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story.lead_photo.caption Bob Kelley, an attorney involved in lawsuits filed over a promised settlement in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, speaks Wednesday at a news conference in Fort Lauderdale.

Suits filed over Florida school shooting

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Survivors and family members of the slain victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., sued the School Board, sheriff's office and others for negligence Wednesday, saying the agencies initially had promised a financial settlement but secretly worked behind the scenes to prevent a deal.

More than two dozen family members and survivors filed 22 lawsuits in state court in south Florida against the School Board of Broward County; the Broward County sheriff's office; former deputy Scott Peterson, who was a school resource officer; Andrew Medina, who was a school security monitor; and Henderson Behavioral Health Clinic, a mental-health facility where suspect Nikolas Cruz was treated.

Cruz, 20, is accused of fatally shooting 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day in 2018.

Todd Michaels, attorney for the family of Joaquin Oliver, who was killed, said after the shootings, the sheriff's office and School Board representatives "said all the right things." Instead, the agencies hired a law firm to lobby the Florida Legislature behind the scenes to stop a settlement resolution, Michaels said.

2nd-trimester abortion bill signed in N.D.

BISMARCK, N.D. -- North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation Wednesday that makes it a crime for a doctor performing a second-trimester abortion to use instruments such as clamps, scissors and forceps to remove the fetus from the womb.

The bill that passed easily in the GOP-led Legislature last month outlaws the abortion practice known as dilation and evacuation -- the most commonly used procedure in second-trimester abortions, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research organization.

Burgum's spokesman, Mike Nowatzki, announced in a single-sentence email late Wednesday that he signed the bill.

The bill uses the nonmedical term "human dismemberment abortion" and is graphic in describing the procedure.

Except in cases of an emergency, doctors performing the procedure would be charged with a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The measure says the woman having the abortion would not face charges.

Abortion-rights groups argue that banning the procedure is unconstitutional because it interferes with private medical decisions.

State Health Department data show the procedure has not been reported in North Dakota since 2015, when eight such abortions were performed.

Laws banning the procedure are on the books in Mississippi and West Virginia. Similar laws are on hold because of legal challenges in Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

Texas GOP pushes for rise in sales tax

AUSTIN, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday called for Texas' first sales-tax increase in nearly 30 years as Republican leaders who promised to boost money for classrooms and cut property taxes struggle to achieve both with just weeks left to deliver.

The plan would push the sales-tax rate to 7.25 percent, tying Texas with California for highest in the U.S., and would bring in an extra $5 billion in its first year.

Abbott and other Republicans promised tax relief and an infusion of billions of new dollars into schools in the wake of the Texas GOP's worst election in a generation. Those efforts, however, are in danger of stalling and the May end date for the 140-day legislative session is quickly approaching.

But lawmakers would first have to agree to limit future property taxes. The current sales-tax rate is 6.25 percent, and local government add-ons make the average sales-tax rate across Texas about 8.25 percent.

Property taxes have taken on a bigger share of public-school funding as Texas Republicans sought to satisfy conservative voters in recent years with deep spending cuts and resistance to demands for new education funding.

Democrats criticized the sales-tax increase trade for lower property taxes as a reward for businesses and the wealthy, but a hit to the wallet for most Texans.

Nurse wounded in S.C. hospital gunfire

ORANGEBURG, S.C. -- A nurse was shot inside a South Carolina hospital emergency room on Wednesday by a man who had carried a weapon when he sought mental-health care the day before and was turned away, a state representative said.

Authorities took the man's gun on Tuesday and told his girlfriend that it was OK for him to return Friday for more treatment. Instead, he showed up at the emergency room with another gun, and randomly opened fire, wounding a nurse.

The nurse was immediately taken into surgery after the shooting around 8:45 a.m. Wednesday at Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, the hospital said.

He was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon, the hospital's president, Charles Williams, said at a news conference.

The gunman, who wasn't identified, was taken into custody and the emergency room was shut down while Orangeburg County deputies investigated, the hospital said in a statement.

A Section on 04/11/2019

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