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Investigation Continues after Hit and Run Injures Two

DPS badgeANGELINA COUNTY – There is still no trace of a car involved in a hot and run accident in Angelina. Two were injured while riding a horse on Farm Road 2251 around 6:15 Saturday evening. KETK identified the injured as Jamari Hodges, 19, and Keon Taylor, 11, both from Lufkin. Taylor is in stable condition at a Houston hospital. Hodges was treated at the scene and released. The horse survived the accident. The Department of Public Safety says vehicle that fled the scene a 2007 to 2011 silver Toyota Camry with possible front end damage.

Kilgore College Closer to Naming a New President

Kilgore College signKILGORE – We could learn tonight who the new president of Kilgore college will be. School trustees have scheduled a meeting this evening at 6:30. They are scheduled to go into executive session to discuss a successor to retiring President Bill Holda. The lone action item on the agenda is “to consider the appointment of a new college president.” Holda is scheduled to step down at the end of January.

The four finalists for the position were interviewed earlier this month. They are:
Kyle Wagner, vice president of instruction and economic development at Coastal Bend College in Beeville.
Mark Smith, vice president of educational services at Temple College in Temple.
Brenda Kays, president of Stanly Community College in Albemarle, North Carolina.
Lynn Moore, president of Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College in Cumberland, Kentucky.

Third Teenager Who Escaped Houston Juvenile Center Captured

Jahrell WestHOUSTON (AP) — The last of three teenagers who escaped from a juvenile probation center has been captured after almost a week of being on the run. Deputy U.S. Marshal Alfredo Perez says Jahrell West was taken into custody around 1:15 p.m. Friday at a northeast Houston residence. The Houston Chronicle reports that West was one of three 16-year-olds who escaped from the Harris County Juvenile Probation Center November 15. Alferis Coby and another teen were captured Monday by the Gulf Coast Violent Offenders Task Force. All three teenagers are back at the center. Coby is charged with capital murder, and West is charged with aggravated robbery. They will both stand trial as adults. The third teen is charged with aggravated robbery. Their escape is the center’s first since the facility opened nine years ago.

Prison Term for a Longview Man on Indecency Charges

Daniel Shane AndrewsLONGVIEW — A Longview man has received a ten year prison term after pleading guilty to three counts of indecency with a child. The Longview News Journal reports Daniel Shane Andrews, 28, was charged with two counts of indecency with a child by contact and one charge of indecency by exposure. The child indecency charges stem from a may 2014 offense. The sexual abuse is said to have occurred at least 10 times with two boys younger than 12. Because of the conviction, Andrews must register as a sex offender for life.

TxDOT Road Projects

TxDOT logoTYLER – Here’s a look at work planned in the district during the Weeks of November 23, and November 30. These schedules are subject to change due to weather conditions, equipment failure or other unforeseen issues.

TxDOT offices will have minimal staff on Wednesday, Nov. 25, and will be closed on Thursday and Friday in observance of Thanksgiving. No roadway work closures are planned in the Tyler District Wednesday through Sunday.

SMITH COUNTY – Tyler Maintenance crews plan to conduct a moving patching operation around the county to address potholes. A second crew will be using a street sweeper to clean various roadways around the area as well. This too will be a moving operation. The week of Nov. 30, asphalt milling work resumes at various locations around the county. Expect lane closures during this work with flaggers and arrow boards providing direction through the work zones.

Smith County construction projects updates:
Farm Road 1253 Widening Project
*Limits: From County Road 462 south, 1.3 miles north of FM 857 south to FM 1805; FM 1804 from Wood County line to US 69; FM 2015 from CR 313 to FM 16
*Contractor: Longview Bridge and Road, Ltd., of Longview
*Cost: $7.5 million
This contract contains three project locations, including the widening, sealing and resurfacing of FM 1253. Currently, drainage work continues on FM 1253 from County Road 462 S, 1.3 miles north of FM 857 southward to FM 1805. No closures expected on FM 1804 or FM 2015.

Loop 323 West Widening
*Limits: Tyler’s West Loop and SH 31
*Contractor: Longview Bridge and Road, Ltd., of Longview
*Cost: $12 million
Temporary detours remain in place as work on the retaining walls, drainage and the new bridge continues. Bellwood West temporarily closed for drainage work. Motorists should use caution when traveling through this work zone as crews and heavy equipment are working close to the travel lanes. Expect lane closures. Motorists are encouraged to take alternate routes to avoid delays.

The project includes widening Loop 323 from SH 31 to Shaw Street. The speed limit on Loop 323 in the work zone has been reduced to 45 mph from SH 64 to Shaw Street. Construction is in full swing with an expected completion date in early 2016.

