Austin’s Top News – December 4, 2020

Austin's Top News from News Radio KLBJ

State could assume control of policing

Governor Greg Abbott once again signals support for having the state assume control of some policing in Austin. Not the entire city, but this week, Abbott added more areas to where he’d like to see the state insert itself. Abbott says the council has left people vulnerable to crime, including the many who visit from all over the globe. 

“We have seen the consequences of defunding and dismantling law enforcement and communities across the entire country, and it is unacceptable to see the chaos,” says Abbott.

Unlike the initial idea he floated, in which he would use state troopers to patrol certain parts of the city, Abbott is now proposing to have the state oversee public safety while actually using Austin cops for those patrols. 

COVID stimulus package

Texas Senator John Cornyn is leaning towards approving the latest $900 billion COVID stimulus package under debate in Washington. Cornyn does have issues with sending more money to the states. On a call with reporters, Senator Cornyn seemed optimistic that Congress is getting closer to passing more stimulus relief.

“I think it’s generally headed in the right direction. The one concern I have is that it provides a lot of money for additional state and local government funding. I happen to know that even states like Texas haven’t spent all the money that we have sent them previously,” says Cornyn.

As for adding another round of stimulus checks for most Americans to the bill, he’d like to see more of that money go to people who have been out of work or are in financial distress through no fault of their own. 

Kinder Morgan pipeline update

The long, winding saga of the Kinder Morgan pipeline construction is nearing an end. This week, the City of Kyle has accepted a $1.38 million payment from the company as part of a settlement reached last year. Kinder Morgan Vice President Alan Fore says the pipeline will formally go into service next year. 

“We had about, as you recall, about five miles of property in Kyle and around 20 practically 20 landowners,” says Fore.

A second payment to the city will be made next year. Some of the overall $2.7 million being paid by Kendra Morgan will be used for upgrades to Mary Kyle Heartson Park. 

Anti-abortion groups 

Anti-abortion groups in Texas are hoping to capitalize off of President Trump’s success filling the U. S Supreme Court. Dr. Joe Pojman with the Texas Alliance for Life says their top priority in the upcoming state legislature is to make abortion against state law.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will take a fresh look at Roe vs. Wade. We don’t know if that’s gonna happen, but when and to the extent that it happens, this bill will be ready to bring into effect,” says Pojman.

Sarah Wheat of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas says their top priority is to expand access to health care for low income and uninsured Texas women.

Bars turning to restaurants

When bars across Texas are faced with the order to shut down to help stop the spread of COVID-19, customers may not notice. Many bars have begun offering food so they could be classified as restaurants. Michael Klein, with the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance, says that’s their only choice if they want to stay in business.

“You cannot have the whims of the county judge based on a letter next to the name of their political party, deciding every day whether you’re allowed to operate as an American, your business,” says Klein.

He says it should be up to customers to decide if they want to go into a business, not the government. 

Service animals on flights

The aviation industry is cheering a rule that changes on airplanes that bans emotional support animals like birds, cats and even miniature horses. Paul Hartshorn with the Texas based Association of Professional Flight Attendants, says for years they’ve been dealing with unruly pets. 

“Our flight attendants for years have been dealing with untrained, sometimes wild animals in the aircraft cabin. Because of these false certifications that passengers have been able to obtain,” says Hartshorn.

The Department of Transportation now defines a service animal as a dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks for the disabled. The rule change was prompted by a spike in travelers using fake paperwork to avoid paying fees for transporting pets. 

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