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.

What’s the first food item that jumps into your head when you think of Texas? BBQ? Queso? Breakfast tacos?

All reasonable choices. But you’d be missing the obvious, a food item that bears the name of the state: Texas toast.

The Republican leadership in the Texas Legislature announced an agreement Wednesday to swap a sales tax increase with property tax cuts.

A bill that would create more uniform policies on speech at Texas colleges and universities passed unanimously out of a Senate committee Monday.

The Texas Economic Stabilization Fund, often called the rainy day fund, is doing well. Really well, actually. By the end of 2021, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar projects, it will have about $15 billion in it. Lawmakers say the account needs to have a minimum of $7.5 billion to help the state maintain a top credit rating.

From the campaign trail to election night victory speeches to promises in the halls of the Texas Capitol, property taxes are the top priority for lawmakers. Depending on which metric you use, the state generally ranks in the top 5 nationally for having the highest property taxes. Lawmakers say they have to do something to lower those bills.

But what is that something?

Gov. Greg Abbott delivered his State of the State address today before the Texas Legislature. He kicked off the speech with a long list of platitudes about the state: from leading the nation in job creation to having the fastest growing economy in the U.S. to hitting its lowest recorded level of unemployment ever.

Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) is the new speaker of the Texas House. The 150-member body selected him 147-0 shortly after being sworn in for the 2019 legislative session Tuesday.

The Texas Legislature heads back to work today. While you may know the body's main objective is to pass laws – especially the next state budget – you might not know much else.

That's not a criticism! The legislative process can be complex, so let's go over the basics of what the Legislature is and how it works.

During the weeks leading up to next session of the Texas Legislature, we're examining some of the state's most pressing issues – and the bills lawmakers have filed to address them.

First up, guns. 

Tomorrow is finally Election Day. After months of campaigning and dozens of polls, voters get the final say. Past elections tell us the vast majority of Texas voters cast their ballots during the state’s two-week early-voting period. With almost all those votes waiting to be counted, political analysts and pundits are doing their best to glean what they can from the turnout.

But what can we tell from those still-secret ballots?

We here at KUT spend a lot of time reminding you about the down-ballot races in an election. This season, we hosted City Council forums because local elections really affect your life the most.

But we know the big shiny races at the top of the ticket get more attention. So, here's what you need to know about the races everyone in the state gets a chance to vote on.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) kick off the first of three debates tonight in Dallas. Tonight's debate at the SMU campus, like the one in Houston on Sept. 30, will focus squarely on domestic policy. Their final debate on Oct. 16 in San Antonio will split time between domestic and foreign policy.

The race is expected to be the closest we've had in Texas since the 2002 race for lieutenant governor. So both sides head into the three debates hoping to change just enough minds to eke out a victory on Nov. 6.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday challenged Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera to a debate over immigration.

Political party conventions are always about the future – the next election, to be specific, but also the five- and 10-year plan for growth.

The last couple of decades for Texas Republicans have been pretty rock solid. In 2014, Gov. Greg Abbott won the election by 20 points. And in the 2018 primaries, Republicans set records for voter turnout in an off-year election.

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez has won the Democratic nomination for governor. A back-and-forth race early against Houston businessman Andrew White finally broke late for Valdez.

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