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High Oil Prices Good For Texas Budget & Nightly Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – Unrest in the Middle East could produce a windfall of tax revenue for the Texas budget.

The money is coming from Texas oil producers, eager to cash in on the rising price of oil. Prices spiked in mid-February when fighting in Libya squeezed off shipments.

A percentage of each Texas-produced barrel of oil - now priced at about $104 per barrel - goes into the state's Rainy Day Fund.

It's way too early to know how big the fund will get. But most experts agree: the fund will get bigger than current projections.

Based on $70 per barrel oil, the state comptroller estimates a $9.4 billion balance in the fund at the end of the next budget period. But one economist says that figure could be closer to $11.6 billion.

Fort Hood suspect's lawyer gets delay in case

Fort Hood's incoming commander likely will decide whether an Army psychiatrist will go to trial and face the death penalty for the deadly 2009 shootings.

Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the departing commanding general, on Wednesday granted a request by Maj. Nidal Hasan's attorney to delay proceedings until late April. That's when Maj. Gen. Donald Campbell is expected to assume command at the Texas Army post.

A commanding general will decide if Hasan will be court-martialed and face death for 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. Two Army colonels already have made that recommendation.

Hasan's attorney, John Galligan, contended that Cone, whose departure date for a promotion is unclear, wouldn't have been impartial because he was at Fort Hood the day of the shootings.

Bill to reduce wrongful convictions passes House

The Texas House has approved legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to begin standardizing the way eyewitnesses identify suspects in an effort to reduce the number of wrongful convictions.

The bill, approved unanimously Wednesday, would require agencies to adopt a written policy to determine how they conduct photographic or live lineups. Currently only 12 percent of agencies in the state have written policies, says Rep. Pete Gallego, the Alpine Democrat who sponsored the bill.

Police departments would be encouraged to develop blind procedures whereby the person administering the live lineup doesn't know who the suspect is. While they would have to adopt written policies, law enforcement agencies could still conduct eyewitness identifications that didn't follow those procedures. That evidence might later be admissible in court.

Motorists would have to yield to tow trucks

Motorists could face new penalties for passing tow trucks on the highway unless they slowed down or changed lanes.

Without any debate, the Texas House unanimously approved legislation Wednesday adding tow trucks to the law requiring motorists to move over or slow down when passing law enforcement or emergency vehicles, such as police cars or ambulances. The tow trucks would have to have their emergency lights flashing.

Motorists who violate the law would face a fine of up to $200 - akin to a speeding ticket - or more if the violation causes an accident and causes property or bodily damage. Advocates say the bill, pushed by towing interests, is needed to protect tow truck operators who routinely work in extremely dangerous conditions on Texas highways.

Southwest Airlines Suspends Pilots

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines has suspended two pilots, and the Federal Aviation Administration has pulled an air traffic controller from duty for alleged safety violations.

Last weekend, a controller lost radio contact with a small propeller plane over Florida. The controller asked pilots in a nearby Southwest Airlines jet to fly in for a closer look. They did, but likely came within several hundred feet of the plane. The FAA says preliminary information indicates there was a loss of required separation between the two aircraft. So it suspended the controller. Southwest Airlines' Brandy King said the company did the same with the pilots.

King: We're obviously working closely and cooperating with the relevant authorities. Our first officer and captain are on paid leave pending the conclusion of the investigation, but because it's ongoing, we can't comment any further.

At the time of the incident, Southwest's jet was at 12,000 feet, the small plane at 11,000. The Southwest pilots reported activity in the small plane's cockpit, and radio contact was soon re-established between air traffic control and plane. Both aircraft landed without incident.

Oak Cliff Crime Alert From Dallas Police

Dallas Police Officers in the Southwest Division are alerting Oak Cliff residents about a rash of early morning armed robberies.

Police in the space of about an hour early yesterday, two businesses and two individuals were robbed. One victim lost a cellphone and $100 dollars to a man with a gun on North Patton Avenue. There was a carjacking nearby on East 8th. And donut shops on South Zang and South Hampton were robbed at gunpoint.

Police have two people in custody, but say they don't know yet if all four robberies are connected.