Phoenix, Arizona -- At one time, only the staunchest
advocates for cracking down on illegal immigration backed the idea
of putting National Guard troops along the porous Arizona-Mexico
But now the idea that was rejected in the past as being outside the
National Guard's responsibilities has the blessings of Arizona's
Democratic governor and cleared one half of the Republican-led
The public's frustration with Arizona's role as the nation's busiest
illegal entry point has breathed new life into the idea, with a
recent poll showing that nearly two-thirds of voters favor it.
‘‘It has shifted to the mainstream political debate,'' said Jennifer
Allen, director of the Border Action Network, an immigrant rights
group that opposes the idea. ‘‘It's disturbing.''
Proponents say the National Guard's assistance in federal
immigration efforts could help reduce border-related crime and make
it more difficult for the tens of thousands of people who try to
cross into Arizona illegally each year.
Critics say the National Guard's lack of training in immigration law
could lead to racial profiling and that stationing troops at the
border could hurt the morale of those who may have already served in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
Maj. Paul Aguirre, a spokesman for the Arizona National Guard,
declined to comment on whether sending troops to the border would
hurt recruiting or retention.
‘‘They are ready to go and do whatever the mission calls for,'' said
Master Sgt. Michael Sojourner, president of the Enlisted Association
of the National Guard of Arizona, which hasn't taken a position on
In the past, the National Guard's involvement at the border has
generally been limited to assisting anti-drug efforts, helping
federal agents inspect vehicles at ports of entry and building
About 170 National Guard troops are helping in such efforts in
Arizona, where politicians facing re-election races are feeling
pressure to confront illegal immigration, even though it's long been
considered the sole province of the federal government.
Gov. Janet Napolitano has proposed extending the National Guard's
border efforts to have an unspecified number of troops work at
crossing points, assist with cargo inspection and operate cameras
and mobile observation points so they can report suspicious
activity. The troops would likely remain there for several months.
Carson City, Nevada -- A Nevada judge has ruled that a
summary of a plan to limit state government spending, being pushed
by a Republican state senator who's running for Nevada governor, is
flawed and must be revised before it's circulated for signatures.
Carson City District Judge Bill Maddox told backers of the Tax and
Spending Control, or TASC, proposal to work with critics and with
the secretary of state and attorney general's offices to come up
with new wording.
Maddox scheduled a March 3 review of the changes to what's supposed
to be a 200-word summary accurately explaining the proposal. He'll
make a final decision on whether the revision is appropriate at a
March 6 hearing.
State Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, said the judge's order is a
setback but he's still confident that he will have enough time to
get at least 83,156 signatures by June 20 - the deadline for turning
in names to ensure a spot on the November ballot.
Paul More, an attorney for the Nevada AFL-CIO, argued that the
summary of the plan now states that "all government levels" would be
affected by the TASC restrictions.
But More said the petition itself refers to cities and counties that
have been chartered by the state. He said cities are created by
charters approved by state lawmakers, but counties aren't - so the
explanation is incorrect.
Maddox said that regardless of any decisions he makes on TASC, the
matter is likely to wind up in the state Supreme Court.
TASC is similar to Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR.
However, voters in that state decided to suspend the Tabor spending
Under the Nevada proposal, most state and local governments would
need voter approval for any new tax or rate increase, extension of
an expiring tax or a tax policy change that would produce a revenue
Any increases in state spending would be limited by the percentage
changes in the consumer price index and population growth, unless
voters allow spending above that level.
The plan also would return excess revenues to taxpayers if those
revenues are higher than the constitutional spending limit and the
ceilings of new emergency reserve and budget stabilization funds.
Beers introduced three different proposals to impose state spending
limits in the Legislature last year, but each failed.
Lincoln, Nebraska -- The man who is arguably Nebraska’s
most zealous anti-smoking zealot is the target of a state senator
who wants to make it a crime to file a frivolous complaint against a
business for violating the state’s smoking law.
LB 1200 by Sen. Pat Bourne of Omaha is aimed at Mark Welsch,
president of the Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution.
Under the measure, filing a frivolous complaint or one that could
not be documented against a business for violating the state’s
smoking law would be punishable by a $1,000 fine.
Welsch has filed more than 100 complaints against businesses in the
past two years, Bourne said, including at least 19 recently against
Grand Island businesses.
Welsch said many of the businesses don’t offer all of their services
in smoke-free areas.
The Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act, in effect since 1980, allows
businesses to choose whether to allow smoking, ban it, or allow it
in designated areas.
Under contract with the state in 1999 and 2000, Welsch checked 332
businesses for compliance with the Clean Indoor Air Act.
Last year, Nebraska lawmakers snuffed out an effort to enact a
statewide smoking ban in all restaurants and bars that sell food.
Baker, Oregon -- An Oregon bishop says politicians or
voters who maintain a pro-abortion position are committing a heresy
against the commandment against killing.
Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Catholic diocese of Baker, Oregon,
wrote in the Catholic Sentinel newspaper, “There is a point at which
passive ‘tolerance’ allows misleading teachings to be spread and
propagated, thus confusing or even misleading the faithful about the
truths of the Church…There is a very strong word, which still exists
in our Church, which most of us are too ‘gentle’ to use. The word is
Vasa wrote, “Those who maintain that any and all decisions about the
disposition of pre-born human beings are exclusively the right of
the mother or the parents, at least implicitly, reject the clear and
consistent teaching of the Church…If that (pro-choice) candidate
receives the vote precisely because he maintains that he has no duty
to protect or defend innocent human life in the womb, then a vote
cast for him is a type of declaration that the teaching of the
Church, indeed the validity of the Fifth Commandment itself, is
Catholic politicians promoting abortion became a hot-button issue in
the 2004 Presidential race, since Democratic candidate John Kerry, a
Catholic, supports legal abortion.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- A proposal to give
taxpayer-supported vouchers for children in private schools is
stalled in the Legislature, and its sponsor is already making plans
to bring it back next year.
This is the sixth consecutive year the Legislature has dealt with
measures to secure vouchers or tuition tax credits to help parents
pay for private school tuition.
HB184 would offer vouchers worth $500 to $3,500, based on family
income, to families of students switching from public to private
schools or low-income students currently in private schools. Parents
would have to use the money to pay for private-school tuition.
The bill would give $13.3 million in general funds, not dedicated
school funds, to pay for the vouchers in the first year.
House members are mindful their vouchers votes would be watched by
opposing political action committees: the pro-voucher Parents for
Choice in Education, or anti-voucher Utah Education Association. In
the 2004 election year, Parents for Choice spent more than $322,000,
and the UEA spent just under $270,000, online PAC reports show.
Denver, Colorado -- News that the U.S. Supreme Court would
hear a Republican Party challenge to the state's 2003 redistricting
ruling drew a venomous response from state Democrats.
An unsigned opinion, which didn't indicate how many justices sided
with the ruling, said the high court would review a U.S. District
Court case that sought to overturn a Colorado Supreme Court
decision, which ruled a GOP attempt in the Colorado Legislature to
redraw congressional district lines to be unconstitutional.
The case, Lance v. Dennis, was dismissed last summer by a
three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said
the suit could not go forward because it had been settled in state
The case charged that by striking down the Legislature's attempt to
redraw congressional district lines, the state court had infringed
on Coloradans' First Amendment right to petition the Legislature.
In their initial challenge to the 2003 redistricting attempt, which
the then GOP-controlled Legislature rammed through in the final
three days of that year's session, Democrats charged they had no
right to do so because a state court had already set those
congressional district lines. Lines that have now been used in the
2002 and 2004 congressional races.
The matter went to court because twice the Legislature failed to
draw lines of its own.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- South Dakota's state senate
has approved an abortion ban aimed at giving the
conservative-tilting Supreme Court an opening to overturn rulings
granting women the right to the procedure.
Only an unlikely veto by Republican Gov. Michael Rounds could
prevent the legislation from becoming law, people on both sides of
the issue said.
"We hope (Rounds) recognizes this for what it is: a political tool
and not about the health and safety of the women of South Dakota,"
said Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood, which operates the sole
clinic providing abortions in South Dakota.
"If he chooses to sign it, we will be filing a lawsuit in short
order to block it," she said after attending the afternoon debate at
the state capitol in Pierre.
Proponents have said the law was designed for just such a court
The timing is right, supporters say, given the recent appointments
of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the high
court. The two conservatives could pave the way to a decision
overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling said women have a
constitutional right to abortion.
The high court has stated it will rule on whether the federal
government can ban some abortion procedures, a case that could
reveal whether the court reshaped by President George W. Bush will
restrict abortion rights.
Five states have proposed similar bans, but South Dakota's
legislature was the first to pass a law, which threatens to punish
doctors who perform abortions with a five-year prison term and
Two years ago, Rounds vetoed a similar bill, saying it would wipe
out existing restrictions on abortion while it was fought in the
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Mike Gibson was shocked in the
last hours of the legislative session when lawmakers couldn't agree
on a $250 million highway construction bill.
Gibson, executive director of the Associated Contractors of New
Mexico, said that unless the Legislature can meet in a special
session and work something out, about 2,000 people might not get the
work they were hoping for.
The measure, HB 833, is known as Governor Richardson's Investment
Partnership II. It died when the House and Senate couldn't reconcile
their amendments by the close of the 30-day session. The measure
would have paid for transportation projects across the state.
There is no word from Gov. Bill Richardson yet on whether he'll call
a special session for that bill - or any others.
Some of Richardson's top priorities for the session didn't pass,
including a raise in the state's minimum wage.
Richardson said he would decide this week whether to call a special
session after collecting input from the public on whether a session
Other items Richardson wanted but didn't get include a tax credit
for working families with children and measures increasing penalties
for gang-related crimes and sex offenses.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- Utahns love the job Gov. Jon
Huntsman Jr. is doing with the Utah Legislature, a new public
opinion survey shows.
Huntsman's popularity — reaching a very high 83 percent approval
rating for the first time since he took office a year ago — may help
him, House Republicans and House Democrats in their attempt to move
Senate Republicans over to their views on tax cuts and budget items.
Huntsman said he was gratified that more than eight out of 10 Utahns
like the job he's doing in dealing with the Legislature.
The new poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates for the newspaper
and KSL-TV, shows the governor in the stratospheric realms of
popularity. Former GOP Gov. Mike Leavitt, early in his first term,
also received job approval ratings in the mid-80s percentile after
the Legislature gave a $90 million property tax cut. Most Utah
politicians fall into the 60th or 70th percentiles in job approval
Boise, Idaho -- Just days after two Idaho toddlers died in
separate house fires, the president of the Idaho Fire Chiefs'
Association has stepped forward with a plan to prevent future fire
Two year old Susie Morris was died in Payette on Friday. Four year
old Trevor Ordorica was killed in Wilder, also on Friday. Trevor's
mother had taken the batteries out of the smoke alarm a few days
before the fire and put them in one of his toys
The news is prompting Chief Douglas Brown to make a push for
homeowners to install a more fail proof fire safety device: fire
Unlike many sprinklers in commercial buildings, Brown says home
sprinklers are activated one by one and homeowners can't disable
"The beauty is if you want to shut the water off, you have to shut
the water off to your plumbing," he says.
