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Top Morning Stories May 19, 2011

Sketch courtesy of Pat Lopez.
The accused Fort Hood shooter’s defense team is scheduled to meet with Fort Hood’s new commander Thursday.

Charged Fort Hood Shooter's Defense Meeting with Commander

Major Nidal Hasan's defense counsel is scheduled to meet with Fort Hood's commander today.  Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell will decide whether Hasan will be court martialed and whether he will face the death penalty. Hasan's lead attorney, John Galligan, told the Associated Press he'll urge Campbell not to seek the death penalty because those cases are more costly and time consuming. Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the shootings at Fort Hood in November 2009. 

LCRA Sounding Alarm on Drought

The Lower Colorado River Authority is calling on its customers, including Austin, to conserve water because of the severe drought. 

"We are very concerned because this drought looks as if it may be one of the most severe we've seen in decades, "LCRA General Manager Tom Mason said. "The last seven months have been among the driest in our basin's history. The good news is we're prepared. We have a state-approved Water Management Plan that has been recently updated and we are following that."

Only about 5 inches of rain fell in Austin from October through the end of April. The LCRA says this was the third driest period on record for those months since 1856. While the LCRA is requesting voluntary water use restrictions, the City of Austin does have mandatory stage 1 water use restrictions in place right now. 

Fiscal Matters Round Two

The Texas House is set to consider two key bills related to the state’s budget today.  Budget writers say these so-called “fiscal matters” bills are a must to balance and pass a state budget for the next two years.  House leaders postponed consideration of the bills yesterday after hundreds of amendments were attached. 

The Senate’s chief budget writer, Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan), said postponing work on the fiscal matters legislation almost assures there will be a special legislative session this summer to finish work on the budget.

Navy Names Ship for Cesar Chavez

The Navy is naming a ship after civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.  Chavez served in the Navy from 1944-1946. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus made the announcement yesterday:

"Cesar Chavez inspired young Americans to do what is right and what is necessary to protect our freedoms and our country," said Mabus. "The Cesar Chavez will sail hundreds of thousands of miles and will bring support and assistance to thousands upon thousands of people. His example will live on in this great ship."   Designated T-AKE 14, Cesar Chavez is being built by General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego.  Eleven of the T-AKEs are slated to serve as combat logistics force (CLF) ships, and three are slated to be part of the maritime prepositioning force (MPF).  Cesar Chavez will serve the CLF missions, helping the Navy maintain a worldwide forward presence by delivering ammunition, food, fuel and other dry cargo to U.S. and allied ships at sea.