Loop 323 Northeast Project
*Limits: From American Legion Road (@ the Loop 323 Extension to US 271) south to Commerce St.
*Contractor: Reynolds and Kay, LTD.
*Cost: $3.4 million
Work continues to place the final surface on this portion of Loop 323. The project includes culvert extensions, base repair, level-up and placing an overlay. Expect lane closures. Completion expected later this winter.

State Highway 31E Widening Project
*Limits: From FM 757 to FM 2012
*Contractor: Reynolds & Kay, LTD
*Cost: $7.8 million
The contractor continues cleanup activities. Expect shoulder closures as excavation and embankment work continue on the north side of this project designed to add passing lanes for multiple sections of roadway in both the eastbound and westbound directions. Once the widening is complete, a seal coat and final surface will be applied. A daily construction speed limit of 60 mph is in place when work is being performed on this 18-month job.

State Highway 31E Widening Project
*Limits: From FM 850 to FM 757
*Contractor: East Texas Bridge, Inc.
*Cost: $3.4 million
Final inspections continue on this project to widen SH 31 east of Tyler includes adding passing lanes for multiple sections of the roadway in both directions. The new passing lanes are open to traffic. Expect shoulder closures.

State Highway 64
*Limits: from Chapel Hill to Arp
*Contractor: Drewery Construction of Nacogdoches
*Cost: $3.9 million
A new hot mix surface is being applied. This job is adding passing lanes between FM 2607 and Arp. Motorists are urged to use extra caution and expect lane closures when traveling through this area.

GREGG COUNTY – Longview crews plan to clean roadways and perform routine maintenance activities around the county. The week after Thanksgiving, crews will resume asphalt mill and inlay work on US 271 through Gladewater. Expect lane closures in NB and SB lanes.

Gregg County construction projects updates:
Interstate Highway 20 Total Maintenance Contract
*Limits: Gregg, Smith and Van Zandt counties
*Contractor: Fireman Excavating
The contractor has completed laying hot mix asphalt in Gregg County and is preparing to work the eastbound and westbound mainlanes in Smith County. Expect lane closures and delays during this work.

State Highway 31 Landscape Project
*Limits: 0.3 miles north of FM 2205 (Grace Creek) to 0.2 miles south of U.S. 80 (Cotton) in Longview
*Contractor: South Texas Illuminations, LLC
*Cost: $281,249.70
Final work continues for this project which comes as a result of the city winning one of 10 Governor’s Community Achievement Awards presented by Keep Texas Beautiful in partnership with TxDOT which allocates $2,000,000 a year as landscape incentives to competing communities based on population and efforts in litter prevention and cleanup, public awareness, beautification and property improvement, solid waste management, illegal dumping and enforcement, and education. No traffic impacts.

Farm Road 2275 George Richey Extension (Segments II & III)
*Limits: McCann Road to US 259
*Contractor: East Texas Bridge, Inc.
*Cost: $12.8 million
This project is constructing a new roadway from McCann Road to US 259. Clearing between Judson and Airline roads continues with excavation, embankment, bridge construction, subgrade treatment, storm drain and other work between McCann and Judson roads. The contractor recently began paving operations. While this is a new location project that generally doesn’t impact traffic motorists should plan to take other routes to get around Airline Road which is closed through March 2016.

Farm Road 449
*Limits: US 259 to FM 2751
*Contractor: Madden Contracting Company, LLC
No work planned this week on this project to widen the road and add shoulders.

Loop 281 at Farm Road 2087 Overpass
*Limits: SH 31 to approximately one mile south of SH 31
*Contractor: Longview Bridge and Road, Ltd., of Longview.
*Cost: $13.2 million
This project to build a new overpass is in Phase III of construction with traffic moved off the existing loop onto the detours. Work on the bridge approaches is ongoing. Expect delays during the peak evening hours. Caution advised in detour areas.

State Highway 42
*Limits: From SH 31 north to I-20
*Contractor: Reynolds & Kay, Ltd.
*Cost: $3.7 million
The contractor is starting to lay hot mix asphalt. The project is constructing a left turn lane at Hillcrest Road along with storm drain and curb and gutter. Current work includes installing guardrail and other amenities. Project completion expected in late fall. Expect lane closures with flaggers directing traffic.

Interstate Highway 20 PFC Project
*Limits: SH 31E to the Harrison County line
*Contractor: Madden Contracting Company, LLC
*Cost: $5,584,277
Motorists should expect delays Monday and Tuesday during the day as the contractor applies asphalt to the I-20 mainlanes going both directions. The week of Nov. 30, the contractor plans to lay asphalt on the ramps at Estes Parkway/SH 322 and Eastman Road/US 259. The ramps will be closed. Expect lane closures. Alternate routes are recommended when possible.

The project consists of applying a porous friction course (PFC) surface overlay, shoulder texturing, and pavement markings as well as work on the I-20 on ramps. Porous friction courses (PFC) consist of placing hot mix asphalt mixtures at the surface of a pavement structure in a thin layer to produce benefits for the traveling public such as safety, economy and the environment.