Lincoln, Nebraska -- In less than two months the majority
of Nebraskan voters will get what they want – the first wave of
senators kicked out of the Legislature.
In 2000, 58 percent of voters checked “yes” for term limits, which
limits senators to two consecutive terms or eight years. Before the
law passed, senators weren’t restricted on the number of terms they
When the Legislative session ends in April, 20 senators will be
removed from office. They were re-elected in 2002, so this year
marks their second consecutive term after the term limits law
The law states that 2006 would be the first time senators would have
to leave office. In each following year, more senators will be
denied re-election until the Legislature is comprised of only those
serving less than two consecutive terms.
By 2013, 39 of the 49 senators now serving will be gone. But the law
states that senators can run for re-election after having their
names off the ballot for a complete term.
Since the law passed, a small group of Nebraska voters opposing term
limits have tested the restriction – saying it violates
constitutional rights – by filing lawsuits in Nebraska courts.
But so far, all of those attempts have failed, and term limits
remain a part of Nebraska’s Constitution.
Feb. 15 marked the last day for incumbents to file for reelections,
and 20 were denied.
Jefferson City, Missouri -- Secretary of State Robin
Carnahan announced that an initiative petition to amend the Missouri
Constitution to create the Healthy Future Trust Fund has met state
standards for circulation. An earlier petition to create such a fund
was approved by the Secretary of State's office in October of 2005.
Before the issue can be brought before Missouri voters in the
November 2006 election, signatures must be obtained from registered
voters equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast in the last
governor's election from six of the state's nine congressional
districts. Depending on which congressional districts are used,
approximately 145,000 valid signatures are required for a proposed
constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot through the
initiative petition process.
Additional taxes of four cents per cigarette and twenty percent of
the manufacturer's invoice price on other tobacco products generates
an estimated $351 - $499 million annually for tobacco control
programs, healthcare for low income Missourians, and payments for
services provided to Missouri Medicaid beneficiaries and uninsured
Bozeman, Montana -- A huge outfitting store on the edge of
this mountain-ringed town should be a conservative bastion: The
ranchers and farmers who come to shop tend to be reliable
But here at Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply — amid the calf pens,
muck buckets and bags of horse feed — there are signs of trouble for
the GOP. And that could be bad news for the party from coast to
Jack Bolender, a retiree who voted for three-term Sen. Conrad Burns
because the Republican delivered mounds of federal aid to Montana,
said he was deserting the incumbent in the state's November
election. Allegations that Burns was cozy with Jack Abramoff, the
lobbyist central to a wide-ranging corruption scandal in Washington,
have Bolender steamed.
"I appreciate what [Burns] brought to the state, but at what cost?"
Bolender said one cold afternoon outside Murdoch's. "We seem to be
selling out to the special interests."
Voters such as Bolender are at the center of a political storm that
threatens to roil this year's midterm elections. Democrats are
trying to use the Abramoff scandal to tarnish Republicans. And there
are few places where the effort is more intense than in Montana.
The Montana Democratic Party has been hammering him over the
Abramoff ties in ads that began in August.
The state's media have pummeled Burns for months over his every
connection to the lobbyist, including contributions to the senator
and expense-paid trips for his staff.
Montana has become a testing ground for how effectively Democrats
can use the ethics issue to weaken GOP incumbents who otherwise
would be heavily favored to win reelection. The answer to that
question will be key to whether — and to what extent — the party can
gain Senate and House seats in November.
Missoula, Montana -- This year's election season is going
to be a wild ride, according to Montana Republican Party chairman
“It's going to be a big election,” Ohs told an audience brought
together by the Missoula Organization of Realtors. “I think we're
going to see more activity in Montana than we have for a long time.
Montana is in the national spotlight, said Ohs, the state's former
lieutenant governor under Judy Martz and a former state legislator
who ranches a cow-calf operation between Harrison and Pony. The last
election saw a political party shift in Montana, from Republican
power to Democratic, and this year promises lively Senate and House
The Republican Party in Montana has three goals, Ohs said. At the
top of the list is the re-election of U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns.
“The senator is as focused and ready to go as I've ever seen him,”
Burns has had a lot of press recently, much of it focusing on his
connection with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
“I don't think it's always balanced,” Ohs said, “but it's a lot of
The senator, a three-time incumbent, is ready for the race to settle
into talking about the issues. The Republican Party favors an end to
negative campaigning, Ohs said, but it's up to the press to keep
campaigns on the issues and away from personal attacks.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman
says Governor Lingle is the model candidate for the party's hopes in
Mehlman and Lingle raised about 300-thousand dollars for Republican
candidates at a dinner recently at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
Republicans have struggled to get candidates other than Lingle
elected in Hawaii.
The party lost ground in the Legislature last election, with barely
20 percent minorities in both houses.
Mehlman says Republican candidates should copy Lingle's issues of
fiscal responsibility, transparency in government, energy
independence and education reform.
University of Hawaii political science professor Neal Milner says it
will be difficult for the Republican Party to build on her success.
He says that trying to base candidates on Lingle isn't a bad idea,
but it hasn't worked very well so far.
Boise, Idaho -- Idaho has become the latest state where
voters will decide whether to ban same-sex marriage.
The Idaho Senate on passed a resolution that will put a proposed
constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to a vote this
Twenty-six of the 35 voting senators (74 percent) backed the
resolution, which cleared with the required two-thirds majority
needed to put the question to the voting public. Five senators who
had opposed the measure last year — when it failed narrowly — voted
for the measure this year.
The state House passed the measure by a 53-17 vote on Feb. 6.
The Senate vote “was a big surprise,” said Jim Weatherby, the
chairman of the Department of Public Policy and Administration at
Boise State University. “A great many people, myself included,
predicted the vote would go the same way it went last year.”
Weatherby speculated that centrist senators may be cowed by
political pressure from social conservatives in an election year.
Idaho law already includes language banning same-sex marriage, but
supporters of the proposed amendment say it is necessary to enshrine
a definition of marriage in the state constitution so as to guard
against liberal “judicial activism.”
The chances of the amendment’s passage appear to be strong in a
state that is among the most conservative in the nation. A December
survey by Boise State University’s Social Science Research Center
found that 52 percent of voters Idahoans supported banning same-sex
marriage, compared to 31 percent who were opposed.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and U.S.
Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain are getting some major national
attention as maneuvering continues for the 2008 presidential race
and speculation increases on the future of Vice President Dick
McCain and Kyl, both Republicans, have been mentioned as possible
successors to Cheney if the V.P. steps down in the wake of the Texas
hunting accident, his poor health and the Valerie Plame CIA scandal.
Kyl is well respected and well liked in conservative and business
circles and has close ties to the Bush Administration. McCain is
considering a 2008 presidential run and will be very tough to be in
the general election if he is able to secure support in the GOP
primaries. McCain has been reaching out to conservatives in Arizona,
South Carolina and other states, trying to heal old wounds and mend
A National Review Online story appearing Friday suggests Kyl as a
possible successor to Cheney who is facing plenty of pressure in the
wake of the Texas hunting accident earlier this month that injured a
friend of the vice president.
Napolitano, a Democrat, has been listed as one of eight possible
women presidential candidates in 2008 by a group called the White
House Project. That group is geared towards increasing the role of
women in national elections and campaigns.
Napolitano is joined on the list of possible 2008 candidates by U.S.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Secretary of State Condoleeza
Rice and Republican U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of
Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.
Sen. Clinton and Rice are viewed as the most legitimate female
presidential contenders for 2008.
Napolitano and Kyl are both up for re-election in November. Kyl
faces a tough challenge from Valley shopping mall developer and
former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Jim Pederson.
Napolitano enjoys strong approval ratings and is favored to win
Salem, Oregon -- Community activists, union leaders and
church groups are banding together to promote a measure for
November's ballot to limit the loan rates charged by payday lenders
The payday loan industry has been growing rapidly in Oregon to
satisfy the public's demand for short-term loans. But backers of the
initiative measure say a new state law is needed to protect people
from lenders who at times charge more than 500 percent interest.
To help bring about such a change, the Our Oregon coalition is
teaming up with the main state chapter of the Service Employees
International Union, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the Oregon
Food Bank and other groups to place the measure before voters this
"We're going to have a huge volunteer program on this. People are
very excited about it," said Patty Wentz of the Our Oregon
coalition, which filed the initiative to cap most payday loan annual
interest rates at 36 percent and loan origination fees at 10
The coming ballot measure campaign will mark a resumption of a fight
that took place during the 2005 Oregon Legislature when a bill to
limit interest rates on payday loans was approved by the
Democrat-controlled Senate but died in the Republican-controlled
Phoenix, Arizona -- Gov. Janet Napolitano has extended a
state of emergency order at the Mexican border allowing local
government more time to spend $1.5 million in state emergency funds
on law enforcement and other immigration matters.
Napolitano issued a state of emergency for Arizona counties
bordering Mexico last August. Her new move extends that emergency
until August 2006 and gives local governments more time to allocate
Boise, Idaho -- Idaho's Legislature gave final approval to
a measure that would bar all forms of "domestic legal unions" except
marriage between a man and a woman, making the Western state the
latest to move against gay wedlock.
The Republican-led state Senate voted 26-9 to ratify a state
constitutional amendment, previously approved by the House. The
measure will now go before a popular vote, and even opponents expect
Phoenix, Arizona -- A committee of the Arizona Legislature
has approved two proposals that would create a state law prohibiting
employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.
Some advocates for confronting Arizona's vast immigration problems
said employers are fueling illicit border crossing by hiring foreign
workers who have sneaked across the border to earn better wages in
the United States.
Illegal immigrants account for one in 10 workers in Arizona, the Pew
Hispanic Center estimates.
Federal law already prohibits illegal hirings that are intentional,
but some state lawmakers said Arizona needs its own law because the
federal government has done a poor job of cracking down on illegal
While both state proposals would prohibit illegal hirings, one bill
would protect businesses from prosecution if they trained their
human resources employees to comply with federal hiring rules and
complied with other requirements.
Lawmakers also rejected another proposal that would have required
employers to check the employment eligibility of job prospects by
running their names through federal databases -- systems that are
now used on a voluntary basis.
Jefferson City, Missouri -- A Republican proposal to
require voters to show photo identification would discriminate
against blacks, the poor, the elderly and the disabled according to
the bill's opponents.
Under the plan, voters would have to present drivers licenses or
other government-issued photo ID cards at the polls. About 170,000
Missourians of voting age lack drivers licenses and would have to
secure alternative IDs.
Critics told a Senate committee that the changes would add a hurdle
that would discourage legitimate voters from voting. Rep. Yaphett
El-Amin, D-St. Louis, likened the requirement to Jim Crow laws,
which imposed racial segregation on blacks.
Supporters of the proposal said their goal is to attack voter fraud
and restore confidence in the election system. They said 95 percent
of voting-age Missourians have drivers licenses.
Salem, Oregon -- State Sen. Ben Westlund said he's bolting
the Republican Party and entering the 2006 race for governor as an
independent because the two-party system prevents solutions to the
state's serious problems.
