The U.S. Supreme Court has thrown out voting district maps drawn by federal judges in Texas that favored minorities.
Friday’s unsigned opinion left the fate of election primaries set for April unclear. The justices ordered the three-judge court in San Antonio to come up with new plans, but the high court did not compel the use of maps created by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature.
Minority groups complained they were denied sufficient voting power by Republican lawmakers who sought to maximize GOP electoral gains in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
TexasUnemployment Rate Falls
The Texas unemployment rate has fallen to 7.8 percent in December, the lowest figure in two and a half years.
The Texas Workforce Commission said Friday the jobless rate was down from 8.1 percent in November as the state added more than 20,000 nonfarm jobs. Another 10,100 positions were added by private employers.
The commission says the December rate was the state's lowest since July 2009.
Commission Chairman Tom Pauken says Texas continues to see signs of improvement in the labor market.
Fort Worth Begins Saltwater Disposal Well Hearings
Fort Worth on Thursday night began a series of five public hearings on gas drilling “saltwater disposal wells”. The city's moratorium on such wells is set to expire April 30.
Rick Trice, the city’s Gas Wells Division director, says the hearings have a two-fold purpose: to educate about the wells that hold used water from hydraulic fracturing or fracking; and to get public input.
The City Council is expected to decide in March if it will let the moratorium expire.
The next hearing is January 26 at the Tarrant County College Student Center.
BJ Austin, KERA News
HUD Announces Wildfire Recovery Grants for Texas
The federal government has earmarked $31 million for recovery from wildfires in Texas - part of $400 million in nationwide natural disaster assistance.
Community development block grants will help pay for housing, business and infrastructure needs beyond other public and private help.
HUD says at least 80 percent of the Texas grants will go to the Bastrop County area. A wildfire that began Labor Day weekend left two people dead and destroyed about 1,500 homes.
The Texas Forest Service says last year's wildfire season destroyed nearly four million acres across the state. About 4,000 structures were lost. Ten people died.
16 Indicted In North Texas Drug Investigation
Authorities say 16 people have been indicted in an undercover investigation of a heroin ring operating in North Texas.
Ten people charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin in the McKinney area have been arrested.
U.S. Attorney John Bales says the investigation began in July and a sealed indictment was returned December 14.
McKinney is about 30 miles north of Dallas.
Sonogram Law Challenge Returns To Federal Court
A constitutional fight over a Texas law requiring a woman to have a sonogram before getting an abortion is back in federal court.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks in Austin is scheduled to hear oral arguments Friday in a challenge to the law brought by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights.
Sparks previously ruled parts of the law unconstitutional and issued a temporary order against enforcement. But an appeals court said the law could be put in place pending the final outcome of the legal challenge.
Supporters argue the law ensures women fully understand what abortion entails and would lead to fewer abortions in Texas. Opponents say the bill violates medical ethics requiring doctors to respect a patient's autonomy and act in the patient's best interest.