Landscaping Projects
*Limits: Intersection of SH 31 at SH 42
*Limits: Intersections of I-20 at Estes Parkway; and I-20 at Eastman Road
*Contractor: South Texas Illuminations, LLC
*Cost: $400,000
This is a landscaping project to enhance various intersections throughout Gregg and Rusk counties. Crews are working at the intersections of SH 42 and SH 31, and I-20, Estes Pkwy and Eastman Road. The majority of the work is outside the travel lane in the median and should have little impact on traffic. The travelling public should be cautious of construction vehicles entering and leaving the project sites.

ANDERSON COUNTY – Palestine crews this week plan to monitor roadways and conduct routine maintenance around the county. The week of Nov. 30, level up operations return to Farm Road 319. Expect lane closures when work resumes on FM 319.

Anderson County construction projects updates have no significant changes.

U.S.Highway 79 New Lane Construction
*Limits: 1.6 miles southwest of Loop 256 in Palestine south to .4 mile southwest of FM 645
*Contractor: Longview Bridge and Road, Ltd., of Longview.
*Cost: $42,740,365.19
The project continues to progress with the contractor performing flex base on the south end of the job. Work in the southbound lanes includes concrete paving south of FM 645 and surface mix. Sanderson Blvd. remains closed for the next few weeks with traffic detoured to Florence Street. Expect lane closures.

State Highway 19 Widening in Anderson County
*Limits: 3.6 miles north of FM 837 (Henderson Co. line) south to .4 mile north of FM 321 at Montalba
*Contractor: Big Creek Construction of Hewitt
*Cost: $12,487,715.87
Work is ongoing to widen SH 19 in this area. Lane closures and delays are to be expected as flex base and cement treat operations progress. Flaggers and a pilot car are providing traffic control.

Off-System Bridge Replacement Project
*Limits: County Road (CR) 471 at Box Creek and County Road (CR) 4801 at Indian Creek
*Contractor: Longview Bridge and Road, Ltd., of Longview
*Cost: $817,412.15
CR 471 at Box Creek is closed to through traffic as a new bridge is built. Completion set for this month. CR 4801 at Indian Creek is now closed to through traffic with right-of-way work underway in preparation for building a new bridge.

CHEROKEE COUNTY – Jacksonville and Rusk crews plan to conduct winter preparation activities this week. Crews will be performing base repairs on roadways throughout the county starting Nov. 30. Expect lane closures during that work with flaggers providing traffic control.

TxDOT contractor, Striping Technology, Inc., crews adding striping and buttons on roadways in Cherokee County as part of the district-wide safety project to add centerline rumble strips. Expect lane closures.

Farm Road 22 and Farm Road 23 Widening Project
*Limits: From US 69 south of Jacksonville going SW to 1.5 miles west of FM 768 (Gallatin area); FM 23 from FM 343 to FM 1857
*Contractor: Madden Contracting Company, LLC
*Cost: $8.5 million
No work is planned this week. This is a safety project designed to widen the roadway from 20′ to 24′ along a 4.2 mile section.

U.S. Highway 69 Widening and Resurfacing
*Limits: From Loop 456 in Jacksonville going south to just north of Loop 62 in Rusk
*Contractor: Madden Contracting Company, LLC
*Cost: $11.5 million
The contractor continues work in the median on this project to add 2′ edge treatment and resurfacing the roadway.

U.S. Highway 69 Widening and Resurfacing
*Limits: From 0.028 mile south of FM 343 in Rusk southward to just north of SH 21 in Alto
*Contractor: Madden Contracting Company, LLC
*Cost: $9.7 million
No work is currently scheduled for this project.

HENDERSON COUNTY – Athens crews this week plan to conduct edge repair work on Farm Road 607 between State Highway 31 and Farm Road 317 in the Leagueville area, and address maintenance issues such as potholes and debris. The following week, work returns to Farm Road 607 to complete edge repairs before moving to Farm Road 317 between Farm Road 314 and Farm Road 315. Crews also plan to address maintenance issues around Loop 7. Expect lane closures with flaggers providing traffic control in these work locations.