Westlund is bucking history by joining the gubernatorial race as an
independent; Oregon has had only one governor elected as an
independent, in the 1930s. One political observer, however, says he
believes Westlund, though a long shot, could put together a victory
Westlund joins three Republicans and three Democrats in the race,
including incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
Austin, Texas -- Democrat Donna Howard won election to the
Texas House to serve the remainder of Republican Todd Baxter's term.
Baxter, who resigned Nov. 1, became a lobbyist for the Texas Cable
and Telecommunications Association. He said he stepped down from
House District 48 when he did to allow his successor to speak for
the Austin district in a special legislative session on school
finance expected this spring.
Howard, a former Eanes School District trustee, got 12,618 votes, or
57.6 percent, in unofficial, complete returns. Republican Ben
Bentzin, a former Dell Computer Corp. executive, received 9,281, or
Pierre, South Dakota -- A measure that would require
abortion clinics to be licensed and inspected won final approval
from the South Dakota Legislature.
The House of Representatives voted 59-11 to pass the bill, which was
approved earlier by the Senate. The measure will become law if
signed by Gov. Mike Rounds.
SB185 would require the state Health Department to license and
inspect abortion clinics to make sure they comply with standards
dealing with safety, sanitation, record-keeping, infection control,
medical quality and patient care.
The department would establish rules based on the requirements set
in the bill. An abortion clinic would need at least one staff doctor
who is licensed by the state Medical Board, and license fees could
be as high as $2,000.
Rep. Alice McCoy, R-Rapid City, said hospitals, nursing homes and
many other kinds of medical facilities already are required to be
licensed and inspected, so it makes sense to require that abortion
clinics be subject to the same kind of regulation.
McCoy said regardless of each lawmaker's stand on abortion, all
should support the idea of making sure such facilities are operated
"It's a health and safety issue," McCoy said.
South Carolina has imposed similar regulations for abortion clinics,
and those regulations have been upheld by courts, McCoy said.
Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls operates the only abortion clinic
in South Dakota.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- The Legislature has sent Governor
Richardson a bill banning so-called cyberhunting and the
establishment of computer-assisted hunting sites in New Mexico.
New Mexico is among a number of states considering whether to
restrict hunting over the Internet. The idea was prompted by a Web
site in Texas that had planned to allow people to shoot live game by
controlling a camera-equipped rifle with a computer.
Texas banned remote hunting of game.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- Homeless advocates are hoping that the state
will help them start vaccinating the homeless against hepatitis A
A bill in the Legislature would hand out 500 hepatitis A and B
vaccines to programs that help the homeless.
The two-time vaccinations cost $500, but treatments of people with
hepatitis can cost the state more than 30-thousand dollars and last
more than a year.
The homeless are more likely to contract hepatitis, and they're also
more likely to rely on the state for their treatment.
Hepatitis attacks the liver. It can be spread through unprotected
sex, dirty needles and blood-to-blood exposure.
Doctor Alan Tice at the University of Hawaii says the vaccinations
could help stop the spread of the disease, which is already a big
problem among the homeless.
Boise, Idaho -- Tribal leaders say a legislative proposal to
hire a special counsel on Indian casinos is a waste of taxpayer
Indian casinos in Idaho were authorized by a 2002 voter initiative.
They use gambling devices -- and some lawmakers say they violate
Idaho's constitutional ban on slot machines.
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, a Republican from Idaho Falls,
says the matter should go to court.
The Idaho Constitution prohibits gambling except for a state
lottery, pari-mutuel betting under state rules and bingo or raffle
games operated by charitable groups.
It specifically bans any form of casino gambling including slot
The four tribes that operate Idaho casinos are the Coeur d'Alene,
Nez Perce, Kootenai and Shoshone-Bannock.
Lincoln, Nebraska -- A lower court ruling that struck down a
proposed broad amendment banning same-sex marriage and other partner
rights in Nebraska should stand, the American Civil Liberties Union
and Lambda Legal argued on Monday before the U.S. court of appeals
for the eighth circuit.
"This is the most extreme antigay family law in the nation, and it,
in effect, put a sign on the door of the Nebraska legislature saying
'Same-Sex Couples Not Allowed,'" said David Buckel, senior counsel
at Lambda Legal. "Judge Bataillon got it right because he put
democracy back in action, giving gay Nebraskans a level playing
field on which to advocate for legal protections for their
In addition to barring same-sex couples from marriage, the law,
which passed in November 2000, explicitly banned any legal
recognition of a same-sex couple in a "civil union, domestic
partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship."
In May 2005, federal district judge Joseph F. Bataillon struck down
the constitutional amendment in response to a legal challenge
brought by Lambda Legal and the ACLU on behalf of ACLU Nebraska and
two statewide LGBT lobbying and education organizations.
The court ruled that the amendment was too far-reaching and that it
barred lesbian and gay people from participating in the democratic
process, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's equal protection
guarantee and prohibition on Bills of Attainder.
The decision does not mean that the state has to allow same-sex
couples to marry or to form civil unions or domestic partnerships
but instead allows gay couples to lobby their legislators for
protections for their relationships.
"As we stressed to the court today, states can't turn lesbian and
gay people into political outcasts," said Tamara Lange, a senior
staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, who
argued before the court. "Yet Nebraska enacted a law that doesn't
even allow gay people to lobby for protections for their
relationships. The lower court understood this when it struck down
this law. We hope the court of appeals agrees."
Casper, Wyoming -- A poll conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 1 by Mason-Dixon
Polling & Research Inc. of 625 registered Wyoming voters shows that 73
percent would like to see the food sales tax eliminated. An identical
percentage would like to see the sales tax on heating bills eliminated as
That's good news for at least one state legislator who is working on a
petition to permanently eliminate the food tax while working on a bill that
would give residents a two-year holiday on the heating tax.
Rep. Ann Robinson, D-Casper, has for the past eight years attempted to
eliminate the food tax, only to be rebuffed by the Legislature each time.
She's now in the midst of a petition drive that has garnered 20,000
signatures in support of an initiative to eliminate the food tax. She needs
to collect 36,868 verified signatures by Dec. 1 for the initiative to appear
on the November 2008 ballot.
"I feel really confident we'll get it done," she said. "If the Legislature
doesn't get it done, I think it would really upset the public."
The state sales tax increased from 3 to 4 percent in 1994.
The state's burgeoning coffers alone should also convince legislators to
consider her "heat and eat" bill during the budget session that begins next
week, Robinson said.
"With a $2 billion surplus, any legislator that would come up with a new tax
is crazy," she said.
Denver, Colorado -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter
likely would defeat Republican opponent Bob Beauprez if the election were
held today, according to a poll conducted for The Denver Post.
In the battle between the two best-known candidates, Ritter leads by 6
percentage points, with 43 percent to Beauprez's 37 percent.
However, with more than eight months left until the general election, 20
percent of the 625 respondents are undecided on that matchup.
The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Salem, Oregon -- Oregon's governor is keeping alive the issue of
equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Gov. Ted Kulongoski has tried since 1975 to pass a gay rights bill. He
thinks it will happen in 2007, but to help it along, he's creating a task
force of Oregonians he hopes will lobby for equal rights legislation to
include civil unions.
Just 10 days ago, Washington's governor made it illegal to discriminate
based on sexual orientation. Kulongoski is hoping that will light a fire
under Oregon's lawmakers.
"Last session, this bill came out of the Senate and it didn't even get a
hearing in the House." he said.
That "shame on you" was aimed at House Speaker Karen Minnis, whom the
Democrats and Basic Rights Oregon have made their No. 1 target in November's
The governor is tasking his committee to look at existing laws and clear a
legal pathway for changes.
The governor named Portland attorney Paul Kelly to lead the task force,
which he's gambling will win him some Democratic votes in the primary.
"Is that being a good Democrat? You'd better believe it is because that's
why I became a Democrat, because I want to give people the opportunity to be
all that they can be," Kulongoski said.
A spokesman for Minnis says her position on this issue has not changed. That
is that she supports Oregon's existing laws prohibiting civil unions and
special rights for gays and lesbians.
Pierre, South Dakota -- The South Dakota House of Representatives
easily passed a bill Feb. 9 that would ban nearly all abortions in the
The bill passed by a vote of 47-22 and now goes to the state Senate, where a
vote is expected to be tight. Ten of the Senate's 35 members are sponsors.
It is not known whether Gov. Mike Rounds, a pro-life Republican, would sign
Supporters of the bill -- which has an exception for the mother's life --
hope it leads to the overturning of Roe, the infamous decision that
legalized abortion nationwide.
Opponents of the bill tried unsuccessfully Feb. 9 to add an amendment making
an exception for rape and incest.
If it passes the Senate and is signed into law, a legal challenge almost
certainly will follow.
The bill would make it a felony for anyone to perform an abortion. The
mother would not be charged with a crime.
Denver, Colorado -- Democrats are wading into traditionally
Republican territory - the issue of illegal immigration. House Speaker
Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said Democrats are drafting six bills that will
be introduced next week.
Describing the current immigration system as "broken," Romanoff said he
wants a "bipartisan solution" and he expects the General Assembly to pass
immigration bills from both sides of the aisle.
Among other things, bills by Democrats would require - if financially
possible - local law enforcement to notify immigration officials if they are
detaining illegal immigrants, commission a study on the effect of illegal
immigration on the state economy and urge Congress to pass a comprehensive
immigration reform bill.
Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, is drafting a bill that would punish businesses
that contract with people who smuggle illegal immigrants into the country.
Romanoff said he plans to introduce a bill that would change civil rights
laws to protect legal immigrants from harassment.
Three Democrats also are leading the push for a ballot initiative, first
introduced in 2003 by anti-immigrant crusader U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo. It
would bar illegal immigrants from receiving state or local government
services other than those required by federal law.
St. Louis, Missouri -- The night before he announced to the nation
that he was shifting his stance on stem cell research, U.S. Sen. Jim Talent
conferred with his wife.
As he tells it, Brenda Talent, who is known for her frankness, had a
prediction: "Jim, two things are going to happen: Nobody's going to like it,
and they're all going to say you're doing it just for political reasons."
Replied the senator, "Well, if nobody likes it, why in the world would I be
doing it for political reasons?"
But that's the flak Talent is fielding from all sides, in the wake of his
announcement that he was dropping his support for an anti-cloning bill
popular with abortion opponents, and sponsoring an alternative proposal that
he billed as a compromise.
As his wife predicted, nobody seems to like it. And everybody suspects
politics is behind it.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- State officials should know in about a
month whether new tobacco rules intended to clamp down on tribal retailers
selling cigarettes with improper tax stamps are working.
The rules, which took effect late last month, didn't change the recent trend
that about 75 percent of the tribal stamps are the cheapest, 6-cent stamps,
according to state tobacco revenue reports for January.
Reports show about 9.9 million of the 12.9 million cigarettes sold last
month had 6-cent stamps. Only 40 of about 200 tribal shops are eligible to
use them, state officials said.
The 6-cent stamps are only to be sold in specified areas near Oklahoma
borders. Some tribal stores are shipping cigarettes with the 6-cent stamps
to other areas, especially in the Tulsa area. Because of the lower tax
stamp, cigarette cartons may be bought for almost $10 cheaper at tribal
stores than at nontribal stores.
