Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Legislators and lobbyists beware —
Gov. Bill Richardson has just received a license to carry a
Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the governor recently
picked up his license at the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy.
The governor successfully completed all the requirements for
obtaining a license, including a criminal background check and a
firearms-training course, Gallegos said. “He aced the test,” the
Salem, Oregon -- Gov. Ted Kulongoski is expected to sign
new limits on payday loan rates into law, but supporters of the
limits acknowledge that Oregon's battle over short-term loans isn't
The reason is the new limits on interest rates that legislators
approved won't take effect until July 2007. And that leaves plenty
of time for payday lenders and their lobbyists to try to weaken the
The lenders say the new limits would be too restrictive and could
put them out of business. Some lawmakers echoed those remarks during
a one-day special session and said the Legislature should revisit
the issue during next year's regular session.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- After eight months of lobbying
from advocates, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has blessed a faith-based
approach to healing social ills, creating a state office that will
help Utah's religious and secular charities compete for federal
The one-person Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives also
will encourage charities to collaborate with government agencies on
programs aiding vulnerable children and the elderly, homeless,
uninsured, disabled and others.
Many nonprofit groups lack the staffing and know-how to tap into
local, state and federal grants, said Division of Housing and
Community Development Director Gordon Walker, who is charged with
shepherding the initiative.
"On the other hand, many public agencies are not aware of the
resources, such as volunteers, that faith-based and nonprofit
organizations can bring to the partnership," Walker said.
Walker said Friday he is still exploring how to best organize the
office. He had no projections for how much money he hopes to raise
for charities, nor how much it will cost him to do it.
Seattle, Washington -- Costco Wholesale Corp. won a
landmark legal battle Friday that could lead to lower beer and wine
prices in Washington -- and across the nation, if other states use
the case's precedent to knock down their distribution laws.
The Issaquah company brought the case against the Washington
State Liquor Control Board because it said Washington's three-tier
system for distributing beer and wine was hurting its ability to do
business, in violation of federal antitrust law.
The state tried to defend the system with the 21st Amendment,
which repealed Prohibition in 1933 and gave states the right to
control distribution of alcohol within their borders. The judge
didn't buy it
Omaha, Nebraska -- A five-month-long internal
investigation found that Sister Barbara Markey is responsible for
the missing funds, the Rev. Joseph Taphorn, chancellor of the
archdiocese, said Friday. The investigation was turned over to Omaha
Markey, a Notre Dame nun and clinical psychologist, was the director
of the archdiocese's family life office until her firing on Jan. 10,
after financial irregularities in the office had come to light.
She also had spoken nationally and internationally on behalf of her
work with FOCCUS, the Catholic Church's most widely used
marriage-preparation program, which she co-authored.
FOCCUS stands for Facilitating Open Couple Communication,
Understanding and Study.
Most of the missing $300,000 was taken in 2004 and 2005 from FOCCUS
revenues, which belong to a nonprofit corporation of the Omaha
Omaha police were contacted after an investigation by the
archdiocese's financial office.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Snubbed as a major issue in the race
for the White House two years ago, immigration reform is now a hot
topic for presidential hopefuls in the 2008 campaign.
The issue may even become polarizing enough to generate a
third-party candidacy for the White House, according to some
Phoenix, Arizona -- School is no more the place for
students to be told that Republicans hate Latinos anymore than it is
the place to teach kids that Democrats hate Christians, a Tucson
Republican lawmaker says.
That’s exactly why Rep. Jonathon Paton, R-30, wants the Tucson
Unified School District to explain why it allowed Dolores Huerta,
co-founder of the United Farm Workers union and the right-hand mujer
of Cesar Chavez, to give a 30-minute political speech to about 800
students at an April 3 Tucson Magnet High School assembly. Students
from other district high schools were also in attendance, though it
is not clear which other schools were represented.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Congressman Jeff Flake continued his
crusade to reform the way the Republican Party does business in
Washington and beyond. Arizona's 6th District Republican spoke
candidly about what may be necessary for the party to come to a
consensus on issues and realign itself with its traditional credo of
smaller government, acknowledging that the only solution may be
banishment to the “political wilderness of the minority for a few
Denver, Colorado -- Democratic House Speaker Andrew
Romanoff told his colleagues on the House floor Friday that he was
"profoundly disturbed" by a threatening e-mail sent to Democratic
Rep. Terrance Carroll earlier this week.