Henderson County construction projects updates:
State Highway 31 Repair Project
*Limits: .09 miles west of FM 317 eastward to .34 miles west of FM 773
*Contractor: Big Creek Construction, Ltd., of Hewitt
*Cost: $3.6 million
Work is underway on this project that calls for milling the existing surface and placing a new overlay on the roadway. Expect lane closures on this job which is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

U.S. Highway 175 Widening Project (Phase I)
*Limits: 0.1 miles southeast of FM 804 near Baxter southeast to 1.1 miles east of Loop 60E at Larue
*Contractor: A.L. Helmcamp, Inc. and Big Creek Construction
*Cost: $39.2 million
The project expands US 175 from two lanes to a four-lane divided with a depressed median. A traffic switch now has eastbound motorists driving on the new detour. Drivers should expect one lane carrying two-way traffic throughout the project limits as well as occasional day time lane closures. Drivers on adjacent county roads and FM 804 should anticipate a change in traffic flow due to the detour now requiring two-way traffic on US 175. Dirt and drainage work around Loop 60E in Larue to near Baxter is ongoing. The speed limit in the construction zone has been set at 55 mph so slow down because traffic fines double when workers are present. Phase I construction started April 6, 2015 and has an anticipated completion date in
November 2018.

U.S. Highway 175 Widening Project (Phase II)
*Limits: 1.1 miles east of Loop 60B to 0.85 mile east of FM 315
*Contractor: Sundt Construction, Inc., of San Antonio
*Cost: $37.8 million
Construction is underway on this Phase II project to expand US 175 from two lanes to a four-lane divided with a depressed median. Drivers should anticipate two-way traffic throughout the project limits which stretch 3.4 miles ending just east of FM 315 in Poynor. The speed limit has been set at 55 mph. A portion of this phase will be built on new location around the south side of Poynor. This like Phase I, is a mobility project to add capacity and improve safety, and includes adding one lane in each direction. It is a two-year project.

Farm Road 315/Farm Road 1616 Widening Project
*Limits: From FM 314S to CS End at County Road 4325, 4224, etc.
*Contractor: Big Creek Construction, LTD, of Hewitt, Texas
*Cost: $3.07 million
Work is set to start this month to add shoulders on FM 315. Drivers should anticipate two-way traffic throughout the project limits with daily lane closures. Completion expected in summer 2016.

Farm Road 316 Widening Project
*Limits: From FM 1256 south to FM 3080
*Contractor: Big Creek Construction, Ltd., of Hewitt
No work is planned this week on this widening project.

Off-System Bridge Replacement Project
*Limits: Cardinal Drive at Little Duncan Creek in Murchison
* Contractor: Hartbeat Construction of Tyler
*Cost: $314,919.44
Cardinal Drive is closed to through traffic as a new bridge is built. Completion set for December.

RUSK COUNTY – Henderson crews plan to continue edge repairs on Farm Road 839 between Farm Road 1662 and U.S. Highway 84 for the next couple of weeks. Expect lanes closures with traffic control provided by flaggers and a pilot car.

TxDOT contractor, Striping Technology, Inc., crews adding striping and buttons on various roadways in Rusk County as part of the district-wide safety project to add centerline rumble strips. Expect lane closures.

Rusk County construction projects updates:
Farm Road 3135
*Limits: County Road 222 to County Road 262
*Contractor: Madden Contracting Company, LLC
This project consists of widening the road and adding shoulders. Contractor will be installing safety end treatments on driveways and extending cross culverts. Little impact to traffic at this time but motorists are reminded to use caution. There could be periodic delays as this job gets underway.

Farm Road 95
*Limits: FM 1798 to SH 315
*Contractor: Madden Contracting Company, LLC
This project consists of widening the road and adding shoulders. Contractor will be installing safety end treatments on driveways and extending cross culverts. Traffic can expect some delay. Motorists are reminded to use caution in this and all work zones.

U.S. Highway 79 Repair Project Night Operations
*Limits: From FM 225 going north to the Traffic Star (intersection of US 79/SH 64/SH 43/US 259)
*Contractor: Madden Contracting Company
*Cost: $5.2 million
Daytime work continues with striping of the mainlanes Monday and Tuesday, Thanksgiving Week. Expect lane closures and delays. The following week normal schedule returns with daytime closures and delays as work is conducted Monday through Friday. Watch for flaggers providing traffic control. The resurfacing project is expected to be completed this fall providing motorists a smoother, safer ride.

Stgate Highway 64 Widening Project
*Limits: 0.173 miles west of BU 64E (N. Marshall St.) east to 0.2 miles west of U.S. 79 (Traffic Star)
*Contractor: Lonestar Equipment Company, Inc.
*Cost: $2.1 million
Motorists should expect periodic delays on this job to widen SH 64 through Henderson. Construction of the retaining wall and widening of the roadway continues adjacent to the travel lanes with no impacts to traffic. Use caution through this work zone. The project started in August 2013 and consists of widening the existing two-lane roadway and constructing a four-lane facility along with a continuous Left Turn Lane with the majority of work being performed outside the existing travel lanes.

VAN ZANDT COUNTY – Canton crews plan to spend the next couple of weeks addressing maintenance issues around the county including ditch work, patching potholes, mailbox requests, and other activities.