Under Oklahoma Tax Commission rules, wholesalers are allowed to sell the
same number of cigarettes at a reduced tax rate to smoke shops as they did
in 2004, plus 10 percent. If a wholesaler desires to sell more than 10
percent than it did in 2004 to a retailer, it can seek approval from the
commission to do so.
"There's still some further action that will be undertaken both
legislatively and by the Tax Commission to further address the issue," state
Treasurer Scott Meacham said.
Some have criticized the compacts with several Indian tribes negotiated by
Meacham and Gov. Brad Henry.
The state is losing at least $2 million a month in cigarette tax revenue
because of cigarettes being sold with the wrong, cheap tax.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin has urged
lawmakers to hold back spending tobacco and gambling revenue because
collections are lagging behind original projections, but other state
officials say that would be breaking faith with voters.
Republican lawmakers have for months criticized Democratic Gov. Brad Henry
and state Treasurer Scott Meacham for the way the tobacco tax law was
written. They also say tobacco compacts negotiated with American Indians
have harmed non-Indian retailers.
Fallin, a Republican, has joined the criticism, along with GOP U.S. Rep.
Ernest Istook, who wants to challenge Henry for re-election.
The lieutenant governor said all officials know for sure is that ``whatever
we take in from gambling and tobacco keeps bouncing around like a rubber
ball on steroids. It is not good public policy to count on these dollars.''
She suggested that instead of lumping those dollars into ``the state budget
we write in May, we might be smarter to hold back and see what actually
comes in and appropriate these dollars as supplementals next spring.''
Her comments came two days after Meacham told an education subcommittee that
lottery projections are on track, but collections from electronic gaming are
far below expectations.
Denver, Colorado -- Voters in Colorado could become the first in
the nation to have two marriage-related initiatives on the same ballot --
one affirming traditional marriage and the other establishing domestic
partnerships for homosexual couples.
A coalition of conservative and religious groups is drumming up support for
a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and
one woman. At the same time, Democratic state legislators have introduced
the Colorado Domestic Partnership Act, which would allow same-sex couples to
enjoy many of the benefits of marriage by registering their relationship
with county clerks.
Both measures must still clear some hurdles before winning ballot slots for
the November elections, but their chances appear strong. The
domestic-partnership bill requires only the approval of a simple majority of
the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats.
Meanwhile, organizers of the constitutional amendment, Coloradans for
Marriage, are expected to easily gather the 68,000 signatures needed by Aug.
7 to qualify.
~ * ~
Olympia, Washington -- As they dive into the 2006 Legislature's
central task -- writing a supplemental budget -- state lawmakers have
crossed the halfway mark with major issues of crime, energy, education and
business still simmering.
Gov. Christine Gregoire is asking her fellow majority Democrats not to spend
all of the $1.45 billion surplus -- she's offered $504 million in additional
spending, with $904 million set aside as reserves.
Some Republicans, however, are unsure if Democrats will restrain themselves
in the final 30 days.
Seattle, Washington -- Do Muslim prison inmates have a right to
specialized meals that include meat?
That's the question being asked repeatedly of federal courts in Washington
state in a flurry of inmate lawsuits. One case was filed recently by inmate
Ronald Keal, and at least three others have been making their way through
Keal and the others say their religion requires that they eat what's known
as "halal" meals, which require slaughter of animals in a tightly proscribed
Some of the lawsuits ask for substantial monetary damages, while others ask
for a change in the meal plan along with nominal costs.
Mohamad Joban, president of Washington's Imam Fatwa Committee, which makes
rulings on religious issues, said that when he used to visit the prisons as
a chaplain, he heard numerous complaints about the diet from Muslim inmates.
He even wrote a letter to prison officials asking for halal meals but didn't
make any headway.
About 4 percent of Washington's prison population — or about 660 inmates —
identify themselves as Muslim. A significant number of convicts adopt Islam
once incarcerated, according to prison officials.
Olympia, Washington -- The Washington Senate embraced a plan to
let the state continue taxing gasoline headed for tribal service stations,
preserving a multimillion-dollar tax flow that was put in jeopardy by a
federal court ruling.
The legislation is a response to U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly’s ruling
in November that upheld tribal sovereignty over taxation and opened the door
for all tribal retailers to avoid the state fuel tax of 31 cents a gallon.
Two tribes, the Swinomish and Squaxin Island, recently negotiated a
revenue-sharing agreement with the state to allow continued collection. The
legislation, which would apply to all reservations, was described as a
stopgap measure while compacts are being negotiated.
The state has similar compacts for liquor and cigarette taxation.
The measure is based on a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows
imposition of fuel taxes bound for reservations at the distributor level
before it reaches retail service stations.
The bill would allow the revenue to be shared by the state and tribes.
Gasoline taxes are used for road projects.
If all 15 tribes with gasoline stations had decided not to collect the tax,
it could have cost the state more than $5 million a year and allowed tribes
to significantly undercut the prices of off-reservation dealers.
Critics, including Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said the bill was
premature, because new compacts have not been negotiated, and violates
tribal sovereignty. Others complained that distributors will suffer.
But supporters, including Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, and others, said the
measure keeps an important revenue stream flowing while compacts are
Austin, Texas -- Many candidates are running for governor, but
nine months before the November elections, Gov. Rick Perry and Carole Keeton
Strayhorn, the state comptroller, sound a bit like they only have eyes for
To whoops and applause, they both looked eager last week for a two-person
fall brawl that, if messages hold, could turn on whether voters think "one
tough grandma" can do a better job on schools and taxes than the West Texan
in charge since George W. Bush left for Washington in December 2000.
Perry, speaking to Williamson County Republicans, gigged Strayhorn for
leaving the Republican Party and launched an attack questioning whether
she's done her job of collecting taxes.
Strayhorn, rallying teachers in Terrell, 25 miles east of Dallas, stressed
her commitment to raising educator salaries and ending partisan bickering to
resolve simmering differences over how to fund public schools.
Houston, Texas -- Two U.S. air marshals face federal drug charges
after being arrested, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The names of the air marshals or details about what they were arrested
for were not released by authorities.
Nancy Herrera, with the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the air marshals
were arrested in northwest Houston by agents with the Department of Homeland
Security's Office of Inspector General, the FBI, the U.S. Air Marshals
service and the Harris County Sheriff's Department.
Both men arrested remain in federal custody.
Herrera could not say if the men had court hearings scheduled yet.
Thousands of air marshals, who fly undercover on airliners, were rushed
into service after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Though the exact number of air marshals is classified, pilots estimate
that they cover a small percentage of flights.
Denver, Colorado -- A Colorado Springs Republican wants anyone who
kills a fetus in the commission of a crime to be charged with first-degree
Rep. Dave Schultheis said 21 others states have the same law.
The bill is opposed by Colorado’s most prominent abortion doctor.
Dr. Warren Hern of Boulder said there are "innumerable problems" with House
Bill 1128, including his belief that it is "unreasonable" and
Hern said the bill is an "obvious conflict" with the Roe vs. Wade, and
subjects a physician performing a legal surgical procedure to criminal
"Hern doesn’t know what’s he’s talking about," Schultheis said. "This isn’t
about abortion. It can’t make abortion a crime because federal law allows
Asked if his measure was intended for Laci Peterson type situations, he
Peterson was eight months pregnant when she disappeared on Christmas Eve in
2002. When the body of the Modesto, Calif., woman and her unborn child were
found four months later, her husband was charged with two counts of murder.
Washington, DC -- Every state but one collected more taxes per
person in 2004 than it did a decade earlier, according to newly released
data from the Census Bureau.
State taxpayer burdens increased by an average of 41 percent from 1994 to
2004. Only Alaska saw the amount it collects per person decline.
Even when the numbers are adjusted for inflation, the individual tax burdens
increased in 43 states.
Hawaiians paid the most to state government -- an average of $3,050 per
person in 2004. Texans paid the least -- an average of $1,368.
Rising education and Medicaid costs have fueled spending growth, which has
led to higher taxes.
"Medicaid has been the fastest growing program in state budgets going back
to 2000," said Arturo Perez, a fiscal analyst at the National Council of
Medicaid is the state-federal health insurance program for the poor. In an
effort to stem rising costs for states. Congress passed legislation last
week allowing states to charge about 13 million Medicaid beneficiaries new
or increased co-payments and premiums.
The big range in state taxes reflects the variety of government revenue
systems throughout the country. The numbers do not include local taxes,
which in many states generate most of the money for schools. They also do
not include federal taxes.
States, on average, get nearly half their tax revenues from sales taxes.
They get a third from personal income taxes and 5 percent from corporate
Education is the biggest budget item, consuming an average of 31 percent of
state spending. Public welfare, which includes Medicaid, comes in second at
24 percent. Highways account for 6 percent of state spending and police
protection just 1 percent.
Many states raised taxes early in the decade because of budget shortfalls
caused by the economic slowdown. Many of those states now have budget
surpluses, leading some, including Hawaii, to debate tax cuts.
"Many states are having an unexpected surplus of revenue, and that is
because of economic growth," said Stephen Slivinski, director of budget
studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank. "It's mainly because
their estimates on economic growth were very low."
Olympia, Washington -- Former Gov. Booth Gardner, who has battled
Parkinson’s Disease for more than 14 years, on today predicted voter
approval of an “assisted death” initiative he plans to promote in 2008.
The high court last month upheld Oregon’s assisted suicide law, saying the
Bush administration couldn’t take action against doctors who follow the
Gardner, 69, announced his plans for a ballot measure in an interview with
the Associated Press and then at the annual TVW gala, a benefit for the
state version of C-SPAN public television.
In a follow-up interview, Gardner said hasn’t decided on the scope of the
initiative. Voters rejected an assisted-suicide initiative in 1991.
Salem, Oregon -- The Democratic primary for Oregon governor just
got more crowded and potentially a bit trickier for incumbent Gov. Ted
Kulongoski, who is seeking a second term.
Jim Hill, former state treasurer who came in second to Kulongoski in the
2002 gubernatorial primary, announced his campaign and promptly blasted the
governor for betraying his supporters, going back on campaign promises and
failing to move the state forward.
"Ted has not been a good Democrat," Hill said, citing Kulongoski's support
of public employee pension cutbacks, his approval of an off-reservation
tribal casino in the Columbia Gorge and his record of appointing Republicans
to key jobs in state government.
Hill also decried what he called a Democratic "whisper campaign" when he
first ran for governor that an African-American could not get elected as the
state's top executive. He choked up describing his upbringing in the
then-segregated South and his move to Oregon, where he says people care far
more about character than skin color.
Hill, 58, joins Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson in challenging
Kulongoski -- a rare three-candidate race in a state where incumbents
generally get an easy ride in the primary. Three other high-profile
Democrats, including former Gov. John Kitzhaber, openly considered running
against Kulongoski but opted not to. The election is May 16.
Three major Republican contenders -- Kevin Mannix of Salem, Ron Saxton of
Portland and state Sen. Jason Atkinson of Central Point -- are vying to take
on the Democratic winner in November. The governor's race also is expected
to include minor party candidates and, potentially, an independent bid by
state Sen. Ben Westlund, R-Bend.
