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BC-TX--Texas News Digest, TX

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News,Science and Technology

Texas news at 4:30 a.m. CDT.

Diana Heidgerd is the supervisor, reachable at 972-991-2100 or 800-442-7189. For photo reruns, call 212-621-1904. National and international story reruns are also available from the Service Desk (800-838-4616). AP stories, along with the photos that accompany them, can also be obtained from http://www.apexchange.com.

For technical assistance, call 800-527-8936. For questions about GraphicsNet, call 212-621-1905. To send stories to the AP, send to aptexas(at)ap.org.

XGR--BUSINESS TAXES

AUSTIN, Texas — A major tax bill headed for the Texas House floor could create a major showdown over legislation pivotal to Gov. Rick Perry's demand for tax relief. The House on Tuesday is to consider nearly $400 million in business tax breaks through proposed reforms to the state's maligned franchise tax. Businesses complain the tax is applied unevenly, while Democrats grouse about how the tax underperforms. Perry has called for the Legislature to deliver $1.6 million in tax cuts before the session ends this month. He also vowed not to sign a new state budget unless lawmakers pass what he considers "significant" tax relief. The price tag on the business tax reform bill could still rise. Among the proposals is a three-year exemption to companies that relocate to Texas. By Paul J. Weber.

Eds: Will be updated. House convenes at 10 a.m. CDT.

XGR--GUN LAWS

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House has given final approval to a slew of gun laws designed to protect 2nd Amendment rights, and gave provisional passage to one that would ban state and local police from working with federal authorities on new gun control regulations. The most contentious measure would allow Texas college students to carry firearms on campus. The bill would allow students who are 21 or older and have a concealed weapons permit to bring their handguns to class unless a university chooses to forbid what has become known as "campus carry." By Chris Tomlinson.

XGR--CURRICULUM STANDARDS

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate has unanimously approved its version of a major high school curriculum overhaul, reducing the number of standardized tests students must pass to graduate from a nation-leading 15 to five while allowing some to earn diplomas without taking upper-level math courses such as Algebra II. By Will Weissert.

In other legislative news:

— XGR--SWITCHBLADE — Switchblades could soon be legal in Texas following a vote in the Texas House of Representatives.

— XGR--INCENTIVE FUNDS — A signature program of Gov. Rick Perry that Texas lawmakers are newly scrutinizing is now being considered for a possible name change.

— XGR--TOBACCO TAXES — State taxes on chewing tobacco would drop by more than 30 percent but the price of cigarettes would climb for some brands under a bill given tentative approval in the Texas House.

— XGR--CHELSEA'S LAW — Texas would adopt a version of California's 'Chelsea's Law' that mandates life in prison for certain sexual assault convictions under a bill given tentative approval in the House.

— XGR--CAPITOL ALMANAC — Highlights from around the Texas Capitol.

TEXAS EXECUTION

HUNTSVILLE, Texas — A convicted drug dealer faces execution for shooting an 18-year-old man to death a decade ago during a robbery outside a Waco convenience store. Authorities say Carroll Joe Parr was trying to get his money back after he bought 7 pounds of marijuana. Parr says he's not responsible for the January 2003 slaying of Joel Dominguez, although witnesses identified him as the shooter and others said he talked about doing the shooting. A federal appeals court last week refused to halt his punishment, and his lawyers anticipate no last-day appeals to stop Tuesday evening's lethal injection in Huntsville. The 35-year-old Parr, whose street name in Waco was "Outlaw," would be the fifth Texas inmate executed this year. By Michael Graczyk.

Eds: Will be updated. Execution scheduled for after 6 p.m. CDT.

AP photo.

TEXAS COURTHOUSE SHOOTING

GALVESTON, Texas — Jurors will soon begin deciding the fate of a Houston man convicted of capital murder for a bystander's death during a shooting rampage outside a Texas courthouse last year. Closing arguments in the punishment phase of Bartholomew Granger's trial are set for Tuesday in Galveston. By Juan A. Lozano.

Eds: Will be updated after arguments set for 9:30 a.m. CDT.

TEXAS SPACEPORT

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The Federal Aviation Administration will gather public comment on a draft environmental study of a proposal to launch rockets from the southernmost tip of Texas. The public hearing Tuesday evening follows the release last month of the draft environmental impact statement. It centers on California-based SpaceX's plan to launch as many as 12 rockets a year from a site surrounded by a federal wildlife refuge near Boca Chica Beach, east of Brownsville. By Christopher Sherman.

Eds: Will be updated after hearing begins at 5 p.m. CDT.

EL PASO-TESTING SCANDAL

EL PASO, Texas — A board appointed by the state to manage the El Paso school district holds its first official meeting after taking over for the district's ousted board. State Education Commissioner Michael Williams will attend Tuesday's meeting and swearing-in. By Juan Carlos Llorca.

Eds: Will be updated after 4 p.m. MDT news conference and meeting.

IRAQ SHOOTING-COURT MARTIAL

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Defense lawyers have tried to introduce evidence that an Army sergeant charged with the premeditated killing of five fellow service members in Iraq may have had brain abnormalities. A military judge heard testimony from an expert who said Sgt. John Russell of Sherman, Texas, had "significant abnormalities" in his brain structure and function. Dr. Ruben Gur said says the abnormalities indicate Russell could have had difficulty regulating emotions. By Mike Baker.

AP photos.

DINOSAUR DISPUTE

NEW YORK — It may be the first time a dead dinosaur is flying for free. U.S. authorities in New York are returning a 70-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus skeleton to the Mongolian government this week. The artifact will be flown to its native land free of charge via Korean Air, U.S. and Mongolian officials said while announcing the repatriation of the priceless artifact. By Verena Dobnik.

AP photos.

Also:

— AMERICAN AIRLINES-US AIRWAYS — American Airlines and US Airways expect to announce the senior executives of their combined company within a few weeks.

— TEXAS TECH-WIND INSTITUTE — Texas Tech University has created an institute that combines research and education in wind science, engineering and energy.

— PLANT EXPLOSION-TEXAS — A store of ammonium nitrate is what exploded April 17 at a Central Texas plant, killing 14 people, injuring hundreds and devastating an adjoining town.

— PERRY-OBAMA VISIT — Gov. Rick Perry is welcoming President Barack Obama ahead of the president's visit to Austin this week.

— ATMOS ENERGY-BILLING GLITCH — About 27,000 Atmos Energy customers have been accidentally charged 10 times the amount of their bill.

— EL PASO-NEW BISHOP — Pope Francis has appointed the auxiliary bishop of Dallas, Mark J. Seitz, the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso.

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