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Democrats Take Aim At Texas Redistricting & Midday Roundup

By KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – Houston-area Democrats are strongly opposing a hotly debated redistricting plan passed by the Texas House that reduces the number of representatives by one in their region.

Rep. Jessica C. Farrar called the proposed pairing of two Democratic incumbents in the Houston area "an assault on the rights of Asian-American voters." Farrar said Reps. Scott Hochberg and Hubert Vo have historically received strong support from Asian-American voters.

The proposal led by Rep. Burt Solomons would leave the Houston area with 24 districts instead of 25.

The GOP-led House approved the plan early today on a 92-52 vote after a marathon debate. The proposal would all but guarantee a continued Republican majority - albeit a smaller one than the party has now.

Nearly $12M in HUD homeless grants for Texas

Texas is getting nearly $12 million in federal grants to support 28 programs to help the homeless.

The funding was announced Thursday by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. The agency says the money will benefit local projects that previously had not received HUD homeless funds.

HUD says the programs are in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, Texarkana, Temple, El Paso, Waco, Dallas, Odessa, Victoria, Galveston, Lubbock, El Paso, Bryan and San Antonio.

House committee approves open carry of handguns

The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety wants to take the concealed part out of concealed handgun licenses.

The committee voted 5-3 in favor of a bill that would remove the word concealed from the law that allows Texans to have a handgun license. The so-called "open carry" law would allow license holders to carry their weapons in plain view wherever they would be allowed to carry a concealed handgun. The rules for getting a license would not change.

Texarkana state Rep. George Lavender authored the bill that was approved Wednesday. In a committee hearing last week, advocates said the law would deter crime. Opponents warned it would create a dangerous and intimidating climate in densely populated cities.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

Ex-gubernatorial candidate opposes nuke site bill

Former Texas GOP gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina is speaking out against legislation that would allow dozens of states to send radioactive waste to West Texas.

At the same time, Public Citizen Texas released a report Thursday criticizing the attempts to allow 36 other states to dump waste at the Andrews County site. The report cites major risks Texas would be taking on at the cost of the taxpayer.

At a Capitol news conference, Medina said possibilities of transportation accidents or contamination of the nation's largest aquifer are risks too heavy for the state to bear. Expanding the site would be what she calls an unfunded taxpayer liability.

Supporters of the legislation have said the site can be a secure solution for states looking for a place to dump radioactive waste.

Exxon earns nearly $11 billion in 1Q

Exxon says it earned nearly $11 billion in the first quarter, a performance that will likely land it in the center of the national debate over high gasoline prices.

The world's largest publicly traded company reported profit of $10.7 billion on Thursday. That amounts to $2.14 per share for the first three months of the year. Thursday's figures compare with a profit of $6.3 billion, or 1.33 per share last year. Revenue increased 26 percent to $114 billion.

Analysts had expected earnings of $2.04 per share on sales of $112.6 billion, according to FactSet.

The quarter was Exxon Mobil Corp.'s best since earning a record-setting $14.8 billion in 2008's third quarter. It comes at a time when some drivers are paying $4 or more for gas and President Obama is threatening the oil industry's multi-billion tax subsidies.