Portland, Oregon -- The campaign year of 2006 was supposed to
belong to the state House of Representatives.
After all, the House has it all: a great spotlight race in the Democrats’
fight to take down House Speaker Karen Minnis, R-Wood Village, plus up to a
dozen other compelling contests that could either cement Republican control
of the chamber or shift it to the insurgent Democrats.
But then, when not many people were paying attention, things suddenly got
very interesting in the state Senate.
The Democrats currently enjoy a comfortable 18-12 cushion in the chamber,
but 11 Democratic-held seats are up for re-election this year, compared with
just four GOP seats.
That’s almost an exact reversal of the electoral picture in 2004, a
situation that the Democrats then took full advantage of landing enough big
wins to break the chamber’s previous 15-15 logjam.
Southern US Border -- Violence at the border has risen
dramatically during the past couple of years, according to law enforcement
officers all along the border.
Crime there is more competitive, more profitable and more violent.
Members of a violent international gang working for drug cartels in Central
and South America are planning coordinated attacks along the U.S. border
with Mexico, according to a Department of Homeland Security document
obtained by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Southern California).
Detailed inside a Jan. 20 officer safety alert, the plot's ultimate goal is
to "begin gaining control of areas, cities and regions within the U.S."
The information comes from the interrogation of a captured member of Mara
Savatrucha, or MS-13, a transnational criminal syndicate born from displaced
El Salvadoran death squads from the 1980s.
The MS-13 member, who claimed to have smuggled cocaine for the Gulf Cartel,
explained a plan to amass MS-13 members in Mexican border towns such as
Nuevo Laredo, Acuna, Ojinaga and Juarez. The Gulf Cartel runs its drug
smuggling operations from Del Rio, Texas, to south of Matamoros, Mexico.
"After enough members have been pre-positioned along the border, a
coordinated attack using firearms was to commence against all law
enforcement, to include Border Patrol," the alert states.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- With dozens of competing programs and causes
competing for the state's ample revenue surplus, one clearly has risen once
again to the top of the Hawaii legislative agenda: education.
Two years ago education took top billing as the Legislature passed a major
education reform bill after rejecting a plan by Gov. Linda Lingle to break
up the state's single school district.
Last year other issues rose to the top, including the need to address the
state's lack of affordable housing and Honolulu's call for mass transit.
Now education is back.
In 2006, fixing the state's crumbling school buildings appears to be leading
the causes that have climbed to the top of the Legislature's to-do list as
they prepare to dole out a projected $574 million surplus.
Democrats want to allot $150 million. Gov. Linda Lingle has proposed
spending $90 million.
According to reports, notorious smuggler Pablo "El Patron" Mercado says
he will no longer tolerate the loss of contraband and has ordered smugglers
to carry firearms.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- After months of searching Hawaii Democrats
finally have someone willing to take on Republican Linda Lingle in the race
Randy Iwase, a man with experience in both city and state government, has
announced his candidacy.
In making the announcement, Iwase acknowledged he faces an uphill climb, but
insists he can reach the top of state government through hard work and a
strong Democratic message.
Iwase enters the race as an underdog. If he reaches the general election, he
will face a governor who will have close to $6 million to finance her
Party leaders say they support Iwase, "but we're looking forward to
supporting any candidate who comes to the table before the July deadline,"
said Brickwood Galuteria, chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii.
Iwase served on the Honolulu City Council from 1986 to 1988. He made an
unsuccessful run at the mayor's office in 1988, then spent 10 years in the
Iwase is currently working as chairman of the state Labor and Industrial
Relations Appeals Board, but says he'll resign from that post within a week
Tucson, Arizona -- Patty Weiss becomes the latest Democrat to
formally enter what is shaping up to be one of the most crowded and
competitive contests on the November ballot: the race to succeed Rep. Jim
Unlike many of her rivals in Arizona's 8th Congressional District, the
55-year-old Weiss is a familiar figure. A three-decade career as a
television newscaster made her a nightly presence in district dens and
Others Democrats now in the race include Gabrielle Giffords, a former state
lawmaker; Jeff Latas, a pilot and Persian Gulf War veteran; Alex Rodriguez,
a member of the Tucson Unified School District governing board; Francine
Shacter, a retired federal employee; and Eva Bacal, a public defender and
former TUSD board member who ran against Kolbe in 2004.
Republicans, however, are determined to retain a seat that has been in GOP
hands since 1984. Their candidates at this point include Mike Hellon, a
former chairman of the state Republican Party; Mike Jenkins, an auto shop
manager; and Randy Graf, a former state lawmaker who challenged Kolbe in
Kolbe, 63, unexpectedly announced his intention to retire the day before
Thanksgiving. His district embraces much of Tucson and Southeastern Arizona,
including Sierra Vista, Tombstone, and Benson.
Denver, Colorado -- House Majority Leader Alice Madden truly hopes
that John Hickenlooper gets in the race for governor.
"Without a strong top of the ticket, Democrats will suffer all the way
down," she said. Sen. Ken Salazar's 2004 race helped the Democrats take over
the House for the first time in 30 years and Hickenlooper would help them
keep it by turning voters out.
But if the Denver mayor decides to stay put, Madden herself will probably
Former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter has a huge lead over Rep. Gary
Lindstrom in the Democratic race so far. But Ritter is anti-abortion and,
oddly, has already chosen a fellow Denverite, Barbara O'Brien, as his
O'Brien supports education vouchers, which may appeal to many Republican and
unaffiliated voters, but cuts the team's chances for the party nomination.
If Hickenlooper gets in the race, Madden would likely run for re-election,
since the term-limits law allows her two more years in the House.
Olympia, Washington -- Gays soon will have legal standing against
discrimination in Washington state.
The state Senate approved a historic gay rights bill on a 25-23 vote sending
the measure to a jubilant Gov. Christine Gregoire for signing. It would take
effect June 7.
Celebrating gay-rights supporters said they are keenly aware that a ballot
box fight is likely in the fall because conservatives and Christian groups
are weighing plans for a referendum or initiative that could strike down the
law after Gregoire signs it.
The legislation, House Bill 2661, adds sexual orientation to a list of
characteristics — such as race, gender and marital status — protected from
discrimination in employment, housing and credit.
As the celebrating began at the Capitol, Gregoire stood in the Senate wings
and hugged lawmakers. Even as she stepped to the microphones in a packed
news conference in the State Reception Room, she took a call to share the
news with Washington's U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
The vote makes Washington the 17th in the country to outlaw discrimination
against a person in jobs, housing or credit based on sexual orientation,
according to the national Human Rights Campaign. The state becomes the
seventh to include transgender people along with gays, lesbians and
“Referendum, big time,” predicted Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester, one of the
Senate's top opponents of gay rights and gay marriage. He regards
homosexuality as a sin because of his Christian beliefs.
Swecker reminded his fellow senators that Washington voters have rejected
the notion of protecting gays and lesbians before in Initiative 677 in 1997.
Opposition groups almost certainly would place the law on the ballot for an
up or down vote in November, he said.
Austin, Texas -- The Texas Supreme Court converted a one-horse
contest for the state's highest criminal court into a three-way derby
Friday, restoring two candidates to the ballot.
The Supreme Court ruled that two candidates who had been disqualified from
the race for the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals should have received a
chance to correct technical flaws in their ballot applications for the March
7 Republican primary.
The third candidate, state Rep. Terry Keel, said the court overstepped the
law in its 5-3 vote allowing ballot access for Dallas state District Judge
Robert Francis and incumbent Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Charles
"What the majority essentially does is say that the election code has no
meaning," he said. "It's not in dispute that both parties violated the
The disqualifications were based on defects in the voter signature pages
submitted by the candidates, as required by the election code: Judge Francis
failed to list the number of the seat he was running for on 11 pages of his
application. That omission was allowed by the state GOP, but Mr. Keel had
appealed that decision and won a court order excluding Judge Francis from
Judge Holcomb's pages had some duplicates that left him with fewer unique
signatures than the law requires. The Republican Party had disallowed his
application after a complaint by Mr. Keel, and Judge Holcomb sued to
overturn that ruling.
"The ballot is not restricted to those who never make a mistake," wrote
Justice Scott Brister. "To the contrary, the Election Code anticipates that
candidates will occasionally err and specifically requires party officials
to assist them so that no candidate is excluded from the ballot
Three justices dissented, saying the statutes have no provision for a
Olympia, Washington -- The Washington state House has quickly
agreed to an amendment in the gay rights bill and sent it to the governor.
Governor Gregoire says she'll sign it.
The bill had passed the House by 23 votes. The crucial vote came in the
state Senate where a similar bill failed last year by one vote. This year it
passed by two votes.
The amendment required by the House agreement says the legislation does not
The bill bans discrimination against gays and lesbians in housing, jobs and
insurance. Sixteen states have passed similar laws. The legislation has been
debated in the Washington Legislature for nearly 30 years.
Still pending in the state Supreme Court is a decision on whether gay
marriage is constitutional.
Phoenix, Arizona -- The Arizona Supreme Court removed Rep. David
Burnell Smith from office making him the first legislator in the nation to
be sacked for breaking state public campaign finance laws.
The court delivered the final blow after a nearly yearlong legal battle,
affirming lower court rulings that Smith failed to properly appeal an order
from the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to leave office.
The Supreme Court also denied Smith’s request for a stay that would have
allowed the freshman Republican to continue serving his two-year term, which
was just past its midpoint.
“We’re pleased with the decision of the court and we felt all along that we
had a good case,” said Andrea Esquer, spokeswoman for the state attorney
general’s office, which represented the commission in court.
Smith, a fiery 64-year-old lawyer, argued that he didn’t violate Clean
Elections laws and that the commission lacked authority to remove him.
The Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that the commission indeed was
empowered to remove him.
Smith said he would consider taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if
the state Supreme Court ruled against him.
The commission, created by voter approval in 1998, is widely seen as a
national model for campaign finance reform. It gives state candidates public
funding with the intention of removing the influence of special-interest
Last year, the commission found that Smith overspent his limit by about
$6,000 during the 2004 Republican primary. It ordered him to forfeit office,
refund $34,625 in public funding and pay a $10,000 civil fine.
Denver, Colorado -- Colorado's tax collections are soaring from
the explosion of oil and gas production in the state. So are the requests
from state lawmakers on how to divvy up the bounty to meet long-simmering
needs and wants.
Helping low-income people pay their utility bills, keeping animals off the
endangered species lists and granting up-front funds for environmental
impact statements on new water projects are but a few of the ideas being
batted around the Colorado Legislature this year.
The legislature's Joint Budget Committee - three members each from the House
and Senate - is trying to rein in expectations of what can be done with
severance taxes, which are expected to total almost $230 million this fiscal
Under Colorado law, half of the severance tax revenue, called the "local
share," goes to the Department of Local Affairs to disperse back to cities
and counties that are heavily impacted by energy development.
The other half is split 50-50 between the Colorado Water Conservation Board
for water projects (called the perpetual base account) and the operational
account that is administered by the Department of Natural Resources once
lawmakers decide how to spend it.
Pierre, South Dakota -- A measure that would have required South
Dakota legislative candidates to file campaign finance reports before
elections has been rejected on a party-line vote by the Senate State Affairs
Members of the Republican majority voted to kill the measure, while the
Democratic minority supported SB164.
The measure's main sponsor, Sen. Ben Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, said
candidates for statewide elected offices must file campaign finance reports
before elections, so it would be fair to make legislative candidates file
reports of donations and expenses the week before elections.
"The reason we do that is so that information is available in a timely
manner so voters have that information before they go to the polls,"
Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, said he believes legislative candidates
eventually should be required to file campaign finance reports before
elections, but he said the change should be delayed until candidates can
file such reports electronically.
Problems would arise if hundreds of campaign finance reports were filed on
paper with the secretary of state's office in the week before an election,
The State Affairs Committee also voted along party lines to kill SB163,
which sought to require that political parties file detailed campaign
finance reports on receipts and expenses for all funds and subfunds.
Juneau, Alaska -- Despite a constitutional amendment already
banning same-sex marriage in Alaska Republican lawmakers say it isn't
enough. Now they want a second amendment to prevent the state from providing
benefits to the same-sex partners of Alaska state employees.
Nine gay or lesbian government workers and their partners sued the state and
the city of Anchorage on the grounds that denying the benefits was a
violation of the Alaska Constitution's equal protection clause.
Last October the state Supreme Court agreed and ordered the benefits to
The court said in its written ruling that unmarried opposite-sex couples
also are denied benefits, but they - unlike gay couples - have the option to
The ruling said that because of the ban on marriage same-sex couples are
Anchorage is moving to follow the ruling but the state balked.
Earlier this month the state asked the court to delay implementing the
ruling for at least a year.
Now Republican lawmakers are pushing for an amendment that would disallow
same-sex partner benefits altogether.
Senate Judiciary chairman Ralph Seekins (R-Fairbanks) told the Legislative
Council that he has a draft constitutional amendment and that the measure
could be introduced by his committee on short order
A constitutional change would require approval by two-thirds of the House
and Senate and approval by a majority of voters in November's election.
The proposed amendment has the support of Gov. Frank Murkowski.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- Former vice president Al Gore has attended
the premiere of a documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
It's "An Inconvenient Truth," which chronicles his crusade since losing the
2000 presidential election: Educating the masses that global warming is
about to toast our ecology and our way of life.
The film centers on the elaborate slideshow presentations Gore conducts
around the world for live audiences on the perils of global warming. He
presents alarming images of ice-cap meltdowns and graphs linking the rise
and fall of atmospheric carbon-dioxide to rising and falling temperatures.
Gore regards the situation as "a true planetary emergency."
He told The Associated Press that he's devoting himself to a strong response
to the situation.
Salem, Oregon -- Republican state Sen. Jason Atkinson made it
official and filed to run for governor saying that as the state's chief
executive he would work to protect children from sexual predators, control
illegal immigration and boost the state's economy.
The southern Oregon lawmaker also dismissed comments by "political pundits"
who say he can't win the GOP nomination but might be a spoiler in the May
primary fight between front-runners Kevin Mannix and Ron Saxton.
The 35-year-old Jacksonville lawmaker, who touts himself as part of a "new
generation of Republicans," disclosed his plans to run for governor in
August while being interviewed by conservative radio talk show host Lars
Political analyst Russ Dondero said he's seen no indication that Atkinson is
building momentum for a statewide race.
"Atkinson's base is so narrow — southern Oregon and perhaps the Christian
right — it's hard to see him being anything but a spoiler for the two
heavyweights," said Dondero, who teaches political science at Portland State
Any votes Atkinson draws in the May GOP primary likely will come at the
expense of Mannix, who was strongly backed by the party's social
conservatives in the 2002 Republican primary election, Dondero said.
