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Texans Await 1st Draft Of State Budget & Nightly Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – The next Texas budget process has just begun, but the possible outcome of a revenue shortfall of $15 billion to $27 billion will become much clearer this week.

State Rep. Jim Pitts is expected to release the first draft of the proposed budget late Tuesday and explain it to the House on Wednesday. The Waxahachie Republican's baseline budget cuts $15 billion from the current budget, without using any tax increases or money from the state's "rainy day fund."

Pitts says every area, from education to health care for the poor and disabled, will see cuts.

Some analysts say the true shortfall could be much higher - closer to $27 billion to account for enrollment growth in public schools and on Medicaid rolls.

Celebrations across Texas for MLK holiday

Parades, marches and other celebrations are scheduled across Texas in memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday is the 25th anniversary of the federal holiday named for the slain civil rights leader.

King would have been 82 on Jan. 15. He was assassinated in 1968.

Thousands were expected for the annual MLK march in San Antonio. Corpus Christi also planned a march. A parade in Houston had the theme of "Bridging The Education Divide."

Abilene is planning an afternoon parade, followed by an MLK dinner. An MLK lecture is set for Monday night in Dallas.

In El Paso, volunteers with the MLK food drive are spending the day sorting and delivering donations.

Dallas Mayor Leppert not seeking 2nd term

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is not seeking a second term amid speculation he plans to run for U.S. Senate. Leppert early Monday made the announcement in a news release, plus e-mailed thousands of supporters.

Leppert's statement did not mention whether he plans to seek the seat held by GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who last week announced she will not run for re-election in 2012.

Republican Leppert says his accomplishments include adding almost 600 officers to the Dallas police force, building a strong economy and "shining a light on education" to ensure future success.

Leppert says, in the next few weeks, he plans to lay out how he can best serve the people of Dallas, North Texas and the entire state.

Railroad Comm. Williams to resign, run for Senate

Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams will likely launch a bid for the U.S. Senate this week, according to comments made on his Twitter account.

Williams was among the Republicans prepared to replace U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010. She announced last week that she will step down when her current term expires, leaving an open seat in the 2012 election.

On his Twitter page Williams wrote that he "shouldn't directly address your questions about my Senate race intentions." But he added: "People get ready!!"

Corbin Casteel, a Williams political consultant, said: "Chairman Williams will have more to say later in the week. Today is a day for Dr. Martin Luther King."

Williams may also resign to concentrate on the Senate campaign to avoid campaign finance complications.

Ex-Texas Ranger, former Sheriff Lucas dies

Weldon Lucas, a career lawman and former Texas Ranger who served as sheriff of Denton County for more than a decade, has died. He was 68.

Lucas also was a consultant to the television show "Walker, Texas Ranger."

Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office records Monday indicated Lucas died Saturday night in Denton. The cause of death was listed as a stroke.

The Denton Record-Chronicle reports Lucas in 1963 enrolled in training to join the Texas Department of Public Safety, starting as a patrol officer. He went on to join the elite Texas Rangers in 1981, serving Denton and Cooke counties.

He took office as sheriff in 1993. Lucas retired in 2004. Services are pending.