"I have never in my six years here seen a message that comes as
close to a death threat against a member of this body," Romanoff
said. Carroll, a black Denver lawmaker, received an e-mail that
supported his lynching after he made a joke suggesting the state
build a wall around its borders to keep out the Minutemen, armed
citizens who patrol the border between the U.S. and Mexico.
"You are SOOOO lucky lynching and firing squad for treason aren't
available punishments, anymore," the e-mail read. "I'd vote you in,
in a heartbeat."
Around the nation -- Average prices at the pump surged as
federal fuel-switching requirements created sporadic shortages,
while rising tensions over Iran's nuclear program drove up the price
of premium crude by nearly 5 percent to a record $75.17 per barrel
in New York trading. The pressure on fuel prices is expected to
intensify in the weeks ahead as deadlines loom both in the standoff
with Iran playing out before the United Nations and the program for
incorporating ethanol into summer fuels, which must be completed by
Juneau, Alaska -- Executives for two of Alaska's largest
oil producers say the latest changes to a proposed oil-and-gas tax
are better for their companies, but not good enough. Angus Walker,
commercial vice president for BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc., and
Brian Wenzel, Conoco Phillips Alaska's vice president of finance,
sent separate letters to Senate Finance Co-Chairwoman Lyda Green on
the committee's version of a proposed tax on oil companies' profits.
That tax, which would replace the current oil production tax, was
introduced by Gov. Frank Murkowski with a 20 percent tax rate on
company profits, minus certain deductions and credits. Murkowski's
proposal would bring hundreds of millions more to the state when
prices are high, but lawmakers from both political parties said the
governor's plan taxed companies too little at very high prices and
gave the industry too many tax breaks.
Dallas, Texas -- For the eighth year in a row, Dallas had
the highest crime rate among U.S. cities with more than a million
people last year. Burglaries, more than any other category, helped
keep Dallas at the top after an analysis of 2005 crime statistics
based on crimes relative to population.
Juneau, Alaska -- Pac/West
Communications, an Oregon firm the Alaska Legislature is about to
hire to promote oil drilling in the Arctic, has run political
campaigns for hunting and resource development that have been marked
by two qualities: aggressiveness and success.
Pac/West's president, Paul Phillips,
served in the Oregon House and Senate, where he had a reputation as
a shrewd tactician, a man who knew the rules, pushed their limits,
and sometimes crossed them.
His Alaska supporters are hoping his
smarts and his demonstrated ability to shape voter opinion will be
the key that finally opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to
oil development. A $3 million appropriation to Pac/West for an ANWR
campaign is in a bill pending before the Alaska Legislature.
Olympia, Washington -- State Rep. Rodney Tom recently
bailed out of the Republican Party, saying a rightward-drifting GOP
has no room for progressives and moderates.
The Democrats are all too happy to agree with Tom, and see him as
the poster child for Democrats making inroads in the changing
battleground districts around Seattle.
But Republicans say that's all hogwash, and that today's party isn't
the hard-right preserve of religious conservatives that it was a
decade ago, when backers of Pat Robertson and Ellen Craswell took
If anything, Republicans tolerate broader diversity of thought
today than the Democrats do, state GOP Chairwoman Diane Tebelius
Austin, Texas -- As lawmakers gather today for a
politically supercharged math test on school finance, here's a rule
to remember: Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn is the only
calculator that counts.
Under state law, the comptroller tells the Legislature how much
money the state has. That means Mrs. Strayhorn, who is challenging
Gov. Rick Perry, controls the numbers in a special session that
might reduce property taxes and make sure that schools open on time.
Or, to the governor's detriment, might not.
Strayhorn, a Republican, attacked the governor's tax plan as
deficit-ridden. She said it would fall about $10 billion short of
paying for the promised property tax reductions within five years.
The governor's office disputed Strayhorn's assessment and accused
her of trying to "undermine" Perry for her own political benefit.
Tacoma, Washington -- In 1993, Maj. Margaret Witt was a
poster woman for the Air Force's flight nurse recruiting program.
In her career of 18-plus years, the decorated operating room and
flight nurse from McChord Air Force Base earned stellar reviews for
her work, which included helping to evacuate the nation's wounded
troops and humanitarian missions to aid civilians.
In 2003, President Bush awarded her the Air Medal for her Middle
East deployment and, later, the Air Force Commendation Medal, for
saving the life of a Defense Department worker.
Less than a year later, after an Air Force investigation, Witt, a
reservist, was drummed out.
Her offense: a committed relationship, but with another woman, a
civilian, from 1997 to 2003.
Witt, 42, challenged her forced discharge in a lawsuit filed in U.S.