Van Zandt County construction projects updates:
State Highway 64 Widening Project
*Limits: From FM 858 near Ben Wheeler to FM 314
*Contractor: A.L. Helmcamp, Inc., of Buffalo
*Cost: $7.4 million
The new passing lanes are open to traffic but crews continue to apply the final hot mix surface to the roadway. This work is expected to take another three weeks to complete, weather permitting, so motorists should be prepared for daily lane closures. This project to improve safety and mobility on SH 64 should be completed in December.

State Highway 198 Widening Project
*Limits: from SH 243 in Canton southwest to 0.4 miles northeast of FM 316 near Phalba
*Contractor: Big Creek Construction, Ltd., of Waco
*Cost: $5 million
Work continues to extend the structures on the east side of the roadway. Expect lane closures.

Farm Road 314 Widening Project
*Limits: from I-20 to the Van Zandt/Henderson County line
*Contractor: A.L. Helmcamp, Inc., of Buffalo
*Cost: $11.9 million
Erosion control activities continue south of Edom. No lane closures planned.

Interstate Highway 20 Project
*Limits: From 1.6 miles east of FM 16 to 2.9 miles east of FM 314
*Contractor: APAC-Texas, Inc.
*Cost: $2.4 million
Cleanup and striping work continue in the eastbound and westbound lanes. Expect daily lane closures. No project work occurs on Friday’s.

Purtis Creek State Park Road Improvements Project
*Limits: Within Purtis Creek State Park to just off FM 316
*Contractor: Construction Companies Group, LLC
*Cost: $90,549.00
Cleanup work is ongoing on this project to upgrade Park Road which runs .573 miles inside the park. It should be completed soon.

WOOD COUNTY – Mineola crews plan to address routine maintenance issues next week that do not require lane closures. Work the week of November 30 includes, shoulder work on Loop 564; drainage work on Farm Road 2088 at Richards Street; ditch work on U.S. 80 east of Mineola near the American Legion Hall and FM 49 near Loop 564. Expect lane closures at all locations with flaggers providing traffic control.

Wood County construction projects updates:

State Highway 37 Roadway Repair
*Limits: from FM 2088 in Quitman to 0.4 miles south of FM 515 in Winnsboro
*Contractor: Longview Bridge and Road, Ltd., of Longview
*Cost: $7.7 million
Cleanup work is ongoing from 0.4 miles south of FM 515 in Winnsboro southward to FM
2088. No lane closures expected.

Farm Road 2869 Project
*Limits: From FM 852, south of Winnsboro going south to FM 2088
*Contractor: Longview Bridge and Road, Ltd., of Longview
Surface work on driveways and other activities continue in the NB and SB lanes within the project limits. Expect lane closures.

White House Sends Abbott Assurances on Syrian Refugees

white houseDALLAS (AP) – Obama administration officials have responded to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s concerns about accepting Syrian refugees, saying federal screening is “extraordinarily thorough and comprehensive.” According to The Dallas Morning News, the letter sent to Abbott says most refugees accepted by the United States are families, children and victims of torture. Federal officials say they don’t plan to accept more than a handful of adult males without children or families. Abbott is one of more than two dozen governors who have said they will not accept refugees from Syria following the deadly attacks in Paris earlier this month. The U.S. has announced it will accept 10,000 refugees over the next year.

Five Syrian Refugees Turn Themselves in at US-Mexico Border

Homeland Security2LAREDO (AP) – Federal officials say another group of Syrian refugees has turned themselves in to immigration authorities along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed Sunday that the group identified themselves to border agents in the South Texas town of Laredo on Friday. The group consisted of a family of three along with two other men. They were held to check their identities against national security databases and then turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for temporary detention. Their arrival came after two Syrian families identified themselves Tuesday to border officials in Laredo. In each instance, the men were taken to one detention facility and the women and children to another. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Syria to escape the war, most of them to Euro

N. Texas Schools Preach Fighting Back Against Intruders

Avoid-Deny-DefendFORT WORTH (AP) – A handful of North Texas school districts are training teachers to respond to armed intruders, not immediately drop and hide. In Fort Worth, more than 120 officers trained over the summer on how to assist school districts interested in a strategy sometimes known as “Avoid-Deny-Defend.” According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the three steps call on teachers to help students flee to safety, then deny a possible intruder access to the classroom, then defend themselves if an intruder enters. Fort Worth officer Stephanie Warren told the newspaper, “We want them to defend themselves and fight like their life depends on it.” Hundreds of educators in Fort Worth and suburban schools have undergone training under those guidelines.

Despite Oil Bust, Texas Prepares More Students for Oil Jobs

oil well-50 feetHOUSTON (AP) — The oil industry is mired in its latest bust. But in Texas, education officials are working harder than ever to prepare more young people for the oilfield. Their commitment shows the state’s unshakeable commitment to the energy sector and its willingness to gamble that good jobs that evaporated into layoffs over the last year will return. The Houston school district is preparing to expand its first-in-the-nation Energy Institute High School from 250 students to 1,000 students by 2017, and inaugurate a new 110,000 square-foot, $37 million facility. In Midland, in the oil-rich Permian Basin, two high schools have begun “petroleum academies.” And state officials have also approved vocational oil production classes, thus authorizing schools districts across Texas to teach them.

