member of Troop...
It’s residents’ turn to speak on Travis County bonds for roads, parks

It’s residents’ turn to speak on Travis County bonds for roads, parks

An advisory group has spent months looking at which Travis County road and park projects should be next in line for funding. Now it’s the public’s turn to weigh in. Travis County commissioners will have a public hearing at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Travis County Administration Building in the Commissioners Courtroom at 700 Lavaca St. to get feedback on the proposed $144 million bond package...
Giving City: Hotline supports Native American victims of violence

Giving City: Hotline supports Native American victims of violence

Native American women are victims of violent crimes at 3.5 times the rate of the national average, but many are unable to connect with the resources they need to find safety and justice. The new StrongHearts Native Helpline in Austin hopes to serve that need. The data comes from a 2016 National Institute of Justice report that found that 84 percent of Native American men and women have experienced...
UPDATE: Car underwater in Lake Travis is empty, EMS says

UPDATE: Car underwater in Lake Travis is empty, EMS says

10:13 p.m. update: Bystanders at the scene say the submerged vehicle in Lake Travis is empty, according to EMS. Earlier: Austin-Travis County EMS, Lake Travis firefighters and STAR Flight are responding to a water rescue with reports of a car fully submerged underwater in Lake Travis near Volente, medics said. The car is underwater near 8714 Lime Creek Rd, EMS said.
UPDATE: Man flown to hospital after Lake Travis water rescue, EMS says

UPDATE: Man flown to hospital after Lake Travis water rescue, EMS says

9 p.m. update: A man in his 60s was taken to Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas by STAR Flight with serious injuries that are not expected to be life-threatening, medics said. Earlier: Austin-Travis County EMS and Lake Travis firefighters are responding to a water rescue call in Lake Travis with reports of a person in the water after sustaining injuries related to personal watercraft...
Austin firefighters respond to abandoned building fire in South Austin

Austin firefighters respond to abandoned building fire in South Austin

9:15 p.m. update  Austin firefighters knocked down a two-alarm fire in an abandoned South Austin building Saturday evening. Battalion Chief Josh Portie said the fire was located mainly in the building’s exterior and roof.  Using ladders to position fire hoses above the structure, firefighters took about 20 minutes to extinguish the blaze, he said. Portie said after...
Bill aimed at slowing tax hikes goes to Senate after committee vote

Bill aimed at slowing tax hikes goes to Senate after committee vote

A special Texas Senate committee on Saturday approved a bill that would require cities and counties to get voter approval for property tax increases exceeding 4 percent, identified by Gov. Greg Abbott as his top priority of the 30-day special legislative session that began Tuesday. Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, is expected to sail through the upper chamber, which approved a similar...
Teacher pay, retirement bill advances in Senate despite concerns

Teacher pay, retirement bill advances in Senate despite concerns

The Texas Senate Finance Committee approved a bill Saturday that would give Texas teachers raises and bonuses and pump millions into the Teacher Retirement System, despite a tepid reception from teacher groups. Senate Bill 19 passed 10-3, mostly along party lines. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen was present but didn’t vote. Sen. Royce West, D-Houston, was absent during the vote...
Senate hearing Saturday puts local government authority in cross hairs

Senate hearing Saturday puts local government authority in cross hairs

A bill barring local governments, including Austin, from regulating phone use while driving sailed through a Texas Senate committee Saturday on a party line vote after an all-day hearing on that and several other bills that would strip authority from cities. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee delayed until Sunday action on Senate Bill 12, which would curtail local development rules; SB 13...
EMS: Adults, children in Manor multi-vehicle crash taken to hospital

EMS: Adults, children in Manor multi-vehicle crash taken to hospital

6:30 p.m. update: Three children involved in a multiple vehicle crash in Manor are being taken to Dell Children’s Medical Center with serious injuries that are not expected to be life-threatening, medics said. Four adults have been taken to the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, medics said. One woman sustained critical, life-threatening injuries and two people refused to...
One in Lake Travis plane crash taken to hospital with minor injuries

One in Lake Travis plane crash taken to hospital with minor injuries

7 p.m. update: Three people were involved in the plane crash in Lake Travis Saturday afternoon, medics said. One woman was taken to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center Lakeway with minor injuries, EMS said. Two people refused to be taken to the hospital, according to medics. Earlier: Austin-Travis County EMS, Lake Travis firefighters and Travis County sheriff’s officials responded a plane in...
Inside the race to be certified most conservative in the Texas House