District Court in Tacoma against Air Force officials and Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The lawsuit, filed with the help of the
American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, seeks to prevent
Witt's discharge, citing her First and Fifth amendment protections
of free speech and due process.
Seattle, Washington -- U.S. and Canadian officials have
announced that they have broken up a human-smuggling ring that
charged up to $35,000 per person to illegally funnel dozens of
Pakistani and Indian nationals from British Columbia into Washington
During a news conference near the Peace Arch at the border crossing
in Blaine, the officials said 14 men from Washington state and
Canada have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle for
their alleged involvement in the vast smuggling network. Twelve of
the 14 men are in custody and the two others are still being sought,
Salt Lake City, Utah -- In a surprise announcement, Gov.
Jon Huntsman Jr. canceled a May special legislative session to
tackle income tax reform after state number crunchers discovered a
$35 million mistake in his so-called flatter tax plan.
"I'm not willing to take the people of this state through something
this important unless we have a firm grip on the numbers," Huntsman
told reporters at a hastily called news conference.
Fixing the income tax has been a top priority for the governor, and
he said that will not change.
"There will be no need for a special session on tax reform. If it is
good policy to wait until the next session, we will wait until the
next session [in January]," he said.
Austin, Texas -- Gov. Rick Perry had very different
messages about federal spending in recent appearances before two
very different groups.
To Senate budget writers in Washington, he pleaded for $2 billion to
compensate the state for hurricane relief.
Four days later, Mr. Perry drew cheers from a Republican gathering
in Tennessee when he lambasted big-spending government where
"deficits explode, entitlement programs take over."
His appearances point up the dual strategies of a governor who
insists he's focused on Texas as he approaches re-election while
allies work to burnish his national credentials as a potential vice
Austin, Texas -- The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission
said that it has suspended a crackdown on public intoxication after
an outcry over the program that sends undercover officers into
Spokeswoman Carolyn Beck said the agency first announced its
decision in a letter to state Rep. Kino Flores, chairman of the
House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee.
The Palmview Democrat had asked the head of the commission, Alan
Steen, last month to consider a moratorium on the program.
Ms. Beck said the commission opted to put the program on hold "just
to give us time to sift through all the information we've received
and pull together all the information and determine the best way to
Boise, Idaho -- Ron Gillett wants Idaho voters to get a
chance to vote to remove wolves from Idaho.
The president of the Idaho Anti-wolf Coalition and his supporters
are circulating petitions demanding the removal of the more than 500
wolves in Idaho's backcountry "by any means necessary," including
The coalition has gathered 5,000 to 6,000 signatures in the few
weeks it has circulated petitions, Gillett said. Most so far have
come from rural areas like Challis. He was setting up stations to
gather signatures in Boise on Wednesday.
Gillett's first challenge is time. He needs signatures of 47,000
registered voters by May 1 to put the measure on the ballot in
Denver, Colorado -- The Democrat controlled House has
approved a ban so-called sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants,
but only after opponents tagged on a potentially lethal amendment.
Democratic lawmakers added a provision that would force the state to
reimburse local communities for the cost of reporting illegal
immigrants to federal authorities. That cost has not yet been
Senate Bill 90, which faces a final vote in the House as early as
today, would require local law enforcement officials to notify
federal authorities when they believe a person is in the country
Currently, law enforcement officers have the option of reporting
when they believe a person is in the United States illegally. Such
reports are not mandatory.
Anti-illegal-immigration activists have accused cities like Denver
of adopting "sanctuary" policies against reporting suspected illegal
Denver, Colorado -- A Republican lawmaker has questioned
why taxpayers footed the bill for busing a University of Colorado
class to the Capitol to testify on behalf of a Democratic bill on
The group of about 20 students and their professor attended a
committee hearing on a measure to require the posting of warning
signs at the former nuclear facility.
Rep. Mark Cloer, of Colorado Springs, privately raised concerns
about the transportation, which cost an estimated $450, with CU's
"I encourage every student to come to the Capitol and testify, but
at their own expense," Cloer said.
But the sponsor of the Rocky Flats bill, Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh,
was furious when he learned of Cloer's intervention.
"I think a group of students should be allowed to come down and
testify," McKinley said afterward.
"My God, what kind of democracy are we?"
McKinley said he invited the professor, Harvey Nichols, an expert on
hazardous waste and Rocky Flats, to testify on his bill. The
professor brought his critical-thinking class, which is studying
Phoenix, Arizona -- State lawmakers have approved
legislation to allow the arrest and prosecution of undocumented
immigrants under Arizona's trespassing law, saying the move would
deter immigrants from entering the country illegally.