Kilgore Business Robbed

Hampton Inn-KilgoreKILGORE – A man armed with a gun is said to have robbed the Hampton Inn on U.S. Highway 259 in Kilgore. The robbery happened early Saturday evening. No injuries were reported. The suspect is described as a black male wearing a gray hoodie baggy black cargo style sweat pants.

Ex-Navy Admiral McRaven Says US Must Act Against Extremists

William McRavenAUSTIN (AP) – The former Navy admiral who directed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden says the U.S. and allies should prioritize fighting Islamic extremists. William McRaven is now chancellor of the University of Texas System. Speaking at a national security conference in Austin on Friday, McRaven says the American people shouldn’t be surprised when “the barbarians are at our gate” if Islamic State militants are not defeated now. It was some of the strongest language McRaven has used on national security since leaving the military for academia. The Austin American-Statesman (http://atxne.ws/1SQ6TgZ ) reports that McRaven’s comments drew some opposition. One audience member asked McRaven whether he should be publicly supporting military action as the leader of a public university system. McRaven responded that he had a right to free speech.

Texas Taxpayer Tab for Suing Feds: $5M and Counting

Ken Paxton2AUSTIN (AP) – Texas has now spent more than $5 million suing the federal government since President Barack Obama took office in 2008. New challenges over spousal benefits for same-sex couples and the Affordable Care Act have has already racked up more than $250,000 in taxpayer costs since Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took office in January. Paxton is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Governor Greg Abbott, who sued the federal government more than 30 times as attorney general. The Houston Chronicle reports that more than half the challenges have targeted the Environmental Protection Agency. Paxton spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer says the lawsuits aim to protect Texans from “power grabs” that would impose new burdens on families and businesses. Critics call the lawsuits a waste of money and politically motivated.

Pushback Delays $11M Fee Hikes on Texas Farmers, Ranchers

Sid Miller-Ag CommissionerAUSTIN (AP) – Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is delaying millions of dollars in regulatory fee hikes following pushback from fellow Republicans and ranchers and farmers. Miller contends that collecting an additional $11 million annually from the industry he oversees is necessary after lawmakers didn’t meet his funding requests this spring. That was despite the Republican-controlled Legislature leaving money on the table in the budget. The San Antonio Express-News reports that Miller is now putting off the fee increases until January 1. The higher costs had been scheduled to take effect in December. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is among those who have questioned the higher fees. It would raise levies on seed certification, grain warehouse inspections and product registrations.

State Lawmaker Convicted of Illegally Soliciting Law Clients

Ron Reynolds-state representativeCONROE (AP) – A Southeast Texas jury has found a suburban Houston state representative guilty of illegally soliciting clients for his law practice. The Houston Chronicle reports a Montgomery County jury found State Representative Ron Reynolds guilty Friday of five misdemeanor barratry counts. The jury will continue hearing testimony Monday in Conroe on Reynold’s punishment. Each count is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The Missouri City Democrat, who represented himself during trial, says he plans to appeal. According to trial testimony, Reynolds paid a man to pull accident victims’ names from police reports and persuade them to retain Reynolds as their attorney. State law bars attorneys from soliciting clients for accident or disaster claims for at least 30 days after the incident.

Meth Case Nets 54 Associated With White Supremacist Groups

Justice Department logoDALLAS (AP) – An investigation by federal, state and local officials has led to drug charges against 54 people associated with white supremacist organizations. According to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas, the 54 have been charged with federal crimes arising from their participation in a drug distribution operation in North Texas from January 2013 through this month. Two of the 54 are still fugitives. A previous phase of the investigation in 2014 led to the arrests of 37 members and associates of white supremacist groups on similar drug charges. All were convicted. One remains a fugitive. The federal statement says the suspects are associated with such groups as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, the Aryan Circle, the White Knights and the Peckerwoods.

Central Texas Mother Gets Life Sentence for Killing Toddler

Emily Ann HudsonWACO (AP) – A Central Texas woman has been sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter. Emily Ann Hudson agreed to plead guilty in Waco to murder in a plea deal with prosecutors in return for a charge reduction from capital murder, keeping open the chance for parole. Hudson, who is 21, must serve 30 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. McLennan County sheriff’s deputies called to the woman’s home on February 4 found Aimee Hudson unresponsive with multiple head injuries and bruises about her body. She died the next morning at the hospital, and her mother admitted under police questioning to have beaten the child.

