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The Brief: April 19, 2013

Questions swirled on Thursday as the devastation wrought by the West plant explosion was laid bare.

A vehicle near the remains of a fertilizer plant burning after an explosion in West, Texas, near Waco.

The Big Conversation

Questions swirled on Thursday as the devastation wrought by the West plant explosion was laid bare.

Officials continued their investigation into the cause and destructive toll of the blast, which occurred on Wednesday night after a fertilizer plant caught fire. The explosion leveled homes and businesses, injured more than 150 people and, according to reports, killed between five and 15 — far fewer than the dozens officials had originally predicted.

The Waco Tribune-Herald reported that authorities had begun removing the bodies of several firefighters from the plant site on Thursday night.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Rick Perry declared McLennan County, home to West, a disaster area and said he had received a phone call from President Barack Obama, who offered federal support.

"We greatly appreciate his call and his gracious offer of support, of course, and a very quick turnaround of the emergency declaration that will be forthcoming, and he offered his prayers," Perry said at a news conference.

Meanwhile, questions have been raised about complaints filed against the plant. According to the Houston Chronicle, reports of leaks and fumes date back 25 years. In 2006, the plant was also cited for not having proper air pollution permits.

As the Tribune reported Thursday, the accident has also quietly sparked talk of changes to environmental regulations

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are planning to tour the damage today.


•    Board of Education bristles at losing power over charter schools (The Associated Press): "The State Board of Education on Wednesday lambasted a high-profile proposal approved by the Texas Senate that would strip the education panel of its power to authorize new charter schools. The legislation, which still needs approval from the House, moves that power to the state commissioner of education."

•    House Budget Writers Support $500 Million More for Schools (The Texas Tribune): "The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved an $874.9 million supplemental budget bill that includes $500 million more for schools and covers bills for last year's wildfires."

•    State Rep. Gonzalez faces up to year in jail for DWI charge (Austin American-Statesman): "An El Paso state representative accused of driving while intoxicated last month faces a Class A misdemeanor after final test results showed her blood alcohol level was about twice the legal limit. On March 14, Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, crashed the BMW she was driving into another car that then struck a bicyclist on Congress Avenue near Barton Springs Road shortly before 2 a.m., according to an arrest affidavit."

Quote of the Day: "No, sir. And, frankly, I haven’t seen you do that with your bills." — State Sen. John Carona in response to Sen. Troy Fraser, who asked Carona whether he had sent amendments to his payday lending legislation around 24 hours in advance


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