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Top Morning Stories May 20, 2011

Image courtesy of the Austin Police Department.
Austin's police chief has fired a SWAT officer who was charged with DWI after a party in December. Six other officers were also disciplined Thursday.

SWAT Officer Fired Following DWI Charge

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo has fired an APD SWAT officer who was charged with drunken driving in December. Police say Officer Michael Hamilton crashed his unmarked police car after leaving a colleague's party.  Six other officers were suspended between four and fifteen days for drinking while on call, driving city vehicles under the influence and failing to report these actions to supervisors.

Chief Acevedo said the disciplinary actions show the department does police itself.  From the Austin American-Statesman:

 He praised his officers for responding to the crash, obtaining a search warrant and doing a non-consensual test on Hamilton's blood. Department officials also reassigned the involved officers to other positions. "To all the conspiracy theorists that say we don't investigate ourselves, I say, `Sorry, the proof is in the pudding,'" he said. The incident led to changes in the way the department staffs its SWAT team. SWAT officers are now given regular police duties every third week to give them relief from having to be in a constant state of readiness. Previously, SWAT team members have been almost continually on call for their duties. 

State Budget Negotiations Close But Not Finished

Budget negotiations continue at the Texas Capitol today. A House-Senate conference committee appears to have agreed on everything in the budget, except for how much to spend on higher education. The House wants to spend about $300 million less on higher ed than the Senate does. 

Ben Philpott, who reports on the Legislature for KUT News and the Texas Tribune, has more details on the budget negotiations that broke off late last night.  You can read his story here.

Abortion Sonogram Bill Signed into Law

The Associated Press reports Governor Rick Perry has signed into law the abortion sonogram bill, as expected.  It will require doctors to perform sonograms before abortions.  Doctors are required to describe the sonogram to the woman.  There are exceptions for women who are victims of rape and in cases where the fetus has a fatal deformity. 

Today is Bike to Work Day

You may notice more cyclists around town today for Bike to Work Day.  The event was founded by the League of American Bicyclists as a way to promote commuting to work by bike.  Several businesses around Austin are giving out free food to people who are participating. You can check out a Google map of those places here.