"That will make the race between Saxton and Mannix a real close one," he
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- The Lynn Pierson Compassionate Use Act,
New Mexico's medical marijuana bill, passed unanimously out of its first
The bill was heard by the Senate Public Affairs Committee shortly after
Governor Richardson announced that he would allow it to be considered by the
legislature in this year's 30-day session.
Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico and other advocates and patients are working
to make sure this bill becomes law. The same bill moved through the
legislature successfully in 2005, but was stopped just short of a final vote
by a political conflict unrelated to the legislation.
"New Mexicans have tried to pass a medical marijuana bill for thirty years,"
said Reena Szczepanski, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico.
"It’s time to get this done so our most vulnerable citizens will have
protection under state law."
Portland, Oregon -- Sen. Hillary Clinton's fundraising trip to
Portland is under fire from some Democratic veterans who say she is
siphoning away money that could go to local candidates.
The group, which includes Jim Rassmann, the Florence veteran who hit the
campaign trail with John Kerry in 2004 to speak about how Kerry saved his
life in Vietnam, have issued a letter denouncing the former first lady's
support for the Iraq war.
"As Oregon veterans and members of military families," the letter says, "we
are concerned with your fundraising trip to Oregon on two counts: your
strong support for the immoral war in Iraq and your plan to take Oregon
donations that are needed elsewhere."
Oregon Democratic Chairman Jim Edmunson acknowledged the veterans' point
that the event might divert money that could have gone to local candidates,
and said the state party tried without success to arrange a joint fundraiser
that would benefit both Clinton and Oregon Democratic candidates.
Clinton's re-election campaign declined a request from The Oregonian to
respond to the letter. But a campaign spokeswoman noted that Clinton, who
may run for president in 2008, has been one of the nation's biggest
fundraisers for other Democratic candidates.
But Vietnam veteran John Calhoun, a Portland Democrat who gathered
signatures from 31 fellow veterans and one mother of a veteran for the
letter to Clinton, said some Democrats think the New York senator has not
really distanced herself from her initial support of the war.
He also said that Clinton doesn't need the money from Oregon for her
re-election campaign, which had nearly $14 million in the bank at last
report and no strong opponent.
Calhoun and Rassmann were strong Kerry supporters in 2004. But Calhoun said
the letter was not aimed at helping Kerry, who has said he may run again in
Salem, Oregon -- Rep. Derrick Kitts, R-Hillsboro, announced he
will run against Congressman David Wu rather than seek re-election to the
Oregon Legislature this year.
Kitts said the race will offer voters a clear choice because he differs with
the Portland Democrat on many issues, ranging from trade and taxes to
immigration and property rights.
"The harder thing is to find something we agree on," he said in an
interview. "I think the congressman has time and time again voted wrong for
Kitts, 32, is in his second two-year term in the Oregon House. In the 2005
Legislature, his fellow Republicans selected him as majority whip, which put
him in charge of counting and rounding up votes for legislation.
He also was chairman of the House Elections and Rules Committee. His biggest
accomplishment was shepherding through a bill that made several changes in
campaign-finance disclosure laws.
Republican Everett Curry announced that he will run for Kitts' seat in the
Kitts faces an uphill battle. First elected in 1998, Wu is expected to seek
a fifth term in Congress, where returning members are famously difficult to
Wu has a head start in raising campaign money -- more than $435,000 in the
bank as of last fall, according to his latest report filed with the Federal
Kitts said he knows winning the race would be expensive, and he plans to run
a million-dollar campaign. "We're anticipating somewhere between $1.2
million and $1.6 million," he said.
Wu has a slight voter registration edge. Of the nearly 410,000 voters in the
1st Congressional District, 38 percent are Democrats, 35 percent are
Republicans, and 24 percent are non-affiliated. The district covers the
northwest corner of Oregon, including Portland's West Hills, McMinnville,
Beaverton and Hillsboro.
Kitts is a Portland State University graduate who has operated a landscaping
business and worked as a consultant on various campaigns in Oregon. In
recent months, he has been working on a variety of duties for Kevin Mannix's
campaign for governor, including strategy and fundraising. He said that work
will be scaled back, but he doesn't know whether it will end.
Austin, Texas -- State Sen. Kim Brimer, a Fort Worth Republican
who heads the legislative panel that evaluates state agencies, says that he
wants a thorough review of the office charged with looking out for Texas'
interests in Washington, D.C.
The Office of State-Federal Relations has been under fire from Democrats in
recent days because it has hired two lobbyists with ties to indicted
Washington operative Jack Abramoff and with U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar
Land, who faces money-laundering charges. The lobbyists are each paid
$180,000 a year.
Brimer, chairman of the Legislature's Sunset Advisory Commission, would not
comment directly on the Democrats' criticism but said he has already begun
looking into how the state-federal office is conducting its business.
"We're going to clean it up," Brimer said after his panel's organization
meeting in Austin. "But what exactly we are going to do and how we are going
to do it is still being studied."
State Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus,
said in a letter to Brimer this week that the examination of the
State-Federal Relations Office should be expedited and that both lobbyists
should be summoned to Austin to testify about the roles they play in
Dunnam and several Democratic members of the state's congressional
delegation have called on Gov. Rick Perry to cancel the state's contracts
with Drew Maloney, a former chief of staff for DeLay, and Todd Boulanger,
who worked with Abramoff at two Washington law firms with lucrative lobbyist
Since being awarded the state contract, Maloney has contributed $75,000 to
several Republican candidates.
Meanwhile, the Austin American-Statesman reports that Boulanger's
firm, Cassidy & Associates, was awarded its contract with Texas even though
it was not lowest bidder and some of its competitors had met more of the
state's selection criteria.
Perry's spokeswoman Kathy Walt told the newspaper that the firm emerged as
the favorite after interviews were conducted and references checked.
Olympia, Washington -- Attorney General Rob Mc-Kenna is pushing a
bill to keep sex offenders away from schools, playgrounds and other places
where kids gather.
McKenna is one of the leading forces in the Legislature’s drive to
strengthen sex offender laws.
The new bill gives public or private facilities that host children the
ability to kick out offenders who have been convicted of crimes against
kids, including rape, incest and molestation.
An earlier version of the bill was not well-received. It would have barred
sex offenders from a list of child-friendly areas, such as schools,
carnivals and day-care centers. Law enforcement officials feared that
approach would have been virtually unenforceable, while creating a false
sense of security among parents.
Boise, Idaho -- A constitutional amendment was introduced in the
Idaho Legislature today to limit the power of local governments to condemn
homes and private property to make way for economic development projects --
like industrial parks, sporting complexes and golf courses.
Republican Representative Lenore Barrett of Challis is the latest lawmaker
to introduce legislation to restrict the so-called "eminent domain"
authority of cities, counties and other government entities.
Her resolution calls for citizens to vote in November on amending the
constitution to ban condemning private property for any project that might
stimulate the local economy.
The House Local Government Committee sent the resolution to print this
afternoon and hearings on the measure are expected later this session.
Pierre, South Dakota -- Bills regulating the 300 or so quick-loan
shops in South Dakota have been introduced in the 2006 Legislature.
South Dakota's lack of an interest rate limit, which was aimed at luring
banking companies, has fueled the quick-loan shops. Loans from the
establishments typically last up to 30 days and can carry annual interest
rates of 400 percent or more.
One bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Glenski, D-Sioux Falls, would amend
the existing short-term lending law to add the definition of a consumer
small loan, a short-term, nonrevolving loan of less $500 that's to be paid
in a single installment.
Another bill, introduced Tuesday by Rep. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, defines
a short-term consumer loan as any loan to an individual borrower lasting six
months or less.
It would require lenders to disclose "any fee or charge, including the cost
of a loan as an annual percentage rate" and any fee or charge that might be
applied for delinquency. The terms of loans offered also would have to be
displayed in any advertisement for the lender.
Payday lenders say the loans are meant to be repaid quickly, almost like an
Lawmakers said they fear the ability to extend the loan up to four times is
what leads to an endless cycle of debt. A weekly $7.50 fee on a $100 loan,
by the end of one year, adds up to $350 in fees alone.
Both bills have drawn bipartisan support. State Sen. Bill Napoli, R-Rapid
City, a co-sponsor of both, said short-term lending is the most pressing
issue for him this session.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- A proposed ballot measure introduced
in the South Dakota Legislature seeks to limit state taxes and spending.
The proposed amendment to the South Dakota Constitution would limit the
growth in tax revenue in any year to the percentage change in the state
population plus the inflation rate, or the percentage change in population
plus three percent, whichever is less.
If the measure is passed by the House and Senate, it would automatically be
listed on the November ballot.
Another proposed constitutional amendment filed in the Legislature seeks a
public vote on imposing a state income tax on corporations. The revenue
would be used to boost state financial aid to school districts and to
increase funding for scholarship programs.
A third proposed constitutional amendment would declare that state policy is
to protect the life of unborn children from conception to birth. The
proposed amendment says that nothing in the state constitution should be
construed to grant any right relating to abortion.
The proposed amendment on protecting unborn children was suggested by a task
force that studied abortion last year.
Helena, Montana -- U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., rolled out his
first television ad of the campaign, a minute long commercial in which the
three-term incumbent seeks to distance himself from disgraced lobbyist Jack
Drawing on Burns' long experience around stockyards, the commercials refer
to previous Democratic ads linking him to Abramoff as "just a big bunch of
you know what."
"I don't know who Abramoff influenced, but he never influenced me," Burns
said in the commercial. The senator does all the talking in the spot.
Burns has received close to $150,000 in campaign contributions from
Abramoff, his associates and clients, more than any other lawmaker,
according to a Washington Post tally.
A former top aide of Burns has confirmed that a 2001 Abramoff-paid Super
Bowl trip the staffer attended is part of an ongoing U.S. Justice Department
investigation into lobbyist influence peddling. Burns has since pledged to
return the money.
Burns has said his office has never been contacted by the Justice
Department, which has thus far declined to comment on the ongoing
The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Washington Times,
all citing anonymous sources, have listed Burns as among those lawmakers
under federal investigation for their ties with Abramoff.
Tom Bunnell, Burns' campaign manager, said the ads were running statewide,
both on television and radio. He declined to comment further about the ads.
The ad faults previous Democratic ads, which stopped running the end of
November and criticize Burns for his links to Abramoff.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Arizona doctors have decided against asking
the state's voters this fall to approve constitutional changes to allow new
limits on medical malpractice lawsuits.
Arizonans for Access to Health Care, a group formed by the Arizona Medical
Association, said it based its decision on indications that medical
malpractice claims and suits seemed to decrease slightly in the past year
and that Arizona voters weren't likely to approve meaningful changes.
The physicians' decision against seeking a ballot measure followed efforts
by a group that works on behalf of lawsuit plaintiffs' attorneys to build a
campaign warchest in anticipation of a possible election ballot of medical
The lawyer-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Insurance Reform,
recently reported raising nearly $700,000 in contributions from law firms
and individual lawyers.
FAIR was expected to propose its own ballot measures on medical malpractice
if the doctors decided to launch their own effort to limit lawsuits, and the
result would likely produce rival campaigns spending millions of dollars
A similar battle last year in Washington state saw spending totaling $15
million by doctors, lawyers and their respective allies in campaigns for and
against rival ballot measures on medical malpractice.
Phoenix, Arizona -- A state lawmaker has proposed a ballot measure
that would repeal funding for Arizona's public financing of political
campaigns, saying the system's rules are enforced unevenly and that
candidates are essentially penalized for not using that money for their
If it's approved by the Legislature, the proposal by Republican Rep. Rick
Murphy of Glendale would appear on the November ballot.
Voters approved the campaign finance system in 1998. It gives participating
candidates for state offices public money if they collect a certain number
of contributions of at least $5. The system, which is funded mostly by
traffic and criminal fine surcharges, has been used in elections in 2000,
2002 and 2004 to provide funding for participating candidates for governor
and numerous other state offices.
A judge threw out an initiative in 2004 that would have asked voters to
repeal the system, ruling that the initiative violated the Arizona
Constitution by posing two separate questions in one measure.
The Citizens Clean Elections Commission, which runs the system, considered
an enforcement case against Murphy, who had accepted public funding for his
2004 legislative race. The commission dismissed the case but it's again
considering allegations against Murphy.
Commission spokesman Michael Becker said the commission has tried to
confront problems with the system.
Last year, the commission concluded Republican Rep. David Burnell Smith of
Scottsdale overspent his publicly funded 2004 primary election campaign by
at least 10 percent, an amount that triggered a provision in state law to
require his ouster. He has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to block his
The Clean Elections system has been criticized for reporting requirements
imposed on nonparticipating candidates, a lack of adequate funding for
candidates for some statewide offices and inequities in matching funds.
Supporters of the system said public financing is a way of keeping special
interests from having too much influence on political races.
Juneau, Alaska -- Gubernatorial candidates were snowing down on
Juneau's Centennial Hall as five stopped by for a dinner forum and two
potential runners made speeches.
Candidates spoke to members of the Alaska American Labor Federation-Congress
of Industrial Workers, and issues relating to jobs became the first
battleground of the election, still months away in November.
The meeting was the first gathering of known and potential candidates
running for governor this year.
Former Gov. Tony Knowles spoke to the union about his vision for a natural
gas pipeline and criticized how the Murkowski administration is handling gas
line contract negotiations.
It was one of Knowles' first public speeches since his run for U.S. Senate
in 2004. He said he is not sure whether he will throw his hat in the race.
Car rental businessman and former state Rep. Andrew Halcro announced his
candidacy to reporters and later participated in the evening with the other
four who have already proclaimed their intentions to run.
House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz and Rep. Eric Croft, both from
Anchorage, are seeking the Democrat nomination. Republicans in the running
are former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin and Fairbanks businessman and former
state Sen. John Binkley.
Halcro said he is running as an independent.
The candidates, speaking 10 minutes each, expressed desires to change or
improve a controversial new public employee and teacher pension plan that
starts this summer, support for building a gas pipeline that runs only
through Alaska and making sure Alaska residents are getting jobs offered in
Gov. Frank Murkowski, who has not announced if he will run for reelection,
also stopped by to address the union. His staff said Murkowski planned to
make an announcement this week, but that has been postponed. Spokeswoman
Becky Hultberg added that he continues to focus on the gas pipeline
In his speech, Murkowkski said his administration has created 13,600 jobs
and several thousand more may be on the way if a gas pipeline is built.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- New Mexico's laws regulating lobbying of
legislators and state officials need tightening according to Gov. Bill
However, Richardson doesn't want the issue considered during the current
30-day session of the Legislature.