Salem, Oregon -- Oregon voters may get a chance to reinstate term
limits for members of the Oregon Legislature.
Two national conservative groups provided a combined $100,000 to pay for
signature-gathering for a term-limits initiative on Oregon's November
ballot, campaign-finance reports show.
The proposed initiative would restrict lawmakers to six years in the House
of Representatives, eight years in the state Senate and no more than 14
years combined in a lifetime. Terms served before the measure passed would
count toward the limits.
Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved a similar term-limits measure in 1992
that ultimately forced numerous lawmakers to retire from politics or seek
other offices. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional in 2002
because it amended multiple parts of the Oregon Constitution.
Supporters resolved that problem by narrowly tailoring the new measure. The
new version allows two more years of lifetime service in the Legislature
than the 1992 initiative. The original term-limits initiative was, in
effect, the strictest in the nation.
Campaign-finance reports revealed that $60,000 came from U.S. Term Limits,
an Illinois group that has provided the financial muscle for many other
state term-limits measures. An additional $40,000 came from Americans for
Tax Reform, a group led by Grover Norquist that has supported past Oregon
Norquist was a past supporter of Bill Sizemore, who lost a $2.5 million
legal judgment for campaign-finance irregularities. Norquist also is a
longtime associate of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and has been implicated in the
growing corruption scandal surrounding Abramoff.
Carson City, Nevada -- Nevada residents stand to save money on
electric bills - and state and local governments would lose revenue - under
a decision by the state Tax Commission, a state senator said Monday.
If the decision to give Southern California Edison a $40 million refund
stands, it will "have a very big impact," said state Sen. Randolph Townsend,
R-Reno. Other utilities would be able to argue for refunds.
"This has wide implications," said Townsend, adding that state and local
governments must be prepared to deal with the loss of revenue if the
decision is upheld.
Last year the commission gave Edison a rebate on sales and use taxes the
utility paid on coal brought into the state to fuel its power plant near
Laughlin between 2001 and 2003. It's not clear what the utility's argument
was or what the commission's decision was based on because the commission
met behind closed doors.
The state attorney general's office sued the commission, arguing the
decision should be nullified because the commission violated the open
meeting law. That case is pending.
Townsend said the commission's decision, which was deemed legal by the
Legislature's legal counsel, would hit government budgets and help
ratepayers, who would see that tax left off their bills.
"It's important to realize this is a sales tax they have paid as a consumer
of electric services and then distributed it among the state and local
governments," said Townsend, a member of the Senate Taxation Committee. Of
the tax collected, 47 percent goes to the state and 53 percent to local
governments, Townsend said.
The $40 million was tax collected on one plant over three years, so the
amount of taxes collected from the state's three other coal plants could be
considerable. The amount of tax paid on coal for power plants was not
Honolulu, Hawaii -- The race for the 2nd Congressional District
seat might get more crowded.
Former state Sen. Matt Matsunaga said he is giving "serious consideration"
to running for the seat -- making him the eighth possible candidate to
succeed U.S. Rep. Ed Case -- while Kauai state Sen. Gary Hooser formally
filed to run for the seat yesterday.
Matsunaga, son of the late U.S. Sen. Spark Matsunaga, said, "I think it's
fair to say that the fires of public service still burns strongly in me. I
have always dreamed of representing Hawaii in Congress."
Matsunaga said he was out of town at the time Case announced his run for
U.S. Senate against incumbent Daniel Akaka last month.
Matsunaga came in second to Case in 2003 with 30 percent of the vote for the
seat, which represents rural Oahu and the neighbor islands.
The field is already crowded. State Sens. Colleen Hanabusa (D, Waianae) and
Ron Menor (D, Mililani) and state Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Makiki) say they
will run. Former City Councilman Duke Bainum, Councilman Nestor Garcia and
former Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono are among those who say they are interested in
Denver, Colorado -- Less than 18 months after engineering a
stunning sweep of the Legislature and two seats in Congress, Colorado
Democrats are struggling to find one candidate they can unite behind for
governor -- perhaps the biggest plum in this year's election.
Sen. Ken Salazar endorsed former prosecutor Bill Ritter one day after Denver
Mayor John Hickenlooper announced he won't run. But Hickenlooper, favored by
many Democrats because of his more liberal stand on abortion, has so far
refused to endorse Ritter.
State Democratic chairwoman Pat Waak said the door is still open for other
candidates to jump in, and many party activists and donors won't take a
position until the convention in May or even the primary in August.
Democratic state Rep. Gary Lindstrom of Breckenridge, the other declared
Democratic candidate for governor, said Hickenlooper's weekslong delay in
announcing his intentions has already hurt fundraising because supporters
and donors were waiting on his decision.
Salem, Oregon -- Ron Saxton has begun a statewide speaking tour to
kick off his 2006 campaign, saying he's the one Republican contender who can
defeat Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski and end the GOP's 20-year losing
streak in gubernatorial races.
Saxton, who's already banked more than $1 million in campaign cash, says as
governor he will work to downsize government by eliminating
"underperforming" state agencies and privatizing some of the functions now
performed by state employees — such as vehicle emission testing.
Saxton's leading opponent for the GOP nomination — former state Rep. Kevin
Mannix — was defeated by Kulongoski in the 2002 general election, marking
the fifth consecutive loss for the Republicans in Oregon gubernatorial
Saxton, who was defeated by Mannix in the 2002 GOP primary election, said he
thinks Oregonians are ready for a change and that "career politicians" such
as Kulongoski and Mannix don't hold the answers.
Portland pollster Tim Hibbitts said Mannix is running ahead of Saxton and
the other GOP contender, state Sen. Jason Atkinson of Jacksonville, among
However, he noted that Saxton has been raising his profile with statewide
radio ads taking aim at illegal immigration and that the race is still
Tulsa, Oklahoma -- Tribal smoke shop owners say they can't get
enough cigarettes to stay in business, despite their pledges to the state
not to resell low-tax cigarettes to other businesses.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Tax Commission says it has approved more than 100
requests for additional cigarettes.
The Tax Commission says it has received 149 requests from smoke shops
needing an increased number of cigarettes.
The requests are brought about by an emergency tax rule designed to limit
the sale of low-tax cigarettes in a higher-tax zone such as Tulsa.
Implemented January 23rd, the emergency rule limits the sale of low-tax
cigarettes to smoke shops to 2004 levels plus 10 percent.
Kansas City, Missouri -- Immigration isn’t necessarily a
front-burner issue in Missouri. But at the Republican Party’s annual Lincoln
Days gathering, the issues of stem cell research and cloning were simmering
just beneath the surface.
It has already caused sharp divisions. Several prominent Republicans support
a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution, which aims to protect a
procedure known as therapeutic cloning but would prohibit implanting a
cloned embryo in a uterus to create a baby. The latter procedure is known as
Therapeutic cloning is used to create embryonic stem cells, which scientists
believe could be useful in treating afflictions such as Parkinson’s disease,
spinal cord injuries and others. Removing the stem cells, however, results
in the destruction of the embryo.
Gov. Matt Blunt, former U.S. Sen. John Danforth and other Republicans are
backers of the proposed amendment, which is being pushed by a coalition that
includes scientists, business leaders and the University of Missouri.
Opponents argue that embryos created through therapeutic cloning are human
life and that destroying them is equivalent to abortion. Anti-abortion
groups such as the Missouri Catholic Conference and Missouri Right to Life
have taken that position, and the latter group has sharply criticized Blunt
for supporting therapeutic cloning.
Waikapu, Hawaii -- Gov. Linda Lingle pitched her tax refund
proposals recently to an audience that mostly wouldn’t qualify to get them.
Nevertheless, she got a positive reaction from about 200 members of the Maui
Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon at King Kamehameha Golf Club.
And they applauded when she proposed to reduce sharply the amount employers
would have to add to the bulging unemployment fund.
The chamber and Lingle have been political allies since her days as mayor of
Maui, and she always gets a positive response at these annual visits.
This year, with nearly $600 million in state treasury surpluses to divvy up,
the emphasis was on using some of it to solve problems that have been around
for years. But not all of it. Her tax rebate package would return nearly
half the surplus to residents.
Carson City, Nevada -- The AFL-CIO and other unions have filed a
lawsuit to block the circulation of a petition by state Sen. Bob Beers that
would limit government spending.
Danny Thompson, executive secretary of the state AFL-CIO, said the 200-word
description of the petition contains more than 30 omissions and misleading
and false statements.
"It is outrageous that Beers would have so little integrity that he would
try to deceive voters into signing a petition (whose) effects are far
different than the description put before them," Thompson told the Las Vegas
While a hearing date has not been set in Carson City District Court, the law
requires judges to quickly handle cases challenging petition descriptions.
The case was referred to Judge Michael Griffin.
Beers, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, is the primary backer of the
Tax and Spending Control initiative. It seeks to limit state and local
government spending to the combined rate of inflation and population growth.
Beers needs to gather 83,156 valid signatures by June 20 to qualify the
measure for the November ballot. It would need voter approval in 2006 and
2008 to become part of the Nevada Constitution.
Beers had planned to begin circulating petitions this week after the end of
the 30-day period in which parties can challenge the 200-word explanation
that accompanies the measure. Now, he must await a judge's decision.
"I am not surprised" about the lawsuit, Beers said. "We have been expecting
it. Frankly, this is a delaying tactic. They waited until the last moment to
file their challenge."
Joining the AFL-CIO in the lawsuit were the Nevada State Education
Association, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and the Nevada
Alliance for Retired Americans.
"Collectively, our organizations represent hundreds of thousands of voters,"
Thompson said. "The spirit of this law (concerning 200-word explanations) is
to inform voters about their choices. Bob Beers has violated the letter and
spirit of this law."
Beers said he's not surprised the challenge came from "government unions"
that oppose efforts to limit government spending.
"It looks to me like they have had a month and a half to poke holes into the
language, and this is the best they could come up with," he said.
Helena, Montana -- Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., says the Abramoff
attacks won’t end, but he’ll fight back to the end of his bid to be
re-elected to a fourth term this year.
Ties between Burns’ office and Jack Abramoff, the Washington lobbyist who
has pleaded guilty to corruption and fraud, has dominated the race so far.
Burns has pledged to return nearly $150,000 that he received from Abramoff’s
lobbying firm or Abramoff clients.
But Burns reportedly received more Abramoff money than any other lawmaker —
and Democrats clearly believe that connection makes the 71-year-old senator
“I wouldn’t know this Abramoff from a bale of hay,” Burns told a local
newspaper recently, reiterating that he has never met the man, but conceding
that some of his staffers have. Abramoff’s lobbying business, in fact, hired
staff out of Burns’ office.
“This Abramoff was a predator,” Burns said, referring to Abramoff defrauding
Indian tribes that were his clients. “He was a bad guy. He’s going to go to
jail. The system got him.”
Burns said soon after his office was linked to Abramoff, his staff did a
thorough accounting of fundraising records, appointment books and other
documents to determine if there had been any impropriety.
Burns is providing media outlets with a packet of nearly 50 pages of
documents and a cover letter saying, “We believe these documents completely
back up Burns’ assertions that everything was done properly, legally and
Even so, Burns said it’s unlikely that the Abramoff issue will go away,
short of some form of exoneration from the Department of Justice, which he
does not expect anytime soon.
