NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Tropical Storm Cindy has brought heavy winds and rain to southeast Texas but minimal damage as the storm system moves northeast. Street and other flooding was reported in places such as Port Arthur, along Sabine Pass and the border with Louisiana, where Cindy made landfall early Thursday. Winds in the Galveston County town of San Leon exceeded 50 mph but were slightly weaker along other parts of the Texas coast southeast of Houston. The Houston area was expected to get a couple inches of rain through Thursday. A flash flood watch was issued for parts of East Texas. The Texas Department of Transportation says all state roads and bridges are open in the area.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) released the following statement after Senate Republicans released a discussion draft of legislation to replace the failed Affordable Care Act (ACA):
“After years of debate, hearings, and stories from folks harmed by Obamacare, today is a critical step towards delivering on our promise to provide the relief Texans so desperately need. “Our plan will help lower skyrocketing costs, protect patients with pre-existing conditions, and ensure Medicaid is there for the Texans who need it most. Under this plan, gone are the days where people are forced to buy insurance they don’t want and can’t afford. “The time to close the book on Obamacare is now. Our plan will help deliver access to better care at a price the American people can actually afford.”
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.
DALLAS (AP) – A Texas police officer charged with murder in May in the fatal shooting of a black teenager leaving a party is facing two aggravated assault charges in an unrelated incident. Court records show a Dallas County grand jury recommended Thursday that former Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver be charged with two counts of aggravated assault related to an April traffic accident that happened while he was off-duty. A previous statement from the Dallas Police Department said Oliver had drawn his gun and pointed it at the ground after he was rear-ended. Dallas officers at the time of the accident in April determined no offense had occurred. Oliver was fired and charged with murder after the shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards while he was a passenger in a car.
AUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton hailed a ruling today by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which dismissed a challenge against the state of Mississippi’s religious freedom law (HB 1523). Attorney General Paxton sided with Mississippi in an amicus brief filed in the 5th Circuit on behalf of nine states last November.
Mississippi’s law protects citizens from government discrimination based on an individual’s sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of plaintiffs who complained that the law violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, and a district court judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the law from taking effect last July.
Today, writing on behalf of a three-judge panel, 5th Circuit Judge Jerry Smith ruled that the plaintiffs challenging the law lacked standing. “Under this current record, the plaintiffs have not shown an injury-in-fact caused by HB 1523 that would empower the district court or this court to rule on its constitutionality.”
“I’m grateful that the 5th Circuit saw through this latest attempt by some to restrict religious freedom and impose their beliefs on others,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Mississippi’s law affirms what the U.S. Supreme Court professed in Obergefell: that religious men and women be “given proper protection’ to exercise their faith.”
Mississippi’s Religious Liberty Accommodations Act reinforces existing religious freedom rights, does not limit any constitutionally protected rights or actions, and does not challenge federal law. Among other things, the law protects the freedom of conscience for faith based adoption and foster care providers, protects conscience rights of state employees who may refuse to license marriages, and protects individuals who decline to provide certain medical services.
HOUSTON (AP) – A Houston man must serve 99 years in prison after being convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in an attack he recorded with his cellphone and the video was used against him at trial. Prosecutors say a Harris County jury on Wednesday convicted 30-year-old Darias Lacour of aggravated sexual assault in the 2015 parking lot attack. A judge then sentenced Lacour to 99 years behind bars. Investigators say a Houston police officer saved the woman after walking up to a car parked in an abandoned lot. Prosecutors used the cellphone video as evidence to help convict Lacour. The victim also testified against him.
BRANDON, Fla. (AP) – Investigators are still trying to determine how two Texas siblings drowned in a pool at a Florida motel while on a Father’s Day outing with their church. Bystanders pulled 17-year-old Kesha Greco and her 12-year-old brother, Sebastano, from the Clarion Inn and Conference Center pool in Brandon on Sunday afternoon. Their parents, Kelly and Monique Greco, told Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials that both children could tread water but weren’t strong swimmers. The Tampa Bay Times reports Sebastano Greco was declared dead Sunday. His sister died on Tuesday at a Tampa hospital. Sheriff’s spokeswoman Crystal Nunez tells the Times foul play isn’t suspected but investigators don’t know whether one sibling was trying to help the other. The family is from Dallas and had traveled to Florida with the New Life Church of North Texas.
ARLINGTON (AP) – Investigators say a body has been found at a North Texas landfill. Arlington police Lt. Christopher Cook says authorities are seeking to identify the body located Wednesday afternoon by a waste collection worker. An autopsy was ordered. Cook says detectives are checking for reports of missing persons as part of the death investigation. Further details weren’t immediately available.
COPPELL (AP) – Retail gasoline prices across Texas have dropped a nickel this week. AAA Texas on Thursday reported the average price at the pump statewide was $2.09 per gallon. Nationwide retail gasoline prices are also down, dropping 4 cents this week to reach an average $2.28 per gallon. The association survey found Amarillo has the cheapest gasoline in Texas this week at an average $1.91 per gallon. Drivers in Dallas-Fort Worth and Galveston face the most expensive gasoline in Texas at an average $2.11 per gallon. AAA experts say gasoline prices have declined during the first half of June. Analysts note high oil production rates in the U.S., along with news that Libya and Nigeria have increased output – adding inventory to an already oversupplied global market.