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

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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 Gov. Perry challenges Cuomo on business

NEW YORK (AP) - Texas Governor Rick Perry says it's good for states to face economic competition from each other because it pushes them to be better.

The Republican was in New York City on Wednesday on a trip to meet business owners.

He's trying to convince them to move their operations to Texas. He says the business environment is better there.

It's something Perry has promoted in New York before and in other states as well.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's (KOWH'-mohz) Start-Up NY program has had commercials playing in Texas. The program allows businesses that locate near college campuses to operate tax-free for 10 years.

Perry says the competition pushes states to make sure their business environments are as competitive as possible.


Texas district to pay $30K in mercury health costs

ODESSA, Texas (AP) - West Texas school officials have decided to pay $30,000 in health care costs for students exposed to mercury brought to a school by an Odessa ninth-grader.

The Odessa American reported Wednesday that Ector County Independent School District trustees voted to cap the amount at $30,000 for students contaminated in the March 18th incident.

The medical costs of affected teachers at John B. Hood Junior High School are covered under workers compensation.

Nobody was injured but as many as 70 people were taken to hospitals after exposure to the toxic element.

A boy told officials he found the mercury in a plastic bottle in an alley on the way to school. Investigators believe the student did not know the substance was mercury.

The preliminary school cleanup cost has reached $900,000.


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.


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 17th in McAllen. Reyes Gonzalez faces up to life in prison.


Feds probe district's immigrant teacher hiring

DALLAS (AP) - A North Texas school district is facing a federal investigation and a payout of more than $500,000 to reimburse international teachers after their recruitment violated regulations.

Some teachers in the Garland Independent School District in suburban Dallas believed the district's irregularities are to blame for their possible deportation.

The district hired an outside law firm to investigate its program after being contacted by in September by employees concerned about wrongdoing. That investigation found the official formerly in charge of the district's program was poorly supervised. Also, foreign hiring during that official's most prolific period, from 2008 on, was at an unreasonable rate.

The district self-reported the findings in February to federal investigators.


Man charged with murder in nursing home deaths

HOUSTON (AP) - Authorities have filed a capital murder charge against a Houston nursing home resident accused of using the armrest of his wheelchair to beat two of his roommates to death.

Guillermo Correa was in custody after being formally charged Wednesday.

Houston police spokesman Victor Senties says employees at the Lexington Place Nursing and Rehabilitation Center told investigators the 56-year-old Correa got into a fight with his roommates Tuesday evening.

Senties says exactly what sparked the fight is still unknown.

Irma Chavez, the daughter of 77-year-old Antonio Acosta, one of the victims, said her father had complained about Correa repeatedly, including earlier Tuesday.

Plano-based Pinnacle Health Facilities, listed in state records as the nursing home's owner, did not immediately return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

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

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