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Dallas Symphony CEO Abruptly Resigns & Midday Roundup

By Bill Zeeble, KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – Dallas Symphony Orchestra CEO Bill Lively announced his sudden resignation Friday, effectively immediately. The Symphony hired him earlier this month but Lively says health concerns, in consultation with his family and doctor, led to his decision. Essentially, he says, it's a preventive move.

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Bill Lively: I had a brother, John, who two and a half years ago at age 56 died of a stroke. He was a Presbyterian minister, lawyer and judge in Oklahoma and he died of a stroke, no warning. My brother Bob was 60 years old and 4 years ago had a stroke which paralyzed him partially and forced him into early retirement. He survived but it was nonetheless a life-changing experience.

Lively says within the past 5 weeks, he experienced symptoms he had never felt before, including headaches. Given the family history, he decided to follow doctors advice to avoid a stroke. He's giving up professional responsibilities to reduce stress.

So, after working 12 or more hour days for 20 years, he says he and his wife will spend the summer in the Colorado mountains. Mr. Lively expects to return here in the fall to continue his involvement in the arts, to which he has a lifelong commitment. He doesn't really know what he'll do. But he said "one of the reasons to work for a great symphony is to get to hear it." Lively worried that without a personal change, he was jeopardizing that dream.

Lively most recently led the Super Bowl XLV Host Committee for the game played February 6th in Arlington. Before that, he oversaw fundraising, development and operations for the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, as its President and CEO.

With the Symphony, arts leaders hoped Lively could build the endowment to assure long term fiscal health. Under CEO Paul Stewart, the Symphony managed to retire a $4 million deficit, allowing the non-profit to begin its new fiscal year debt-free. The Dallas Symphony has not named a replacement. Lively was to become full-time CEO in June.

Committee wants to make English official language

English would become the official language in Texas and all official functions would have to be in English, under a law approved by the House State Affairs Committee.

The measure passed the committee late Thursday on 7-3 vote along party lines.

State Rep. Leo Berman authored the bill, which the Legislature has repeatedly debated in the past. The bill declares that the traditional and common language of the United States and Texas is English. It goes on to say that knowledge of the common language is essential to exercising constitutional rights.

Opponents argue that the law would hurt citizens who don't speak English and ignore Texas' Spanish-language history.

The bill will now be considered by the full House.

House reviews Texas Dept. of Transportation

The Texas House is reviewing operations at the Texas Department of Transportation and debating possible changes to the agency.

The legislation, known as a sunset bill, reviews the state agency every four years. The department was supposed to be reviewed two years ago, but lawmakers put it off until this session.

Among other changes, the bill debated Friday would allow the agency to appoint an inspector general and prohibits commissioners from accepting campaign contributions to run for public office. The proposed law would also create stronger rules against the agency attempting to lobby for legislation.

House members have proposed at least 85 amendments to the bill, promising a lengthy debate on the agency's future.

Possum Kingdom Lake-area wildfires contained

Stubborn wildfires that burned for more than two weeks and blackened about 125,000 acres of a Texas recreational area have been contained.

The Texas Forest Service on Friday reported that wildfires in the Possum Kingdom Lake area were 100 percent contained.

The blazes, about 70 miles west of Fort Worth, were first reported April 13. The agency says at least 167 homes and two churches were destroyed.

The Texas Forest Service says extreme fire conditions remain west of a dry line from Amarillo to Midland, extending across the Guadalupe Mountains and far West Texas. Elevated fire weather conditions were expected across the southern two-thirds of East Texas.

The agency says 212 of the state's 254 counties had burn bans in effect Friday.

Bill would bar Planned Parenthood from Texas program

A Texas Senate subcommittee has advanced legislation barring Planned Parenthood from continuing as a member of the Medicaid Women's Health Program.

The vote Thursday night would renew the program for low-income women for five years but exclude abortion providers or abortion affiliates.

Republican state Sen. Bob Deuell said he authored the bill to provide access to as many women as possible while also honoring the wishes of groups opposed to public funding of abortions.

Planned Parenthood calls the legislation the latest in a series of attacks to defund the group. The group said 40,000 women will be immediately denied access to health care.

Deuell said he has long advocated for family planning service providers to offer more comprehensive care.

House committee approves tax break on yachts

The House Ways and Means Committee has approved a tax break for those who want to buy yachts costing $250,000 or more.

In a vote late Thursday, the committee approved a bill by Houston Republican Rep. John Davis. The proposed law would cap the maximum sales tax the state would collect on the sale of a personal boat.

Davis says the measure is needed because Florida has a similar law and boat buyers are going there to make their purchases. The measure passed on an 8-3 vote along party lines.

Democrats are outraged at the proposed tax break at a time when the state must cut $27 billion in state services from the budget.

The bill will now be considered by the full House.