Judge Blocks Fast-Tracking of Licenses for Family Detention

immigrant children flooding TexasSAN ANTONIO (AP) – A state judge has ruled that Texas can’t implement emergency rules to fast-track licensing of two immigrant family detention facilities as residential child care centers. A judge in Austin ordered a temporary injunction Friday blocking the emergency rules. The judge said that the emergency rules removed the facilities’ obligation to comply with minimum standards and didn’t address a “true emergency.” State licenses are needed because a federal judge ruled in August that the detention facilities couldn’t hold immigrant children without adequate licensing. Health officials can still proceed with licensing the facilities through the normal rule-making process, which is already underway and includes time for public comment. The two detention centers opened last year in response to tens of thousands of mothers and children arriving from Central America.

Man Charged With Trespass, Accused of Rude Mosque Intrusion

Mariano TalaveraSAN ANTONIO (AP) – A man was arrested and charged with criminal trespass after the staff of a San Antonio mosque accused him of entering prayer areas, wiping his boots on the prayer rugs and berating mosque workers about their religion. The incident happened at the Islamic Center of San Antonio. Police say Mariano Talavera entered mosque prayer areas and ignored requests that he remove his boots. Police were called and, as they interviewed the 38-year-old man in an outdoor picnic area, he turned to mosque staff and berated them. No telephone number is listed for Talavera, who’s free on $8,000 bond. If convicted of the Class B misdemeanor, he could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and fined up to $2,000.

GOP Rivals Slam Trump’s Call for Database to Track Muslims

Ted Cruz-stern lookWASHINGTON (AP) — Texas Senator Ted Cruz is among several Republican candidates for president who say they’re against GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s call for a mandatory database to track Muslims in America. Speaking in Iowa on Friday, Cruz says he’s a “big fan of Donald Trump” but is against “government registries of American citizens.” Ohio Governor John Kasich says the idea of a registry based on religion “strikes against all that we have believed in our nation’s history.” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul also says he does not support such a database. Earlier Friday, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was the first Republican rival to condemn Trump’s call for a Muslim database, calling the proposal “abhorrent.”

Texas Unemployment Rate Up in October to 4.4%

Texas Workforce CommissionAUSTIN (AP) – The Texas Unemployment Rate for October Rose to 4.4%. The Texas Workforce Commission on Friday reported that compares to a statewide jobless rate of 4.2% in September. Nationwide unemployment was 5.0% last month. Commission officials say Amarillo had the lowest statewide unemployment rate during October at 3.2%. The McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area had the highest jobless rate in Texas at 7.4%. The TWC says Texas employers added 20,000 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs in October, marking the eighth month of 2015 with jobs added. Chairman Andres Alcantar says Texas employers continue to contribute to the state’s economy by adding 203,900 jobs over the past year.

Documents: Toddler Fatally Burned Put in Oven by Sibling

Texas Department of Family and Protective ServicesHOUSTON (AP) – Texas Child Protective Services says a toddler who died from severe burns was put in an oven by one of her two 3-year-old siblings when the children were left alone in their Houston apartment. KTRK-TV reports court documents it obtained show 19-month-old J’zyra Thompson’s two siblings told CPS investigators that one of them put the girl in the oven and the other turned it on. Police believe the girl was one of four children who were left alone Monday by their mother and her boyfriend. According to court records, the two 3-year-olds told CPS workers they made the oven “hot.” They said the baby was kicking the oven door while inside. CPS workers say in court documents that charges are expected to be filed.

Gunfire at Waco Home Leaves Man Dead, Girl Grazed by Bullets

crimescene-2WACO (AP) – Police say gunfire at a Central Texas house has left a man dead and a girl hurt after she was grazed by bullets. Waco police say the incident happened before dawn Friday. Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton says officers arrived at the home to find one man suffering from gunshot wounds. He was transported to a Waco hospital where he was pronounced dead. Swanton says a female child was grazed by bullets. Police didn’t immediately release her age or provide details on her injuries. Police did not say whether anyone was being sought in the attack. Names of the man and the girl weren’t immediately released. Further details weren’t immediately available.

Texas Officer, Good Samaritans Rescue Driver in Burning Car

College Station Police PatchCOLLEGE STATION (AP) – A College Station officer and some good Samaritans have saved a driver from a burning car in a rescue captured on police car video. University of Texas student Jose Izquierdo was in fair condition Friday at a Houston hospital, nearly a week after the accident. Izquierdo suffered broken bones last Saturday when his car hit a tree and caught fire. The video shows Officer Patricia Marty running from her patrol car and trying to extract the 21-year-old driver. Two Texas A&M University transportation services workers stopped to help. One had a sledgehammer and tried to break a back window amid flames. Another man happened by and with the others helped pulled Izquierdo through the driver’s window. Izquierdo is at Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute. Marty was treated for smoke inhalation.

