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Top Morning Stories 2/14/12: Railroad Commish Resigns, Redistricting Update, Austin to Houston Rail?

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Texas Railroad Chairwoman Elizabeth Ames Jones stepped down on Monday.

Texas Railroad Commissioner Resigns

Elizabeth Ames Jones, chairwoman of the Texas Railroad Commission, tendered her resignation to Governor Rick Perry yesterday afternoon. The former chair is running for the Texas Senate to represent District 25.

Jones posted a statement on her website stating the reason for her resignation is to allow her to devote full energy to the upcoming election against incumbent Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio.  But Jones' recent move from Austin to San Antonio also called her eligibility to serve on the Railroad Commission into question, the Texas Tribune reports.   

Jones was appointed to the Railroad Commission in 2005; she was then elected to a six-year term in November 2006. The Railroad Commission’s website has not commented on Jones’ resignation.

Redistricting Court to Reconvene Today

According to the Associated Press, a federal court in San Antonio will reconvene today to continue hearing negotiations over redistricting plans. Meanwhile, Texas'  April primary hangs in the balance.

The court ordered for further negotiations between the minority groups suing over the redrawn maps, and the state. Despite talk of agreement from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, negotiations have not yet yielded a mutually-agreeable map.

“The continued deadlock further dampens prospects of a deal, which a three-judge panel in San Antonio favors over drawing the maps themselves,” says the AP.

Democrats and several minority groups argue that district maps do not reflect minority growth in the population and that the original maps violate the Voting Rights Act.

CAMPO Talks of an Austin to Houston Rail

As reported by KXAN, last night the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) discussed plans to “explore a new passenger rail service that would connect Austin to Houston and, several cities in between.”

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Rail Division gave a presentation discussing their proposal for the new rail service at CAMPO’s policy board meeting. They outlined the rail route, including four stops which would connect Elgin and Giddings and a stop in College Station, says KXAN.

Jennifer Moczygemba with TxDOT’s Rail Division is quoted by KXAN as saying the service would be  “very important in Texas. There’s a lot of inner-city travel, especially for business purposes,” reports KXAN.

The projected cost for the project would be $1 billion. This rail service is only in the planning stages.

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