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Car Ownership Costs Up In 2012

Derek Bruff
(cc) flickr

The cost of owning a car is up about 2% in 2012. AAA’s annual survey says it costs to drive an average sedan is 59.6 cents a mile.

Officials blame the increase on higher gas prices, tire costs and insurance premiums.

Driving the average sedan 15,000 miles a year costs $9,000. It’s $11,000 for an SUV. In 1950 when AAA started the survey the cost was 9 cents and mile and gas was 27 cents a gallon.

But there is good news at the pump this week. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded is down six cents from last week to $3.68 statewide.

Prices are about three cents lower than that in Dallas and Fort Worth.

Amarillo has the cheapest gas at $3.49.

BJ Austin, KERA News

New Website For Texas Women’s Health Program

The state Health and Human Services Commission has a new website that directs Women’s Health Program clients to providers other than Planned Parenthood.

State lawmakers excluded Planned Parenthood, and any other organization affiliated with abortion providers, from the state-funded program.

Kelly Hart, with Planned Parenthood of North Texas likes the website, but is concerned about possible delays in care.

Hart: We always wanted it to be as easy as possible for women to know about the program, to sign up for the program, and to find a provider to give them care. We’re concerned about wait time. They could be told that it could be several months before they can get an appointment.

Hart says more than 40% of the low income women in the program go to Planned Parenthood for family planning and women’s health checkups.

Planned Parenthood continues to see those patients while awaiting an appeals court decision on whether the state can enforce the new law.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Tarrant County Water Restrictions Lifted

The Tarrant Regional Water District is lifting Stage 1 watering restrictions Friday.

Twice-a-week watering was put in place last summer during drought conditions and falling lake levels. Officials say the measure cut consumption by 8%.

The end of twice-a-week watering comes as a split Fort Worth City Council considers making the restriction permanent. A public hearing is expected this summer.

Arlington council members tabled the regional conservation idea after hearing from unhappy constituents.

Dallas approved permanent twice a week sprinkler-use.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas Zoo Tickets, Fair Park Fees Going Up

Some fees are going up at Fair Park, Recreation Centers and the Dallas Zoo.

The Park Board Thursday approved a $3 increase in admission to the Zoo: $15 for adults and $12 for children. Under the new fee structure the Zoo could reduce prices for certain events.

Recreation Centers will begin charging a $5 annual registration fee to children ages 6 to 11. They were free. And, it’s going to cost more to rent buildings at Fair Park for special events. Officials estimate the fee hikes will generate $90,000 a year.

Park Board members also approved $25 million in improvements to the Cotton Bowl. Officials say the historic stadium needs the facelift to keep the Texas-OU game after 2015 when the current contract expires.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Court Agreement Puts DeSoto Tax Preparer Out of Business

A federal court in Dallas has permanently barred a North Texas tax preparer from ever filing federal taxes for customers.

Joseph Rivas, of DeSoto, signed the civil injunction order without admitting the fraud allegations against him.

The government complaint says Rivas claimed fake mortgage interest payments, business expenses and other fraudulent deductions on his customers’ tax returns. Officials say the fake deductions could total nearly $8 million.

The court agreement also requires Rivas to give the government his list of clients since January 2010.


20 years in prison for wrong-way drunken driver

A Fort Worth jury has decided a drunken driver travelling the wrong way on an interstate highway last year when he slammed into a tanker truck, killing the truck driver, should spend 20 years in prison.

Louis Nieves received the maximum punishment Wednesday for his conviction on charges of intoxication manslaughter.

Forty-five-year-old Alejandro Raya was killed in March 2011 when his truck exploded in the wreck. He was married and father of three.

The accident occurred on Interstate 30 east of downtown Fort Worth.

Nieves told television station WFAA he got behind the wheel of his pickup after drinking 10 beers and was responsible for "a real bad accident." A video of his TV interview was played for jurors at his trial.


Lawmakers hold hearing on property taxes

Conservative activists have told Texas lawmakers that property taxes should be abolished and that local debt is getting out of control.

Former gubernatorial candidate and tea party favorite Debra Medina called for the Legislature to replace property taxes an improved sales tax and new business taxes.

Peggy Venable from Americans for Prosperity pointed out that voters have approved more than $300 billion in debt, financed through property taxes. She said school districts and cities have manipulated voters into approving the bonds. She said taxing authorities should have to reveal its debt level when asking voters to approve new bonds.

The Texas House Ways and Means Committee met Thursday to study whether the state's taxing system is fair, transparent and achieves the state's goals of promoting business and development.


100 people found inside locked South Texas home

More than 100 suspected illegal immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America have been found in a South Texas house where they said they went for at least three days without food or water.

Someone inside the house at the end of a dirt road in Edinburg called police Wednesday seeking help. Officers found the windows, doors locked from the outside with chains and padlocks and no light in the house.

Some of the people tried to flee and were tracked down by authorities. Seven people inside the house were hospitalized for treatment of dehydration and malnourishment.

Officials told The Monitor of McAllen two men were in custody. One had keys to a vehicle on the property and the other had thousands of dollars in cash.