The governor, in comments at a legislative breakfast reception sponsored by
the New Mexico Press Association, said lobbying law changes should be
handled in the 2007 legislative session.
Richardson said a focus of this session should be anti-corruption proposals
that were developed in the wake of a kickback scandal in the state's
One proposal endorsed by the governor would prohibit campaign contributions,
gifts or anything of value to the treasurer or his staff from a current or
prospective contractor with the treasurer's office.
Currently, there is no law in New Mexico that bans or restricts the giving
of gifts to legislators or members of the executive branch such as the
governor. Legislators are not paid a salary. They receive a daily expense
reimbursement when the Legislature meets.
Richardson defended so-called fact-finding trips, such as those for members
of his staff and legislators to the Netherlands to tour a uranium enrichment
Louisiana Energy Services, which proposes to build a similar enrichment
facility in New Mexico, has spent almost $40,000 since late 2003 for
government officials to travel to the Netherlands to inspect an enrichment
plant operated by Urenco, a European company.
Several Richardson aides and legislators went on the trips organized by LES.
The governor said he had no objection to a fact-finding trip such as those
done by LES "as long as it's disclosed, it's promptly divulged.''
Under state law, lobbyists or their employers must file reports periodically
that disclose their political contributions or expenditures to influence a
Richardson said he's willing to support efforts to make the Legislature more
open to the public through the Internet. Last year, he vetoed $50,000 for
buying and installing equipment for a Webcast of the Legislature. Richardson
said there wasn't adequate planning for that initiative last year.
A Webcast would allow New Mexicans to use their computers to hear or watch
live proceedings of the House and Senate.
The governor's state of the state speech to the Legislature last week was
shown live over the Internet and Richardson said it drew considerable
interest from the public.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- A dozen House Democrats are joining Gov. Linda
Lingle's call to repeal the state's gasoline price cap law, the only one of
its kind in the nation.
Their decision sets up an election-year clash with Senate leaders who
believe the legislation has enough support to withstand any such challenges.
A proposal sponsored by seven Democrats and co-signed by five others seeks
an outright repeal of the law that was first passed in 2002 and revised in
each of the following years.
Word of the proposal was welcome news to Republicans.
Although she did not mention it in her State of the State speech Monday,
Lingle said afterward she was committed to pursuing a repeal.
If wholesalers charged up to the maximum allowed and dealers added a markup
of 16 cents, the cost of regular unleaded is expected to range from $2.80 a
gallon on Oahu to $3.17 a gallon on Lanai.
Hawaii's price caps are set using an average of spot wholesale prices in the
Gulf Coast, New York and Los Angeles to determine a baseline. Fixed charges
are then added to account for oil companies' profit margins and operational
costs such as shipping, delivery and storage to different islands.
The resulting price represents the maximum at which wholesale gas can be
Echoing statements made by the governor, Democrats who support the repeal
say they believe the gas cap was passed with good intentions, but it has not
proven to be effective.
Olympia, Washington -- Washington's attorney general has filed his
first lawsuit under the state's new anti-spyware law -- alleging that a New
York company's software claiming to rid personal computers of spyware
actually deposits a nefarious program instead.
The suit, which was filed against Secure Computer LLC of White Plains, N.Y.,
alleges that the company's spyware-scanning software falsely labels ordinary
Windows system keys as spyware to induce computer users to pay $49.95 for
the company's Spyware Cleaner program. That program doesn't actually clean
spyware from the PC but rather modifies the computer's security settings,
the suit alleges.
"This lawsuit is intended to send a message to spyware perpetrators and to
hucksters who market phony products that play on the public fear of spyware,"
Attorney General Rob McKenna said. He called the alleged tactics, especially
the changing of security settings, "quite startling."
The law, which was enacted last year, made it illegal to illicitly install
software on someone else's computer to modify settings, collect information
or perform other deceptive acts.
Both suits also make claims under anti-spam laws, alleging deceptive
practices in e-mails used to promote the product. McKenna's suit names
defendants including Paul E. Burke, Secure Computer's president, who didn't
return a message left on his phone in New York.
The suit alleges that Secure Computer, Burke and another defendant, Gary T.
Preston of Jamaica, N.Y., made more than $100,000 by selling Spyware Cleaner
through a network of affiliates. The suit, which also names some of those
affiliates, asks the court to enjoin the defendants from deceptive practices
and assess financial penalties.
Ben Edelman, an expert who has testified in anti-spyware suits, said he was
familiar with Secure Computer and its tactics. He described it as "a
deplorable practice" that "takes advantage of users in their moment of
weakness." Edelman said there are other companies engaged in similar
According to the attorney general's suit, the defendants marketed the
Spyware Cleaner product to computer users through pop-up advertisements and
e-mails that told them their machines had been infected with spyware. The
pop-up messages, which mimicked the appearance of Microsoft security boxes
and used the Redmond company's trademarked font, then asked users to perform
a computer scan.
The messages were designed to alarm computer users, with one reading:
"Warning -- Your computer may be infected with harmful spyware programs,"
the suit says. Those consumers who followed through with the scan were then
told that they had spyware on their computers.
"Deceived into believing that dangerous spyware is on their computer and
there is no time to waste, the user is induced to purchase Spyware Cleaner,"
the suit says.
Austin, Texas -- Governor Rick Perry and three other governors are
on a weeklong tour of Asian and Middle Eastern trouble spots, including
visits with Texas troops in Iraqi war zones.
The previously unannounced trip, believed to be the first time a Texas
governor has visited an active overseas battlefield, also includes scheduled
stops in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Perry is traveling with Govs. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Dave Freudenthal of
Wyoming and Jim Doyle of Wisconsin and, after an overnight stop in Kuwait,
flew to Iraq to visit Texas troops in Tikrit and meet with U.S. military
officials in Baghdad.
Perry and Huckabee are Republicans; Freudenthal and Doyle are Democrats.
Other governors have made similar trips, a Pentagon spokesman said. In
November, the governors of Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi and Georgia toured
Iraq, according to news reports.
Grapevine, Texas -- Tobacco smoke spread through the air of
Wilhoite’s, a bar and grill restaurant in Grapevine as about 500 people
filled the building up to the rafters, waiting in line to meet independent
gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, who stood behind a table signing
posters and other campaign memorabilia for two hours, wearing his signature
black cowboy hat and western-style shirt while smoking a cigar.
The event, which was planned by the Denton County Coordinator for Friedman’s
campaign, Barbara Haas, hoped to inform people of the petition drive that
will occur in two months.
According to Friedman’s press secretary, Laura Stromberg, Friedman declined
to talk to members of the media at the meet and greet so he could devote his
time to his supporters.
“I thought this place was ‘Kinky-esque’,” she said. “They could hold the
capacity of what I thought would show up and it’s a central location.”
In one of the back rooms of the bar, workers for Friedman’s campaign sold
buttons, bumper stickers, posters and shirts ranging from $1 to $20, while
passing out flyers with a list of some of his views.
Independent candidates like Friedman and state Comptroller and former
Republican Carole Strayhorn need 45,539 registered voters to sign a petition
in order to get on the ballot in November. Voters cannot sign the petition
if they voted in either primary.
Gary Beaver, a member of the Creek tribe, supports Friedman’s plan to reopen
casinos on American Indian reservations.
Pierre, South Dakota -- A bill that seeks to ban abortion in South
Dakota is being introduced in the state Legislature.
"It would basically be a bill in which abortion would be prohibited," Rep.
Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, said Monday. "If a doctor performed an abortion,
except to save the life of a mother, there would be a criminal penalty."
Hunt, a leading abortion opponent in the South Dakota Legislature, said the
measure will be designed to avoid the problems that led to the failure of a
similar bill two years ago.
The 2004 Legislature passed a measure that would have banned nearly all
abortions in South Dakota, but Gov. Mike Rounds issued a technical veto of
the bill because it would have eliminated existing restrictions while tied
up in certain court challenges. The measure died because lawmakers failed to
agree on changes Rounds had suggested.
Kate Looby, director of Planned Parenthood in Sioux Falls, said Hunt's
measure is clearly an effort to get the U.S. Supreme Court to consider
overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in the
The Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls is the only place where
abortions are done in South Dakota.
Hunt said now is a good time to consider a ban on abortion. He said the
South Dakota Legislature has been active in restricting abortion in the past
decade; Ohio, Indiana and some other states are considering bans on
abortion; and the U.S. Supreme Court is getting two new justices.
In addition to the bill seeking to ban abortion, Hunt said he also will
sponsor a measure that would require doctors to give women seeking abortions
written information about risk factors and complications that can arise.
Abortion rights advocates will back a bill requiring that women be given
information about emergency contraceptives when they go to emergency rooms
after being raped.
They also will support measures requiring insurance companies to cover
contraceptives and providing balanced sex education curriculum that includes
information on abstinence, contraception, family communication and the
dangers of alcohol and drugs.
Meanwhile, a number of other bills were filed Monday that deal with abortion
One measure would require any abortion facility to get an annual state
license and undergo inspections by the state Health Department.
Another would bar the distribution of contraceptives to students on public
school property and would prohibit public school employees from referring
students to abortion services or family planning services.
Yet another would allow doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care
workers to refuse to take part in any health service that violates their
Meanwhile, a law passed by the 2005 Legislature has been put on temporary
hold while it is being challenged in federal court. Opponents argue the
measure would undermine private and professional relationships between women
and their doctors.
Last year's law would force doctors to inform pregnant women, in writing and
in person, at least two hours before abortions that the procedure ends the
lives of humans and terminates the constitutional relationship women have
with their unborn children. Women also would have to be told that some
people die during abortions and the procedure can lead to depression,
increased suicide risk and other problems.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- A legislative bill aimed at reducing rough
play during an election breezed through its first hurdle Friday as it
unanimously passed in committee.
If the bill, known as SB 55, is passed, it will provide political candidates
an opportunity to sign a pledge publicly stating they will run a fair
campaign, said Republican Senator Al Mansell.
"Basically this pledge says, 'I will not participate in dirty campaigning,'
" he said. "You agree, if you choose to sign this, that you won't
participate in any of the kinds of things we've seen happen that are fairly
An important aspect of the bill is political candidates will not be required
to sign the pledge, Mansell said -- it is purely voluntary.
"If somebody chooses not to sign the pledge that is certainly their right,"
he said. "They don't have any obligation to do this."
The bill also includes provisions requiring political action committees to
designate and disclose the names of two officers to the lieutenant governor.
Mansell said this measure is to ensure the credibility of the organizations.
Along with requiring more disclosure, the bill also imposes a third-degree
felony, and possible prison time, on organizations that provide false
information. Mansell said he recognizes the penalty seems severe, but he
thinks it is necessary to deter false information.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- Governor Lingle urged the Hawaii Legislature
to pass both her own and a Democratic plan for tax relief.
In her fourth State of the State address, Lingle said Hawaii can -- in her
words -- "have it all.'' She says it's not necessary to make a choice
between tax relief and funding for bold new programs to boost education,
housing, environmental protection and energy self-reliance.
She also made proposals for increasing traffic safety and fighting crime,
Lingle proposed to give back about half of a projected $574 million revenue
surplus with tax relief that could put money in citizen's pockets.
She said her $285 million tax relief package would give back one-thousand,
568 thousand dollars to a family of four earning 50-thousand dollars or
Lingle said the savings on state taxes would be enough to pay a year's
tuition at a community college with money left over for book, or enough to
pay a family's electric bill for a year.
She said the legislative sessions should not be a fight between tax relief
or more money for education.
She said that on top of that, there would be enough money to set aside
another $100 million for the state's rainy-day fund.
Her proposal includes an increase of more than $132 million for public
education on top of the $570 million already appropriated but not yet spent.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl is getting some more high
profile help in his re-election effort this year against Democratic real
estate developer Jim Pederson.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will host a fundraiser for the
Republican Kyl in February. This is the latest high-profile national help
given in the Kyl-Pederson race. Schwarzenegger will appear with Kyl in the
Phoenix area on Feb. 23.
Kyl has already received campaign help from President Bush and former New
York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican, is chairing Kyl's re-election bid.
Pederson, the former chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, has gotten
boosts from U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and former NATO supreme commander
and retired U.S. Army general Wesley Clark, as well as from Senate
Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
The Pederson-Kyl race is expected to be the most expensive in state history,
with both camps reaching out to the private sector. Polls show Kyl leading
in the race. Those same surveys show Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano ahead
of GOP rivals.
Phoenix, Arizona -- A legislator ruled to have violated campaign
spending limits asked the Arizona Supreme Court today to block his possible
ouster from office.
A lawyer for Representative David Burnell Smith argues that the Scottsdale
Republican should be spared a "needless public humiliation" of being removed
from office without the Supreme Court agreeing to resolve multiple issues of
The state's campaign finance commission found that Smith overspent his
publicly funded 2004 primary election campaign by more than ten percent, an
amount that triggered a provision in state law to require Smith's ouster.
A hearing officer and two lower courts have ruled against Smith. He's now
asking the Supreme Court to take his case and block the commission's ouster
order in the meantime.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Among the issues high on business
lobbyists’ agendas are the proposed statewide minimum-wage hike, concern
about the possible use of eminent domain to confiscate private property,
reducing taxes on small business, help for angel investors, support for
economic development and tourism, and money for the proposed commuter rail
At the top of the list this session is stopping — or at least slowing down —
an increase in the state’s minimum wage from the congressionally mandated
level of $5.15 an hour to $7.50 an hour.
A bill proposed by Rep. Ben LujŠn, D- Santa Fe, would raise the minimum wage
statewide to that $7.50 level on Jan. 1, 2007.
Gov. Bill Richardson also wants to raise the minimum wage, but his proposal
would phase in the higher wage over time, to $6.50 next January, $7 in 2008
and $7.50 in 2009.
Both LujŠn and Richardson’s proposals would contain a pre-emption clause
that would prohibit local governments other than Santa Fe from setting a
higher minimum wage than that of the state wage for the first five years
after the measure is enacted.
Tucson, Arizona -- A former long-time Tucson news anchor says
she's filed to become the seventh Democratic candidate vying to replace
retiring U-S Representative Jim Kolbe.
Patty Weiss, who left N-B-C affiliate KVOA-TV last year, says she faxed her
paperwork to the Federal Election Commission.
She plans an official announcement in about 10 days.
Kolbe, a Republican completing his 11th term, announced late last year he
won't seek re-election to southern Arizona's Eighth Congressional District
Only two Republicans have entered the race: Randy Graf, who lost to Kolbe in
the 2004 primary, and Mike Jenkins, a former Tucson City Council candidate.
