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Posted: Mar 3, 2013 2:31 AM

Updated: Mar 3, 2013 2:31 AM

MEDICAID EXPANSION-ANALYSIS

Perry standing pat on Medicaid expansion

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) If Governor Rick Perry is feeling pressure to expand health care coverage to more than 1.5 million people under Medicaid, he sure isn't showing it.

Republican governors in Florida, Ohio, New Jersey and Michigan have dialed back their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. The Texas Medical Association, the Texas Hospital Association and several major county commissioners' courts all say that investing $15 billion of state money to get $100 billion back from the federal government is a good idea.

But Perry insists that President Barack Obama should let Texas develop its own health care system for the poor and disabled, even as groups across the state continue to try to change his mind.

Some say it may need to wait until 2015, after the 2014 gubernatorial election.

DROUGHT-RICE FARMERS

Texas rice farmers go 2nd year without water

HOUSTON (AP) A Texas water supplier is cutting off irrigation waters to downstream rice farmers for the second consecutive year.

The Lower Colorado River Authority says Saturday a persistent drought that has depleted reservoirs has forced it to again cut off water. The farmers were also cut off last year.

The move is not a surprise because the authority announced in January that barring significant rainfall, the lake levels would be too low to release water to rice farmers in Southeast Texas.

Ronald Gertson is chairman of the Colorado Water Issues Committee, a group that represents rice farmers in the three impacted counties. He says the lack of water will result in the loss of about 55,000 acres of rice.

Texas is one of the largest rice growers in the nation.

AUSTIN-NO PLASTIC

Mixed feelings on start of Austin plastic bag ban

(Information in the following story is from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) A plastic bag ban has officially started in Austin after the city's $850,000, yearlong ad campaign designed to educate consumers and businesses.

The bags officially disappeared from stores Friday, but some shoppers say they started bringing reusable bags to stores long ago. The Austin American-Statesman reports others were angry they had to pay for reusable bags. And some say they will get used to the change.

Austin is one of many cities banning plastic bags they say litter the streets and are difficult to clean up.

Austin Resources Recovery, the city's trash and recycling department, launched the ad campaign and offered free training for businesses in order to make the transition easier. Spokeswoman Courtney Black says that as a result the ban actually starting was "pretty quiet."

TEXAS-TESTING SCANDAL

El Paso district gets draft audit, remains private

(Information in the following story is from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com)

EL PASO, Texas (AP) El Paso Independent School District officials have received a draft of an audit investigating how a broad cheating scam that led to the imprisonment of the ex-superintendent occurred.

The El Paso Times reports the draft was provided to district officials Thursday, but has not been made public.

District spokeswoman Renee de Santos says the "privileged and confidential unsigned draft report" has been given to district's attorneys. She says the public accounting firm Weaver and Tidwell is still working on the final draft.

In addition to the imprisonment of ex-superintendent Lorenzo Garcia, several officials have resigned, or been forced to leave, since the scam was uncovered. Lorenzo was sentenced to 3 years in prison for organizing the scheme that forced students to drop out so they wouldn't take accountability exams.

GARLAND-POLICE SHOOTING

Garland officer fired after killing suspect

(Information in the following story is from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com)

GARLAND, Texas (AP) A Garland police officer has been fired after an investigation into a chase in which a fleeing suspect died after being shot at 41 times.

The Dallas Morning News reports Officer Patrick Tuter was terminated Friday. Authorities say Tuter shot and killed Michael Allen of Wylie after the high-speed chase in August 2012.

Allen was wanted for running from Sachse (SAK'-see) police days earlier. Dashboard cameras revealed that Tuter slammed his squad car into Allen's truck and then fired at him.

Tuter told investigators he thought Allen had a gun. Allen was unarmed.

Garland police spokesman Joe Harn says Tuter violated the department's pursuit and the use of force policies.

A call to Tuter's attorney was not immediately returned Saturday. A number for Tuter could not be found.

HOUSTON SLAYINGS

2 people, mother and adult son, killed in Houston

(Information in the following story is from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com)

HOUSTON (AP) Houston police say a mother and her adult son have been found shot to death in their home.

Homicide investigator Joshua Horn says details remained sketchy on Saturday, hours after the bodies were found by a relative earlier in the day. He says no suspect has been identified, but police are looking for a 2001 black Dodge Dakota pickup.

Police have not yet released the identities of the two people who were killed. The Houston Chronicle reports the woman was in her 60s and the man in his mid-40s.

Horn says no weapon has been recovered at the scene. He says the man and woman both had multiple gunshot wounds.

ATF STING-GUNS

Federal sting nabs Florida gang member in gun scam

MCALLEN, Texas (AP) A Florida gang member has pleaded guilty in a drug and arms conspiracy after he tried to trade guns for cocaine with federal agents he believed were members of a Mexican drug cartel.

Lawrence Panka pleaded guilty Friday in McAllen, concluding a case that included a monthlong undercover sting operation that began in Pharr, Texas and ended in December in Sarasota, Florida.

The McAllen Monitor reports that on December 11th, Panka thought he was trading guns for cocaine with members of a Mexican drug cartel. But the men he met were agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Panka wanted to trade or sell automatic rifles for either $2,000 each or one ounce of cocaine per firearm.

Two other men are charged as co-conspirators.

VAN CLIBURN-VISITATION

Fans pay respects to Van Cliburn during visitation

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Hundreds of people attended the visitation in Fort Worth for celebrated pianist Van Cliburn, remembering him as a great musician who charmed those he met with his warmth.

Cliburn died Wednesday at 78 after a fight with bone cancer. The Saturday visitation at Fort Worth's Broadway Baptist Church south of downtown was open to the public, as will be Sunday's funeral at the church.

Cliburn had played for every American president since Harry Truman, plus royalty and heads of state around the world. But he is best remembered for winning the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958, at the height of the Cold War.

RUSSIA-US-ADOPTIONS

Moscow skeptical about US autopsy of Russian boy

MOSCOW (AP) Russia has voiced skepticism about the U.S. autopsy on a 3-year-old adopted Russian boy in Texas and demanded further investigation.

Max Shatto's death, ruled accidental, came a month after Moscow passed a ban on international adoptions in retaliation for a new U.S. law targeting alleged Russian human rights violators. Russian officials have pointed at Max's case to defend the ban, which has drawn public criticism.

Max, born Maxim Kuzmin, died January 21st after his adopted mother told authorities she found him unresponsive outside their rural West Texas home where he had been playing with his younger brother.

Foreign Ministry rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov said Saturday that Moscow "proceeds from the understanding that these are the preliminary results of the investigation" and urged U.S. authorities to produce autopsy documents and the boy's Russian passport.

BASS PERFORMANCE HALL-CURTAIN FIRE

Curtain catches fire at Bass Performance Hall

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) A small curtain fire above the stage at Fort Worth's Bass Performance Hall was quickly extinguished but caused the cancellation of an evening performance. No one was injured yesterday.

Fort Worth Fire Department spokesman Richard Harrison says they were called to fire just before 6 p.m. Saturday. He said that the damage was minimal but it took time to get the hall vented after the fire.

Bass Hall said in a statement that there was no structural damage from the fire and no patrons were in the building at the time.

A performance by the Texas Ballet Theater scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday was canceled, but the group's Sunday afternoon show is still scheduled.

Harrison says the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

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