Category: State News

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Fallout Grows Over No-Bid Texas Health Contracts

John Whitmire-state senatorAUSTIN (AP) A top Texas lawmaker has asked public corruption prosecutors to investigate lucrative state health contracts that an Austin tech company received without bidding. Democratic state Senator John Whitmire of Houston sent the request to special prosecutors in Austin in a letter Thursday. His request adds to the fallout over revelations that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission awarded $110 million in no-bid contracts to root out Medicaid fraud. A spokesman for Republican House Speaker Joe Straus says Straus expects lawmakers to also take a closer look. A top Texas health official who pushed to hire Austin-based 21CT resigned last week. The state has canceled the deals. 21CT chief executive Irene Williams said the company is “saddened” by unsubstantiated claims and welcome any review into their work for the state.

Perry Criticizes Obama Administration’s New Cuba Policy

Rick Perry-new glassesAUSTIN (AP) Outgoing Texas Governor Rick Perry criticized President Barack Obama’s shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba, saying it’s part of a troubling pattern of negotiating with those who hold Americans captive. In an interview with the Austin bureau of the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, Perry said he was happy that American government contractor Alan Gross had been released after five years as a Cuban prisoner. However, Perry said Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba is part of a pattern of negotiating with regimes with massive human rights problems. Perry, who has said he was considering another White House run in 2016, said he was concerned that the Obama administration was rewarding regimes that take Americans like Gross captive.

Police Sketch of Meteorologist Shooting Suspect Released

Meteorologist shooting suspectTEMPLE (AP) Authorities have released a sketch of a suspect in the shooting a Central Texas television meteorologist outside the studio where the weatherman worked. Trooper D.L. Wilson of the Texas Department of Public Safety says the sketch was drawn during a hospital bed interview of KCEN-TV meteorologist Patrick Crawford. Doctors at Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple said Thursday that Crawford was recovering and in fair condition after surgery for a gunshot wound to the abdomen. The Department of Public Safety says Crawford was in his car Wednesday morning outside KCEN-TV’s rural studio in Bruceville-Eddy, 75 miles north of Austin, when the gunman approached, yelled at him and shot him. Wilson says investigators do not yet have a motive for the shooting.

Fatal South by Southwest Crash Brings First Wave of Lawsuits

South By Southwest festivalAUSTIN (AP) The initial wave of victim lawsuits since four people died at the South by Southwest music festival accuse organizers of safety lapses after a driver struck a crowd of concertgoers. The lawsuits filed Thursday are the first since the March crash that also injured nearly two dozen people. Since the crash, organizers of the once-obscure Austin festival have faced questions over how they have managed the event’s transformation into an international extravaganza. An aspiring rapper who police say drove his car through a street barricade remains jailed on capital murder charges. Among those killed was a Dutch music executive riding a bike. His family says festival organizers skimped on traffic safeguards while packing people downtown to hear more than 2,000 bands. Next year’s festival begins March 17.

Family Wants Officer Prosecuted for Scuffle with Man, 76

Nathanial RobinsonVICTORIA (AP) An attorney for the family of a 76-year-old man says his relatives want a South Texas police officer prosecuted for a traffic-stop scuffle in which a stun gun was used on him. Rachel Messer represents the family of Pete Vasquez of Victoria. She told reporters after a police news conference on the case that Vasquez’s family hopes for “a full criminal prosecution” of Victoria police officer Nathanial Robinson. At the Wednesday news conference, Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig said the internal investigation into the December 11th scuffle continues but that the 23-year-old Robinson had no history of sustained allegations of misconduct. Craig said he expects the internal investigation to be completed by the weekend but that it could remain open until after Christmas. Robinson remains on paid administrative leave.

Six Allegedly Stole from Texas-Pacifico Railroad

railroad bridgeSAN ANGELO (AP) Six people have been charged with theft after about $100,000 in materials were reported stolen from Texas-Pacifico Railroad. The San Angelo Standard-Times reports some of the suspects are current or former employees of the transportation company. A Texas-Pacifico spokeswoman said Thursday that one of the defendants is a company employee who’s on administrative leave amid the investigation. Company officials in July became aware of unauthorized track rehabilitation involving materials stolen from Texas-Pacifico and contacted authorities. San Angelo police say the men and woman allegedly sold rails, switches and crossings.

Cleaning Begins for Famed Houston Astrodome

AstrodomeHOUSTON (AP) Work has begun to clean the exterior of Houston’s famed Astrodome. Crews are expected to finish their power-wash cleaning of the vacant venue by January. Workers on Wednesday used platforms or hung from lines to spray cleaning fluids on the Astrodome. The Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation last month voted to wash the exterior of the Astrodome, which formerly hosted sports teams and concerts. The cost is estimated at nearly $64,000. The work will be paid for by proceeds from two Astrodome memorabilia sales. The stadium opened in 1965 but hasn’t housed a sports team since the Astros moved to Minute Maid Park after the 1999 season. The Astrodome is next to NRG Stadium, which is home to the NFL’s Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

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