Texas

Texas
8:24 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Top Morning Stories April 7, 2011

The Texas House will take a final vote today on a bill easing graduation requirements for high school students.
Photo by KUT News

House May Ease Graduation Requirements

The Texas House will take a final vote today on a bill that would ease graduation requirements for Texas students. Starting next year, high school students are required to take a total of 12 end-of-course exams called the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR), and they have to pass the exams in order to graduate.  In the bill the House will vote on today, high school students will have to pass fewer of the new state exams in order to graduate.

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Texas
12:58 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Senate Bill Would Widen Access to DNA Evidence

DNA evidence would be more accessible to prisoners appealing their convictions under a bill passed by the Texas Senate.
Image by Apers0n http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Apers0n

A bill passed in Texas Senate today would give prison inmates more access to DNA evidence, as they appeal their convictions.

The Associated Press reports the bill sponsored by State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) would require DNA testing, if the biological evidence hadn't been tested before our would yield more accurate results with newly-developed testing techniques.

As many as 40 inmates have had convictions overturned in the past few years, based on retesting DNA evidence.

Texas
12:23 pm
Tue April 5, 2011

Supreme Court Blocks Texas Execution

The Walls Unit at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, where the state conducts executions. A death row inmate's scheduled execution has been stayed by the US Supreme Court.
Image courtesy flickr.com/BizarreRecords

The US Supreme Court has blocked tonight's scheduled execution of Texas inmate Cleve Foster. 

The high court agreed this morning to consider a review the grounds for Foster's appeal of his death sentence.

Foster's execution would have been the first in Texas to use pentobarbital as part of its lethal three-drug mix. 

"This stay does not have to do with the litigation surrounding the lethal injection and the new protocol adopted by the TDCJ [Texas Department of Criminal Justice]," said Maurie Levin, one of Foster's attorney in the appeals process.

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Texas
7:32 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Top Morning Stories April 4, 2011

The Texas House passed its budget bill for 2012-2013 late last night.
Photo by KUT News

Texas House Approves Budget Bill

The House approved a budget of $164.5 billion last night for the next biennium with a 98-49 vote, largely along party lines. The budget is around $23 billion smaller than the state's current two-year budget. As expected, the House budget makes deep cuts to public education and health and human services spending.  The legislation now heads to the Senate where changes are expected.

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Texas
2:15 pm
Wed March 30, 2011

Attorneys Ask Justice Dept. To Investigate Texas Execution Drugs

Attorneys for two condemned inmates say the state has been breaking federal laws for more than 25 years.
Photo courtesy of Andres Rueda/via Flickr

Lawyers for two condemned Texas prisoners are asking the U.S. Justice Department to investigate how the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has obtained drugs used in executions.

Their argument hinges on what sounds like a technicality: the address used to register the state's drug supply.

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Texas
3:33 pm
Tue March 29, 2011

LCRA Launches Drought Update Page

Drought conditions aren't expected to be as bad as 2008-09's dry spell, but 2011 is shaping up to be a dry spring and summer.
Photo by KUT News.

Dry, drier, driest: Drought conditions are returning to Central Texas, and one expert thinks it could be this autumn before the region gets enough rain to reverse the trend. 

That has officials at the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) making sure people throughout the region know what condition our water supply is in.  The authority has launched a "Drought Update" page that shows a graphical representation of the drought situation.

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Texas
12:47 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

Learn More About The Balcones Fault Line

Mount Bonnell Marker in Austin
Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News

Japan Continues to deal with the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed whole towns, left more than ten thousand dead and crippled a nuclear facility in Fukushima.

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Texas
10:47 am
Wed March 16, 2011

Texas Will Switch Execution Drug Amid Shortage

Photo via Flickr user Andres Rueda.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials announced today that it will change one of the drugs in the three-drug cocktail used in executions in the state.

The drug sodium thiopental has been in short supply ever since the only U.S. manufacturers of the drug stopped production.

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Texas
3:24 pm
Tue March 15, 2011

Perry, House Reach Rainy Day Fund Deal

State leaders agree on tapping some of the Rainy Day fund to get the state's budget through August.
Image by KUT News.

Governor Rick Perry and House leadership have struck a deal that would use $3.2 billion from the so-called "Rainy Day Fund" to help close the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.

In a joint statement by the governor, House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Comptroller Susan Combs, the remainder of the budget gap would be closed by $800 million in cuts and by using an additional $300 million that's come from increased state sales tax collections over the past few months.

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Texas
4:58 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

$300 Million More in State Coffers

State Comptroller Susan Combs told lawmakers Monday that the Texas wallet is a little greener than first thought.
Image by KUT News

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says the state has more money to spend. 

In a letter to Texas lawmakers today, Combs says sales tax receipts in recent months had increased enough for her to raise her pervious revenue estimate by 300-million dollars for the current budget.  She also increased the amount of money lawmakers have to spend in the next budget. 

The increase helps a little but does not make a huge dent in the multi-billion dollar budget hole.

