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Texas Comptroller Declares Economic Recession Over

State of Texas

The Texas Comptroller says the economic recovery is taking hold, producing higher than expected tax revenues.

State Comptroller Susan Combs said that could lead to a $1.6 billion budget surplus for the fiscal biennium ending in 2013. According to data she released Monday to the Legislature, the state is on track to collect $82.7 billion over the next two years. The 2012-2013 budget is only $81.1 billion.

In the last two budget cycles, lawmakers were forced to slash government spending to make up for budget deficits and tap the Rainy Day Fund.

But Combs says the national economic recession is over and the economy is again expanding.

Minority voters at center of redistricting battle

Attorneys for minority groups are arguing against a state effort to split Texas' 2012 primaries into two elections.

Attorneys say Monday a split primary, with some races decided in March followed by others in May, would have a devastating effect on minority voter strength.

Attorney General Greg Abbott has suggested a separate primary be held for legislative and congressional races to allow time for ongoing legal battles to be resolved. But experts say voter turnout, especially among minorities, would be negatively impacted.

Maintaining minority voting strength, as required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, is at the center of two separate Texas redistricting legal battles.

Dallas Crime Down For 2011

Dallas will end the year with a 4% drop in overall crime.

Police Chief David Brown briefed city council members today on the latest crime numbers.

The Chief says Dallas could have seen a crime "increase" for 2011 but for a controversial "patrol" program instituted last summer. It put some 800 detectives or desk-duty officers on two-week, rotating patrol shifts.

Brown: We see a benefit. You never get disconnected from doing our core job, particularly in this environment of Homeland Security where we all may have to be called up to report in uniform and do the basic job.

Chief Brown says some of those officers had to re-order uniforms and ballistics vests, as well as learn the new computer technology in the patrol cars. The Chief says he's making the rotating patrol program permanent.

Texas Gets Key Medicaid Waiver

Texas has received approval of a Medicaid waiver that will preserve hospital funding while expanding Medicaid "managed care."

Lawmakers say expanding Medicaid managed care statewide could save millions each year. Under "managed care", the state would pay a set fee each month to a health plan to provide care for a Medicaid client.

But Stephanie Goodman with Texas Health and Human Services says there was a hitch.

Goodman: There's a sort-of odd Medicaid rule that when you expand managed care you often lose federal funding in another area that hospitals get. What this waiver allows us to do is expand managed care, reap the benefits of that, and still preserve that funding that hospitals are going to get.

Under the waiver, some $2 billion in so-called Upper Payment Limit Medicaid funding would continue to go to hospitals for uncompensated care, and for "regional" health care programs. Parkland Hospital in Dallas, the largest Medicaid provider in the state, was counting on the waiver approved today by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Texas 7 Appeal Denied

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an appeal from Texas death row inmate George Rivas.

He is considered the mastermind of the biggest prison break in Texas history.

The so-called "Texas 7" gang was eventually captured and convicted of killing Irving Police Officer Aubrey Hawkins in a Christmas Eve robbery at a sporting goods store.

Rivas is scheduled to be executed February 29th. He had claimed ineffective legal counsel and errors by the judge in his trial.

Fellow Gang of 7 member Donald Newbury is scheduled for execution February first.

Services Set For Kathlyln Gilliam

Services will be held Friday for the late Kathlyln Gilliam, longtime Dallas School Board member and civil rights activist, who died Sunday of cancer.

Gilliam championed education for all children -especially low-income African Americans.

DISD opened a high school named for her, created for low-income minorities wanting a college education. A year and a half ago, the retired trustee spoke at the ground breaking for the Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy.

Gilliam: I want to make sure that the parents and community are reconnected with the school system. They have to understand the schools belong to them. And they need to continue to act like that. Anything that belongs to me I want to do what I can to preserve it, and take care of it, & make it better.

Gilliam was the first Black female trustee on DISD's board, including a term as its first African American president.

Services are schedule for Friday morning at the Christian Chapel CME "Temple of Faith" Church, according to DISD trustee Carla Ranger.

Justice, AT&T agree to put off anti-trust trial

AT&T Inc. and the Justice Department have agreed to put off their upcoming antitrust trial over the phone company's proposed acquisition of smaller rival T-Mobile USA while the wireless carriers determine the fate of the deal.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle quickly approved their motion Monday to cancel their February trial and set a Jan. 18 status hearing. AT&T must file its plans with the court by Jan. 12.

The development comes as the $39 billion deal comes under increasing government opposition, with analysts now giving it a slim chance of going through.

The Justice Department sued to block the merger on Aug. 31, saying the combination of the No. 2 and No. 4 cellphone companies in the country would reduce competition and lead to higher consumer prices.

More than dozen cited over Fort Worth cockfighting

Police say more than a dozen people have been cited during an alleged cockfight in a North Texas neighborhood.

Fort Worth police early Sunday shut down a rooster fight in the back yard of a residence.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports police confiscated razors, syringes and steroids, which authorities have described as fighting tools.

Two roosters were found dead. Animal control officers seized several roosters from kennels.

The homeowner has been arrested on a charge of cruelty to animals. Police say 13 spectators received citations.

Gov. Rick Perry in June signed a bill that strengthens Texas laws again cockfighting, including making it illegal to possess birds meant for cockfighting and to attend a cockfight.