Inside the race to be certified most conservative in the Texas House

For a tea party Republican in the Texas House, being certified as having the most conservative voting record of any member is like Olympic gold. It is a feat that demands single-minded ambition, a firm grasp of conservative constitutional and free-market principles, and the cool discipline to apply those precepts with relentless consistency, day after day, vote after vote, come what may. In December...
Hays County brush fire limits access to Float Fest

Hays County brush fire limits access to Float Fest

Several fire departments responded Saturday afternoon to a large brush fire in Hays County. The fire at Scull Road and FM 621 briefly limited vehicle access to Float Fest, a music festival happening this weekend in San Marcos, according to San Marcos Hays County EMS. Traffic began moving again just before 3 p.m., although some emergency crews are still on scene. Responding agencies included the Kyle...
Best Austin coffee shops near Congress Avenue

Best Austin coffee shops near Congress Avenue

Not surprisingly, Congress Avenue, sometimes called the Main Street of Texas, counts more coffee shops than any other 12-block stretch of the city. Before we dive into the local outfits, though, we should note that Starbucks operates at least six reliable coffee outlets within easy walking distance of Congress Avenue. So the field is doubly crowded. Japanese frozen and iced...
Austin fire crews keep brush fire from spreading to nearby apartments

Austin fire crews keep brush fire from spreading to nearby apartments

Firefighters battled a 2-acre brush fire in Southeast Austin Saturday afternoon. The fire, at 2301 Grove Blvd., was reported just after noon. It was quickly contained, the Austin Fire Department said, preventing it from spreading to an adjacent six-building apartment complex. Crews will remain on location to ensure the blaze doesn’t rekindle.
San Marcos robbery suspects caught on camera, police say

San Marcos robbery suspects caught on camera, police say

San Marcos police say two suspects in an aggravated robbery this week were caught on tape. The men allegedly robbed Advance America, a check-cashing business at 909-B Texas 80, at 5:11 p.m. Wednesday. One of the men reportedly pointed a gun at a female employee, telling her “she would be killed if she did not comply while she walked to the safe.” The men left with an undisclosed amount...
Federal cuts could worsen Austin’s affordability crisis, groups say

Federal cuts could worsen Austin’s affordability crisis, groups say

Budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration would have a devastating effect in Austin, a city already facing affordability issues, housing advocates say. At a rally Saturday morning outside City Hall, representatives from a number of community organizations said slashing federal housing funding by 15 percent – or $7 billion – would affect countless people already struggling to make...
Senate committee approves bill to limit local property tax increases

Senate committee approves bill to limit local property tax increases

A special Texas Senate committee on Saturday approved a bill that would require cities and counties to get voter approval for property tax increases exceeding 4 percent, identified by Gov. Greg Abbott as his top priority of the 30-day special legislative session that began Tuesday. Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, is expected to sail through the upper chamber, which approved a similar...
Car drives off with nozzle in tank, sparking Austin gas station fire

Car drives off with nozzle in tank, sparking Austin gas station fire

Austin fire officials say a quick-thinking attendant prevented a small fire at a Southwest Austin gas station from becoming much, much worse. The fire at an Exxon station at U.S. 290 and FM 1826 was confined to a single pump. It was reported just before 8 p.m. Friday. The Austin Fire Department said a car drove off with the fuel nozzle still in its gas tank, ripping the pump out of the ground and...
Best Texas books to read right now

Best Texas books to read right now

Texas birds, Texas musicians, Texas media stars, Texas festivals and a guide to the Texas Capitol stack up on our state shelves this week. “Book of Texas Birds.” Gary Clark with photographs by Kathy Adams Clark. Texas A&M Press. For some of us, there are never too many Texas bird books. This one might not fit as easily into a backpack as snugly some of the more...
South Austin apartment fire blamed on improperly discarded cigarette

South Austin apartment fire blamed on improperly discarded cigarette

A fire early Saturday caused $5,000 in damage to a South Austin apartment. The fire was reported just before 3 a.m. at the Waterstone Apartments, 420 W. Slaughter Lane, according to the Austin Fire Department. When firefighters arrived, they found – and quickly extinguished – a fire on a third-floor balcony. The cause of the fire was improperly discarded smoking materials, according to...
Senate committee OKs limits on abortion insurance coverage

Senate committee OKs limits on abortion insurance coverage

A Senate committee on Saturday approved a bill to ban standard abortion coverage in private insurance plans, as well as plans offered to state employees and under the Affordable Care Act, during a rare weekend hearing at the Capitol. Under Senate Bill 8, women who want insurance to cover the cost of an abortion would have to purchase separate coverage or a supplemental plan if offered by their insurer...
Senate panel passes teacher pay raise bill despite teacher objections

Senate panel passes teacher pay raise bill despite teacher objections

4:30 p.m. update: The Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that would give teachers raises and bonuses and pump money into the Teacher Retirement System, despite getting a tepid reception from teacher groups on Saturday. SB 19 passsed 10-3, mostly along party lines. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen was present but didn’t vote. Sen. Royce West, D-Houston, was absent. Sen....
Campus carry: No problems so far at UT-Austin. What does that prove?

