Judges Accelerate Texas Redistricting Trial | KERA News

Judges Accelerate Texas Redistricting Trial

A three-judge panel is moving up closing arguments in the federal court hearing in Washington on Texas political redistricting.

The panel has been hearing testimony on whether the Texas Legislature violated the federal Voting Rights Act when it redrew political district maps.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer says a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week to return interim district maps to a San Antonio federal court means many of those involved in the Washington trial will be needed in San Antonio.

Closing arguments, which had been scheduled for Feb. 3, will now be held Jan. 31.

Testimony will continue Wednesday with more expert witnesses.


Parkland Audit Finds A Dozen-Plus Problems Areas

An independent audit of Parkland Hospital identifies 15 departments with problems, plus a few hospital-wide issues.

The audit was ordered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after Parkland failed two critical inspections.

Interim CEO Dr. Thomas Royer says Parkland is taking immediate action. He says that includes a new “daily huddle” of all clinical department heads. They meet and report any problems over the past 24 hours.

Royer: We assign who’s going to follow up on it and who’s going to close the loop to make sure that whatever we thought needed to be corrected, what’s the issue and who’s going to take responsibility for correcting that issue in real time.

Dr. Royer says that approach is producing significant and positive results.

He says the infractions in the audit range from small to serious. The specifics of the audit, under review by federal regulators, have not been made public.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Cabbies Sue DFW Airport Over CNG Policy – Again

A Dallas County Judge is ordering DFW Airport to stop allowing CNG cabs – those that run on compressed natural gas – to go to the front of the line to pick up fares.

Kelly Hollingsworth is attorney for the Association of Taxi Cab Operators; independent cabbies that are suing the airport. They say they can’t afford to convert to CNG, and the policy will run them out of business. Hollingsworth says this is the second time in court over this issue.

Hollingsworth: Quite frankly we were quite surprised that they took another run at it because the judge voided the very same policy in a final judgment in a previous case in October of last year.

The DFW Airport Board passed the CNG preference policy earlier this month, with different wording that the Board expects will pass the legal test this time. Love Field also gives CNG cabs front-of-the-line privileges. Officials say it’s in the interest of “clear air.”

A hearing on who-gets-to-go-to-the-front-of-the-line is set for February 6th.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Tea Party Express to endorse Ted Cruz for senate

A national tea party group will endorse Ted Cruz for the U.S. Senate.

Political operatives with knowledge of the endorsement say the Tea Party Express will make the announcement in Irving on Wednesday. The officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to pre-empt Wednesday's announcement.

Cruz has fought hard to win tea party and conservative endorsements while running against his chief rival, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Cruz has called Dewhurst a timid moderate while receiving support from groups such as FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth.

Dewhurst says he is the proven conservative and has won the endorsement of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and numerous Texas Republican organizations.

Officials for the Tea Party Express and the Cruz campaign declined to confirm or deny the endorsement.


Man with gun in car stopped at Bush home in Dallas

The Secret Service detained, questioned and released a man who had a firearm in his vehicle as he pulled up outside the north Dallas home of former President George W. Bush.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan says the unidentified man showed up "uninvited" about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, saying he wanted to see Bush. While agents and Dallas police questioned him, the man revealed that he had a gun in his nearby vehicle.

Donovan says the man had a permit for the gun and his answers checked out, so he was released and left.

A Bush spokesman says the Bushes weren't home at the time. The street leading to the house is blocked by a gate.

Donovan declined to comment on how the man made it past the gate.


Woman jailed for trying to take gun to courthouse

A North Texas woman reporting for jury duty is charged with trying to take a loaded handgun into a courthouse.

Tarrant County authorities say Dayna Kay Purtee was arrested Tuesday and charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon in a prohibited place.

Authorities say they found the loaded .32-caliber handgun after Purtee's personal items were screened at the Tarrant County Justice Center. Everyone who enters the building is screened.

Tarrant County sheriff's spokesman Terry Grisham says he doesn't know if the 53-year-old woman has a license to carry the gun, but it's illegal to take a weapon into a courthouse.

Online jail records don't list an attorney for Purtee. The woman lives in Burleson, a city south of Fort Worth.

She remained jailed Tuesday on $2,500 bond.


Hearse used after JFK slain in Dallas sells

The man who paid $176,000 for the white hearse used to transport President John F. Kennedy's body following his assassination in Dallas plans to include it in his collection of about 400 cars in Colorado.

Stephen Tebo, a real estate developer from Boulder, bought the hearse Saturday that was being offered by Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. of Scottsdale, Ariz. He got the car with a bid of $160,000, plus a $16,000 buyer's premium.

The auction company said that the 1964 Cadillac hearse carried Kennedy's body as well as first lady Jacqueline Kennedy from Parkland Memorial Hospital to Air Force One at Dallas' Love Field for the flight back to Washington following his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.

Tebo said that he plans to eventually turn his car collection into a museum.


Drought, wildfires mean fewer state park visitors

A top state official says Texas wildfires caused upwards of $11 million in damage to state parks. And he says they combined with a punishing drought to drive visitor rates down 8.5 percent.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Executive Director Carter Smith said Tuesday that fewer visitors had created a $4.6 million state park funding deficit.

He told members of the Texas House Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee that visitors in August alone fell 25 percent. Into 2012, the overall decline is about 8.5 percent.

Texas has 94 state parks and historic sites that draw nearly 8 million visitors annually.

Davis Mountains, Possum Kingdom and Bastrop state parks were severely damaged by wildfires.

Texas also continues to suffer through what has already been the worst single-year drought on record.


Prosecutor: Stanford stole investors' money

Prosecutors say Texas financier R. Allen Stanford stole the hard-earned savings of investors, using the money like his own piggy bank so he could live the lavish lifestyle of a billionaire.

During opening statements Tuesday in Stanford's fraud trial, prosecutor Gregg Costa told jurors in Houston federal court that the financier used investors' money to buy homes and yachts and fund cricket matches.

Stanford is accused of bilking investors out of $7 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme through the sale of certificates of deposit from an Antiguan bank he owned.

He's charged with 14 counts, including mail and wire fraud, and could face up to 20 years if convicted.

Stanford denies any wrongdoing and says his businesses were legitimate. His attorneys were to make their opening statements later Tuesday.