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Texas House Begins Debate On Redistricting & Midday Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – The GOP-led Texas House has kicked off debate on a redistricting plan that would pit several Republicans against each other.

Some Republican members and activists want to make the map a bolder grab for conservative seats and limit the number of losses.

House leaders say they can only do so much given the constraints of federal anti-discrimination laws and shifts in population away from conservative rural areas and toward the suburbs that have seen explosive - and diverse - growth.

Rep. Burt Solomons said Wednesday the issue is "very personal ... to everyone here."

Republicans have a lopsided 101-49 majority in the 150-member House, a supermajority so big that they can transact business even if Democrats don't show up for work. Both sides geared up for a long debate.

Authorities to get aerial look at E. Texas damage

Authorities are planning an aerial survey of parts of rural East Texas where at least one tornado damaged homes, knocked down power lines and caused at least one injury.

Van Zandt County emergency management spokesman Chuck Allen said he should have a more precise estimate of damage Wednesday, a day after an apparent tornado roared through an area between Ben Wheeler and Edom.

Allen said Tuesday that more than 100 homes were damaged or destroyed.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ted Ryan said at least one tornado hit the area about 75 miles east of Dallas.

One woman was injured when her mobile home was rolled by the storm. Elsewhere, there were damaged roofs, crumpled metal buildings and uprooted trees.

Police close case on cop's death on domestic call

Police in Arlington say they've finished the investigation into the fatal shooting of a rookie officer who had responded to a domestic violence call.

Officials say Officer Jillian Michelle Smith was shot trying to protect an 11-year-old girl from her mother's ex-boyfriend, who also killed the mother and then himself.

After Smith's death in late December, Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman said the officer had gone to the apartment alone because it was a low-priority 911 call. The woman was reporting that her ex-boyfriend assaulted her earlier that day and left.

Bowman said current policies were followed, but the department would review how officers respond to calls.

On Wednesday, Arlington authorities planned to release new documents since the investigation is complete.

Armstrong joins Bush on ride with wounded soldiers

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has joined former President George W. Bush on the last leg of a three-day, 62-mile mountain bike ride with 15 American soldiers who lost limbs or suffered serious injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The servicemen are part of the Wounded Warrior project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rehabilitate soldiers injured in service after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Bush said Wednesday his three days on the desert trails of Big Bend National Park were "real cool, unbelievable."

Armstrong commended the soldiers for their will to recover. He joked that Bush was "stronger" the last time he rode with him in 2005 and that the former president "kind of blew a gasket" this time.

2 found dead in Dallas apartment fire

Police say two men have been found slain in a burned Dallas apartment and a vehicle belonging to one of the victims is missing.

The bodies were discovered early Wednesday as emergency personnel responded to the residential fire.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse says names of the victims, believed to be 59 and 61 years old, were not released pending notification of next of kin.

Janse says the case is being handled as a capital murder investigation. Autopsy results are pending.

Police say the victims likely were killed by someone they knew.