Other Democrats who've filed include Eva Bacal, who lost to Kolbe in the
2004 general election; former state Senator Gabrielle Giffords; former Air
Force pilot Jeffrey Latas and Tucson Unified School District board member
St. Louis, Missouri -- A new poll shows Gov. Matt Blunt trailing
potential Democratic challenger Attorney General Jay Nixon in the race for
governor, based partly on overwhelming opposition to Medicaid cuts that
Blunt's administration has championed.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch/KMOV-TV poll found no clear leader in the race
for the U.S. Senate between State Auditor Claire McCaskill and incumbent
Sen. Jim Talent.
The poll of 800 likely Missouri voters showed strong opposition to Medicaid
cuts that eliminated about 300,000 residents from the program. But it
indicated high support for increasing the state's tobacco taxes and a
proposal to protect embryonic stem cell research in Missouri, if it is
allowed by federal law.
Nixon led Blunt 51 percent to 43 percent, outside the 3.5 margin of error.
But a sampling of those who support Nixon, who has not officially declared
his candidacy, indicated that they chose him largely based on
dissatisfaction with Blunt, the Post-Dispatch reported.
"The best news for Matt Blunt is that he's not up for election this year,"
said Del Ali, whose firm conducted the poll.
John Hancock, a spokesman for the Missouri Republican party, said the poll
showed that Blunt's popularity is moving in a positive direction. He said a
poll taken nearly three years before an election helps to show the campaign
it's headed in the right direction.
In the Senate race, the poll showed 47 percent of those questioned favored
McCaskill, while 44 percent picked Talent, with the other 9 percent
undecided. The difference between the candidates is not considered
statistically significant because it is within the 3.5 percent margin of
The poll also found a gender gap, with McCaskill holding an 11-point edge
among women and Talent with a five-point edge among men.
About two-thirds of those polled support a ballot proposal to increase the
state's tobacco taxes by 80 cents a pack on cigarettes, and triple the tax
on other tobacco products. Supporters of the effort say most of the money
raised from the tax would be used to increase Medicaid payments to
hospitals, doctors and other health-care providers.
About two-third of those polled also supported a proposal to protect
embryonic stem cell research, an effort being pushed by various Missouri
universities and research institutions. Some members of the Missouri
legislature are trying to ban stem cell research, saying some forms of the
research require the killing of embryos.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka says he is energized
and ready for a campaign challenge from U.S. Rep. Ed Case.
Case shocked establishment Democrats by announcing he would run against
Akaka, a 30-year veteran of Congress who has served in the Senate since
Akaka is 81. Case is 53 and said one of the reasons he is running is to
provide Hawaii with a new generation of leaders in Washington.
Akaka said he is not looking to retire.
By announcing for the Senate, Case opens up his congressional seat, setting
up a race for his 2nd Congressional District (rural Oahu and neighbor
Yesterday, two more Democrats said they would run.
State Sen. Ron Menor, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress 15 years ago, said
he would again run.
Menor (D, Mililani), an attorney, is one of the strongest proponents of the
state's gas cap legislation.
Denver, Colorado -- Many local Republicans have been looking at
Marc Holtzman's campaign for governor with a sense of dread, asking
themselves, "Did he really say that?"
Holtzman has been stirring things up with a vow to lead a "grass-roots
revolution" against the Republican establishment in his faceoff with U.S.
Rep. Bob Beauprez for the party's nomination.
Holtzman is insisting that the party has lost its way and points to the
growing influence-peddling scandal in Washington as proof.
He has even made it clear he'll try to link Beauprez, who has not been
implicated in the scandal, to congressional leaders now under investigation.
Last week Holtzman went even further, attacking Mayor John Hickenlooper, who
Democrats are urging to enter the governor's race.
Holtzman said Hickenlooper leads an administration with a "secular, godless
undertone" that wanted to replace the words Merry Christmas with Happy
Holidays on the Denver City and County Building.
In another swipe at Beauprez, Holtzman described him as "Hickenlooper
All of this has deeply upset many Republicans, who fear Holtzman will damage
his party by portraying it as corrupt and out of touch.
There is increasing animosity between moderates and conservatives within the
Colorado Republican Party, and those divisions grew during the raucous
campaign over Referendums C and D last fall.
Holtzman, a leading opponent of the referendums that ease some restraints on
state government spending, has been appealing to conservatives by saying
they were betrayed by party leaders like Gov. Bill Owens.
Holtzman, a wealthy entrepreneur, has so far been able to raise $1.5 million
for his campaign, which will allow him to do extensive television
Salem, Oregon -- Anti-tax activists have begun a
signature-gathering drive to ask Oregon voters this November to clamp a
tight new limit on state government spending.
If the measure wins a spot on the ballot, it will touch off what's expected
to be a high-spending campaign battle between tax foes who want to restrict
government spending and those who say such a limit would put schools and
important social services at risk.
Jason Williams of the Taxpayers Association of Oregon says thousands of
petition sheets have been mailed to volunteers across the state asking them
to help collect signatures for a new spending limit to replace the current
Paid signature gatherers might be brought in later to help round up the
100,000-plus signatures needed by the July deadline to qualify the spending
limit proposal for the fall ballot, Williams says.
The proposed initiative would limit state spending to the percentage change
in inflation plus the percentage change in population growth.
Any override of the limit would require a two-thirds vote from both the
House and the Senate and the approval of Oregon voters in a statewide
Williams' group is teaming up on the new ballot initiative with FreedomWorks,
the well-financed Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for
lower taxes and smaller government in Oregon and other states.
In 2004, the two groups joined forces in a campaign that referred the Oregon
Legislature's $800 million tax increase to the statewide ballot, where it
was soundly rejected by voters.
Austin, Texas -- Evidence is mounting that former Christian
Coalition leader Ralph Reed Jr., along with a former leader of the Texas
Christian Coalition, may have illegally lobbied Texas state officials on
behalf of crooked federal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients.
Three Austin-based reform groups, Common Cause Texas, Public Citizen Texas,
and Texans For Public Justice, have urged Travis County prosecutors to
investigate whether Reed violated Texas’ lobby-registration laws four years
Correspondence between Abramoff and Reed—the ex-Christian Coalition leader
now running for lieutenant governor of Georgia—suggests that Reed lobbied
Texas officials on behalf of Abramoff’s Indian gambling clients without
registering as a Texas lobbyist. The $5 million in gambling money that
Abramoff reportedly paid Reed for his services would make it one of the
largest lobby contracts ever made public in Texas.
Reed’s policy work in Texas assumed greater significance this past January
3, when Abramoff pled guilty to three felonies in a plea bargain with
federal prosecutors investigating a vast web of political corruption.
Carson City, Nevada -- The Nevada Taxpayers Association announced
that it will oppose a California Prop. 13-style initiative to limit property
tax increases, saying the plan has numerous problems that could lead to
Fred Gibson, chairman of the NTA board of directors, said board members
voted overwhelmingly to oppose the Property Tax Restraint Initiative being
circulated by conservative state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, R-Reno, who's
a candidate for Congress this year.
The NTA move follows criticism of Angle's plan by the Nevada Association of
Counties and the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. The chamber termed it a
threat to Nevada's tax structure, and NACO said it would hamstring
During the 2005 Legislature, lawmakers capped property tax increases at 3
percent a year for homeowners and 8 percent for commercial property. Angle's
anti-tax plan would result in still lower rates of increase.
The taxpayers association also said it will oppose a property owner "bill of
rights" plan dealing with eminent domain issues, along with a proposal to
mandate daily physical exercise in K-12 public schools.
The wording of the eminent domain plan makes it "a certainty that there will
be unintended consequences which would preclude the construction of major
capital projects including roads and highways," the NTA said.
The NTA drew vast amounts of grassroots criticism during the last
legislative session when it endorsed Republican Governor Kenny Guinn's
massive tax increase. The group has long been considered a lapdog of
Nevada's political elite.
"Imagine, a taxpayer group that is anti-taxpayer," one long time political
veteran quipped to WesternPR.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- Lawmakers and the governor have drawn battle
lines on what to do with the projected $574 million surplus: spending more
money to fix schools and other needed programs, or easing the tax bite on
Lawmakers opened the 2006 legislative session presenting their ideas on how
to spend the record surplus.
Gov. Linda Lingle will unveil her proposals in her State of the State
address. She has proposed returning $300 million of the surplus to residents
in some form of tax refund.
Lingle said, "Bottom line, it is great to be able talk about how to spend
the surplus as opposed how to face looming deficits."
"I was disappointed that the House didn't talk about tax relief or lessening
the burden on people who are facing the high cost of living," Lingle said in
a meeting with reporters after the Legislature's opening-day speeches. "I
thought it showed an insensitivity to what thousands of people face who are
living paycheck to paycheck.
"The surplus belongs to the people of Hawaii, and they have worked hard for
us to get to this point and they deserve some substantial tax relief."
Juneau, Alaska -- Two North Pole legislators want to give people
more leeway to defend themselves or others from serious crimes such as
robbery or rape.
A bill sponsored by the Republicans expands the circumstances during which a
person can use deadly force in self-defense.
It's a carbon copy of a bill passed in the Florida Legislature last year.
Passage of similar bills across the nation is being encouraged by the
National Rifle Association.
Supporters say the legislation gives people more freedom to protect
themselves and would act as a deterrent to crime.
Critics say it hands power that should remain with police and courts to the
people, and that the measure fosters violence.
Alaska law already allows people to use deadly force in their own homes or
when they can prove they could not have escaped their attacker. Senate Bill
200 permits deadly force even if a person could have fled their attacker and
protects the person from civil liability.
The measure allows deadly force in self-defense from death, serious physical
injury, kidnapping, rape, robbery, carjacking or to protect a child from
crimes such as molestation.
Alaska is among 14 states considering the idea, according to a spokesman for
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a Washington, D.C., gun control
group that opposes the legislation.
Twin Falls, Idaho -- Some educators are calling a proposed sales
tax increase a "pro-school movement", while legislators are saying it's an
ineffective way to set tax policy.
A statewide initiative, which is being organized by the Idaho Education
Association (IEA), is asking voters to support the initiative in the Nov. 7
general election. The initiative proposes to reinstate the previous sales
tax of six percent -- a tax increase that would raise more than $190
Local committees in regions throughout Idaho hope to gather 60,000
signatures that would put the initiative on the ballot, said Peggy Hoy, who
is organizing the campaign in Twin Falls.
The initiative is also being supported by the Idaho Parent Teacher
Although most educational agencies in Idaho support an increase in school
funding, they disagree on the method. The Idaho Association of School
Administrators (IASA) has not taken a stance on the issue.
"We support a 1-cent increase to sales tax to support public schools, but we
don't have an official position on the IEA initiative," said Vikki Reynolds,
associate director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators.
Reynolds said the IASA has talked informally with the teachers union about
school funding. She said that although their goals may be similar, there is
no formal agreement about the method of achieving the goal.
Many legislators say they are still waiting to know how the IEA would use
the money from the tax increase.
Lafayette, Colorado -- U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez returned to his
roots on the second official day of his campaign for governor.
In a garage near the barn that once housed his family’s dairy cows, Beauprez,
57, repeated the speech he gave in Denver the day before when he officially
announced his candidacy for a position almost everyone expected him to seek.
“Right here is where it really did start, right here in that barn,” Beauprez
His parents, Joseph and Marie, bought dairy cows in 1952 because a drought
was hurting the family’s farming business, Beauprez said.
“Turns out those milk cows were good to us,” Beauprez said.
Beauprez and his wife, Claudia, sold the dairy farm and its cows in 1989.
The barn still stands, surrounded now by the Indian Hills golf course and
its subdivision. With some of the profits from the farm’s sale, the couple
in December 1990 bought a majority share of what is now Heritage Bank.
In the GOP primary, Beauprez will face former University of Denver president
Two Democrats, former Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter and state Rep.
Gary Lindstrom of Summit County, also are seeking the governor’s seat.
Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, is prohibited by term limits from seeking
Phoenix, Arizona -- An appellate court on Thursday upheld a lower
court's ruling that a state legislator must forfeit his elected office
because of overspending when he ran for office with public funding in 2004.
However, the Court of Appeals put implementation of its ruling on hold for
five days to give Rep. David Burnell Smith's time to file a promised appeal
to the Arizona Supreme Court.
Smith, a freshman Scottsdale Republican, would be the first legislator
removed from office for violating a state's public campaign funding system.
Arizona voters voted in 1998 to create the so-called Clean Elections system,
and it has since been used in elections in 2000, 2002 and 2004 to provide
funding for participating candidates for governor and numerous other state
Smith has said he would take his case to the Arizona Supreme Court and
possibly the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.
Juneau, Alaska -- A group of legislators and health-care providers
is pushing to drastically reduce the reach of the state law governing
development of new health care infrastructure.
Supporters would change the certificate of need law, which requires
developers of medical facilities to prove that the facilities are needed, to
cover only long-term nursing care facilities and residential psychiatric
Lt. Gov. Loren Leman approved petition language Tuesday for an initiative
effort to change the certificate of need law. The initiative is similar to
one proposed last year and to a bill introduced in the state House of
Representatives in 2005.
Rep. Bob Lynn, R-Anchorage, sponsored the legislation as well as this year's
"We're trying to protect free enterprise," he said. "If we can have more
competition, it's likely we can have lower costs."
The certificate of need legislation was designed to prevent "excessive,
unnecessary, or duplicative development of facilities or services,"
according to the Department of Health and Social Services' Web site.
The DHSS, which administers the certificate of need program, warns that
limiting the legislation to nursing care and mental health facilities could
actually cause an increase in statewide health care costs rather than the
decrease promised by proponents of the new initiative.
The effective gutting of the law could eventually put some hospitals out of
business, said Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer and vice-chairman of the House
Committee on Health, Education and Social Services.
The initiative is sponsored by Reps. Lynn and Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, and
Paul Fuhs, a lobbyist.
A coalition of independent health-care facility owners, doctors and small
business owners swamped by health insurance premiums supports the
initiative, Fuhs said. Supporters formed the nonprofit organization Alaskans
For Medical Choice and Competition to promote the change.
Austin, Texas -- What the Secretary of State won’t tell you is
that voting in the March 7 primary disqualifies you from signing the
petition of an independent or third-party candidate who is trying to get
listed on the general-election ballot.
This quirk in Texas election law, known as “primary screen-out,” adds
barriers to independent candidates’ cumbersome task of collecting more than
45,000 valid signatures in 65 days, and, in cases of a run-off, 30 days. The
number of required signatures is set by calculating 1 percent of the vote in
the 2002 gubernatorial election. Third parties have 75 days to collect
“It makes it next to impossible to get ballot access,” says Bev Kennedy,
state chairperson of the Texas Reform Party.