Texas
2:21 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Texas, 37 States Announce Settlement with AstraZeneca

Texas and 36 states led to a $68.5 million settlement with AstraZeneca with its unlawful marketing practices.
Nathan Bernier, KUT

Texas and 37 states’ regulators announced today their $68.5 million settlement with AstraZeneca, a British global pharmaceutical company, over its unlawful marketing practices. Texas is expected to receive $3.8 million.

The states charged AstraZeneca with marketing the antipsychotic drug Seroquel for improper uses unapproved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Generally, pharmaceutical manufacturers are not allowed to promote any products without FDA’s approval.

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Texas
12:34 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Austin Jobless Rate Creeps Up

A bump in Austin unemployment will send more job seekers in search of Texas Workforce Commission help.
Image by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

January unemployment numbers for Texas remained essentially unchanged from December.  But the non-seasonally adjusted jobless rate in Central Texas crept up 0.4%.  That rate stands at 7.3%, much of the rise attributed to the end of extra hiring for the holidays. Lisa Givens is a spokesperson with the Texas Workforce Commission.

"We did see a loss of 10,100 jobs, and that's in line with prior years' seasonal fluctuation we've seen historically," said Lisa Givens, a spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission.

Texas
4:51 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Texas Peace Officers Memorial Hopes to Get a Facelift

You'll find the Texas Peace Officers Memorial, located on the northeast part of the Capitol.  You'll also find it's in need of repairs. The memorial is dedicated to law enforcement officers and corrections personnel in the state of Texas who've died in the line of duty.

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Texas
4:41 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Top Texas Ranger To Retire

Antonio "Tony" Leal was the first Hispanic to lead the Texas Rangers.
Image courtesy Texas Rangers

The first Hispanic to lead the Texas Rangers is retiring at the end of this month. 47-year-old Antonio “Tony” Leal is leaving to work in the private sector. He was appointed as Chief Texas Ranger in 2008.

Here's the full news release from the Texas Rangers:

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Texas
11:13 am
Mon March 7, 2011

SCOTUS: Texas Death Row Inmate Can Pursue Civil Rights Claim

Henry Watkins Skinner was convicted of the murders of Twila Busby and her two sons in 1995.
Photo by Caleb Bryant Miller for KUT News.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Texas death row inmate who is seeking to have DNA evidence in his murder case tested.  The court's decision means Hank Skinner won't be executed any time soon.

At issue in the case was not whether the DNA should be tested, but rather what procedures can be used in asking a court to order the testing.  Skinner's lawyers argued their client has a right to pursue a civil rights claim for the testing.

The decision reverses an appeals court ruling, and sending the case back to district court in Amarillo.

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Texas
9:01 am
Sun March 6, 2011

Your Sunday Cup O' Joe (AKA the Sunday News Brief for March 6,2011)

Coffee, Coffee...Buzz, Buzz
Picture by KUT News

Make sure to get outside today.  Sure it's a little cold this morning.  But yesterday's strong winds are gone and we'll get into the lower 70's today.  But before you head out...here's some info on what's been going on in Texas to start your day:

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Texas
4:43 pm
Sat March 5, 2011

Texans Celebrate State Independence

People with the Texas Nationalist Movement rallied at the State Capitol Saturday for Texas to withdrawl from the United States. Several Texas Independence celebration events took place over the weekend.
Photo by Erika Aguilar for KUT News.

Texas flags paraded up Congress Avenue Saturday morning to celebrate the state's independence. The Texian Legacy  Association hosted the parade and 5K run.

On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico just a few days before the Mexican army under Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna advanced on the Alamo in San Antonio.  On March 5, Col. William Travis leading the Alamo defenders made his famous "line in the sand."

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Texas
4:24 pm
Fri March 4, 2011

Maj. Hassan's Court Marshall Authorized to Consider Capital Punishment

A courtroom sketch from one of Hasan's hearings
Sketch by Pat Lopez

Brigade commander Col. Morgan Lamb has recommended a court-martial and the death penalty for the Army psychiatrist charged in the 2009 Fort Hood shootings. Maj. Nidal Hasan has been charged on 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Lamb's recommendation comes after a similar one made last fall by another colonel who presided over Hasan's evidentiary hearing.

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Texas
8:56 am
Tue March 1, 2011

Mexico Spring Break Warnings: The 2011 Edition

The DPS has released its annual "Don't Go To Mexico" campaign.
Map courtesy Google Maps

Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano...the middle of March in Texas sees the migration of college students to the coast for some fun,  sun and relaxation during spring break.  One other yearly tradition is the Department of Public Safety warning the young partiers to keep it all north of the boarder border.

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Texas
12:08 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Windy Conditions Heighten Fire Danger

Texas forestry officials warn that high winds and low humidity could make wildfires harder to control today.
Photo by KUT News

Breezy, dry conditions are setting up increased fire danger across Central Texas.  The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the region through 4:00 p.m. today.

Sunday, windswept wildfires in West Texas scorched a total of 120,000 acres, destroyed at least 80 homes and resulted in the death of one person.

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