Testimony Concludes In Texas Redistricting Trial | KERA News

Testimony Concludes In Texas Redistricting Trial

Testimony has finished in a trial determining whether new political district lines drawn by the Texas Legislature violated the federal Voting Rights Act. Attention will now quickly shift to San Antonio where another federal court is charged with drawing interim maps.

The state of Texas, arguing for the maps, and the U.S. Justice Department and several minority groups, arguing against the maps, have now called all of the witnesses scheduled to testify. 

Closing arguments are scheduled for next week, and a three-judge panel will later determine whether Texas' map violates federal law. Judges in the case have quickened proceedings because both sides must argue before the federal court in San Antonio, with a hearing scheduled on Friday. 

AP

DFW Volunteers Needed For Big Cancer Study

The American Cancer Society wants Dallas Fort Worth residents to sign up for a long-term, nationwide study.  Amy Schisler is with the Cancer Society’s North Texas division.

Schisler:  We need participants between the ages of 30 and 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer to join the study. They give a simple blood draw, about the same as a doctor’s appointment, and complete questionnaires.  And then we send them periodic surveys for the next 20 to 30 years, every two or three years.

Those surveys ask about diet, exercise and lifestyle.  Schisler says the information will be studied to try to find links between lifestyle, the environment and genetics with the onset of cancer.

Participants may sign up at the American Cancer Society offices in Dallas and Fort Worth on Saturday, from 9 to 1:30.  “Online” registration is also available.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Education officials decry 'over-testing' in Texas

State Board of Education members have pressed the Texas education commissioner about whether high-stakes standardized testing is warping classroom teaching to ensure students spend more time preparing for the exams then actual learning.

Texas Education Agency head Robert Scott responded to questions from board members Tuesday saying having kids cram is "a perversion of what's intended."

He said the tests are supposed to ensure students don't fall through the cracks and hold teachers and school districts accountable.

But Scott also acknowledged that some schools over-prepare for tests. He said authorities now put so much stock in their results, "that it's become the heart of the vampire" for school accountability statewide. Instead, he said officials need to find a balance.

AP

Retail gasoline prices up 2 cents across Texas

A survey finds that retail gasoline prices across Texas have risen an average 2 cents this week.

AAA Texas on Thursday reported the average price at the pump reached $3.25 per gallon.

The association's survey found that the nationwide retail gasoline price held steady at $3.38 per gallon. Texarkana, Dallas and Fort Worth had the most expensive gasoline statewide this week, at $3.28.

AAA Texas says Amarillo reported the least expensive gasoline, at $3.03 a gallon. Analysts say oil markets continue to be under pressure amid mounting international tensions with Iran.

AP

Poll: Perry's ratings down after failed run

A new poll shows Texas Gov. Rick Perry's approval rating in his home state at a 10-year low and more than half of Texans don't want him to run for another term as governor.

The telephone survey of 806 Texans conducted Jan. 21-24 was paid for by a group of Texas' largest newspapers.

The poll shows 40 percent of Texans approve of the job he's doing as governor, a 10-point drop from a year ago. Another 40 percent said they disapprove.

The poll found 53 percent said they don't want Perry to run for a fourth full term in 2014, and 45 percent said his failed campaign for president hurt Texas' image. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

AP

Denton: fire destroys main building at prep school

Classes have been canceled until Monday after fire destroyed the main building at North Texas prep school. Officials say nobody was injured in blaze Thursday morning at the Selwyn College Preparatory School in Denton.

Authorities say the cause of the fire, which started before classes began for the day, has not been determined. No damage estimate was immediately released.

School board chairman David Biles says the building housed some elementary classes and administrative offices.

AP

Texas tweaks tuition rule for illegal immigrants

Texas officials are tweaking the law that allows some illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates to remind them they promised to seek legal status.

The tuition break was a flashpoint issue that helped doom Republican Gov. Rick Perry's campaign for president.

Thursday's unanimous vote by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board won't end the tuition break or the students' ability to qualify.

Only the Legislature has that authority. But it will require college to be more active in pushing students toward gaining legal status by sending annual reminders and encouraging them to contact federal authorities.

Advocates for immigrants say the reminders are unnecessary and could prompt students to place themselves in jeopardy of deportation if they contact authorities without first seeking legal advice.

AP

US Senate hopeful James to release tax returns

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Craig James says he will release his income tax returns and has called on his opponents to do the same.

The former ESPN college football analyst is expected to make public his taxes for the last five years at a news conference in Dallas on Thursday afternoon.

James is one of 10 candidates running for the Republican nomination to replace U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The former SMU running back joined the race late and is trying to win recognition as a family values candidate.

The other leading candidates include Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz. Those campaigns did not immediately react to James calling for his opponents to also release their tax returns.

AP

3 adults slain in Dallas, suspect caught in Sachse

Dallas police say three people have been stabbed to death at a home and a suspect has been caught in a neighboring city.

Cpl. Melinda Gutierrez says the bodies of two women and a man were found in a house Thursday morning after a witness called 911. Gutierrez says a woman and a child who were at the home during the stabbings are being interviewed by police.

Gutierrez had no further details on the two unharmed witnesses or which person called for help.

Sachse police Lt. Martin Cassidy says a man and a van being sought by Dallas police were located by a fast-food restaurant in the city, about 20 miles northeast of Dallas.

Police have not commented on any relationship between the people who were in the house.

AP