Comptroller certifies budget, reports extra $2.5B
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The state's chief accountant says a booming Texas economy has created an extra $2.5 billion in unspent revenue.
Republican Comptroller Susan Combs on Thursday delivered lawmakers a report certifying the 2014 to 2015 state budget passed this spring. The spending included restoring most of the $5.4 billion slashed by the Legislature in 2011 to close a massive budget shortfall.
Combs said oil and gas exploration are driving the state's fiscal fortunes. She also expects the state's Rainy Day Fund to have a balance of about $8 billion by the end of 2015.
Combs, who isn't seeking re-election next year, has been criticized for giving lawmakers overly conservative revenue estimates that impact their spending decisions. Budget-writers returned to the Capitol this spring greeted with an extra $8.8 billion in unspent revenue.
CRUZ COLORING BOOK
Coloring book featuring Ted Cruz selling fast
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - He's known for coloring outside the lines in the staid Senate. Now children of all ages can color in U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.
Just in time for the holidays, a St. Louis publisher is offering a coloring book featuring the Texas tea party darling.
Really Big Coloring Books Incorporated said Thursday that the book's in its third printing in six days. The first run of around 10,000 sold out in barely 24 hours, and the second went nearly as fast.
Cruz didn't cooperate in the publishing of the book.
It shows the ardent supporter of the Second Amendment hunting, and features his 21-hour speech on the Senate floor opposing the White House-backed health care law.
The same publisher also produced a popular 2008 coloring book on President Barack Obama's inauguration.
UT's Powers, Brown staying mum on their futures
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers is reasserting his support of football coach Mack Brown as the jobs of both men remain uncertain.
Powers said Thursday he plans to speak with Brown in the coming days amid intense speculation that the Longhorns coach may be preparing for his final game. His comments came about an hour after Brown mostly deflected questions in San Antonio about his plans.
Whether Powers remains in Austin is also uncertain. UT system regents were scheduled Thursday to discuss a "recommendation" about his employment in a closed-door session.
Powers wouldn't talk about his situation after the regents cleared the room to talk.
Powers has led UT's flagship campus since 2006. Brown arrived at Texas in 1998 and won a national title in 2005.
UNIVERSITY OFFICER-FATAL SHOOTING
Family says questions remain about student's death
BAYTOWN, Texas (AP) - Family and friends are gathering to remember a Texas college student who was fatally shot by a campus police officer during a traffic stop.
Robert Cameron Redus' family says it doesn't believe the Corporal Chris Carter's account of the events that led him to shoot Redus five times early last Friday morning.
Redus had made the dean's list at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio and was co-valedictorian of his high school class while growing up in Baytown, the Houston suburb where Thursday's services are being held.
Carter says Redus refused to be handcuffed and hit him with his own nightstick during a struggle. He says he opened fire on Redus after Redus ignored his warnings and charged at him.
UNLV president hired at UNT; will start Feb. 3
DENTON, Texas (AP) - The University of North Texas board has officially named the president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as its next leader.
UNT regents voted unanimously Thursday to hire Doctor Neal Smatresk as the university's next president. He will replace V. Lane Rawlins, who is retiring at the end of 2013.
The 62-year-old Smatresk will begin the job February 3rd.
Smatresk served as president of UNLV since 2009. UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson says Smatresk has experience leading a university similar to UNT and is familiar with the region.
Smatresk is a native of Arlington, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb about 40 miles south of UNT's Denton campus.
Texas A&M to begin offering journalism degree
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Texas A and M University in the fall will begin offering a major in journalism, resurrecting the program a decade after it was eliminated.
University officials announced in a news release Thursday that the Faculty Senate this week approved a liberal arts degree in journalism. It will be a component of the University Studies Program, which is a degree plan designed to combine several areas of study.
College of Liberal Arts Dean Jose Bermudez said in the release that the journalism program will be academically rigorous, with students required to take two minors, one in liberal arts and one through another college.
The program will start small, admitting 25 freshmen in each of the first few years.
The degree will emphasize critical thinking, writing and an interdisciplinary approach to journalism.
O'Neal lawyers rest case over portrait by Warhol
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ryan O'Neal's attorneys have concluded their defense of the actor in a lawsuit aimed at making him relinquish an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett that he says he has owned since 1980.
The actor's case ended Thursday with brief testimony from his son, Redmond O'Neal, and a chiropractor who watched Fawcett work on sculptures.
Closing arguments are expected Friday.
The University of Texas at Austin is suing O'Neal to gain a silkscreen portrait of the actress created by Warhol for a television special.
The lawsuit claims Fawcett left all her artwork to her alma mater and that O'Neal improperly took the artwork out of her condominium days after her death in 2009.
O'Neal says he had permission from the trustee of Fawcett's estate to remove the portrait.
Warhol created two portraits of Fawcett and the university was given one after her death.
Country star Ray Price leaves hospital for hospice
TYLER, Texas (AP) - Country music star Ray Price is to begin hospice care at his Texas home. That's after his discharge from a hospital where he was being treated for cancer.
A statement issued by East Texas Medical Center in Tyler says Price was discharged Thursday and will receive hospice care at his home in Mount Pleasant.
In the statement, Janie Price said her husband of 45 years had decided "to leave the hospital and return home to spend his final days on his beloved ranch surrounded by the comfort of his home, family and friends."
The 87-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame laureate was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011. Hospital spokeswoman Rebecca Berkley says the cancer has recently spread to his liver, intestines and now his lungs.
Retail gas prices fall by 2 cents across Texas
IRVING, Texas (AP) - Retail gasoline prices across Texas continue to fall, with the per-gallon cost dropping two cents over the last week.
Triple A Texas on Thursday reported the average statewide unleaded price at the pump is now $3.09. The price has fallen by a nickel over the last two weeks.
The statewide average is 16 cents less per gallon than the national average of $3.25.
Of the metro areas in Texas surveyed by AAA, drivers in Dallas are paying the most at $3.12 and drivers in Amarillo continue to pay the least at $2.89.
Retail gas prices nationwide generally moved lower following the end of the summer driving season in September due to plentiful supplies, flat demand and falling crude oil prices.
Meth investigations yields dozens of arrests
TEXARKANA, Texas (AP) - A judge in Texarkana has unsealed a federal indictment naming eight people accused of operating as part of a methamphetamine ring that distributed the drug in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee.
The U.S. Attorney's office and Bowie County District Attorney's office announced Thursday that the two-year investigation dubbed "Operation M-Pact" had resulted in about 50 arrests, as well as the seizure of drugs, cash and weapons.
The federal indictment unsealed Wednesday indicates the conspiracy dates to at least 2007. The investigation involved the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as numerous state and local agencies.
Texas A&M QB Manziel to attend Heisman ceremony
HOUSTON (AP) - Johnny Manziel isn't sure if he'll declare for the NFL draft next month.
But if he does he's thought a lot about his legacy and wants to be remembered as one of the best to have ever played and someone who made a major impact for Texas A and M.
He's made a pretty compelling argument for both. He's a finalist for the Heisman Trophy again, with a chance to join Archie Griffin as the second player to win the award twice.
Johnny Football is one of six players who will attend the presentation ceremony Saturday night in New York. Manziel isn't expected to take home another Heisman after Florida State's Jameis Winston burst onto the scene with a spectacular freshman season much the way Manziel did last year.
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