“If you don’t have candidates on the ballot, you get zero opportunity to
promote your message.”
Phoenix, Arizona -- Two Arizona lawmakers have proposed
punishments on businesses that contribute to the state's vast immigration
problems by hiring foreign workers who sneak across the border to find jobs.
Even though federal law already outlaws the hiring of illegal immigrants,
the lawmakers say the federal government has done a poor job of holding
businesses accountable for turning to illicit workers to fill construction,
agricultural and service industry jobs.
Among the three employer punishment proposals now in the Arizona
Legislature, one would make it a state crime for businesses to knowingly
hire illegal immigrants.
Another would require 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.
Both bills would carry civil fines of up to $5,000 for each violation.
A third bill would let businesses fire workers who have invalid Social
Security numbers and would strip violators of their state-issued business
licenses and certifications. It also would give legal workers the right to
sue companies that fire them while keeping illegal immigrants on the
"I'm going after (illegal hirings) because it's wrong," said Republican Rep.
Russell Pearce of Mesa, the Legislature's most vocal proponent for
restricting immigration, who is sponsoring of one of the bills.
Austin, Texas -- Gov. Rick Perry said he likely will call a
special legislative session on school finance in April or May, just before a
June 1 court deadline for action.
The Republican governor, who spoke with news reporters at a campaign event
for a legislative candidate said he probably won't place private school
vouchers on the session agenda. That issue most likely would be addressed in
the 2007 regular legislative session, he said.
It's long been expected that Perry would call a special session on school
funding after the March 7 party primaries, now that the Texas Supreme Court
has found the current education finance system unconstitutional.
"I think everyone realizes that the time frame is most likely April-May,"
Phoenix, Arizona -- More than two-thirds of the money in a $100
million plan that Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has proposed to confront the
state's immigration woes would go toward helping communities improve border
She has proposed $50 million in grants for state, local and tribal
government agencies to beef up security along the state's international
boundary, combat immigrant smuggling and focus on border-related crime.
The governor wants to create an additional $5 million in grants for local
and tribal police agencies in Arizona's four border counties to strengthen
border security. Another nearly $10 million would go toward efforts to
lessen the effects of illegal immigration in border communities. The state
police would dole out the grants.
Phoenix, Arizona -- A committee of the Arizona Legislature
rejected a request to open an ethics investigation of a lawmaker's use of
subpoena power in examining a close primary election.
The Senate's ethics committee voted 3-2 to withdraw a complaint against
Republican Sen. Jack Harper of Sun City West that questioned whether he
issued subpoenas to get information that provided a weekly newspaper with an
As chairman of a government accountability committee, Harper issued
subpoenas to Maricopa County officials, demanding that they turn over
ballots and other material from a 2004 legislative race in which a recount
reversed the initial outcome.
A recount in the 2004 primary election in Arizona's District 20 led to a
discovery of nearly 500 additional votes and changed the outcome. Republican
John McComish was declared the primary winner and later won the seat in the
Harper contends there were possible irregularities in how votes were
Democratic Sen. Bill Brotherton, who sought the investigation, said he was
concerned about the subpoena because the Phoenix New Times reportedly is
paying for a report by an elections expert.
"It could shadow over an investigation if you start letting private parties
start funding public investigations," Brotherton said.
Brotherton said the newspaper published a story last week on the report,
hours before the report was available to lawmakers.
Harper said he didn't have an agreement with the newspaper to give it first
crack at the report.
St. Louis, Missouri -- Gov. Matt Blunt has reinforced his image as
a dialing-for-dollars political machine by raising an average of $3,000 a
day in campaign donations over the past three months.
The governor's latest campaign report showed him with $1.63 million in the
bank - a tally that appears to be a record for a Missouri governor in office
only a year.
That money included $910,779 raised since Oct. 1. All told, Blunt has
collected almost $2.2 million in donations since taking office a little more
than a year ago.
The governor's fundraising was outpaced only by that of the Missouri
Coalition for Lifesaving Cures, the group seeking a ballot measure on the
November ballot to protect most stem-cell research. Backers include some
universities and research centers.
The group reported raising $1.14 million since Oct. 1, part of $4.4 million
it has collected since announcing its effort last fall. But it already has
spent $3.8 million, leaving the coalition with only $368,205 in the bank.
The coalition's latest donations included at least $992,000 from the Kansas
City-based Stowers Institute or James and Virginia Stowers. The coalition
can collect donations of any size, unlike Blunt and other officials or
candidates, who can collect individual contributions no larger than $1,200
Meanwhile, the Committee for a Healthy Future, one of the groups seeking a
ballot measure to increase the state's tobacco tax, reported raising $2.5
million - $371,090 of it in the last three months. It reported only $324,315
in the bank.
Blunt's total appears aimed, in part, at discouraging potential challengers
- fellow Republicans or Democrats - who might be tempted by the various
controversies that have erupted during his first year in office.
The governor raised the money largely through private fundraisers and
telephone calls. He also had the help of his campaign fundraising staff,
which includes his younger brother, lobbyist Andrew Blunt.
His announced Democratic rival, Attorney General Jay Nixon, filed a report
showing that he had raised close to $400,000 since announcing his candidacy
late last year. Nixon reported about $532,000 in the bank, but his challenge
is three years away.
The Republican most often cited as a potential Blunt rival, state Treasurer
Sarah Steelman, appears to be focused on paying off a $200,000 debt to
herself, following her 2004 bid for office. She had roughly $130,000,
combined, in two campaign bank accounts.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- Lawmakers wasted little time in getting to
the debate over eight high-profile bills this session
The proposals include:
- A ban on smoking in private clubs;
- The repeal of the sales tax on food;
- A requirement that teachers tell students;
- More lobbyist reporting requirements for gifts provided to
- An exemption to the public records law for e-mails sent to
legislators and public officials;
- The ability to have a loaded gun in a car;
- And two abortion bills - one requiring parental consent when
minors seek an abortion. The other would require a doctor to tell a
patient who is at least 20 weeks pregnant that a fetus can feel pain
during an abortion procedure.
"We wanted to get the big bills out there early," said House Majority
Leader Jeff Alexander, who is sponsoring HB101 to increase reporting
requirements for lobbyists. "We didn't want people to say we are trying to
ram these things through."
Juneau, Alaska -- Facing the possibility that a similar citizen's
initiative might make the ballot this fall, lawmakers on Tuesday heard a
bill to shorten the legislative session to 90 days.
Legislators are split. If it were a personal choice, most would probably
jump at the chance to spend more time at home with family instead of
traveling hundreds of miles - or in the case of Unalaska Rep. Carl Moses,
1,200 miles - to spend four months of the year in Juneau.
Opponents say the shorter session would make it easier to stifle
initiatives because time runs out on lawmakers.
Waiting in the wings is a ballot initiative to reduce the length of the
session. The initiative's main sponsor, Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, said
he turned in 45,300 signatures to the Division of Elections for
certification. Signatures equaling 10 percent of the turnout of the last
election - 31,451 - is needed to put the issue on November's ballot.
Denver, Colorado -- Republican Marc Holtzman is planning a
"grass-roots revolution" in his bid for governor, and he appears now in good
position to fund it.
Holtzman - widely regarded as the underdog in the increasingly bitter
contest for the Republican nomination for governor - has raised more money
during the past year than his rival, Rep. Bob Beauprez.
Holtzman's campaign manager, Dick Leggitt, vowed Monday to use that money in
a no-holds-barred assault on Beauprez and the party "establishment."
Holtzman raised $1.5 million last year, versus Beauprez's $1.2 million. Of
that total, Holtzman raised $383,788 in the fourth quarter of 2005, edging
No other candidate for governor has raised as much money at this point in an
Despite Holtzman's deep pockets, Leggitt attributes most of his candidate's
fundraising success to rank-and-file Republican anger at the party
leadership represented by Beauprez, who has been endorsed by Gov. Bill
"There are more grass-roots Republicans who want a change at the top than
there are party bosses that are the source of Beauprez's oxygen," Leggitt
said. "We're trying to start a grass-roots revolution to take the party
Beauprez said he won't respond to Holtzman's attacks.
The bitterness within the Republican Party extends back to the fall campaign
over Referendums C & D, which Owens championed. Holtzman, who once served in
Owens' cabinet as the secretary of technology, took a prominent role in the
campaign against the measures.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- A bill to ban the neurotoxic artificial
sweetener Aspartame will be introduced in the New Mexico Legislature, the
first legislative ban in the USA on aspartame, by New Mexico State Senator
Jerry Ortiz y Pino.
New Mexico Governor Richardson believes that states must take back some of
the FDA's regulatory power, because "the FDA isn't doing anything," and
"isn't doing enough to warn people about the dangers of aspartame."
Richardson has already placed on the "call" (his agenda for the coming 30
day session, a bill to ban Thimerosal, the Mercury Filler used in Vaccines,
and a bill to create a New Mexico Nutrition Council, with specific powers to
question and challenge FDA approved products, sponsored by the President Pro
Tem of the NM Senate, Ben Altamirano.
The FDA has refused to rescind its approval, thus far, so aspartame is found
in coffee sweeteners, “diet” beverages, “low-fat” yogurt, “sugarless” gum---
a total of 6000 products consumed by 70% of Americans and 40% of our
Aspartame is also in over 500 children's medications; the New Mexico
Pharmacy Board is considering a petition to order a ban in order to protect
New Mexico's children; the Board awaits an Opinion from the NM Attorney
General. In the meantime, the NM Legislature may move rapidly on this issue
Other Attorneys General, particularly Bill Lockyer of California, Eliot
Spitzer of New York, and Mike Hatch of Minnesota, comprehend the level of
consumer protection necessary to protect health.
Lockyer is suing 9 mega fast food corporations to require labeling every bag
of French fries stating: "This product contains a chemical which is known to
the state of California to cause cancer." Heating potato starch to 400
degrees turns it to carcinogenic acrylamide.
When New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer on June 1 was informed about
our aspartame/FDA efforts, he immediately replied: "the FDA is a joke!"
The New Mexico Bill will be introduced on the Opening Day of the session,
and when Governor Richardson officially puts this bill on the agenda, the
FDA will immediately move toward rescinding aspartame's approval. Industries
should switch to Stevia or Xylitol, both non-toxic natural sweeteners, and
they wouldn’t have to lose any profits.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- The Utah Legislature convened for 2006
with legislators facing the largest budget surplus in state history and no
solid consensus on what to do with it.
The major issue facing legislators will be what to do with what an estimated
$344 million budget surplus.
Gov. Jon Huntsman wants to reduce the income tax rate that most Utahns pay
from 7 percent to 5 percent, although some Republican legislators have said
they'd like to see a lower rate than that.
The Senate has yet to take a position on how much in tax cuts will be put in
this year's budget.
Eliminating the sales tax on food will be discussed. The governor and
several legislators have said they would like to eliminate the tax on food,
which is considered to affect the poor the most.
The demand for funding state programs will be as great as ever, said House
Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy. But he challenged House members to spend
Honolulu, Hawaii -- Hawaii's 30,000 businesses are in for a big
windfall -- a huge cut in payroll taxes for at least the next two years.
In a rare show of election-year unanimity, Democrats and Republicans say
they will support efforts during the legislative session to greatly reduce
the tax that employers pay into the state's unemployment insurance fund.
A typical Hawaii business with 30 employees could see its payroll tax cut
from close to $30,000 a year to $6,000.
The fund is flush with $460 million and with unemployment running at less
than 3 percent, businesses have urged legislators to cut the tax or refund
part of it.
Hawaii companies are paying the highest unemployment insurance taxes in the
nation, even though the state has the lowest jobless rate.
On average, companies pay about $1,000 per employee per year into the fund;
that amount would be cut to about $200.
Gov. Linda Lingle and Republicans had pushed to cut the unemployment tax
last year, but House Democrats blocked the effort, saying they didn't want
to shortchange the fund in the event the unemployment rate increased.
Lingle is proposing to cut the tax 75 percent for three years, which would
save businesses an estimated $165 million.
In an effort to show they are even more pro-business than the governor, the
Democrats who control the Legislature wanted to do away with the tax for two
years, but discovered that federal law requires states to collect a minimum
The Legislature is expected to approve dropping the wage base from $34,000
to $7,000 for two years.
Missoula, Montana -- Firing off one-liners and political jabs,
author and comedian Al Franken scattered verbal buckshot at conservative
Republicans on Friday while enlisting a little help from some new Montana
friends in front of a charged-up audience.
Franken, broadcasting live on Air America radio in front of a packed crowd
at the MCT Center for the Performing Arts, laid into former Montana Gov.
Marc Racicot, President Bush and televangelist Pat Robertson but saved some
especially sharp remarks for Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.
“Because of a peculiarity in the Constitution,” said Franken, “Montana has
two U.S. senators, just one of them corrupt.”
Though he has not been named in any investigation, Burns has been under
intense scrutiny because of his financial ties to embattled lobbyist Jack
During the three-hour national broadcast, Franken shared the stage with Gov.
Brian Schweitzer, Missoula Mayor John Engen, former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams
and legislative lobbyist George Ochenski. All were guests on his show.
Franken was invited to Missoula by the Montana Human Rights Network to
deliver a speech at its annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration and
fundraiser at the Wilma Theatre.
Phoenix, Arizona -- The money is flowing in the high-priced U.S.
Senate race between Democratic real estate executive Jim Pederson and
Republican incumbent Jon Kyl.
Kyl raised more than $2.7 million during the fourth quarter, according to
his re-election campaign. Overall, Kyl has just under $6.3 million on hand,
his campaign announced Monday.
A good chunk of that change came from a business-heavy fundraiser hosted for
Kyl by President Bush and Arizona Sen. John McCain at the Arizona Biltmore
Resort & Spa right after Thanksgiving.
Kyl is a top ally of Bush on Capitol Hill and has said he would welcome
future support from the president as well as other administration officials,
including Vice President Dick Cheney.
Pederson's campaign will release its fourth quarter fundraising totals in
the coming weeks, said spokeswoman Selena Shilad.
The Democratic businessman raised more than $732,000 in the third quarter
and had $673,000 cash on hand for that quarter. Pederson has also disclosed
in his campaign finance reports that he will pump $800,000 of his own money
into securing the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.
The Phoenix-area real estate developer is expected to pump substantial sums
of his money into the effort to unseat Kyl.
The Pederson-Kyl Senate contest is expected to be the most expensive in
state history. Both candidates have strong ties to the business community
and are courting support and contributions from the private sector.
