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This Hour: Latest Texas news, sports, business and entertainment

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As Perry visits NY, job funds set for new scrutiny

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - As Gov. Rick Perry visits New York trying to lure more companies to Texas, lawmakers back home are getting ready to again scrutinize his signature job-creating programs.

A House committee on Thursday is to review funds in Perry's office that award hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to private companies. Perry says the Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund have brought jobs and fostered economic growth.

But the popularity of the programs has waned among some Texas Republicans. Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is the favorite to succeed Perry next year, has signaled unease with what he says amounts to the state picking winners and losers.

Perry arrived in New York this week to meet with business owners and encourage them to move to Texas.


Abbott: Pay teachers bonuses for high exam scores

HOUSTON (AP) - Republican Greg Abbott says that as Texas governor he would seek bonuses for high school teachers whose students perform well on college readiness exams.

Abbott on Wednesday called for paying teachers up to $2,000 a year extra if their students perform well on advanced placement tests. Texas consistently ranks near the bottom nationally in average teacher pay, according to many groups that track classroom salaries.

Abbott unveiled the second part of his education platform at a Houston high school. He's also calling for individual school campuses to receive A through F ratings so that parents can better judge school performance.

The longtime Texas attorney general faces Democrat Wendy Davis in November.

Her campaign didn't immediately comment on Abbott's latest classroom proposals but has been critical of his pre-kindergarten plans.


Texas House panel meets on Hall impeachment report

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - A group of Texas lawmakers considering whether to impeach University of Texas System Regent Wallace Hall meets Thursday to review a report on his efforts to oust Austin campus president Bill Powers.

The House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations is investigating Hall, a Dallas businessman appointed to the board of regents by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011. Since then, Hall has led an effort by some regents to fire the leader of the flagship campus.

According to a draft report for the committee, Hall leaked confidential student information in apparent violation of state and federal laws, as well as manipulated the House committee's investigation and coerced its witnesses.

Powers has resisted efforts to push him out with strong support from prominent alumni, faculty and students.


Drug smuggler tied to sheriff pleads guilty

McALLEN, Texas (AP) - A drug smuggler whose campaign contributions led to the recent resignation and federal conviction of a South Texas sheriff has pleaded guilty in McAllen to federal drug trafficking and money-laundering charges.

The U.S. Attorney's office says 37-year-old Tomas Reyes Gonzalez of Weslaco pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to possess drugs with intent to distribute them and conspiracy to launder money.

Reyes Gonzalez led a drug-trafficking organization that moved tons of marijuana and cocaine from the Lower Rio Grande Valley to states across the Southeast between 2007 and 2013. Former Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino (treh-VEEN'-yoh) pleaded guilty to laundering some of those drug proceeds as campaign contributions earlier this month.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane set sentencing for July 17 in McAllen. Reyes Gonzalez faces up to life in prison.


Couple wins $3 million in drilling lawsuit

DALLAS (AP) - A Dallas jury has awarded $3 million to a North Texas couple who sued a drilling company over alleged contamination.

The Dallas Morning News reports that the jury returned its verdict Tuesday in favor of Bob and Lisa Parr of Wise County. The Parrs argued that Aruba Petroleum's wells caused spills and emissions on their ranch, forcing them to evacuate and making them sick.

The company argued in court - and reiterated in a statement - that it complied with state regulations and that there were too many wells near the ranch to pinpoint theirs as the ones that caused the emissions.

The family's attorney, David Matthews, said the couple felt vindicated.


S. Texas architect pleads guilty in bribery scheme

HOUSTON (AP) - A South Texas architect has pleaded guilty in Houston to a federal conspiracy charge for paying bribes to elected officials in order to win contracts with school districts.

The U.S. Attorney's office said Wednesday that 58-year-old Jesus Bustos of IDEA Group LLC in McAllen admitted to paying bribes from 2004 to 2013 to win millions of dollars-worth of contracts in Progreso and Weslaco.

Earlier this month Progreso's mayor, former school board president and former school district maintenance and transportation supervisor - two brothers and their father - pleaded guilty to related charges for creating a pay-to-play system that earned them kickbacks on city and school district projects.

Bustos faces up to five years in prison. U.S. District Judge David Hittner set sentencing for July 25.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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