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House Votes To Strip Arts Funding & Midday Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – The Texas House has adopted a measure to gut state arts funding.

During the amendment process for the state budget Friday, an unusual alliance of conservative Republicans and Democrats came together behind a provision to drain general revenue funding from the Texas Commission on the Arts. The money, about $3.5 million, would be redirected into community-based programs for the elderly and disabled.

House Republican leaders fought the measure. They said it would essentially wipe out the agency which provides grants for arts and cultural events. But tea-party conservatives said the state can't afford to fund arts programs when so many human needs aren't being met. The amendment passed on an unusually close 67-61 vote.

Texas House begins debate on lean budget plan

The Texas House has begun debating sweeping cuts to the state budget, including a rare reduction in public education funding.

The proposal is $23 billion less than was spent in the current biennium in state and federal funds. With almost 400 amendments to slog through, the debate is expected to last well into the weekend before a vote is taken.

Severely disabled children in wheelchairs were lined up outside the chamber before the debate began, underscoring the human faces behind the cuts.

The House plan under-funds Medicaid, which provides health care to the poor and disabled, by more than $4 billion. The plan cuts full-day pre-kindergarten, teacher incentive pay, college financial aid and numerous other programs.

Bartonville bans gas drilling permits for 90 days

Leaders of a North Texas town have imposed a 90-day moratorium on new permits for natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The Denton Record-Chronicle reports the Bartonville Town Council also agreed to form a seven-member advisory board on gas drilling and production.

Mayor Ron Robertson says the moratorium that passed Wednesday night is a "cooling off period" as town leaders continue studying potential new regulations.

Robertson says council members are concerned about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The practice involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to break up rock and free gas.

Robertson says the town of about 1,600 people that's located 30 miles northwest of Dallas needs a better grasp on what to allow.

At least one operator is currently fracking a well in Bartonville.

Death row inmate seeks ruling to delay execution

A Texas inmate facing execution wants a judge to rule the state improperly switched to a new lethal injection drug.

Cleve Foster is scheduled to be executed April 5 for the 2002 slaying of a Sudanese woman in Fort Worth. His lawyers hope a favorable ruling Friday will delay his execution.

Texas announced in March it would use a new drug in lethal injections after a shortage made the old one unavailable.

Foster's lawyers argue the change was made in private, violating rules that require 30-days' notice and a chance for public comment. His lawyers want the judge to say the state must use the old drug, which is unavailable.