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Extended Benefits For Unemployed Texans

By BJ Austin, KERA News & Wire Services

Dallas, TX – Texas is announcing six more weeks of unemployment benefits for jobless Texans who have exhausted their claims.

The Texas Workforce Commission says the extension is a result of the unemployment rate reaching 8.5 percent or higher over the previous three months.

The Workforce Commission says the U.S. Department of Labor approved the processing of claims starting December 11th.

Letters will be mailed to more than 200 thousand potential claimants who may be eligible for the extension. Jobless Texans may now claim up to 99 weeks of benefits.

Wrong Way "Hands Free" Driver

A 25 year old Arlington woman remains in jail after a wrong-way, fatal crash on I-35 in Fort Worth.

Police say Brittany Burton was seen by police driving the wrong way on the freeway with her hands OFF the wheel and behind her head.

Two cars collided trying to avoid her. The drivers got out to inspect damage. One was struck and killed by a third car trying to avoid Burton in her Jeep. Police say when the woman finally did pull over after a police officer yelled at her on his public address system. Investigators on the scene said they believed she had been drinking. Her six month old daughter was in the car with her.

The Tarrant County medical examiner has ruled the roadside death a "homicide".

UT panel recommends 2.6 percent tuition hike

Tuition could be going up at the University of Texas at Austin.

A tuition advisory panel has recommended raising in-state student tuition by 2.6 percent for each of the next two years, to support current programs and improve graduation rates.

The panel, made up of students, faculty and administrators, on Monday forwarded details to UT President William Powers. He's expected to submit his final tuition increase proposal to regents by Dec. 15.

The panel's recommendation would increase undergraduate tuition by $127, to $5,023, starting the fall of 2012. Tuition would go up an additional $131 the following year.

Nonresident undergraduate students and graduate students could see tuition hikes of 3.6 percent.

The last of three public forums on the proposal will be held Wednesday on campus.

Experts, officials to discuss 2011 Texas drought

Climate experts and government officials are meeting in Fort Worth to discuss the severe 2011 drought afflicting Texas and the Southern Plains and what the outlook is for the future.

The daylong program will be at the Fort Worth Hilton hotel on Tuesday.

Regional experts from the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will discuss the drought, as will Texas and Oklahoma officials, cattle and agriculture industry representatives, water supply managers and fish and wildlife stewards.

Tarrant Co Taxes: Pay Now And Later

Tarrant County taxpayers may pay "half" of their property taxes due by the end of the day tomorrow, and the balance by June 30th without penalty or interest. The Tax Assessor-Collector says if you do not use the half-payment method, you have until January 31st, 2012 to pay the full amount.

Payments may be made at any one of the seven Tarrant County sub-courthouses, online or by phone.

Texas Supreme Court strikes down tax challenge

The Texas Supreme Court has struck down a constitutional challenge to the state's business tax in a case that threatened a major impact on the state budget.

The all-Republican court ruled Monday that the tax created in 2006 does not violate the state ban on personal income taxes without voter approval.

Boerne-based insurance adjuster Allcat Claims Service LP challenged the tax a personal income tax when applied to certain business partnerships.

The business tax, also known as the margins tax, is a key source of money for public education even though it has raised far less revenue that projected. It raises more than $4 billion per year.

Texas has had a constitutional ban on a personal income tax without voter approval since 1993.

Texas man rescued after becoming stuck in chimney

Firefighters have rescued a Texas plainsman who proved to be no Santa Claus.

Fire officials say they had to hoist the 22-year-old man by rope from the chimney of his house in southwest Lubbock early Monday after he became stuck in it.

Deputy Fire Marshal Robert Loveless tells the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that the man had locked himself and his family out of their house about 1 a.m. Monday.

Loveless says the man, wanting to save the price of a locksmith, decided to enter the house through the chimney as his wife and child waited outside.

Loveless says the man's wife called 911 after he became stuck, and firefighters hauled him out unhurt about an hour later.