Pederson is a top Democratic contributor both nationally and in Arizona. The
Valley real estate executive is credited with helping Janet Napolitano's
narrow victory in the 2002 governor's race by pumping money into state party
Pederson has also sought to better Democratic ties to the business
Democrats point to campaign contributions to Kyl from corporate interests
such as big oil companies and pharmaceutical firms. They contend Kyl is
beholding to those business sectors, including opposition to less expensive
prescription drug imports.
Kyl is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate and is well-liked by
business groups, thanks to his support for tax cuts, repeal of the federal
estate tax and free trade pacts.
Pederson recently announced support for strict lobbying rules including
requiring disclosure of lawmaker meetings with lobbyists. That move comes in
the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal in Washington that involves a
number of Republican and some Democratic lawmakers.
Phoenix, Arizona -- A legislative committee won't open an ethics
investigation of a lawmaker's use of subpoena power in examining a close
The Senate's ethics committee voted 3-to-2 to withdraw a complaint against
Republican Senator Jack Harper of Sun City West. The committee questioned
whether he issued subpoenas to get information that provided a weekly
newspaper with an exclusive story.
As chairman of a government accountability committee, Harper issued
subpoenas to Maricopa County officials. He demanded that ballots and other
material be turned over from a 2004 legislative race in which a recount
reversed the initial outcome.
A recount in the 2004 primary election in Arizona's District 20 led to a
discovery of nearly 500 additional votes and changed the outcome. Republican
John McComish was declared the primary winner and later won the seat in the
Harper contends there were possible irregularities in how votes were
Jackson Hole, Wyoming -- A 61-year-old retired military scientist
from Lander will run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Craig
Dale Groutage, a Democrat, plans to hold a news conference in Casper to kick
off his campaign.
Groutage is the first person to challenge Thomas, a two-term incumbent from
Cody who has amassed nearly $1 million in his re-election coffer.
Groutage is a Rock Springs native who holds three degrees in electrical
engineering from the University of Wyoming. He spent 34 years designing
missile systems and submarines for the U.S. Navy.
Wyoming needs a senator who will fight for affordable health care,
protecting Social Security and responsible development of natural resources,
he says on his Web page. He is calling for more research and investment in
energy technology in Wyoming, particularly in the development of automotive
fuel from the state’s vast coal and gas reserves.
“I believe decisions concerning Wyoming’s future require someone who
understands complex issues and can make the right choices for the people of
our state,” Groutage says on his Web site.
Wyoming Democratic Party Chairman Mike Gierau said Groutage and his wife,
Nancy, are “terrific people.” The candidate already has been working hard on
his campaign, traveling the state and talking with citizens, Gierau said.
Groutage is “in touch with Wyoming people and Wyoming values, and I think
he’s going to be a strong candidate,” Gierau said.
Groutage says Wyoming’s senators have failed in the last 20 years to develop
a comprehensive “energy blueprint” for the nation.
Groutage is the second Wyoming Democrat to launch a campaign for U.S.
Congress. Teton County Democrat Gary Trauner is running for Wyoming’s lone
seat in the House of Representatives, held by six-term GOP incumbent Barbara
Groutage has an uphill battle in unseating Thomas, who is chairman of the
Senate Subcommittee on Parks, Historic Preservation and Recreation and a
member of the Finance Committee. Thomas, 72, was re-elected in 2000 with 74
percent of the vote.
Nuevo Laredo, Mexico -- High-pitched rings, spinning lights and
the overlapping rise and fall of electronic tones marked the video slot
machine room at Juega y Juega.
In an adjoining room of the casino in this border town, Mexican men smoked
cigars and drank beer as they eyed betting sheets and a row of televisions
airing live broadcasts of horse races, American professional sports and jai
alai tournaments on the other side of the world.
The casino is the result of a rare approval of gaming permits by the Mexican
government last summer. Dozens of others are on the way, particularly in
While not well-known to many Texans yet, their expected success could have
an impact north of the border, as well. Mexico is the just the latest of
Texas' neighbors to bring in government revenue by expanding gambling.
Casinos or video slots in Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and now Mexico
form an ever-tightening gaming belt around the Lone Star State. In Arkansas,
a vote to add electronic gaming machines to a horse track passed, but it now
is under legal challenge.
With Mexico's entry into casino gambling and with at least four facilities
planned along the Texas-Mexico border, more than 35 gaming sites are now
within 50 miles of the state's boundaries.
In Texas, the most recent gambling debate in the Legislature considered
allowing video lottery terminals (electronic slot machines that can be
centrally monitored) at licensed horse and dog tracks, but the bill was shot
At the new casino in Nuevo Laredo, the parking lot is full of Texas plates,
but in Mexican border cities, Texas tags aren't an indication of residence.
Sure enough, on a recent night there were no U.S. citizens to be found.
Juega y Juega, or Play and Play, is marketed to the locals. And, at least
for now, the casino does not advertise in U.S. media.
Tourism has been lagging in Nuevo Laredo for some time because of violence
with an ongoing drug cartel war. However, a second casino near the bridge
that opened last week likely will draw Texans.
So how much are Texas gambling dollars worth?
In 2003, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn's office, together with the
Texas Lottery Commission, released a report on VLTs in the state that
estimated Texas would have profited more than $700 million immediately, and
between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion by 2007.
A study by the Perryman Group of Waco that same year estimated VLTs would
draw Texans to spend $10.9 billion gambling in-state, again resulting in a
$1.5 billion cut for the state.
Carson City, Nevada -- Nevada Attorney General George Chanos is
under fire for making just seven trips to his Carson City office since
starting the job Nov. 1.
With cell phones, e-mail and fax machines, Chanos said he can accomplish his
official duties in his hometown of Las Vegas.
When pressed for a record of his visits to Carson City, Chanos said: "I'm
not keeping score, and I don't think anyone else should either. This is a
petty and immature issue."
But his office provided details of his Carson City trips to the Reno
Gazette-Journal the next day. The state pays his travel costs.
Former Gov. Bob Miller criticized Chanos' lack of time in the capital city.
The Las Vegas native spent most of the time in Carson City during his tenure
as lieutenant governor and governor.
"That's the state capital. That's where state government is," said Miller, a
Democrat. "There's a reasonable expectation that elected officers be there."
Chanos, a Republican, was named by Gov. Kenny Guinn to finish the term of
Brian Sandoval, who was appointed to the federal bench.
Since Nov. 1, Chanos has averaged one trip every other week to his Carson
City office. He has spent less than 60 hours there, and his longest visit
was an overnighter in December.
Chanos said family considerations also are keeping him in Las Vegas most of
He said his 8-year-old daughter goes to the same school her mother attended.
And both he and his wife have elderly parents in Las Vegas who need care.
"Those considerations eclipse any others," he said. "If choosing between my
8-year-old daughter saying she would like to see more of me and certain
political types in northern Nevada who would like to see more of me, I'm
going to listen to my daughter."
State law requires the attorney general's office to be in the capital. But
no law requires the official to live in the capital.
If elected to a full term in November, Chanos plans to stay in Carson City
full-time when the 2007 Legislature is in session.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- A rare state surplus has legislators hoping
that the backlog of projects stymied because of previously empty piggy banks
will finally get resolved.
But most of them are opposed to a rebate of $100 per taxpayer that’s being
rumored as part of Gov. Linda Lingle’s strategy.
Lingle will likely address all of her major recommendations in her State of
the State address scheduled for 10 a.m. Jan. 23 before both houses of the
Watch for more than flowers, food and friends in the House and Senate
chambers. The opening of the Legislature at the State Capitol also signals
the start of a critically important state election season.
The 41 Democrats in the 51-member House and the 20 Democrats in the
25-member Senate see the session as a continuation of their majority power,
which has stretched unbroken since statehood in 1959.
But all 51 House members and 11 senators are up for election, along with
Gov. Linda Lingle.
Democrats will look to the session to continue to drive home the differences
between their party and the GOP governor.
Senate President Robert Bunda says it will be critical for the Democrats to
hold to a "common agenda."
Key Democratic issues, such as the price cap on the wholesale price of
gasoline, are areas that Bunda says the Democrats cannot waiver.
"The majority has said this is going to be policy, in reference to state
energy policy," Bunda said.
Gov. Lingle, who campaigned against the gas cap four years ago, is again
calling for a repeal of the plan.
Both Republicans and Democrats are predicting that the state Legislature
will remain in Democratic hands after the November elections, but how
individual legislators compete is at issue.
Juneau Alaska -- Forgive the people of Ketchikan if they're
feeling a bit insecure.
The 13,000 residents of the rainy Southeast Alaska town and its outlying
areas are sick of being the butt of jokes and ridiculed throughout the
nation because of a $328 million project that, under the banner "The Bridge
to Nowhere," has become a symbol of wasteful government spending.
Bridge opponents within Alaska abound, most of whom say the state should
forget about building new roads and focus instead on improving ferry
service. However, many of Ketchikan's residents see the link to the sparsely
populated Gravina Island as necessary to grow their economy and connect them
to their airport.
The project has been on the backburner for 30 years, and they bristle at
being the "nowhere" in that hated moniker now that there's a chance a bridge
will finally be built.
The governor says Alaska's national image has been beaten down by distorted
views of Ketchikan's Gravina Island bridge project, plus Anchorage's own
"nowhere" bridge - the $600 million Knik Arm Crossing - and the annual
congressional rejection of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to
His idea for a national PR campaign is to beat the drum that Alaska doesn't
exist simply to milk federal taxpayers.
Whatever crisis of confidence Alaska's collective psyche has will have to be
set aside over the next few months as the fight for the Ketchikan and
Anchorage bridges shifts from the nation's capital to Alaska's.
Bowing to mounting pressure, Congress in November removed the earmarks
designating more than $452 million in a federal transportation bill for the
two bridges, but sent the money to Alaska to decide how to use it.
With Congress washing its hands of the matter, supporters of the bridges may
have thought they'd have an easier time convincing the Alaska Legislature of
their need. They were wrong.
Despite the governor's support of the projects, legislators are split, and
it is they who will ultimately decide where the money goes.
The fate of the bridges won't be clear until a capital budget comes
together, which typically happens late in the four-month session.
Alaska is in the midst of a boom year thanks to the high oil prices that its
treasury relies on. Surplus estimates are now at $1.2 billion, which the
governor proposes to split between education, a natural gas pipeline plan -
and transportation projects.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Gov. Bill Richardson and legislators
convene to decide how to spend millions from the state's oil-and-gas
With Gov. Bill Richardson and all 70 state House members facing re-election
this year and more than $6 billion available to spend on government
operations and projects, the Roundhouse promises to become the site of a
feeding frenzy when legislators convene for a 30-day session.
Richardson, a Democrat seeking his second four-year term as governor, told
reporters to expect a "very dynamic, very productive session."
"The Legislature is used to a fast pace from me," Richardson said last week.
"The Legislature itself has become strong. So hang on to your seats."
Tax breaks, pay raises for public employees, pre-kindergarten programs -- a
wide variety of ways to spend the state government's windfall from
oil-and-gas taxes and royalties already are on the table.
The state expects to take in about $529 million more in general-fund money
in the next fiscal year than it plans to spend this year. About $1.4 billion
also is available for one-time spending items, the bulk of which are capital
projects, such as school buildings, water systems or a proposed Southern New
Democrats control both legislative chambers, outnumbering Republicans in the
House 42-28 and holding a 24-18 edge in the Senate.
In addition to his $5.1 billion state budget proposal for the next fiscal
year, which begins July 1, the governor will ask lawmakers to approve
roughly $1.4 billion in capital-outlay projects and other one-time spending
items. The Legislative Finance Committee has endorsed a spending plan that
is fairly similar to Richardson's.
Richardson has vowed to make 2006 the "Year of the Child" and has proposed a
package of initiatives, including providing health insurance to all New
Mexican children ages 5 and younger, hiring an additional 200
physical-education teachers and providing $50 million to fund a new
endowment for college scholarships.
But a veteran lobbyist has dubbed 2006 the "Year of the Pork," a derisive
term for the hundreds of capital-outlay projects lawmakers approve each year
-- everything from sewage systems to baseball diamonds.
Denver, Colorado -- Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez officially
jumps into the governor's race this week backed by a lengthy list of
powerful GOP leaders and $1.3 million in campaign contributions.
With the general election still nearly 10 months off, the race is shaping up
to be possibly the most expensive governor's race since campaign-finance
rules limited contributions. It's also expected to be one of the nastiest
GOP primaries, with plenty of money for mudslinging.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Attorneys are writing checks in anticipation
of a possible election battle over medical malpractice lawsuit limits which
Arizona doctors may try to put on the November ballot.
The nearly 700-thousand dollars of contributions received by a group working
on behalf of plaintiffs' attorneys is just a down payment of the likely
total campaign fundraising and spending that would occur if the Arizona
Medical Association launches an initiative campaign and lawyers respond with
a ballot measure of their own.
Fairness and Accountability in Insurance Reform says it asked attorneys for
money because the Arizona Medical Association formed a new group to advocate
for medical malpractice changes.
The Arizona Medical Association says Arizonans for Access to Health Care has
raised approximately 450-thousand dollars to spend on polling, legal
research and other work needed to decide whether to propose amending the
Arizona Constitution to allow limits on lawsuit damage awards.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- By the time lawmakers adjourn at midnight
March 1, it's likely they — along with GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. — will have
changed Utah's tax structure in ways not seen since the Utah state income
tax was imposed in the early 1900s.
Utahns will also likely see the largest tax cuts in the state's history.
With a $1 billion surplus on the table for lawmakers to spend on public
education, transportation and other state needs as well as tax cuts,
Huntsman said he believes the 2006 Legislature "will be an unprecedented
session that is made possible by an unprecedented economy."
House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, agrees this will be a unique session.
"This could be a groundbreaking year," Curtis said. "I'm an optimist, and I
think we'll get it done — a flat income tax, remove the sales tax from food,
most of it," said Curtis.
The changes could well include a flat-rate income tax, removing the sales
tax from food, adopting a single-rate sales tax statewide and giving
businesses a wide range of tax breaks, a proposal that's being sold as
A new public opinion poll shows that in general Utahns like the idea of a 5
percent flat-rate personal income tax, pollster Dan Jones & Associates found
in a survey conducted for the Deseret Morning News and KSL-TV.
Jones found 69 percent said they liked that idea.
Republicans hold two-thirds majorities in both the 75-member House and
29-member Senate. There's a new conservative caucus in the House, made up of
members who want to limit state government growth to at least 8 percent —
while Huntsman's budget recommendations carries a 14 percent hike in the two
main state funds.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- With much of the state's attention focused on
gas prices during the past four months, lawmakers and Gov. Linda Lingle have
laid out ambitious proposals to reduce Hawaii's dependence on oil.