The influence-peddling scandal has been picked up by Republicans and
Democrats with attacks on more than a dozen politicians seeking re-election.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has launched a campaign aimed
at connecting Abramoff to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat who
faces re-election in Nevada.
Burns said he fully expects Democratic advertising, with funding support
from the national level, to maintain the Abramoff theme. The only
possibility of that dying down, he said, is if Democrats start to run out of
money in that effort.
Denver, Colorado -- It's been an unhappy New Year for those
Colorado Republicans determined to take back control of the state
History would seem to favor a Republican bounceback, since the GOP
controlled at least one and usually both chambers of the General Assembly
for 42 years after their 1962 sweep. But so far the breaks, particularly in
the Senate, just aren't going the Republicans' way.
The latest gloomy omen for Republicans came when a court ruled Senate
President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Jefferson County, could seek re-election to a
full four-year term. Fitz-Gerald was elected to fill out the balance of Tony
Grampsas' term after he died in office. But the court ruled she was sworn in
a few days after the midpoint of Grampas' four-year term and thus was
entitled to run again by the letter of Colorado's term-limit law.
Republicans had high hopes of winning back Fitz-Gerald's seat if the popular
incumbent couldn't run again. The court ruling was doubly disappointing to
the GOP because it followed last December's announcement by popular Rep.
Mark Larson, R-Cortez, that he wouldn't challenge Sen. Jim Isgar,
D-Hesperus, for the Senate District 6 seat in southwest Colorado.
Couple those developments with the fact that they have 11 holdover seats,
and Democrats would seem to have good odds of at least holding their current
18-17 majority next fall.
Portland, Oregon -- Oregon has started its program to track
medical errors at hospitals and determine what could have been done to
The Oregon Patient Safety Commission this week unanimously approved rules
and guidelines for its effort to get hospitals to report serious mistakes.
The Legislature created the commission in 2003, asking it to help reduce the
risk of serious errors in the state's health care system. Gov. Ted
Kulongoski appointed the commission members, who include consumers and
doctors as well as representatives of hospitals, nursing homes and
The commission will not require hospitals to participate in the program, but
those who refuse to take part will be reported on the commission's Web site.
The commission will rely on voluntary reporting because its members think
doctors, nurses and hospitals are more likely to disclose errors if they can
do so without fear of penalty. They say it's more important to learn from
errors than to affix blame.
Las Vegas, Nevada -- US Congressman and gubernatorial candidate
Jim Gibbons has issued a call for tougher campaign finance reporting laws,
saying recent influence-peddling controversies were eroding the public's
trust in government.
Gibbons says he would support more frequent, online reporting of who is
donating to lawmakers' campaigns, and would push to change laws so
contributions were reported before Election Day.
Other candidates in the 2006 governor's race largely agreed with the Nevada
Republican's proposals, saying more disclosure is better. But they also say
the plan smelled of election-year posturing.
In 2002, Gibbons voted against the McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Reform
Act, federal legislation that banned large unregulated donations by
corporations, unions and wealthy individuals.
A spokesman says Gibbons hasn't decided how often he believes lawmakers
should file reports, but thinks it would be reasonable to report five
business days after receiving a contribution.
Salem, Oregon -- The woman accused of running over former state
Rep. Kelley Wirth pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to
nearly six years in prison.
Linda Temple had been accused of attempted murder. She pleaded guilty
instead to a charge of second degree assault and was sentenced to 5 years,
10 months in prison.
Temple contended Wirth was having an affair with her boyfriend, a janitor at
the state Capitol, but Wirth denied the accusation.
Wirth was struck by Temple's car as she was loading a computer into her own
vehicle outside the Capitol at the end of the day on Sept. 6. The lawmaker
suffered serious injuries in the attack.
Police did a routine search of Wirth's car during their investigation and
said they found a small amount of methamphetamine. Wirth has pleaded not
guilty to the resulting drug charges and resigned from the Oregon
Legislature in November.
District Attorney Matt Kemmy told KGW that a letter he received from Wirth
expressed displeasure with Temple's sentence, saying it wasn't severe
While Kemmy said he took Wirth's thoughts about the plea deal into
consideration, he felt Temple's sentence was appropriate given all the
circumstances of the case.
Waco, Texas -- Texas is America's most “magnetic” state in terms
of attracting new residents, narrowly edging out North Carolina, according
to a report by Chicago-based moving company Allied Van Lines.
Texas earned that distinction for 2005, when Allied moved 8,629 households
to Texas and 6,638 households from the state. That gave Texas a net
relocation gain of 1,991 households.
Billings, Montana -- Montana Republican Sen. Conrad Burns tried to
give away $111,000 in campaign contributions arranged by sullied lobbyist
and admitted felon Jack Abramoff, but the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders
Council refused the tainted money.
Burns received a total of nearly $150,000 in campaign contributions from
tribes across the country, as arranged by Abramoff. Burns' campaign
officials want to return the money to the tribes that made the donations,
but so far no funds have been returned, according to tribal officials and
Burns' campaign headquarters.
It appears that legal glitches prevent the return of tribal contributions
from his re-election account. Those legal bumps must be cleared first,
campaign officials claim.
While the Abramoff scandal takes on national significance, tribes could be
implicated through misunderstandings.
Phoenix, Arizona -- The Arizona Legislature has authorized the
Republican majority's top leaders to mount a legal challenge to Democratic
Gov. Janet Napolitano's latest line-item veto, an action which Republicans
contend overstepped her constitutional authority.
The House approved, 37-18, a lawsuit authorization motion over Democrats'
objections. The Senate later approved a near-identical motion by an 18-10
Napolitano signed a state employee pay raise bill but line-item vetoed a
provision that would have exempted some new hires from civil-service
Governors have the line-item veto power under the Arizona Constitution to
reject appropriations. Napolitano contends the provision was an
appropriation because it had cost implications for the state based on
different criteria for vacations for exempt workers and nonexempt workers.
Topeka, Kansas -- The question of whether Kansas should join most
other states in allowing people to carry concealed guns is alive again in
the Legislature with some supporters suggesting it will become law whether
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signs it.
The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee heard from supporters and
opponents of the gun bill, which backers say is nearly identical to one the
Democratic governor spiked in 2004. In 1997, then-Gov. Bill Graves, a
Republican, vetoed a hidden gun bill.
The arguments were familiar. Supporters said that by joining the 46 states
with such laws on the books, citizens would be safer. Opponents said there's
no reason to have such a law and it takes power from local governments by
superseding their right to regulate concealed weapons.
The committee took no action on the bill, although Chairman Pete Brungardt,
R-Salina, said he plans to call for a vote next week.
Rep. L. Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth, said she hopes the bill can be presented
to Sebelius in a form that she will sign, adding, "This is a bill that will
become law one way or the other."
In her veto message, Sebelius said she supported Kansans' right to own
firearms but didn't believe a concealed-carry law would make residents
"The deterrent effect of the armed citizen is well documented. Criminals
fear the armed citizen and the threat of punishment for using a gun in
committing a violent crime," said sponsoring Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville.
"When you look at other states, permit holders don't commit violent crimes."
Under the proposal, Kansans who are 21 or older and are U.S. citizens could
obtain a permit by filling out an application with their local sheriff and
paying a fee of up to $150.
The attorney general's office would issue the permits after conducting
background checks to eliminate those with a felony record, a history of
mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, or a physical infirmity that
would prevent the safe handling of a weapon.
Once past that hurdle, the person would be required to complete an
eight-hour safety and training course by a firearms instructor certified by
the attorney general or the National Rifle Association.
Journey said the bill would make Kansas among the 36 "shall issue" states,
meaning if a person clears all the hurdles, the state must issue the
concealed gun permit. At least eight other states have "may issue" laws,
giving officials latitude. Two states - Alaska and Vermont - have no
prohibitions for carrying a concealed weapon.
Lincoln, Nebraska -- No one testified against a key part of Gov.
Dave Heineman’s tax cut plan, but the chairman of the Revenue Committee
questioned whether the proposal was significant and meaningful.
While Heineman did not testify, his director of economic development,
Richard Baier, said the administration was open to all ideas. Heineman made
the same pledge during his State of the State address last month.
Some sort of tax cut is central both to Heineman’s budget proposal and his
election campaign. The May 9 primary is just a month after the Legislature
adjourns and a tax cut passed late in the session could be fresh in voters’
If taxes are going to be cut this year, as the governor and a majority of
state senators have said they want to do, it needs to be something people
will notice, said Revenue Committee Chairman Sen. Dave Landis of Lincoln.
“I’m looking at bang for the buck,” Landis said.
He has his own idea — funneling $80 million a year into cutting car taxes.
The $40 million Heineman wants to spend on the income tax portion would do
little to make Nebraska more competitive with other states or make people
feel like their taxes are being reduced, Landis said.
Heineman’s tax cut would save the average family of four earning $55,000 a
year about $40.
It’s important to remember that the income tax cut is just one of three
parts of the governor’s overall tax reduction plan, said Mary Jane Egr Edson,
state tax commissioner.
And a 3 percent reduction for those with a large income is “very
significant,” she said.
The fact is, since the top 10 percent of wage earners pay 43 percent of the
tax, they will see the most benefit under the governor’s plan, Landis said.
Juneau, Alaska -- The Murkowski administration is considering
providing tax relief to petroleum companies when the price of oil falls to
the mid-$20 range as part of its overhaul of the state's oil and gas tax
Gov. Frank Murkowski's chief consultant on oil and gas issues, Pedro van
Meurs, introduced a range of possible tax rates to members of the House of
Representatives and Senate Finance committees to show what the state's take
would be if they approve a net profits tax.
The state stands to gain as much as $1 trillion by reforming its oil tax
structure, an amount equal to the anticipated profits from developing the
state's natural gas reserves on the North Slope, van Meurs said.
Democrats criticized the proposal, though, saying it guarantees big oil
companies profit margins of between 20 percent and 25 percent at low oil
"We're not supposed to guarantee a profit to companies," said Rep. Les Gara,
D-Anchorage. "The governor's plan gives away a lot of state money when oil
companies are still making very large profits."
Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus said sweeping changes to Alaska's current
oil production tax are needed to keep the state from losing billions a year.
The governor is proposing scrapping the state's current production tax and
replacing it with a net profits tax based on an oil company's gross
production revenue from their oil wells, less capital and operating costs,
royalties and property taxes.
"We must adopt an oil tax structure that is right for Alaska regardless of
any future gas line agreement," Corbus said.
The administration is considering taxing an oil company's earnings in Alaska
between 17.5 percent and 20 percent.
The new system would have a corresponding tax credit rate on capital
expenditures in the range of 15 percent to 20 percent.
The proposed changes provide tax breaks for new companies in the form of tax
credits that a company could sell.
Democrats commended the governor for acknowledging that the current tax
system on oil is a bad deal for Alaska, but said the proposal shortchanged
the state when prices were still relatively high.
A net profits tax could also be difficult to assess on oil companies with
assets all over the world, Kerttula said.
It was uncertain how the major oil companies--Exxon Mobil, BP and
ConocoPhillips--would react to a tax rate higher than the scenarios offered
by the administration.