The House and Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 1157 and
sent it to the governor, just two days after undocumented immigrants
joined thousands of supporters at the Capitol seeking recognition of
their contributions to American society.
The bill won passage after sponsors agreed to charge first offenders
with a misdemeanor, not a felony as the bill had originally been
Phoenix, Arizona -- Phoenix Sky Harbor International
Airport has received federal approval to move forward with a $2
billion-plus expansion that will include the construction of a
The new building, called the West Terminal, could be finished by
2012 and will necessitate the demolition of aging Terminal 2.
Anchorage, Alaska -- U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens says he agrees
with the Government Accountability Office that oversight is lacking
on no-bid federal contracts being awarded to Native corporations.
His remarks in Anchorage came one day after a draft GAO report,
leaked to news outlets, found that a system that grants preferential
treatment to Native firms in getting government work is ripe for
abuse and unintended consequences.
The House Committee on Government Reform requested the GAO audit.
Once the final report is released, the committee is expected to hold
Juneau, Alaska -- A legislative conference committee has
denied one last attempt to remove tougher restrictions on marijuana
possession from a drug bill before approving a final version of the
The bill is meant to curb the manufacture of methamphetamine and
give the state the legal artillery to overturn Alaska Supreme Court
decisions that have made the state's marijuana laws among the most
lenient in the nation.
The final bill now goes back to the House and Senate for
ratification before heading to Gov. Frank Murkowski for his
Salt Lake City, Utah -- About the time Jennifer Lee
Jackson rejected her male body, she also dropped her Republican
The process was gradual. Both identities - her gender and her
politics - had been constant, but conflicted.
Now, two years after gender-reassignment surgery and abandoning her
previously conservative political ideology, Jackson feels whole.
She's running for a seat in the state Senate as a Democrat.
Phoenix, Arizona -- The Legislature has approved a bill
requiring doctors to tell women seeking abortions that their fetuses
could experience pain even if the women receive pain medication. The
fate of the measure now rests with Governor Janet Napolitano.
Supporters contend the bill would help ensure that women can make
informed decisions about their health.
The bill's requirement would apply to pregnant women with fetuses at
least 20 weeks from conception. It would not apply to women with
medical conditions in which an immediate abortion is needed to save
their lives or to avoid serious risk of substantial and irreversible
impairment of major bodily function.
A physician who violates the requirement would be deemed to have
engaged in unprofessional conduct and be subject to a license
suspension or revocation.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- An internal FBI investigation of a
secretary with security clearance was the key to unlocking illegal
gambling and drug trafficking operations that led to indictments of
the employee, five Honolulu police officers, and 17 other people.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles Goodwin said Charmaine Moniz may
be the first FBI employee to be prosecuted in Hawaii. Five federal
indictments filed detail allegations of cockfighting near a school,
gambling, drug dealing, extortion and an illegal machine gun.
Denver, Colorado -- Colorado has about 300 sunny days a
year, yet the state hasn't taken advantage of that remarkable
resource. That could change now that Xcel Energy, the state's
largest public utility, plans to build the state's first big
commercial solar plant.
Xcel needs the project to comply with Amendment 37, the ballot
measure Colorado voters approved two years ago that requires large
utilities to generate 10 percent of their electricity from renewable
energy within a decade.
The amendment's most controversial provision says that by 2015
utilities must use solar energy to meet 4 percent of the 10 percent
renewable standard (or 0.4 percent of total electrical output). The
amendment also says half of that solar energy must come from units
installed on homes and businesses.
Utilities can't meet the solar requirement just using small systems.
Bentonville, Arkansas -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., ever
looking for ways to expand its already huge empire, is asking the
government for permission to move into an entirely different
industry: running its own in-house bank.
The world's largest retailer will ask the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corp. for permission to open a bank that can process millions of
checks and credit card payments each month. The company says it's
not interested in running a consumer bank as well, but some of its
opponents still fear such a step could hurt local banks much like
the mom-and-pop stores were during Wal-Mart's rapid expansion.
Juneau, Alaska -- A Senate committee appears ready to
flush a proposal to expand gambling in Alaska.
The measure to allow public card rooms, in which people could bet on
poker and other games, has stalled in the Senate Judiciary
When Chairman Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, called for a motion to
move the bill to its next committee, not a single member was willing
to do so.
As a result, the bill appears set to die there.
Juneau, Alaska -- The state Senate has approved a bill
that tightens the standards for getting a driver's license by
requiring applicants to prove they are in the country legally and by
placing time limits on licenses for legal aliens, like foreign
The measure passed the Senate by a vote of 17 to 1.
