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Senate Passes State Budget & Nightly Roundup


By BJ Austin, KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – The Texas Senate has approved $176.5 billion state budget for the next two years, clearing the path for negotiations with the House to begin. After a week of delay, the Senate voted 19-12 Wednesday to give final approval to the spending plan.

Normally a two-thirds majority is necessary in the chamber to take up any bill, a supermajority that leaders didn't have. But Republicans bypassed Democratic opposition by using a special rule allowing for House bills, which the budget is, to be considered on certain days.

The plan makes about $11 billion in cuts, compared to the current budget. But the cuts are much less severe than those in the bare-bones House version.

Public schools and Medicaid providers, including nursing homes, would take the brunt of the cuts.

Dallas Council Rethinks Changes To Ethics Policy

Dallas City Council members want to re-visit a recent change in the city's ethics policy involving campaign contributions.

The council voted last month to remove some limitations on contributions from people associated with companies that have contracts or zoning issues pending at City Hall.

The changes were passed without discussion on the "consent agenda". Mayor Dwaine Caraway says he put the item on the agenda. The City Attorney reminded council members they had been briefed on a recent Supreme Court decision that could force such changes.

The council is forming a committee to look at the issue.

Texas House clarifies "qualified voter"

Texans waiting for final judgment in a criminal case would still be eligible to vote under legislation approved by the Texas House.

The vote Wednesday clarifies that people who have received deferred adjudication, or a delay of formal judgment until the end of a probation period, are eligible as "qualified voters". Current law disallows a person with a final felony conviction to vote, but deferred adjudication allows a defendant to not have a conviction on his or her record.

Some have argued that current law is unclear about the voting rights of people who have received deferred adjudication.

Houston Democrat Harold Dutton, the bill's author, said the legislation will solve any lingering concerns.

Former police officer gets probation in heist

A former Dallas police officer convicted of aggravated robbery for masterminding a heist at a Sam's Club while working there off-duty as a security officer has been given probation.

A Dallas County jury Wednesday gave Alph Coleman a 10-year suspended sentence and a $10,000 fine. He was convicted on Tuesday and faced up to live in prison for the 2008 hiest.

Coleman was fired after being indicted in the robbery. He was working at the Sam's Club in police uniform when he told investigators that a man held a pistol to his head inside the store and forced him against his will toward the accounting office.

Police said the robbery failed after employees barricaded themselves inside a storage room.

Toppled crane blocks Dallas-area expressway

A toppled crane boom blocked all northbound traffic on a heavily traveled Dallas-area expressway for about 1 1/2 hours.

No injuries were reported when the boom toppled about 3 p.m. Wednesday across the northbound lanes of the Dallas North Tollway near the JC Penney corporate headquarters in western Plano, 24 miles north of Dallas. The boom was removed and traffic began moving again about 4:30 p.m.