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Texas Holds Hearing On New Women's Health Program

Planned Parenthood of North Texas (PPNT) publicly debuted on April 6, 2000. The corporate headquarters are in Dallas.
Planned Parenthood of North Texas (PPNT) publicly debuted on April 6, 2000. The corporate headquarters are in Dallas.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood are urging Texas to "put women's health ahead of politics."

The state is holding a public hearing Tuesday on what its Women's Health Program may look like after the federal government pulls funding amid a battle over Planned Parenthood.

A 2011 state law barred funding to clinics affiliated with abortion providers. The Women's Health Program provides services to about 130,000 low-income women.

It had been 90 percent sponsored by the federal government, but Washington says Texas' law violates federal rules, and plans to stop funding the program in November.

Texas vows to keep the program going on its own, but without Planned Parenthood, which had provided care to about half of the program's participants.

Supporters say no Planned Parenthood will mean less care for the poor.


TxDOT could outsource some highway maintenance

Texas has begun a program that could lead to private companies doing routine maintenance on interstate highways to save money.

The Austin American-Statesman reported Tuesday that the Texas Department of Transportation is considering outsourcing routine upkeep on stretches of interstates. The work would include repaving, mowing, litter pickup and sign repair.

A five-year pilot project started this summer. The $26 million program involves an Australian company, Transfield Services, and a 100-mile stretch of I-45 in the Houston area.

TxDOT spokeswoman Kelli Reyna says the anticipated savings would involve less overtime work for state maintenance employees. The agency has projected up to $120 million in savings over five years.

Companies would be sought to maintain I-35 between San Antonio and Dallas and I-45 between Houston and Dallas.


Texas county hails crackdown on house squatters

Officials in a North Texas county have marshaled what they say is a strong response to a wave of squatters trying to claim homes through an obscure state statute called "adverse possession."

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that nine people in Tarrant County have been indicted on charges related to unlawful trespassing or possession of vacant homes.

Adverse possession allows someone to take ownership of otherwise unclaimed land after a period of time, typically 10 years. But several people in Dallas-Fort Worth tried to file paperwork on foreclosures or temporarily empty homes.

About 17,000 property owners have signed up for alerts if someone files paperwork on their property.

In one case, authorities say someone tried to take over the home of a person being treated for cancer in Houston.


DNC keynote Castro follows mother's tougher path

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is a rising star in the Democrats' firmament with a collection of mostly favorable media profiles, a landslide re-election last year and speculation about whether he'll become governor of Texas or even the country's first Hispanic president.

Now the 37-year-old has a chance to shine in prime time Tuesday as the first Latino to deliver the keynote address at his party's national convention.

Castro has hinted that his speech will focus heavily on defending President Barack Obama's record while also telling his story of growing up poor with his identical twin brother, Joaquin.

Joaquin is a Texas state legislator now representing San Antonio and poised to win election to Congress in November. He will introduce Julian at the convention opener Tuesday night.


American Allowed To Throw Out Pilot Contract

The judge in the American Airlines bankruptcy case is allowing the airline to reject the current pilot contract.

American’s Bruce Hicks says the ruling will allow the airline to implement the changes necessary for successful restructuring and emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Hicks says the airline will be talking to the Allied Pilots Association in the coming days about future changes.  

The pilots rejected a contract offer last month, and are urging a merger with US Airways.

BJ Austin,  KERA News

Violence Spikes In Texas Prisons

This year is a deadly one for prisons in Texas.

Department of Corrections director Brad Livingston told the state Senate Criminal Justice Committee there have been 10 homicides so far this year.

“Everything we’ve been able to determine they are not related to one another in any fashion,” Livingston told the committee. “In most every case it was a cell partner.”

Livingston said only one of the killings involved a homemade weapon.  The others were basically beatings.

Livingston told lawmakers that “staffing” is not a factor in the spike of prison murders: three more than all of last year, and double the number in 2010. It’s the highest number of prison murders in 15 years.  Officials don’t have a reason for the surge.

BJ Austin,  KERA News

Officers Ride School Bus to Crack Down On Drivers

Thirteen people in an Arlington school zone got tickets Tuesday morning. The enforcement was part of the police department’s Officer on a Bus program. 

Officers riding buses to a middle school were on the lookout for drivers passing a stopped school bus. Ten people were pulled over after nearby officers were notified by a colleague on the bus.  Three more were ticketed for other traffic violations.

It is against state law to pass a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading students.

In Dallas, some 900 school buses are outfitted with cameras this year to catch the “stop-arm” runners.  Drivers get warnings for the rest of the week.  Starting Monday, $300 tickets will be mailed to violators.  

BJ Austin,  KERA News

Denton County Gives Out Mosquito Repellant Following Aerial Spraying

Aerial spraying for mosquitoes ended over the weekend in Denton County.  Now, 5,000 cans of free insect repellant are being distributed to residents.

One can per household is allowed and may be picked up at the county’s five government centers and the two Health Department offices.

The contractor who provided the spray-planes is now trapping mosquitoes in the target areas to determine the effectiveness of the air attack on the West Nile transmitting bugs.

Test results are expected in two weeks.

BJ Austin,  KERA News

State Senator Calls For Rehab Programs For Prostitutes in Prison

Some Texas lawmakers want a rehab program for prostitutes in prison, similar to the ones that exist for drug and alcohol abuse.

Democratic Senator John Whitmire chairs the Criminal Justice Committee.

“If we would provide some better programs for these women, some better re-entry programs, maybe we wouldn’t see them recycle in and out of our state jails,” Whitmire said.

A 2001 state law makes a fourth prostitution conviction a felony.  More than 350 prostitutes are currently in the state prison system, at a cost of about $18,000 a year per inmate.  The Legislative Budget Board says a community-based rehabilitation program would cut that cost by about 75%.

Senator Whitmire told prison officials to make creation of a prostitution rehab program a priority for consideration by the state legislature in January. 

BJ Austin,  KERA News

GM Sales Up, Except For SUVs Made In Arlington

General Motors says sales rose 10 percent last month.  And the automaker credits advertising on the Olympics and a Chevrolet money-back guarantee.  Chevy Cruze compact sales were up 19 percent.

But, SUV sales tumbled in August as gasoline prices rose. Those SUVs, the Chevy Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade, are made at the GM plant in Arlington.

The monthly dip in sales is apparently small blip in the big picture. The Arlington plant is adding a third shift next year and expanding the plant to build the 2014 SUVs.  

BJ Austin,  KERA News

Pay Raise For Dallas County Commissioners

Dallas County Commissioners are getting a 4 percent pay raise.

County Judge Clay Jenkins provided the only dissenting vote.

County employees are getting raises, up to 4 percent. It’s their first pay hike in four years. Supervisors will determine which employees get the full 4 percent based on performance.

Property values are up and that translates to a $5 million boost in revenues.

BJ Austin,  KERA News