Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Students charged with aggravated assault, jailed By Megan Gray Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
This photo taken April 14 shows one section of the $500 million Interstate 75 Phase II modernization project, which is underway in Dayton, Ohio.
Aid for highways uncertain By Joan Lowy Associated Press
DAYTON, Ohio — On the road in a tour bus this week, the U.S. transportation secretary is spreading some bad news: The government’s Highway Trust Fund is nearly broke. If allowed to run dry, that could set back or shut down projects across the country, force widespread layoffs of construction workers and delay needed repairs and improvements. Anthony Foxx kicked off an eight-state bus trip in Ohio to whip up public support for congressional approval of legislation to keep federal transportation aid flowing to states for another four years, and possibly longer. But Congress will have to act fast. The trust fund — the source of much of the aid — is forecast to essentially run dry sometime before the end of the federal fiscal year Sept. 30, and possibly as early as late August. If that happens, the government will have to slow down or even halt payments to states, which rely on federal aid for most major highway projects. Uncertainty over whether there will be enough funds in the coming months is already causing officials in states like Arkansas, California and Colorado to consider delaying planned projects.
Foxx’s warnings this week echo ones by President Barack Obama, who cautioned in February that unless Congress finished a bill by summer’s end then “we could see construction projects stop in their tracks.” But there is little interest among politicians in an election year to consider raising gasoline taxes. Many transportation insiders, including Foxx’s predecessor, Ray LaHood, predict Congress will wind up doing what it has done repeatedly over the past five years — dip into the general treasury for enough money to keep programs going a few weeks or a few months, at which point the exercise will have to be repeated all over again. But keeping highway and transit aid constantly teetering on the edge of insolvency discourages state and local officials from moving ahead with bigger and more important projects that take many years to build. In 2012, Congress finally pieced together a series of one-time tax changes and spending cuts to programs unrelated to transportation in order to keep the trust fund solvent for about two years. Now, the money is nearly gone. “Tell Congress we can’t slap a Band-Aid on our transportation system any longer,” Foxx urged
state and local officials at a stop Monday to view one of Ohio’s biggest construction projects. Other states on the tour are Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Foxx is promoting Obama’s four-year, $302 billion plan to shore up the trust fund with savings from proposed changes to corporate tax laws. The White House has said as much as $150 billion could come from its proposal to close corporate loopholes, such as ones that encourage U.S. companies to invest overseas. “I feel it’s clearly a crisis,” Fox said in an interview, “but we have a responsibility to put a proposal out there that casts a longer-term vision, that helps Congress and the country quite frankly think past our noses, and that’s what we’re doing.” It would also be a one-time fix, but it would generate enough money to ratchet up transportation for several years. Rep. David Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House’s tax-writing committee, has also proposed a one-time, $126.5 billion infusion into the trust fund over a period of eight years. But his plan is part of a much broader rewrite of corporate laws, which would require heavy lifting from Congress at
any time, but especially in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of an election year. “There doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite to go after corporate tax reform this year, which is the only long-term funding source that has been proposed by both the administration and Congress,” said Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington transportation think tank. But Sen. Barbara Boxer, DCalif., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told reporters last week that “what seems to be coming forward as a consensus is a piece of tax reform” rather than shifting money from the general treasury or raising fuel taxes. Foxx cited the modernization of Interstate 75, which rumbles through the heart of this middle-sized Ohio city, as an example of the kind of much needed improvements communities want but may have to forgo. The $381 million project is intended to expand the highway’s capacity, reduce traffic congestion, and eliminate dangerous and confusing left-hand exits. More than a third of the project’s cost is being paid with trust fund dollars.
Abbot faces tough death penalty choice By Paul J. Weber Associated Press
AUSTIN — The death penalty is like gun rights in Texas politics: Candidates don’t dare get in the way of either. But Republican Greg Abbott, the favorite to succeed Gov. Rick Perry, must soon make a decision as attorney general that could disrupt the nation’s busiest death chamber. It’s an election-year dilemma for Abbott. But in Texas, it’s one that Democratic rival Wendy Davis can’t easily exploit, illustrating how little room there is to maneuver on this issue.