Texas Woman Survives Driving Off Top of 3-Story Garage

Abilene Police PatchABILENE (AP) – A West Texas woman has survived driving off the top of a three-story parking garage and her truck landing upside down in a street. Abilene police say the 47-year-old Tuscola woman suffered injuries not believed to be life-threatening in Friday’s accident. Police say the woman was trying to park in a bank’s garage when her foot slipped off the brake. Police believe the woman accidentally hit the accelerator, causing the pickup truck to crash through a garage retaining wall. The truck tumbled to the street, damaging a section of garage on the way down. Abilene police say the woman, whose name wasn’t released, was able to get out of the wrecked vehicle and was taken to a hospital.

Body Found in Gregg County is Missing Man

Tommy Dale BeasonLIBERTY CITY – Gregg County Authorities have confirmed that a body found in a creek was that of a missing 39 year old man, Tommy Dale Beason. The man’s dad, Tony Beason, had earlier said the body was that of his son. The body was pulled from Little Caney Creek Wednesday afternoon. The man’s dad told the Longview News Journal that he used cellphone coordinates to find the body. His son was last seen on October 27th. He was reported missing a few days later. The body, which appears to have been in the water for some time, was badly decomposed. The body was sent to Tyler for autopsy.

Georgia-Pacific Closes Fiberboard-Producing Plant in Diboll

Georgia PacificDIBOLL (AP) – Georgia-Pacific has closed its fiberboard manufacturing plant in the East Texas town of Diboll and laid off all 90 workers. The Atlanta-based wood and fiber products company on Thursday shut the plant and encouraged workers to seek jobs at other Georgia-Pacific units in East Texas. Spokesman Eric Abercrombie says Georgia-Pacific has about 1,600 employees in the area. Abercrombie says the Diboll fiberboard unit, which has not been operating for a couple of weeks, suffered weather-related damage in recent storms and also had a small kiln fire in October. He says Georgia-Pacific decided to close the plant, built in 1958, due to current economic conditions and the cost of improvements needed at the facility.

Waco Bikers’ Lawyers Contest Prosecutor’s Discovery Waiver

Waco biker gang shootoutWACO (AP) – Defense attorneys representing bikers who were arrested after a shooting outside a Texas restaurant say they don’t have access to key evidence because they refuse to sign the district attorney’s unusual agreement to not share it with media. Attorney Susan Anderson said at a news conference Thursday that the agreement violates the state’s Michael Morton Act, which says prosecutors must permit defense attorneys access, without conditions, to the evidence “as soon as practicable.” Defense attorneys plan to contest the agreement in court. Nine people died and 20 were injured in the May 17 shooting. A grand jury indicted 106 people earlier this month on charges of engaging in organized criminal activity. McClennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna declined to comment.

Texan Accused of Killing Girlfriend Caught in Mississippi

Kevin Michael WaguespackAUSTIN (AP) – A Central Texas man accused of killing his girlfriend and calling 911 to report the slaying has been arrested in Mississippi. Austin police say Kevin Michael Waguespack faces extradition on a murder warrant in the death of Catherine Dyer. Waguespack was arrested Wednesday following a standoff in Adams County, Mississippi. Austin police on Monday night received a call from a friend of the couple raising concerns about Dyer’s welfare. The person reported getting a call from Waguespack indicating he did something bad and was going away. Police discovered Dyer’s body in the couple’s home. Police say a man identifying himself as Waguespack called 911 early Tuesday saying he killed Dyer. No cause of death was immediately released. His bond was set at $250,000.

Ex-Border Agent Gets 30-Year Term for Killing Wife’s Lover

Adam S. GaribayHONDO (AP) – A former Border Patrol agent has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing his wife’s lover in a shooting last year. A state judge sentenced Adam S. Garibay to the maximum provided for in his plea agreement with prosecutors for the killing of Keith J. Martin. Garibay’s attorney, Christian Henricksen, told the San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1SJNhuW ) that the 35-year-old former agent must serve at least 15 years of his sentence before becoming eligible for probation. Garibay pleaded guilty to murder on Nov. 9. Police say he assaulted and restrained his wife with handcuffs and duct tape at his Corpus Christi home before driving to a house near Hondo where he found Martin. Police say Garibay shot and killed Martin before leading police on a vehicle chase.

Dallas Teacher Suffers Minor Injuries After Assault

Dallas ISD logoDALLAS (AP) – A high school teacher has suffered minor injuries after being assaulted by a student in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reports that the incident happened Thursday at Skyline High School. The identities of the teacher and student involved in the incident haven’t been released. The district said in a news release that “violence is not tolerated” at school “and the student will face consequences in accordance” with the code of conduct. The district declined the newspaper’s attempt for further comment, citing privacy laws related to student discipline and employee matters. Students tweeted about the incident Thursday afternoon.

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