5 things to watch for Friday

5 things to watch for Friday

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Road to passage for Texas 'bathroom bill' getting far harder

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The path for Texas to enact its version of a North Carolina-style bathroom bill is poised to get far tougher as the Republican-controlled state House closed on a key midnight deadline Thursday to approve legislation.

A proposal mandating transgender Texans to use public restrooms according to their birth certificate gender sailed through the Texas Senate weeks ago, but a similar measure that bans schools and local communities from passing ordinances to protect LGBT rights has been bottled up in the House. That's despite Republican Gov. Greg Abbott urging fellow members of his party to support it and even calling pastors at evangelical churches around the state to increase public pressure.

Outnumbered House Democrats have been using tactics to delay a vote on this and other hot-button issues since late last week. House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican who sees the bill as bad for business, hasn't intervened.

Top firms and lobbyists have opposed it. Many top Hollywood actors and music stars have suggested state boycotts, and the NFL and NBA have warned about canceling future Texas events if it passes.

Any bill not approved by midnight dies in its current form but could still live on as a proposed change to a related bill that's already advancing. Efforts could also be made to revive what the Senate already passed, though so far it's been a non-starter in the House.

Rep. Ron Simmons, who has been the issue's top House champion, said supporters will look to attach public bathroom restrictions that at least extend to public schools onto educational legislation, even if more widespread bans fizzle.

"I think the likelihood of something getting passed this session as it relates to schools is pretty good," said Simmons, a Republican from Carrollton in suburban Dallas. "We're looking for opportunities to amend to other bills that would allow us to be able to protect the school scenario, which is where our number one concern is."

1970 Tornado Memorial Project honors victims and survivors

LUBBOCK, Texas - It is a day etched in stone, in Irasema Velasquez's memory bank.

"I remember the May 11th tornado so vividly. It is one of those things that stays with you no matter what, because it makes such a big impression on your life," Irasema Velasquez said. 

She was 14 and remembers she was talking on the phone when it went dead. 
     
"Immediately all seven of us, nine of us, in the house sensed something was going to happen, so we all went to the middle hall and as soon as we did windows broke open, the door knocked us down, yeah we were like in a cave," Velasquez said. 

One wall collapsed on top of them.

"Immediately after we saw the tornado, the streets, the different agencies coming out, bring water and all such as that, also got to see the destruction you know and it was, I'm talking about I was right in the middle of it surrounded by destruction," Velasquez said. 

The tornado injured more than 1,500 and killed 26.

Downtown Taxing Increment Financing Chairman Robert Taylor said, "I lived through it, but as you research this, I got the stories of each one of the 26 that lost their lives, it's very sobering to go back and read those. They are your neighbors, those are real people, a whole family getting wiped out, so it is something we need to remember."  

Robert Taylor and members of the Downtown TIF are working to create a new memorial for the victims.

"The concept first of all, the ground will be a brick pavers, will be laid down in a grid and each grid will be laid out in the way Lubbock streets are, so you can find your locations and then there will be a polished black granite wall 26 feet tall, one foot for every person that lost their life," Taylor said. 

There were actually two tornadoes that hit Lubbock that night.

"The path of the tornadoes will follow that street grid and you can see actually where the tornadoes hit, what time they hit, where they started and where they pulled up," Taylor said. 

Taylor said he hopes it will be a place for survivors to share their stories.

"There is also a place on those granite walls for quotes and comments about where you were and what happened and I for one remember exactly where I was in that very minute of that tornado," Taylor said. 
 
Every element of the memorial has purpose and meaning, even the location, Glenna Goodacre and Ave Q.

"That tornado really had a one mile wide path and that's where it really hit the hardest, the residents that live, that's where a lot of the residents were killed," Taylor said. "A little family with a 9 month old baby, a 3 year old little girl and the mother and dad got killed not to far from there and so it was really Devastating, so not only is it a new area of growth for downtown, but it is really a remembering of where that tornado did its most destruction."

The memorial will feature green space and will be financed by the downtown TIF and private investors.

It is their hope that the Memorial can be complete by the tornado's 50th anniversary.

Acting FBI chief promises to keep Congress in the loop

WASHINGTON (AP) - Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe has promised to tell the Senate intelligence committee if there is any effort to interfere with the agency's investigation into Russian activities during last year's presidential election.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, asked McCabe during a hearing Thursday whether he would commit to informing the committee of any such attempts.

McCabe replied, "I absolutely do."

Warner's question alludes to concerns in Congress that President Donald Trump fired James Comey as FBI director to throw a wrench in the agency's investigation into Russian election meddling. A key question in the probe is whether any of Trump's associates coordinated with the Russian government to influence voters.
 

Paper says Comey didn't pledge loyalty to Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) - The New York Times reports that former FBI Director James Comey declined to pledge loyalty to President Donald Trump during a dinner the two men shared in January.

The newspaper quotes two unnamed Comey associates who say they heard Comey's account of the dinner.

Comey instead promised Trump "honesty." When Trump then pressed for "honest loyalty," Comey told the president, "you will have that," say the associates, who told the newspaper they agreed to keep the story confidential while Comey was FBI director.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders disputed the report.

But the account echoes wording in a comment made a day earlier to The Associated Press by longtime Comey friend Daniel Richman, who said the president had removed "somebody unwilling to pledge absolute loyalty to him."

Tillerson: US reviewing climate change policy

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - Arctic nations have approved a document calling for global action to address climate change. But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says his country continues to review its own policies.

Tillerson spoke Thursday in Fairbanks, Alaska, at a meeting of the Arctic Council, made up of the eight Arctic nations and indigenous groups.

The council adopted a document noting the need for global action to reduce long-lived greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants.

Tillerson says the United States appreciates that the other countries have important points of view and will take time to understand their concerns.

But he says the U.S. will not rush to make a decision on climate change policy.

The United State chaired the council for the last two years and turned the chairmanship over to Finland on Thursday.

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