Lingle unveiled her package of bills and directives aimed at making homes
and buildings more energy-efficient, increasing renewable energy sources,
developing alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, establishing
Hawaii as a leader in hydrogen energy technology and repealing the state's
gasoline price cap law in favor of more transparency in gasoline pricing.
She estimated the total price tag at about $11 million, calling it a plan
"to end Hawaii's decades-long overdependence on imported oil and to create a
secure energy and economic future for the people of Hawaii."
The announcement came a day after legislative Democrats announced their
goals for the 2006 session, which included similar bills focused on
increasing solar energy systems at schools and other public buildings and
increasing tax credits for installation of solar devices on homes and
The key difference remains the gas price cap.
Lingle's plan, as promised, includes a proposal to repeal the law that pegs
Hawaii's gas prices to an average of three mainland markets.
She said she would push to have oil companies provide more pricing data to
the Public Utilities Commission, which would allow regulators to determine
whether any price gouging is occurring.
Lawmakers have said they support greater transparency in pricing, but they
are unlikely to repeal the cap.
Salem, Oregon -- Two lawmakers filed a request seeking to have the
Oregon Legislature convene in a special session in February to tackle a $172
million budget gap facing the state’s human services agency.
The budget gap, caused mainly by an unexpected increase in the number of
people seeking health care paid by Medicaid funds, could put at risk funding
for other programs aiding low-income, elderly and disabled Oregonians.
Citing that threat, state Sen. Vicki Walker and Rep. Bob Ackerman, both
Eugene Democrats, filed a request that could lead to lawmakers being brought
back to Salem next month to find ways to wipe out the deficit and protect
funding for those programs.
Under state law, a special session of the Legislature can be convened by the
governor or by lawmakers themselves if a majority of them want one.
The request filed by Walker and Ackerman sets in motion a process in which a
“ballot’’ will be sent to each of the 90 legislators asking if they favor
holding a special session to deal with the budget shortfall.
If at least half the House and Senate members vote in favor of a special
session, one would be held the second week of February, Walker said Thursday
Despite the serious nature of the budget gap, there is no consensus among
the state’s political leaders on how to proceed in dealing with the problem.
Cheyenne, Wyoming -- The State Legislature convenes in a month for
the 2006 budget session, and legislators will be asked to look at a number
of bills besides those that deal with the budget.
So far, 63 bills are slated for the House and another 45 have been drafted
in the Senate with at least one joint resolution.
Bismarck, North Dakota -- Gov. John Hoeven won't be giving a State
of the State speech this year, and will replace it with a publication
detailing North Dakota's recent accomplishments, his spokesman said.
For most of North Dakota's history, the governor's State of the State speech
was given every two years, during the opening days of the Legislature.
Lawmakers have their regular sessions in January of odd-numbered years.
But when Gov. Ed Schafer took office in 1992, he began giving the speech
each January. Hoeven, who succeeded Schafer in 2000, has kept the tradition
going until now.
Hoeven's spokesman, Don Canton, said the governor decided about three months
ago to forgo an off-year speech. Instead, a publication is planned, perhaps
for distribution in February, he said.
Carson City, Nevada -- Nevada's law allowing citizens to import
low-priced prescription drugs from Canada ratchets up the battle that pits
states against the federal government and the pharmaceutical industry.
David MacKay is the former executive director of the Canadian International
Pharmacy Association. He says no other state has passed a law like Nevada's,
and it's -- "going to be the pharmaceutical industry's Alamo."
The state Pharmacy Board has moved ahead with the law, defying the advice of
Attorney General George Chanos who says the Nevada law is unworkable.
Eight other states have similar programs, but all were enacted by executive
proclamation and not state legislatures.
The federal Food and Drug Administration opposes the programs but hasn't
moved to stop them.
Backers of the law say that Nevada has sent a strong signal to Washington
and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as to other states considering
Pierre, South Dakota -- South Dakota should raise its state
minimum wage, crack down on sex offenders and methamphetamine makers and
encourage ethanol plant expansion, Gov. Mike Rounds said in his State of the
In a speech that kicked off the 2006 session of the Legislature, Rounds said
the state minimum wage should be raised above the federal level of $5.15 an
hour, but he has not yet decided what he will propose.
Rounds said he wants to set it at a level that would help many workers but
not cause the loss of too many jobs.
"I believe this year we should raise the minimum wage in South Dakota," the
governor told lawmakers.
The proposal puts the Republican governor, who faces re-election this year,
on the same side of the issue as the only announced Democratic challenger.
Former Democratic lawmaker Ron Volesky has said he is helping with a
petition drive that would seek a statewide vote on a measure to boost the
state minimum wage.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Gov. Janet Napolitano has proposed spending
$100 million in state money to fight illegal entry, including a crackdown on
businesses that intentionally hire illegal aliens.
Arizona, the busiest illegal-entry point along the country's southern
border, serves as a hub for smugglers who transport illegal aliens across
Mrs. Napolitano, a Democrat up for re-election in November, is also asking
the federal government to pay for more National Guard troops along the
state's porous border.
"We are going to step up and protect our citizens when the federal
government fails them -- but this is a federal problem, and we expect the
federal government to do its part," Mrs. Napolitano told lawmakers on
Monday, the opening day of the Legislature.
Mrs. Napolitano also has asked Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to
invoke a law allowing the federal government to pay Arizona to station
National Guard troops at the border. The state already has about 170
National Guard troops at the border, assisting federal and state officers.
Fallon, Nevada -- U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons visited Fallon to say he's
prepared and dedicated to being elected as Nevada's next governor in
But while he is confident in his ability to be an effective replacement for
Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn, the Republican Congressman said he is also sure the
campaign trail is anything but easy.
Gibbons, who is leaving the U.S. House of Representatives after five terms
to make a run for Nevada governor, stopped in Fernley and Fallon Monday
morning as part of a six-day, 20-city campaign road trip through the state.
Gibbons outlined a handful of goals that he would like to accomplish as
Nevada governor. Those objectives include keeping taxes at a low level,
providing for economic growth and keeping government to a limited nature.
"We need to keep government at the smallest level so we can be there for the
people," Gibbons said. "We don't want it so big that you put a burden on
This is the second time that Gibbons has run for Nevada governor. He
previously ran in 1994, but lost to Bob Miller.
Gibbons is slated to square off in the Republican primary election with Las
Vegas State Sen. Bob Beers and Nevada Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt.
Gibbons began the first of three terms in the Nevada legislature in 1988 and
was later first elected to represent Nevada's 2nd District in the House of
Representatives in 1996. He was re-elected to a fifth term in Nov. 2004.
Carson City, Nevada -- Debate over a stalled plan to help Nevadans
get low-cost drugs from Canada is heating up in advance of a state Pharmacy
Board meeting that could determine whether the plan moves ahead or dies.
Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, who pushed the plan during the
2005 Legislature, says she hopes the board would "do the right thing" and
ignore a threatened lawsuit from the pharmaceutical industry.
Buckley also says that despite an opinion from Attorney General George
Chanos that the plan can't be defended from legal attack, the lawmakers' own
chief legal counsel has an opinion that says the opposite.
Chanos says Buckley has "perpetuated a hoax" by claiming his opinion shows
he's not supportive of seniors. He adds the language in the new law is
Deborah Moore of the Nevada AARP said association members plan to be at the
hearing to support the new law. The Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans
and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada are circulating an
Internet petition in support of the drug program. Rallies also are being
Pierre, South Dakota -- Any increases in education spending must
be targeted toward specific goals, Gov. Mike Rounds said Tuesday as he
issued a challenge to education groups seeking a significant boost in state
aid to schools.
"If schools want the citizens of this state to invest more into education,
they should have a plan to show the citizens what they would get in return
for the extra spending," the governor said in his State of State address to
open the 2006 South Dakota Legislature.
Rounds said some education leaders have suggested suing the state to add
$100 million in funding for school districts, but he thinks a lawsuit is the
The governor said he understands the frustration of education officials who
are seeking extra funding. "But I hope the energy caused by that frustration
is put into cooperation and working together instead of suing the citizens
of this state."
Salt Lake City, Utah -- Prospects for this year's school voucher
bill in the Utah Legislature could be affected by a Florida Supreme Court
Last year's tuition tax credit bill failed by only four votes, and this
year's compromise bill is being pushed by two Republicans who voted against
the previous measure.
Florida's high court ruled that the state's voucher law violated the state's
constitutional requirement for a uniform school system.
Utah's constitution is worded differently, but contains possible sticking
points because it prohibits direct state funding of religious instruction.
Royce Van Tassel of Parents for Choice in Education believes vouchers will
hold up in Utah's courts.
This is the sixth straight year that Utah lawmakers have considered bills to
divert state money to families using private schools.
The only one that has passed so far has been the Carson Smith Law, which
provides scholarships to private schools for students with disabilities.
Carson City, Nevada -- After meeting with casino mogul Steve Wynn,
southern Nevada political activist Tony Dane is considering revisions to his
plan to push an initiative petition to raise taxes on major casinos from
6.75 percent to 18.25 percent.
Dane, who said he has financial backing to get the signatures needed to put
the tax plan on the ballot, said he might reduce the proposal to an increase
of about 10 percent.
The initial plan was designed to generate enough new revenue to pay all the
property tax bills of single-family homeowners each year. But before filing
the initiative petition with the secretary of state's office, Dane agreed to
meet with Wynn to discuss his proposal.
Dane said it's not his intent to raise the tax to the point that casinos
would be put out of business. He added that even with a lower proposed
increase in the gambling tax, Wynn won't support the idea.
Dane's initiative petition would need 83,184 signatures by Nov. 14 to
qualify for the ballot. If it did qualify, it would first go to the
Legislature in 2007 for possible enactment. If the Legislature did not
approve the measure, it would go to the voters in 2008.
Olympia, Washington -- Two months after voters rejected a pair of
high-powered medical malpractice initiatives, House lawmakers moved their
lawyer-backed “Plan B” alternative out of committee on a largely partisan
Also known as House Bill 2292, it’s the first medical malpractice measure to
move in the Legislature this year, coming on the heels of the $14 million
political bloodletting that doctor and lawyer interest groups put themselves
through at the ballot box last fall.
Many leaders, including Gov. Christine Gregoire, have questioned whether
anything meaningful can be passed this year, unless the Washington State
Medical Association, hospitals and insurers are willing to work with trial
lawyers and consumer groups on the other side.
But that isn’t deterring legislative supporters of Plan B — which stalled in
the Legislature last year — from pushing ahead.
HB 2292 has three main “legs”:
- Patient safety: The bill includes revocation of licenses for
doctors with three serious acts of unprofessional conduct in 10 years;
protections that let health-care workers apologize or admit fault to a
victim of poor care without that being admitted as evidence in a later
legal action; immunity for health professionals who report
unprofessional conduct by others; easing the burden of proof in medical
disciplinary cases to “preponderance of evidence.”
- Insurance industry: The bill includes requirements that insurers,
self-insurers and claimants report all settlements or closed claims to
the Insurance Commissioner; requirements that malpractice insurers file
their rates and underwriting standards before they take effect; and
- Health care liability: The bill includes limits of two expert
witnesses per side in litigation, except where a judge sees good cause
for more; requirement that a “certificate of merit” from a qualified
expert accompany any malpractice lawsuit filing to limit frivolous
suits; letting courts award attorney fees in some cases where the
winning party offered a settlement that was not accepted by the opposing
party; creating a voluntary arbitration system for up to $1 million in
Denver, Colorado -- Rep. Bob Beauprez will put an end to a
Democratic fantasy when he makes his long-running campaign for governor
Because some private polls show John Hickenlooper running far ahead of
Beauprez, some Democrats dared hope that if the Denver mayor jumped into the
Despite several early statements that he won't run for governor,
Hickenlooper remains under heavy pressure from poll-watching friends to jump
in and is reported to be still dithering.
Kansas City, Missouri -- Two groups pushing competing ballot
initiatives aimed at increasing Missouri's cigarette tax by 80 cents a pack
have agreed to put a single issue on the November 2006 ballot.
The groups reported that the new initiative was submitted to the Secretary
of State's office for approval Thursday and that they soon will start
collecting the roughly 145,000 necessary signatures to get it placed on the
Before Thursday's announcement, a coalition of hospitals and other health
care providers called the Committee for a Healthy Future had been collecting
signatures for an initiative that called for the increased revenue to be
used to increase Medicaid payments to health care providers, pay for
anti-smoking programs and help the uninsured with some health care costs.
The Missouri Alliance for Health and Justice, which includes hospitals and
other health care providers, wanted more of the money to go to people for
whom the state cut Medicaid benefits last year, said member Wayne Goode, a
former state senator from St. Louis.
The compromise measure would raise an estimated $351 million a year by
increasing the cigarette tax from 17 cents to 97 cents a pack and increasing
the tax on all other tobacco products by 20 percent. Tobacco prevention
education would receive about $61 million of the revenue, and about $290
million would go to health care access and treatment for poor and uninsured
Of the money directed to health care access and treatment:
- $102 million would go to Missourians living under 200 percent of
the federal poverty limit to use for medically necessary health care
programs and services, including services provided through Missouri
Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or their
- Another $102 million would go for primary care and specialist
physician services rendered to Missouri Medicaid beneficiaries.
- $44 million would help support the state's trauma centers and
hospital emergency rooms for services provided to Missouri Medicaid
beneficiaries and uninsured Missourians.
- $38 million would go to safety net clinics, such as public health
clinics and community mental health centers.
- $4 million would go to emergency ambulance services provided to
Missouri Medicaid beneficiaries.
In Kansas, where cigarette taxes already have been increased sharply in
recent years, proponents of further increases said passage of the Missouri
ballot issue would strengthen their case. But because initiative petitions
are not allowed in Kansas, the tax would have to be increased via state
statute or a referendum approved by the Legislature.
"We would love to see a dollar-a-pack increase," said Lisa Benlon, the
American Cancer Society's government relations director for Kansas.
State. Rep. David Huff, R-Lenexa and vice chairman of the House Taxation
Committee, said an increase that steep is unlikely. Kansas has been
collecting 79 cents a pack since 2003, which has caused cigarette sales to
drop in the state.
"But if Missouri goes to a dollar, there's a very good chance that we could
follow suit," Huff said.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Democratic state lawmakers tried Thursday to
tie the illegal immigration issue to a controversial bill that allows
businesses to write off donations to private school scholarship funds.
State Sen. Bill Brotherton, D-Phoenix, put forth a plan that would have
denied the private school tax credits to businesses caught unlawfully
employing illegal immigrants. Republicans, who control the Arizona
Legislature, defeated the employer sanctions measure. Under the Brotherton
measure, businesses sanctioned under federal immigration laws would not be
able to receive the private school tax benefits.
