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Courtesy: SalFalko / Flickr (Creative Commons)

AUSTIN — Texas is on the verge of scrapping its controversial “pick-a-pal” grand jury system, after the House gave final approval to a sweeping overhaul.

The state is currently the only one in America where judge-appointed commissioners nominate prospective jurors, rather than picking randomly selected residents.

The U.S. Supreme Court has criticized the system. But some small-county Texas judges oppose changing it, worried that jury pools may shrink too much.

Without debate Sunday, the House voted 79-59 to approve a bill changing the system, sponsored by Houston Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

In stark contrast to former Gov. Rick Perry, the current Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has told U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that the state would comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

In a letter to Lynch earlier this month, Abbott stated that Texas would “fully implement” the standards as much as possible. In the letter of May 15, Abbott wrote: “The State of Texas has taken significant steps to eliminate prison rape. I cannot yet certify that the State is in full compliance with Prison Rape Elimination Act (“PREA”) because our PREA audits are still ongoing. But every facility that has completed the PREA audit process has been certified as fully compliant. And I can assure you that we will fully implement DOJ’s PREA standards wherever feasible.”

The PREA requires segregating younger inmates from those who are over 18. Perry refused to comply, basically because 17-year-old criminal offenders in Texas are classified as adults. Federal law requires 17-year-olds to be housed separately from those 18 or older.

Source: United States Census Bureau

Texas continues to attract new residents from across the country and elsewhere. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau supports projections that the state’s population will double by the year 2050.

The study reflects population growth between the years 2010 and 2014. Over that time, the population of Texas grew by 1.8 million people or by 7 percent. Suburban growth outpaced that of major metropolitan areas.

In fact, the in-fill between Austin and San Antonio is an area that some are calling the “new DFW” — with consistent year-over-year growth in corridor towns like New Braunfels and San Marcos, which was ranked nationally as the fastest-growing city in the nation for the third year in a row.

Source: NAMI

AUSTIN — The Texas House has preliminarily approved a proposal offering to help repay student loans for psychiatrists who provide care in underserved parts of the state.

Passed Thursday 89-52, the bill provides help repaying student loans for medical personnel who work in “designated mental health professional shortage areas.”

Those qualifying would also have to treat Medicaid patients, low-income children or people confined to some state-run correctional facilities. The Senate passed the bill last month. It now needs only a final House vote to be sent to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law.

According to a recent state report, fewer than 2,000 licensed psychiatrists were offering direct care in Texas as of September 2013.

A Texas hunter who paid $350,000 for the right to hunt a rare black rhino in Namibia has killed the animal. The hunt has drawn controversy and spurred debate over the best way to manage endangered wildlife.

Corey Knowlton won an auction last January for a hunting permit that would allow him to kill a black rhino weighing around 3,000 pounds.

Courtesy: University Interscholastic League

AUSTIN — A blind pole vaulter has won a bronze medal with a third-place finish at the Texas state high school championships.

Senior Charlotte Brown, from Rains High School in Emory, Texas, has made the state finals three years in a row.

She cleared 11 feet, 6 inches on Saturday to earn the medal in Class 4A, one of the state’s largest classifications.

She was joined on the medal stand by her service dog Vador.

She was born with normal vision but developed cataracts when she was just 16 weeks old.

That led to the first of several operations, including insertion of artificial lenses. At age 11, her vision started to worsen.

via The Texas Tribune

Source: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

DALLAS — Steady rainfall through the year has helped Texas emerge from the harshest drought conditions, but pockets of the state still have reservoirs alarmingly low and drinking water in short supply.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicated Thursday that Texas is no longer contending with “exceptional drought,” which is the most serious of five levels. In October 2011, 88 percent of the state was in exceptional drought.

The drought map this week shows a few regions of “severe” drought remain, such as in the Panhandle, in the area of Wichita Falls and west of Austin in Kerr and Gillespie counties. Much of the spine of Texas extending from the Panhandle south into Central Texas still has either abnormally dry conditions or moderate drought.

Latin American, Asian Figures Diverge In Texas Immigration Report

May 14, 2015
Eddie Seal / The Texas Tribune

Following the dramatic increase in the number of Asians migrating to Texas, the state demographer found that a new pattern of immigration is emerging in the state. 

Though people born in Latin American countries continue to make up the largest group of immigrants in Texas, the rate at which they are moving to the state has decreased in the last decade. Meanwhile, the percentage of immigrants moving to the state from Asia has more than doubled in recent years, according to a report released Thursday by State Demographer Lloyd Potter and his staff. 

“With this shift in immigrant origins, the immigration stream to Texas has become much more diverse than in the past,” Potter said. 

In the May 3 "Draw Muhammad" attack in Garland, Texas, there were some loose ends that got cleared up Monday by local police chief Mitch Bates. Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi from Phoenix were killed by Garland police officers after the two men drove from Arizona and opened fire at the event featuring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

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