Highlights from around the Capitol

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Two years after Chris Kyle's death, and days before the man accused of killing him goes to trial, the retired Navy SEAL depicted in the blockbuster movie "American Sniper" received a state day Monday in his honor.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed a proclamation declaring Feb. 2 "Chris Kyle Day" in Texas, where Kyle was raised and lived after serving in Iraq. Flags statewide were to fly Monday at half-staff.

"As governor, I am proclaiming this to be Chris Kyle Day, but in doing so, as Chris would have it, we are also recognizing every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States Military," Abbott said, flanked by a dozen bipartisan lawmakers.

Abbott called Kyle - reputed to be the deadliest sniper in American history - "the face of a legion of warriors who have led the mightiest military in the history of the world."

Four years after he retired from service, he and neighbor Chad Littlefield were shot and killed at a North Texas gun range. Accused in their deaths is former Marine Eddie Ray Routh, whom the two men were trying to help. Routh has been described by family as a troubled veteran who was hospitalized for mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

An Abbott spokeswoman said the success of the movie based on Kyle's autobiography and the upcoming trial were not driving forces behind Monday's announcement. An effort is underway to make Chris Kyle Day an annual event.


An Austin prosecutor who heads the state's anti-public corruption unit told lawmakers Monday that his current caseload includes an investigation surrounding an elected official.

Gregg Cox, head of the state's Public Integrity Unit, would not disclose the identity or reveal other details about the official. He later described the case to reporters as "run of the mill" and not an investigation that requires significant resources.

Republican distaste for the Cox's unit has intensified since Gov. Rick Perry was indicted on abuse of power charges last summer for vetoing its funding in 2013. Many conservatives want the unit moved out of the Travis County District Attorney's Office, which is overseen by an elected Democrat.

Republican Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson said the functions of the unit are important but should be held accountable to more than just voters in a single county.

The first Senate budget released last week left out money for the unit. Cox said that his office currently has 19 public corruption investigations that are ongoing.


A week ago, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick angered open carry advocates when he said the issue was not a Senate priority. He made it one Monday. Patrick referred two bills that would allow for the open carry of handguns, one with a license and one without, to committee, and called for a public hearing "as soon as possible."


A rattlesnake has bitten a handler - but didn't inject any venom - during a promotion for the 57th annual Rattlesnake Roundup at the Texas Capitol.

Volunteers stood watch for hours over a dozen snakes Monday, as they slithered around the outdoor rotunda. Carefully, they held the venomous snakes' heads and tails for pictures.

But in the midafternoon, handler Blake Stephens picked up a serpent whose fang penetrated his thumb, drawing blood and causing him to drop the snake.

The 38-year-old said, "It fazed me but I did my best not to let it show."

An ambulance was summoned and medical personnel cleared Stephens to return to the makeshift snake pit.

At the roundup, snakes into the open surrounding Sweetwater, 200 miles west of Fort Worth, and then killed.


"The small game last night pales in comparison to the game that will be played tonight." - Democratic state Rep. Eddie Lucio III, referring to the annual Texas House flag football game following Sunday's Super Bowl.

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