BC-TX--Texas News Digest 12 am, TX
Good morning! Here’s a look at AP’s general news coverage in Texas at this hour. Questions about coverage plans are welcome and should be directed to the Dallas AP at 972-991-2100, or, in Texas, 800-442-7189. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ken Miller is at the desk after 5:30 a.m.
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AUSTIN, Texas _ Texas’ top financial official has warned that unsettled trade policy by the Trump administration and economic “uncertainty” is clouding the spending picture as returning lawmakers face costly expenses including a public school funding overhaul and Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Those warnings came even as the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature reconvenes this week armed with more spending power than it has had in years because of the robust economy, according to budget projections released by Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. By Paul J. Weber. SENT: 330 words, photos.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. _ Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have taken aim at President Donald Trump’s insistence that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border will help alleviate the immigration crisis and bolster security. Caucus Chairman U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas argued during a visit to southern New Mexico that the administration’s policies are exacerbating what has been described as a humanitarian crisis. Castro and his fellow Democratic colleagues pointed to two Guatemalan children who were ill and died in December while in federal custody. The delegation made up of all Democrats traveled to Alamogordo, a community about 90 miles north of the border, to get a firsthand look at the place where Felipe Gomez Alonzo and his father were detained after initially being apprehended in El Paso, Texas. On Christmas Eve, the 8-year-old boy became the second Guatemalan child to die while in custody near the Mexican border. By Susan Montoya Bryan. SENT: 500 words.
TEXAS GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS:
TEXAS LEGISLATURE-WHAT TO WATCH
AUSTIN, Texas _ The Texas Legislature opens with electoral defeats leaving Republicans with smaller majorities in both chambers and suggesting that hot-button social issues like immigration and a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people could take a backseat to wonkier policy, challenges including fixing the state’s flawed school finance system, cutting property taxes and paying for Hurricane Harvey recovery. That may mean fewer of the culture war clashes commonplace in recent sessions. But making headway on lowering taxes and overhauling school funding has eluded lawmakers for even longer and doesn’t look to get any easier now. Also, while both parties agree the state will have to cover many post-Harvey expenses, how much of the expected $15 billion in its rainy day fund will be tapped for that purpose is unclear. By Will Weissert. SENT: 800 words, photos.
ELECTION 2020-JULIAN CASTRO-IOWA
NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa _ Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is introducing himself to Iowa Democrats as a champion of universal health care and affordable housing as he moves toward a presidential campaign. Castro spoke with party activists at a house party in his first trip to Iowa since forming an exploratory committee last month. Castro indicated that he would announce his presidential campaign Saturday in San Antonio and said he looked forward to meeting with Iowa voters before the leadoff presidential caucuses next year. Castro said he would lay out his vision for making the United States “the smartest, the healthiest, the fairest and the most prosperous nation in the world.” He said his plans will include expanding Medicare to allow access for all and addressing rising rents. By Ryan J. Foley. SENT: 430 words, photos.
WASHINGTON _ President Donald Trump and his officials persist in promoting the discredited notion that suspected terrorists are pouring into the U.S. from Mexico by the thousands. Despite their portrayal of Mexico as a teeming portal for terrorists, the State Department issued a report in September finding “no credible evidence indicating that international terrorist groups have established bases in Mexico, worked with Mexican drug cartels or sent operatives via Mexico into the United States.” At the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors less immigration and stronger defenses against terrorist infiltration, analyst Todd Bensman said the Trump administration is losing credibility by exaggerating the threat from Mexico. Bensman led homeland security intelligence efforts for nine years for the state government in Texas. He wrote on the center’s website: “I can say definitively that the number of terrorist suspects arriving at the southern border or en route never came anywhere close to 3,000, let alone 4,000 in any single year of my state government intelligence service.” He estimated perhaps 20 a year. By Calvin Woodward. SENT: 1060 words, photos, video, audio. Moved on national political news services.
CHICAGO _ Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered an outside audit of a $100 million-per-year workers’ compensation fund that was controlled by a longtime City County member accused of trying to shake down the owners of a major chain of fast-food franchises. The move marked the latest fallout from the case against Alderman Ed Burke, who was charged last week with attempted extortion. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, one of the front runners among more than dozen candidates vying to replace Emanuel in next month’s mayoral election, worked over the weekend to curb any political damage from her associations with Burke. Preckwinkle confirmed that she received the campaign donation mentioned in the federal complaint, but she said she was returning the money from Tri City Foods CEO Shoukat Dhanani, a Texas businessman who owns a Burger King in Burke’s ward. She said Sunday that she is returning all $116,000 in campaign donations she received from a fundraiser at Burke’s home. SENT: 420 words, photos. Moved on national political news services.
AROUND THE STATE & NATION:
HOUSTON _ Two men suspected in a drive-by shooting that killed a 7-year-old black Houston girl and that was initially investigated as a possible hate crime mistakenly thought they were attacking people whom they had fought with at a club hours earlier, a prosecutor said. One of the men, Eric Black Jr., has appeared in court on a capital murder charge in the Dec. 30 killing of Jazmine Barnes. Black, 20, didn’t speak during the brief hearing or answer reporters’ questions as he was being led into the courtroom. His lawyer, Alvin Nunnery, didn’t speak to the media after the hearing and didn’t immediately reply to a call seeking comment. By Juan A. Lozano. SENT: 630 words, photos, video.
POWER PLANT MOTHBALLED
HOUSTON _ A Central Texas coal-fired electric generating plant will be shut down this summer, cutting the state’s biggest electric power grid’s reserve capacity for meeting summer demand. The Texas Municipal Power Agency has notified the Electric Reliability Council of Texas that it won’t operate its Gibbons Creek Generating Station this summer, the Houston Chronicle reported . That comes after three coal-fired plants owned by Irving-based Vistra Energy were shut down last year. SENT: 280 words. Moved on general and financial news services.
BISMARCK, N.D. _ A federal judge is allowing four Native American tribes in the Dakotas to challenge the recent conclusion of federal officials that a Dakota Access oil pipeline spill wouldn’t unfairly affect them, further prolonging a court case that has lingered for more than two years. The Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton and Oglala Sioux sued in July 2016 and are still fighting even though the $3.8 billion pipeline began moving North Dakota oil to Illinois in 2017. They fear environmental harm should the pipeline spill into the Missouri River, which they rely on for drinking water, fishing and religion. Tribes late last year asked to challenge the Corps’ 140-page report on its additional work. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, in a ruling dated Thursday, said he will allow it but that the Corps and Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners can oppose the introduction of any new tribal claims not specifically related to the Corps study. By Blake Nicholson. SENT: 350 words, photos. Moved on general and financial news services.
FREDERICKSBURG, Texas _ Landowners in Texas Hill Country are scrambling to figure out how to reroute or stop a $2 billion natural gas pipeline proposed by Houston-based Kinder Morgan. The San Antonio Express-News reports that the company is surveying the possible route from the Permian Basin oil and gas field in West Texas to a Houston suburb. Property owners in Hill Country and Hays County are looking into their rights and the company’s ability to utilize eminent domain. SENT: 400 words. Moved on general and financial news services.
_ STABBING DEATH-AIR FORCE _ An Air Force electronic warfare journeyman has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge accusing him of stabbing and slitting his roommate’s throat while they were temporarily assigned to a base in Guam. SENT: 130 words.
_ EXXONMOBIL-CLIMATE LAWSUIT _ The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear a bid by Texas-based ExxonMobil meant to block an investigation by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey into whether the company misled investors and consumers about what it knew about the link between fossil fuels and climate change. SENT: 130 words. Moved on general and financial news services.
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