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Most states have a budget shortfall and they are all trying to find a way to save money. In Texas, that may mean laying off public school teachers.

The Texas comptroller says the state could lay off 12,000 elementary school teachers if requirement that class sizes be capped at 22 pupils is eased. Comptroller Susan Combs suggests eliminating the requirement — passed 25 years ago. 

• Several stories today about the hearing yesterday by the Department of Justice and the Department of Agriculture on consolidation in the retail food business.

Linda Smith at DTN reports on a press conference yesterday morning with Attorney General Eric Holder (above), DOJ antitrust chief Christine Varney and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. All three said the Obama administration would press on with its investigation.

Smith reports: “Under pointed questions in a press conference this morning, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared that the Department of Justice – U.S. Department of Agriculture workshops on antitrust enforcement and consolidation in agriculture are not just a handholding exercise to make small farmers feel better.”

“Every day real work is going on that you won’t see and you won’t see until it’s time to bring the cases to fruition, which may or may not be in the short run,” Varney said.

• The House of Representatives failed to pass a bill that would have made it easier for federal inspectors to shut down mines with a history of safety problems. The bill was in response to the April 5 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine, owned by Massey Energy Co., which killed 29 miners. That was the worst mine disaster in 40 years.

The vote was 214 to 193 in favor of the bill, but that was not a large enough margin to overcome procedural barriers that required a two-thirds majority.  Republicans united to oppose the bill, saying the legislation was premature. Republicans said legislation should not be passed before a final report is issued on the April disaster.

The House did increase the budget for the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration by $24 million — and an additional $15 million to be used to work through a huge backlog of appeals of health and safety violations. 

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