Campus carry: No problems so far at UT-Austin. What does that prove?

University of Texas police responded to four gun-related incidents in the past 12 months, but only one — involving a photo shoot for a newspaper — can be tied to the controversial state law permitting students to carry concealed handguns in most campus buildings. Campus carry went into effect Aug. 1, about two weeks before the fall semester opened at UT. Opponents of Senate Bill 11 feared...
1-OH-2: Another day of triple-digit heat on track

1-OH-2: Another day of triple-digit heat on track

The heat is on, Central Texas. Brace yourselves for another day of triple-digit heat, with the National Weather Service forecasting a high of 102 for Austin on Saturday. The normal high this time of year is 96. Only isolated storms are possible Saturday, primarily east of the Austin metro area. If we do reach 102, Fox 7 chief meteorologist Scott Fisher said on Twitter that would tie a record set in...
Senate panel votes to override local phoning-while-driving laws

Senate panel votes to override local phoning-while-driving laws

5 p.m. update: A bill barring local governments from regulating phoning-while-driving sailed through a Senate committee Saturday on a party line vote after an all-day hearing on that and several other bills. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee delayed until Sunday action on Senate Bill 12 on development rules, Senate Bill 13 on building permits and Senate Bill 14 on tree and vegetation regulation...

How to avoid flying in the dreaded middle seat

Flying in the middle seat is rarely a pleasant experience, but it’s considerably worse when you never saw it coming. While many airlines allow you to select a non-middle seat ahead of time, even that strategy isn’t fool-proof.  After all, somebody has to sit in the middle, right? When a flight is overbooked, people are moved for any number of reasons. If something goes awry, that...
Rep. Blake Farenthold calls out 'female senators' on health care, suggests he would duel them

Rep. Blake Farenthold calls out 'female senators' on health care, suggests he would duel them

In an interview with a Corpus Christi radio station, Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Republican, called out “female senators from the Northeast” for the latest snag in the GOP's effort to repeal Obamacare, adding that he “might” challenge them to a duel if they were men. Farenthold spoke to KEYS host Bob Jones on Friday morning, according to the Houston Chronicle....
10 myths about farming to remember on your next grocery run

10 myths about farming to remember on your next grocery run

Most of us don’t spend our days plowing fields or wrangling cattle. We’re part of the 99 percent of Americans who eat food, but don’t produce it. Because of our intimate relationship with food, and because it’s so crucial to our health and the environment, people should be very concerned about how it’s produced. But we don’t always get it right. Next time you&rsquo...
During Camp Mom, soaking up summer vibes in the Pacific Northwest

During Camp Mom, soaking up summer vibes in the Pacific Northwest

I’ll be dreaming about that grapefruit radler by a creek in the Mount Hood National Forest for weeks. There I am, sipping on a shandy in the shade, and my kids are playing in the stream by some waterfalls. They are slathered in sunscreen borrowed from another family hanging out at this enchanted waterway under a bridge. We have just hiked a mile and a half along a fern-lined trail with soaring...
Get lost in a sci-fi world with Scarlett Johansson

Get lost in a sci-fi world with Scarlett Johansson

Here’s a look at an interesting new release available to rent from cable and digital providers and a few titles that are hitting streaming services this week. Video on Demand “Ghost in the Shell”: Scarlett Johansson was controversially cast as the lead in this adaptation of the popular Japanese manga. Already a proven action hero (see Luc Besson’s “Lucy”), she takes...

More events for Wednesday, July 26, and beyond

Music Sound & Cinema. The final installment of the popular Austin event Sound & Cinema has arrived. First you’ll hear music from a local band, this time a Giant Dog; once the sun has gone down, you’ll watch a movie, the Michael Cera vehicle “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” both with the perfect view of the downtown Austin skyline visible behind the stage and the giant inflatable...
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