The oil companies did not respond to interview requests.
Salem, Oregon -- State Sen. Vicki Walker ended her bid for the
governorship Wednesday, saying she would instead seek re-election to her
north Eugene Senate seat.
Walker, who had spent five months exploring a race for the Democratic
nomination against Gov. Ted Kulongoski, said she wasn't raising enough money
to bankroll the kind of campaign needed to overtake an incumbent in her own
Walker said a big factor was the likelihood that she wouldn't be the only
loser in such a scenario. She said her north Eugene constituents also would
Walker's decision removes one more obstacle from Kulongoski's path to
renomination in the May 16 Democratic primary election. Walker is one of
three Democrats, including former Gov. John Kitzhaber, to consider such a
bid before ruling it out. Currently, Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson
stands as Kulongoski's only same-party opponent.
Sorenson said Walker's departure will sharpen the race into a choice between
himself and Kulongoski.
Walker's exit from the governor's race will spare Kulongoski from doing
campaign battle with his most outspoken intraparty critic.
Casper, Wyoming -- For years, a provision of the Wyoming
Constitution has prevented state officials from giving money to the Eastern
Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes to provide government services to
tribal members who are also Wyoming citizens.
A proposed constitutional amendment aims to make such state appropriations
The Legislature's Select Committee on Tribal Relations has unanimously
approved a joint resolution in support of the amendment. Sen. Cale Case,
R-Lander, said a similar bill failed in the Senate last year by one vote,
after passing in the House.
There are approximately 11,000 members of the Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone
tribes who would benefit from the constitutional amendment, if passed.
The amendment would allow members of both tribes to receive social services
such as mental health and child-protective services provided by the state.
Pierre, South Dakota -- Gov. Mike Rounds, who is expected to run
for re-election this year, has filed a campaign finance report that shows he
had $1.4 million at the end of last year.
Huron lawyer Ron Volesky, the only announced Democratic challenger so far,
had $2,715 in total contributions.
Rounds' new report shows $733,675 in direct contributions and $128,086 in
spending. Major expenses included $36,000 for travel and $29,000 for
It probably takes at least $100,000 for a campaign to make a credible
showing in South Dakota, said Bob Burns, political science professor at
South Dakota State University.
"This year, even if the candidates were evenly funded, Gov. Rounds has an
overwhelming advantage going in," Burns said. "He's well known, and he has a
high rating. To have far less money makes it even more difficult. Ron
Volesky has achieved some recognition of his own, however."
Rounds defeated Jim Abbott, president of the University of South Dakota, in
the 2002 governor's race. Abbott had defeated Volesky and two other
candidates in the Democratic primary that year.
Phoenix, Arizona -- - With a projected $1 billion budget surplus
and a growing illegal immigration problem, Arizona's Democratic governor
Janet Napolitano says the state should spend $100 million on programs to
shore up its border with Mexico.
Napolitano's plan to spend more state funds on border control is necessary
because U.S. Border Patrol efforts in California and Texas have steered
illegal Mexican immigrants to her state.
"There is no doubt that it has increased substantially in recent years," she
said. "The Tucson sector of the Border Patrol makes more than a half-million
apprehensions a year."
The scale of illegal border crossings in Arizona has pushed crime rates up,
strained local law enforcement and forced the state to intervene.
"The federal government is not engaged enough on the immigration issue," she
said. "I can't wait for the federal government any longer."
Napolitano and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson last year took the dramatic
step of declaring states of emergency along their borders with Mexico
because of illegal immigration and related problems.
The action by the two Democrats shook loose state money for local
governments. The decision also signaled to Washington impatience among state
officials in the wake of the controversy sparked by groups like the
Minutemen. The citizen militia occasionally patrols the border and alerts
the Border Patrol when it spots illegal immigrants entering the state. The
Minutemen's patrols spawned similar efforts in other states.
Activists who want to crack down on illegal immigration applaud the $100
million proposal Napolitano introduced last month, but some say it is
propelled more by election-year politics than principle.
Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform said the
Arizona governor opposed a 2004 state ballot measure requiring proof of
citizenship to apply for public benefits. Fifty-six percent of voters backed
"What she's doing down at the border is really an election-year ploy,"
Mehlman said. "The governor is up for re-election and obviously understands
how hot the issue is."
Despite the criticism, House Majority Leader Steve Tully said his fellow
Republicans, who control the Arizona Legislature, may back Napolitano's
"We're certainly in a good fiscal situation, so we may be able to do that,"
Tully said. "The amount of money is something we can agree on."
Phoenix, Arizona -- What began as a simple legislative election in
Ahwatukee Foothills has become a national issue as federal authorities
seized the ballots cast in the disputed 2004 District 20 recount that handed
Rep. John McComish his seat.
Though the FBI's actions likely indicate that a federal investigation is
under way concerning the handling of the September 2004 Republican primary
and its recount, District 20 constituents will see no changes in their
Because a court has certified the election results, McComish, a freshman
legislator from Ahwatukee, will retain his seat no matter what the federal
investigation uncovers, said Karen Osborne, Maricopa County elections
Though some have questioned the integrity of the District 20 election, no
one has at any point accused McComish or his staff of any wrongdoing or
McComish initially lost the Sept. 7, 2004, primary to Anton Orlich in a race
close enough to trigger an automatic recount. The recount found more than
400 new ballots, and McComish edged out Orlich by 13 votes.
At the time, county elections officials said the machine used in the recount
was more sensitive than the one used in the first vote. A subsequent
investigation by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas drew no conclusion
of ballot tampering or other wrongdoing.
Critics called for further investigation.
Legislative and county officials said they were relieved that the FBI was
taking over. McComish's fellow legislators expressed disappointment that the
issue had clouded his first term.
McComish says he plans to run again when up for re-election this fall.
Juneau, Alaska -- The Alaska Democratic Party is demanding to see
the state's electronic voting files from the 2004 election to answer some
questions about the results.
The Division of Elections says no, because the state's contract with its
supplier, Diebold Election Systems, says Diebold owns the data format and
the format is proprietary information, even though the data is public.
The Democrats have no reason to believe any 2004 election results will be
proven wrong. A hand recount in the 2004 U.S. Senate race -- paid for by a
private citizens' group -- found 944 valid ballots that weren't counted by
electronic scanners the first time around, but that wasn't anywhere near
enough to change the result.
However, Alaska has known elections in which such numbers could make all the
Olympia, Washington -- Along with backyard barbecues, camping and
summer vacation, you can add voting to your August to-do list, starting next
After years of angst over whether to change the state's mid-September
primary, one of the nation's latest, lawmakers are poised to move up the
election by a month, starting in 2007.
The Senate, which has been a graveyard for the primary move bill in previous
years, gave the August primary a surprisingly strong bipartisan sendoff,
approving it 37-11 on Wednesday. The House is expected to follow suit.
Eugene, Oregon -- Elimination of the state's corporate income tax
kicker could solve the budget shortfalls facing Oregon community colleges,
according to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Pete Sorenson.
Sorenson, a Lane County commissioner since 1997, outlined his plan to shore
up funding for two-year colleges in a campaign speech at Lane Community
College. Ending the income tax kicker for corporations could give the state
$100 million per biennium for higher education, the Eugene resident said.
"This is a very doable answer," Sorenson said. "If I'm the governor, I'm
going to get the votes (from legislators) to get this right."
Oregon is the only state in the country with a kicker law.
Businesses get their rebate in the form of a tax credit when corporate
income tax collections in a two-year budget cycle come in at least 2 percent
above the Legislature's projections.
For households, the kicker is a refund check, mailed out just before the
holidays. The state dishes it out when all other general fund revenues -
primarily personal income taxes - exceed projections by 2 percent or more.
Sorenson's proposal would leave the personal income tax kicker intact.
Under Sorenson's plan, revenue retained by the state through elimination of
the corporate tax kicker would be used to increase the state's community
college budget to $500 million per biennium.
Sorenson said his opponent in the May 16 Democratic primary election,
incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski, has not fought for the state's community
colleges since taking office in 2003.
Sorenson joins a chorus of critics of the corporate kicker - but the idea of
killing it has made little progress in the Legislature.
Business groups have typically resisted any reduction of the corporate
Officials with Kulongoski's office said the governor has not commented on
eliminating the corporate income tax kicker.
The kicker has drawn scorn from public spending advocates as an undeserved
windfall for mostly out-of-state conglomerates.
In addition, the Oregon AFL-CIO is considering a ballot-measure campaign to
get rid of the corporate kicker.
Sandpoint, Idaho -- Landowners in the Panhandle are taking
property tax relief into their own hands.
A Sandpoint group called Sensible Taxation Of Property is joining forces
with Idaho Property Tax Reform in promoting a ballot initiative which would
keep the tax levy from increasing any more than 1 percent a year.
Valuations would be based on 2004 figures and they could not be rise above
eight-tenths of 1 percent a year. The new law would also have no sunset
Initiative backers plan to circulate petitions in Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai
and Nez Perce counties, according to STOP.
Bob Chenault, president of STOP, expects to receive the petitions this week
and is seeking help from Panhandle taxpayers in finding places where they
could be placed so people can sign them.
Chenault said some 60,000 signatures of registered voters are needed by
April 31 in order to get in on the November ballot.
The Legislature's efforts to ease the tax burden on landowners have been
"too litte, too late," said Tom Suttmeier, vice president of STOP. Meantime,
taxes continue to march upward.
The initiative amounts to a root canal of Title 63, Idaho's revenue and
taxation code. The initiative is some 60 pages long, although petitions will
be accompanied by a straightforward summary of what's being proposed.
Idaho has had a 1 percent cap on the books since 1978, said Alan Dornfest,
property tax policy supervisor at the Idaho State Tax Commission. However,
that provision is trumped by another bit of Idaho Code which allows taxes to
be raised as much as 3 percent.
The 1 percent cap closely resembles Proposition 13 in California. Chenault
contends the cap has done no harm in the Golden State.
Chenault resolved to become a tax activist after holding a meeting in
Sandpoint last year and seeing two widowers visibly upset over the prospect
of losing homes they had lived in for three decades.
"We've got to do something about this," he recalled realizing. "When you
begin to like a place, it's tough seeing things getting out of whack and
with no apparent way to stop it."
Carson City, Nevada -- Mike Hillerby is leaving his
$118,000-a-year post as Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn's chief of staff to take an
executive position in a company headed by lobbyist, lawyer and land
developer Harvey Whittemore.
Hillerby, Guinn's fourth chief of staff during the governor's two terms in
office, will be replaced by Keith Munro, who has been Guinn's legal counsel
and deputy chief of staff.
Hillerby, who took over as chief of staff for Guinn in November 2003, said
he'll start his new job with the Wingfield Nevada Group on March 1. He
didn't disclose his salary but said, "I have no complaints."
The Wingfield Nevada Group, whose other partners include casino owner Tom
Seeno, owns and operates The Resort at Red Hawk in Sparks. The group also is
developing Coyote Springs, a project that could have 50,000 or more homes,
north of Las Vegas.
Reno, Nevada -- Former President Jimmy Carter is expected in
Carson City and Las Vegas to help his son kick off his campaign for the U.S.
