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Lawmakers Consider Eliminating Driver Surcharges & Midday Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – State lawmakers are considering eliminating a program that has required Texas drivers charged with offenses including DWI and no insurance to pay surcharges.

Since nearly 60 percent of those who got the surcharges - about 1.2 million drivers - are unwilling or unable to pay, Texas has offered an amnesty program beginning in January that allows those drivers who are delinquent a chance to settle up by paying 10 percent of the amount owed on all surcharges.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Senate Criminal Justice Committee has called for eliminating the Driver Responsibility Program.

Those who are delinquent in payments of the surcharges owe the state more than $1.1 billion.

The amnesty plan has angered some Texans who have paid the surcharges.

3 environmental groups sue Austin-area power plant

Three environmental groups are suing an Austin-area coal-fired power plant they say has repeatedly violated the federal Clean Air Act.

Environment Texas, the Environmental Integrity Project and the Texas Campaign for the Environment filed a federal lawsuit Monday accusing the Lower Colorado River Authority's Fayette Power Project of exceeding federal pollution limits.

The groups say the plant has increased capacity without making upgrades required to prevent pollution.

Ranchers, pecan growers and some scientists suspect decades of sulfur dioxide emissions from the plant have killed plant life in the area, including thousands of pecan trees.

The plant has denied it exceeded pollution limits and says there is no scientific link between pollution from the plant and the death of trees.

A spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the lawsuit.

Court rules for inmate who wants DNA testing

The Supreme Court has ruled that an inmate on death row in Texas can pursue his legal claims to crime-scene evidence that he says may show he is innocent. The court's narrow, 6-3 ruling Monday means that Hank Skinner will be not executed in the near future while his legal case continues.

But the decision will not necessarily result in Skinner winning the right to perform genetic testing on evidence found at the scene of the triple murder for which he received the death penalty.

Discovery leaves space station for the last time

Space shuttle Discovery, the world's most traveled spaceship, has left the International Space Station for the last time. Discovery undocked Monday morning from the International Space Station, wrapping up a nine-day visit there.

This is the final flight for Discovery, due back on Earth on Wednesday. It's being retired and sent to a museum. NASA's two other shuttles will join Discovery in retirement, following their upcoming missions.

Discovery's six astronauts got a special greeting in advance of their space station departure.

Actor William Shatner, who played Capt. Kirk on the original "Star Trek" TV series, paid tribute to Discovery's voyages over the decades. He said the shuttle has boldly gone and done what no spacecraft has done before.

North Texas party ends with fire that kills 6

Authorities say an all-night birthday party at a lakefront home in North Texas ended with a fire that killed six people and injured three others, authorities say.

Hood County Fire Marshal Brian Fine says investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the blaze early Sunday morning at a double-wide mobile home in Lake Granbury, about 65 miles southwest of Dallas. The dead ranged in age from 18 to 30 years old and included three men and three women who had lingered after the party.

Fine says the identities of the dead and injured are being withheld until their families are notified.