Sponsor Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, said the bill will provide
greater security "and hopefully prevent illegal aliens from getting
a driver's license from us."
Boise, Idaho -- The Senate killed a proposed amendment to
the Idaho Constitution that would have asked voters whether the
state should replace some school property taxes with a sales tax
The idea needed a two-thirds majority to pass but it failed with an
Democrats opposed the resolution because they don't want to replace
the property taxes with sales taxes, but some Republicans like the
idea of swapping the taxes, but not in the Constitution.
The move set up what could be the final thrust at serious ongoing
property tax relief this year.
Tucson, Arizona -- GOP lawmakers got a long-awaited day in
court to defend a new state law that would pump $32 million into
schools next year to improve instruction for students struggling to
But the legislators got no help from Arizona Attorney General Terry
Goddard's office, which typically defends state laws in court. A
private attorney hired by Goddard to represent the state told U.S.
District Judge Raner Collins that key parts of the Legislature's
plan violate federal law.
Collins took the case under advisement.
Under the new law, schools would get an initial increase in funding
to help deal with English learners. But after that schools would
have to divert federal funds they receive for poverty-related
programs to cover the remaining costs of teaching English.
States are prohibited from committing federal funds to pay for state
responsibilities, said Jose Cardenas, attorney for the state.
Juneau, Alaska -- An Alaska Senate budget panel has
recommended eliminating from next year's budget all state funding
for public television.
The panel also voted to cut funding for public radio by about 24
The Senate Finance subcommittee headed by Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle
River, voted 2-1 to remove the entire $627,100 from public
television's budget and $582,900 from public radio.
That would be a 41 percent overall funding reduction to the public
broadcasting's network of 26 radio stations and four television
stations across the state.
The effects of the cuts, if they pass the Legislature, would be
devastating to the stations, said Bill Legere, president and general
manager of KTOO-FM and KTOO-TV in Juneau.
It could mean the loss of $2 million in federal matching grants for
public television, he said. There would be too little time before
the start of the next fiscal year to make up that loss, he said.
"If that happens, we believe Alaska One would go dark, and that
would eliminate public television service to half the state," Legere
Juneau, Alaka -- A bill moving through the Legislature
would not only require Alaska driver's license applicants to prove
they are here legally, it would also place restrictions on licenses
given to legal noncitizens such as foreign students.
The goal is to keep that benefit out of the reach of illegal
immigrants while keeping closer tabs on those here legally, said
bill sponsor Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla.
"This isn't about compassion or understanding, it's about the set
principle: If you're legal in this country, you enjoy the benefit of
being legal. If you're illegal, you don't get afforded the same
privileges," Huggins said.
Juneau, Alaska -- Without debate, a legislative conference
committee on left $3.7 million in a spending bill for lobbying to
open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
The appropriation includes $3 million for an Oregon public relations
company called Pac/West Communications for marketing campaigns in
individual congressional districts to put pressure on lawmakers who
are against drilling in the refuge.
The other $750,000 would go to Arctic Power, the state's ANWR
lobbyist since 1992, to work within Washington's Beltway and try to
persuade ANWR holdouts to vote for the measure.
The full House and Senate must give final approval to the compromise
bill, which will be presented to the chambers once the conference
committee finishes working through the rest of the differences.
Boise, Idaho -- A Senate committee has approved changes to
a 1983 Idaho law that requires women to wait 24 hours before having
an abortion and receive information on fetal development.
The changes, sponsored by Sen. Hal Bunderson, R-Meridian, are meant
to enforce the law by penalizing doctors who don't inform patients
and require them to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.
Doctors would be charged a $100 fine if they're found in violation
of the law, though they are allowed to skirt the waiting period and
information requirements in medical emergencies.
Denver, Colorado -- The Senate approved on a 21-14 vote
and sent to Gov. Bill Owens House Bill 1212, which would allow
pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception to women without a
Owens said he is concerned about the bill because for the first time
Colorado would have a drug that in certain instances can have
significant side effects that could be prescribed by a pharmacist
without parents or a doctor knowing.
Denver, Colorado -- Thousands of Denver-area commuters
scrambled to find alternate transportation today after nearly 1,800
bus drivers, train operators and mechanics went on strike - the
first walkout for the Regional Transportation District in 24 years.
Denver, Colorado -- The Colorado House of Representatives
voted 45-19 on Friday to give final approval to the $16.5 billion
state budget. The state spending plan now goes to the Senate for
what is expected to be a week-long review.