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Nation in brief

Texas legislature reaches agreement

By Wire services
Published October 9, 2003

AUSTIN - Texas House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement in principle Wednesday to redraw the state's congressional boundaries, settling a dispute among Republican lawmakers.

After days of closed-door meetings, legislators reached a deal after U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay met with officials in the Capitol for three straight days this week.

DeLay has been leading a GOP effort to increase the number of Republicans in the state's congressional delegation.

The final sticking point for negotiators was over how to draw districts in west Texas to the satisfaction of individual lawmakers.

"It is my hope that we can have a final map that we can show you tomorrow morning," Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said.

A spokesman for House Speaker Tom Craddick said that the lawmaker was awaiting the final changes from the Senate negotiators.

"We think it's okay, but we want to make sure we agree with them," said Bob Richter, Craddick's spokesman.

Some details still need to be ironed out, but the conference committee agreement covers the entire map, said Dewhurst's spokesman, Dave Beckwith.

The plan still must be approved by the majority of the House and Senate. Both chambers are scheduled to convene again Friday.

Gov. Rick Perry is expected to sign the redistricting bill once it passes.

Iowa court strikes down grandparent visitation

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Iowa Supreme Court struck down a state law guaranteeing visitation rights to grandparents, ruling it an unconstitutional intrusion on the rights of parents.

The court said it's unconstitutional for judges to question a parent's decisions unless the health or safety of the child is in danger.

The ruling prevents the state from intervening in the case of Arnie and Lucille Lamberts, who wanted to use the law to assure visitation with their granddaughter. The couple's daughter died during childbirth, and they said their relationship with their former son-in-law had deteriorated.

In making its decision, the court cited a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found a Washington state law went too far in allowing any person to win a court-ordered right to see a child if it is found to be in the child's best interest.

Courts in Michigan and Illinois since have struck down their visitation laws. Last year, Massachusetts' high court ruled grandparents have the right to see their grandkids over a parent's objection - if they prove denying visitation would be harmful.

Former first lady hospitalized briefly

AUSTIN, Texas - Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson was taken to a hospital emergency room after a fall at her home but was released shortly afterward.

Johnson, 90, who uses a walker, fell backward, her spokeswoman Betty Tilson said. She was taken by ambulance to Seton Medical Center as a precaution and released within a couple of hours.

"I gather she just stumbled a bit. I don't believe she was knocked unconscious," Tilson said.

Number of minorities in college doubles

The number of minority students on America's college campuses has more than doubled since 1981, but white students are still more likely to attend college, a new report says.

The annual Minorities in Higher Education Annual Status Report issued by the American Council on Education found that the number of minority high school graduates between the ages of 18 to 24 attending U.S. schools jumped from nearly 2-million in 1980-81 to 4.3-million in 2000-01.

Despite the gains, the ACE said only 40 percent of African-Americans and 34 percent of Hispanics attend college, compared to 46 percent of whites, continuing a disparity that was worse in the late 1980s.

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