Carter's eldest son, Jack, is launching his challenge to U.S. Sen. John
Jack Carter said it won't be his father's last stop in Nevada.
"I don't know how often, but I'm sure he'll be back," Jack Carter said. "He
wants me to win."
Jack Carter, 58, has been on a "listening tour" of the state, gauging his
support since October. It will be his first run for office.
He moved to Las Vegas three years ago with his wife Elizabeth. The two run
an investment consulting business.
He is the only Democrat to announce a challenge to Ensign and lags behind in
tracking polls and fund-raising.
Ensign, who is seeking his second six-year term, reported raising $3.7
million for his reelection bid. He has $2.37 million cash on hand, according
to the report filed Tuesday. He raised $426,000 in the last three months of
Carter, who started fund-raising three months ago, said he has raised
"We're raising more," he said. "I'm pretty happy with that as a start."
Missoula, Montana -- In 1997, Carol Latta stopped at a Canyon
Ferry marina to buy a fishing license.
Not long afterward, the bills started coming in.
The marina clerk used Latta's Social Security number to get credit cards and
racked up $100,000 in bills after buying a car, a boat and jewelry.
Now Latta has joined with the Montana Shooting Sports Association and others
in a lawsuit challenging the state requirement that people provide their
Social Security numbers to obtain licenses to fish or hunt.
The law was passed by the 1999 Legislature after the federal government tied
funding for the state's child support program to the requirement to collect
Social Security numbers.
“The state would have lost several million dollars in federal funding if it
hadn't passed the legislation,” said Ron Aascheim of Montana Fish, Wildlife
The requirement has always been controversial.
But Gary Marbut, president of the MSSA, said the state should have taken the
stand that Montanans' constitutional rights are not for sale.
“If Montana officials are willing and able to sell the right of privacy the
people have reserved in the Montana Constitution, how long will it be before
they decided to sell our freedom of the press, freedom of religion or right
to bear arms?” Marbut said. “It is unconscionable that the state would sell
our constitutional rights.”
The lawsuit, filed in District Court in Missoula, asks that FWP be
prohibited from rejecting license applications from people who refuse to
provide their Social Security numbers and that the agency purge all Social
Security numbers from its data system.
Pierre, South Dakota -- State lawmakers are currently considering
providing employers with up to $10,000 dollars to provide a breastfeeding
Mary Schultz, a lactation consultant for Sioux Valley Hospital say, " I
think it's good for babies. It's good for families. It's good for employers.
I think it's a really neat way to bring it to the forefront and get people
thinking about it."
But if approved, Senate Bill 177, would give companies up to ten-thousand
dollars to provide a lactation facility for workers.
Each must have a table & chair, electricity; walls that go from floor to
ceiling; and a lockable door. But Schultz says employers could do more. She
says, " You could have a television, or certainly a sink or access to a sink
would be a very important thing. Books and magazines...a refrigerator, a
place to store her milk."
Even spending as much as one thousand dollars to also provide an electric
breast pump could boost a company's bottom line. Schultz explains, " They
can save up to $400 per baby in healthcare costs when a mother continues to
breastfeed. Some studies have shown that when you invest one dollar in a
pump facility, you get a three-dollar return."
Phoenix, Arizona -- David Burnell Smith, a Scottsdale Republican,
thanked his friends, family and former colleagues during an emotional
goodbye speech on the House floor.
With his voice cracking and hands shaking as he spoke, Smith ended his
speech by saying, “I’ll be back.”
Later, many of his fellow Republicans — who dressed in black — spoke in
defense of Smith and in opposition of the law that forced him out.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, RGilbert, said the Citizens Clean Elections Law has
damaged the state and the constitution because it can be used to oust
elected officials on a technicality.
“I think an injustice continues to stare us in the face. I believe the state
is, if it’s not already, close to a constitutional crisis,” Farnsworth said.
Smith became the nation’s first lawmaker to be expelled from office for
campaign finance violations.
The state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Smith must leave
office because he had overspent in his 2004 primary by about $6,000.
The ruling effectively left Smith with no other options but to step down.
However, he has not ruled out the possibility of taking his case to the U.S.
With Smith gone, District 7 precinct committee members will meet tonight to
select three candidates to replace him.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will then select one of the three
to fill the vacated seat.
Smith has said he plans to run for re-election in September if he is unable
to persuade party and county officials to reappoint him.
But that could force Smith into another legal showdown.
Officials with the Citizens Clean Elections Commission and state attorney
general’s office said Smith cannot replace himself.
The courts and the commission ordered Smith to forfeit his office for the
remainder of his term, which bars him returning to office through the
appointment process, said Todd Lang, executive director of the commission.
Attorney general’s office officials agree, said spokeswoman Andrea Becker.
“That’s our position. We don’t think it would be legal,” she said.
Smith said he would welcome a legal challenge, should he be selected as a
Phoenix, Arizona -- The Arizona Department of Education released
its long-awaited nutrition guidelines for public schools. The guidelines
come after the Arizona Legislature passed a law last year to curb junk food
sales in schools. The law does not apply to high schools, although a
separate piece of legislation was introduced this year in hopes of including
Arizona is one of a handful of states that have passed laws to crack down on
junk food. For years, schools have sold high-sugar, high-fat snacks at snack
bars and in vending machines, tempting kids to bypass lunch.
The new nutrition guidelines require all snacks to meet minimum standards
for fat, sugar, sodium and calories. For instance, snack sizes are limited
to 300 calories and cannot have more than 35 percent of their calories from
While officials at the state Department of Education were finalizing their
nutrition guidelines, a fierce battle went on behind the scenes to keep
certain foods in schools. State Schools Chief Tom Horne received hundreds of
letters and e-mails from parents, students and food and beverage companies.
Beverage companies lobbied to continue selling diet soft drinks to middle
schools but were unsuccessful. They were more successful when it comes to
sports drinks. Middle schools will be allowed to continue to sell sports
drinks such as Gatorade, but not elementary schools.
Snack companies also scored a victory. The state originally planned to ban
muffins, sweet rolls, doughnuts. But the department ended up compromising.
Pastries can still be sold but they are limited to three-ounce packages and
all snacks must meet the calorie, fat and sugar requirements. Chocolate
candy bars also will still be allowed, provided they meet the calorie, fat
and sugar standards.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- A vote that could give a California nurses
union a substantial foothold in Hawaii has been postponed following a
federal labor agency's allegations that Kaiser Foundation Hospital illegally
interfered with the union's ability to campaign.
An election to oust the Hawaii Nurses Association and replace it with the
National Nurses Organizing Committee/California Nurses Association had been
scheduled for the week of Feb. 6.
But according to correspondence from the National Labor Relations Board's
Honolulu office, the NLRB has postponed the vote indefinitely after finding
merit to allegations that hospital management engaged in "unlawful
restrictions on access/distribution" on three occasions.
The board also stated that certain hospital policies amounted to
"overly-broad and restrictive loitering and no-solicitation/no-distribution
The NLRB has not yet filed a complaint against Kaiser. However, NLRB
correspondence states that it has found merit to charges filed by the
California nurses union, and the NLRB plans to file a complaint if the
hospital refuses to settle, said Tom Cestare, officer in charge of the
NLRB's Honolulu office.
Helena, Montana -- Gov. Brian Schweitzer told Montana school
officials they should shut down the lawsuit on public-school funding -- but
those who brought the lawsuit don't quite agree.
Schweitzer, speaking in Helena to members of the Montana Quality Education
Coalition, said a two-year, $120 million funding increase and other action
by the 2005 Legislature has complied with 2004 court rulings that said state
funding for schools was inadequate.
The nearly 11 percent increase is the largest two-year increase in state
money for schools since 1991.
The governor also indicated he'll ask the 2007 Legislature for more state
funding of schools, and urged MQEC members to support sympathetic
"No one has said that we are done," he said. "No one has said that we will
not continue to put more money into K-12 education. We will."
Yet while MQEC leaders said they agree with much of what Schweitzer said,
they aren't dropping the 3-year-old lawsuit.
They also offered to have "settlement discussions" with Schweitzer or other
state officials on how best to resolve the lawsuit, but the governor
MQEC is the coalition of school districts, school groups and individuals who
spearheaded the 2002 lawsuit that led to the rulings saying Montana's public
school funding system is unconstitutional.
The courts said the state is falling short of providing a "basic system of
free quality public" schools.
Juneau, Alaska -- The Legislative Budget and Audit Committee
suspended Bonnie Robson, oil and gas issues consultant, saying she assisted
then-Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Irwin in writing a memo that raised
questions about the nature of the negotiations. The Alaska Department of
Administration said information recovered from two erased computers shows
she was connected to the memo.
Irwin was forced from his job over the memo, and others followed him.
Department of Natural Resources staffers said they talked with Robson on
several issues, but they did not believe she co-authored the memo, as
Department of Administration Commissioner Scott Nordstrand is implying.
Efforts to reach Robson for comment were unsuccessful.
Nordstrand said his department is putting together records for the public
concerning the pipeline negotiations. When staff members learned Mark Myers,
former director of the Division of Oil and Gas, had erased memory on his two
laptop computers, efforts were made to recover the lost data.
According to Alaska law, state employees must preserve public records
including electronic documents, and they may not be removed, destroyed or
disposed of except as provided by law.
In the process of recovering the data, state officials found an e-mail
containing a document they believe was a rough draft written by Robson. The
memo sought advice from the state attorney general on the legality of the
Denver, Colorado -- When Democrats unveiled their proposal to
allow same-sex couples to file as domestic partners two weeks ago, social
conservatives objected because they said it would discriminate against
people who weren't gay.
Now some longtime opponents of expanding gay rights are supporting a
proposal that would automatically give some rights to same-sex couples but
only if they're also given to other people who can't marry and are living
together. That would include everyone from roommates to daughters and
mothers who live in the same house.
Sponsor Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, said the bill doesn't say
anything about what kind of relationship exists between the two people.
"This is an interesting challenge for some legislators as to whether or not
they want to constructively solve problems or whether they only want to
support bills that single out a particular kind of relationship and exclude
other households," he said.
The proposal also has the support of the public policy arm of Focus on the
"We don't believe benefits should be given solely on an intimate
relationship. They should be given where there's true need in the case of
those who can't marry," said Jim Pfaff, the group's national representative
for family policy.
Michael Brewer, public policy director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender Community Center of Colorado, said Mitchell's proposal is a
"political ploy" designed to draw attention away from the domestic
partnership proposal. He said Mitchell doesn't give anything to same-sex or
any other couple that they can't currently get if they hire a lawyer and
draw up a contract.
Salem, Oregon -- A move by two Eugene area lawmakers to force the
Oregon Legislature into a special session next week has died because of a
lack of support from other legislators.
Sen. Vicki Walker and Rep. Robert Ackerman requested the session, saying a
$172 million hole in the state human services budget threatens crucial
services for Oregon's most needy citizens and must be dealt with right away.
But tallies of ballots sent to House and Senate members show a majority of
them want nothing to do with a special session, at least not until Gov. Ted
Kulongoski and legislative leaders suggest a proposal to wipe out the
Walker was the only senator who indicated she wanted a special session,
while 19 of the chamber's 30 senators voted against the idea.