Abbott must soon decide whether to stick with his earlier opinions that Texas must disclose the source of the execution drugs it uses. That revelation could prompt attention-shy suppliers to halt their drug deliveries and stop Texas’ executions. If Abbott holds firm, he’ll please death penalty opponents who prison officials say want to target the companies with protests and threats. Reversing course would go against his vows for transparency in government.
“There’s no political upside. It puts him in a little bit of a tough position,” said Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak. The predicament comes up as Davis, the feisty Fort Worth lawmaker who has attracted national attention, is eager to find ways to shake up the campaign and prevent Abbott from riding a solid lead in the polls to a general election victory in the GOPdominated state. But Abbott’s difficulty leaves her with few opportunities since portraying the law-and-order attorney general, who has held
the position since 2003, as somehow soft on crime would be implausible. Both Abbott and Davis support the death penalty. “I don’t think any accusations here stick,” said Harold Cook, a onetime leader of the Texas Democratic Party and now a consultant. Polls in recent years have shown public support in Texas for capital punishment at more than 70 percent. The state has executed an average of 20 inmates a year since Perry took office in 2001.
Two University of North Texas freshmen accused of shooting pellets at two other students on campus over the weekend have been booked into the city of Denton jail. Raymond Wax and Victor Avina, both 19, were charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon Monday evening. Bond has been set for each of them at $50,000. Avina, a chemistry major, admitted to detectives Monday that he shot at the two women students at Clark Hall in the 1700 block of Maple Street, according to a sworn statement submitted by police in seeking his arrest. Two women students reported that on Friday they were shot at several times with a pellet gun while they were sitting on a bench at Clark Hall, according to UNT police. A second incident early
Saturday was reported at a gas station by the same two women students. One customer at the gas station was struck in the leg by a pellet or BB, according to a university email alert. Wax, a mechanical and energy engineering major, consented to a vehicle search by UNT police Sunday. Officers found an Airsoft gun and BB pellets, but he denied being involved in the shooting incident earlier in the weekend, according to police records. Avina told police that Wax also shot at the two women, according to the sworn statement by police. Wax lived at the residence hall where the shooting initially took place and was arrested on campus. Avina, an Aubrey resident, was brought in on a warrant during a traffic stop. MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGray News.
DENTON POLICE MOST WANTED Warrants have been issued for these people, according to Denton police officials. If you see any of these people, call 911. You can leave anonymous tips at the Denton Police Department Facebook page or by using Tip411. Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest of Denton’s Most Wanted. Callers will remain anonymous.
Christopher Arnet Charge: theft more than $50, less than $500 Age: 22 Height: 6 feet Weight: 150 pounds Hair: red Eyes: brown
Cash Doherty Charge: duty on striking unattended vehicle, over $200 Age: 18 Height: 6 feet, 3 inches Weight: 145 pounds Hair: blond Eyes: hazel
Charles Johnston Charge: unlawful carrying of a weapon and driving while intoxicated Age: 56 Height: 6 feet, 1 inch Weight: 235 pounds Hair: brown Eyes: brown
Sebastian Gist Charge: theft less than $1,500, more than $20,000 Age: 43 Height: 6 feet Weight: 300 pounds Hair: black Eyes: brown
Justin Nixon Charge: possession of marijuana under 2 ounces Age: 23 Height: 5 feet, 9 inches Weight: 183 pounds Hair: brown Eyes: brown
Andre Nolan Charge: assault causing bodily injury Age: 17 Height: 5 feet, 11 inches Weight: 145 pounds Hair: brown Eyes: brown
Michael Pannell Charge: theft more than $50, less than $500 Age: 47 Height: 6 feet Weight: 234 pounds Hair: black Eyes: brown
Tina Walters Charge: theft more than $50, less than $500 Age: 47 Height: 5 feet, 4 inches Weight: 140 Hair: blond Eyes: blue
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