The moves were the first volleys in what is expected to be bitter fights
over illegal immigration and private school tax credits at the state
GOP leaders want to quickly send a private school business tax credit
measure to Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, who nixed a similar bill last
year after a portion of a budget agreement fell apart.
Business groups strongly oppose employer sanctions related to immigration.
The idea has backing from some conservative Republicans, led by state Rep.
Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, as well as some Democrats, including Napolitano and
The governor said earlier this week companies that unlawfully and
intentionally hire illegals should face fines and other penalties.
Brotherton is serving as the governor's point man at the Legislature and the
employer sanctions issue.
Boise, Idaho -- Idaho is one of 44 states whose legislatures plan
to stiffen laws limiting when private homes and businesses may be seized by
local governments to make way for public works or economic development
But it's one of only a few that may go so far as to attempt to amend the
state constitution to rein in what many lawmakers see as
government-sanctioned land grabs.
Idaho's constitution gives local governments the right to condemn private
property for water and mining development as long as owners are fairly
compensated, and says "any other use necessary to the complete development
of the material resources of the state, or the preservation of the health of
its inhabitants, is hereby declared to be a public use."
Amending Idaho's constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in both
the House and Senate and simple majority approval by voters in the following
general election. While several lawmakers are crafting proposals to limit
eminent domain powers, some are not convinced that changes to the state's
constitution are necessary.
Property rights groups say eminent domain power is being abused by
governments to make so-called "private-to-private" land transfers, where
cities and counties claim the private economic development projects qualify
as public use.
Boise, Idaho -- There's more than a $200 million budget surplus at
the disposal of the state Legislature, putting Idaho lawmakers in an odd
But with overcrowded jails, a skyrocketing Medicaid system, a recent Supreme
Court mandate to change the way school building construction is funded and a
pledge to raise the salaries of state workers, it's a money well that could
run dry in a hurry.
As the second session of the 58th Idaho Legislature gets underway, most
observers expect property tax reform and sex offender laws to provide the
In addition, the fact that Gov. Dirk Kempthorne is entering his final year
in office could shake up the allegiances formed in Boise over the last seven
Olympia, Washington -- The long list of proposals aimed at sex
offenders seems to grow daily at the Capitol, but some core issues have
emerged. They include:
- Versions of a Florida law calling for 25-year-to-life sentences
for serious sex crimes against children.
- Satellite monitoring for some sex offenders released to the
- Requiring those convicted of child pornography possession to
register as sex offenders.
- Closing a loophole that gives sex offenders from other states a
30-day window before they must register after moving to Washington.
- Tougher penalties for convicts who fail to comply with
registration laws, with hopes of better tracking homeless offenders.
Some observers, however, worry that lawmakers will focus too heavily on
punishment instead of revitalizing victim assistance programs.
House Republicans caused an early dustup over the issue when they
unsuccessfully pressed for quick approval of a massive sex-offender bill on
the Legislature's first day.
Majority Democrats shot down the request, but GOP lawmakers say they'll
continue agitating for tougher prison sentences.
Denver, Colorado -- Former state Senate president John Andrews
proposed a state initiative Friday that would set term limits for Colorado
appellate judges and Supreme Court justices in an effort to make them more
accountable to voters.
Andrews, who called some judges "black-robed dictators," said the public is
increasingly concerned because "our appeals court and Supreme Court
frequently set out to make the law and not merely interpret it."
Under the proposed constitutional amendment, state appellate judges and
Supreme Court justices would face retention election every four years and
would be term-limited after 12 years.
Currently, they're subject to retention election every 10 years, and fewer
than 1 percent are turned out, Andrews said.
Denver, Colorado -- The Colorado General Assembly comes back to
life with the start of a session that will showcase a revitalized budget
process and plenty of election-year shenanigans.
Here is a look at some of the topics that may be grabbing headlines in the
next few months:
Without the passage of Referendum C, Colorado lawmakers would be looking at
making between $360 million and $500 million in budget cuts this session, a
move that probably would have gutted the state’s college and university
Instead, the budget-saving measure approved by voters in November will give
lawmakers $440 million to invest in the 2005-06 budget year and an
additional $550 million for the 2006-07 budget.
Over five years, Referendum C allows government to keep and spend about $3.7
billion that otherwise would have been refunded to taxpayers. The money must
flow to education, transportation and health care, but it frees up cash to
be spent in many other areas, too.
One of the biggest problems facing Coloradans and state government is the
rising cost of health care.
Driven by increasing caseloads and the rising costs of medical care,
Colorado’s Medicaid system cost taxpayers more than $3 billion last year,
and it’s growing faster than any other part of the budget.
Count on lawmakers to seek ways to reduce the cost of prescription drugs
through purchasing pools with other states and complex solutions such as
One of the surprise issues of the 2005 legislative session was the uproar
caused by a plan to build a private toll road on the eastern plains.
The proposal, dubbed Super Slab, brought attention to a more than
100-year-old law that allows private companies to condemn land to build toll
roads, a fact that struck a nerve with many landowners east of the Front
Efforts to reform the law in 2005 failed at the point of Owens’ veto pen,
which means the issue will return this year.
Illegal immigration is a growing national issue and Congressman Tom
Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who might run for president on a
close-the-border platform, is making Colorado ground zero.
Many state lawmakers are looking for ways to address the problem.
Several Republicans and Democrats are considering bills that would crack
down on Colorado businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
The 2006 session will operate under the shadow of the looming state
In November, Colorado voters will elect a new governor, a new treasurer, a
new attorney general and decide a host of legislative races that will
determine which party controls the General Assembly.
Many lawmakers will introduce bills that they know will never pass but which
provide fodder for campaign brochures this summer.
Denver, Colorado -- The Colorado Legislature will take another
look at a statewide smoking ban in public places in the 2006 session.
Rep. Mike May, R-Denver, and Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver, reintroduced the
Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act on Wednesday.
Grossman first introduced the bill in 2005, but it was killed.
Both bills call for the prohibition of smoking in enclosed indoor areas
ranging from public meeting space, grocery stores and elevators to city
buses, restaurants/bars and child day-care facilities. Also included on that
list are health care-oriented places such as doctor's offices, clinics and
Hotel lobbies and other common areas, pool halls, libraries, museums,
theaters, schools and bowling alleys are included in the ban, as well.
Violations of the recently introduced act would be a class-two petty offense
punishable by a fines ranging from $200 to $500.
The revised act strikes duplicated language, a section about the control of
smoking in legislative buildings and optional prohibitions.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and groups such as the Smoke-Free Colorado
coalition endorse the bill. The Colorado Restaurant Association backs a
statewide smoking ban, but not local ones.
Several other states already have instituted smoking bans in public
Phoenix, Arizona -- As many as four-thousand people gathered
outside the Arizona Capitol to protest what they say is an anti-immigrant
sentiment at the Legislature.
The protesters walked around the Capitol and shouted slogans in Spanish as
Governor Napolitano outlined her $100 million plan to confront Arizona's
problems with illegal immigration.
Public pressure is mounting for state politicians who face re-election races
this year to confront the problems, even though immigration has long been
considered the sole province of the federal government.
Last year, the Legislature considered two dozen immigration proposals,
though only a few became law.
Juneau, Alaska -- Rep. David Guttenberg of Fairbanks was named
minority whip in the House of Representatives as state legislators shuffled
leadership and committee positions in the first real action of the Alaska
Legislature 2006 session in Juneau.
The House majority leadership agreed to put Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, on
the powerful Finance Committee to replace Democratic gubernatorial candidate
Eric Croft, clearing the way for Guttenberg.
Guttenberg also took over Kerttula's seats on the Rules Committee and the
Joint Committee for Oil and Gas, where he'll have a front-row seat when the
Legislature takes up taxes and royalties for oil and gas.
"Guttenberg is a strong leader and he's in a position where he can help his
constituents in Fairbanks and the state," House Minority Leader Ethan
The reshuffling of committee members on the Democratic side is a result of
the upcoming election in November.
Juneau, Alaska -- With Congress defeating a plan to drill for oil
in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and removing earmarks for two
projects criticized as "bridges to nowhere," Gov. Frank Murkowski used his
State of the State address to express his frustration.
Eagerness to reach a contract with North Slope oil producers to build a $20
billion natural gas pipeline was another theme of the governor's speech. He
revealed the state is tying a new oil-tax system to negotiations.
His speech also fueled speculation about whether he will seek re-election.
"It sounds like he's running again," said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau.
House Majority Leader John Coghill, R-North Pole, also noticed that
Murkowski referred a few times to a "first term" during the speech.
"That was a hint," Coghill said.
Legislators say a pipeline contract, oil-tax reform and debate over funding
bridges near Ketchikan and Anchorage will be the most talked-about issues
Murkowski said the nation's view of Alaska is "sorely distorted" and he
called on the state Legislature to support funds for a public relations
campaign in the new year.
"I believe we must develop a very thorough and professional national
education campaign to accurately portray Alaska," said Murkowski, adding
that this is urgent while President George W. Bush, a supporter of ANWR,
remains in office.
Denver, Colorado -- The budget will be the biggest issue dominating
the 120-day legislative session. Of course, the budget is almost always the
biggest issue, but this year is different - for the first time in years,
lawmakers will have a lot more money to spend.
Republicans and Democrats both say they want to keep the trust of voters who
agreed in November to give up $3.7 billion in tax surplus refunds over the
next five years to make up for budget woes dating back to 2001. The
recession-caused pinch forced lawmakers to cut funding for health care,
higher education, transportation and other programs not required by the
The two parties disagree, however, over how that will be done. Referendum C
was approved, but it provides only general guidelines on how the money
should be spent. And those details are expected to be hotly contested in an
The referendum approved by voters Nov. 1 allows the state to keep the tax
surpluses over the to fix problems blamed on the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights,
the constitutional amendment considered the nation's strictest cap on
government spending. Part of TABOR kept state spending at the lowest level
of the recent recession, forcing painful cuts for the past several years.
Lawmakers want to use the surplus money to restore hundreds of millions of
dollars cut from transportation, Medicaid and higher education over the past
three years, but lawmakers have a lot of leeway over how the money will be
spent and the governor has a line-item veto.
Republican Gov. Bill Owens, who leaves office after this year because of
term limits, wants the first installment of the Referendum C money - $440
million - to be committed to restoring the state's 4 percent cash reserve
and refilling funds the state raided to get through tight financial times.
He said he also hopes lawmakers will provide additional money for
transportation and he will leave it to the state Transportation Commission,
which already has a list of potential projects, to decide how the money will
Democrats want to spread the money equally among education, transportation
and health care, saying that's what voters were promised. They want a
five-year plan to find better ways to run government, even if that means new
programs like bulk purchasing for prescription drugs - any Coloradan could
buy drugs at a discounted rate given to states that combine their buying
power - and waivers that would allow Colorado to combine welfare programs to
Both sides acknowledge it will be a political year, with elections in
November that will determine whether Democrats retain control of the House
and Senate after they captured control of both for the first time since the
early 1960s. This year, Democrats also have a chance to win the governor's
Other major issues this year are expected to include illegal immigration,
which Republicans have threatened to make a campaign issue, rising health
care costs, increased funding for education and reforming the pension system
for public employees.
Olympia, Washington -- Washington's former
Senate Republican leader said Monday he will reverse himself and vote for a
gay civil rights bill, all but assuring its passage this year after two
decades of debate and narrow defeats.
Sen. Bill Finkbeiner's decision last year to stick with his Republican
colleagues led to the measure's one-vote defeat in the Senate after it
sailed through the House.
The measure would add "sexual orientation" to a state law that already bans
discrimination in housing, employment and insurance based on race, gender,
age, disability, religion, marital status and other factors.
The bill has been introduced - and rejected - annually for nearly 30 years
in the Legislature.
The state House last year passed the bill 61-37, with six Republicans
joining 55 Democrats to pass it. But it lost in the Senate, where two
Democrats, Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam and Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, joined 23
Republicans in defeating the bill.
Finkbeiner, who stepped down as Senate minority leader last year, is a
former Democrat who supported the bill once before when he was a House
Gay rights activists have vowed to challenge incumbent suburban Republicans
who vote against the anti-discrimination bill this year. The major employer
in Finkbeiner's district, Microsoft, also has come out in favor of the
measure, a year after being denounced for quietly dropping support for it.
Olympia, Washington -- The main order of business in the 60-day
legislative session will be making adjustments to the $26 billion dollar
two-year budget they passed in the last session.
Some partisan squabbling quickly ensued on the first day.
Republicans tried to force immediate action on their number one issue -- a
crackdown on child sex predators. Democrats refused to circumvent the
committee deliberations and accused Republicans of pandering on a campaign
Meanwhile, another hot button issue, a gay civil rights bill, surfaced in
the Senate. Former Senate Republican leader Bill Finkbeiner, a suburban
moderate who faces a stiff re-election challenge this fall, announced that
he'll break with his caucus and vote for legislation to add gays and
lesbians to the state's anti-discrimination laws.
The bill failed by a single vote last year when Finkbeiner, a former
Democrat, stuck with his more conservative colleagues.
Meantime, House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler of the 24th District said she
and her fellow Democrats are planning a narrowly focused session, dealing
mainly with improving sex-offender laws and investing in three other key
areas. Kessler reiterated earlier promises to leave most of the state's
projected budget surplus untouched, as a hedge against potential downturns
in future years. Governor Gregoire delivers the state of the state address
this afternoon to a joint meeting of the House and Senate.
Olympia, Washington -- Some lawmakers are already seeking changes
to the newly passed smoking ban, arguing that buildings where religious
ceremonies using smoke are held and businesses losing money under the ban
should be exempt.
Sen. Debbie Regala, D-Tacoma, decided to sponsor the religious exemption
after speaking with one of her constituents, Storm Reyes, a Puyallup
descendent who uses smoke in religious ceremonies in public areas not on
Under another proposed measure, if businesses can show the state Department
of Revenue they have had a 10 percent loss of income due to the smoking ban,
they could pay a $250 fee to be exempt from the ban.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bill Grant, D-Walla Walla, said it is a matter of
survival for many small businesses.
"Those guys need a living, to support themselves," he said. "I think this
one is fair to the bar owners. It gives them the opportunity to make their
The two bills show that while 63 percent of voters expressed overwhelming
support for Initiative 901 - prohibiting smoking in places like bars,
restaurants and bowling alleys - others still believe that voters didn't
realize the unintended consequences of the measure.
"The people who wrote the initiative were counting on the health and safety
of the workers," said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam. "These
workers may be healthy, but they won't have a job."
Kessler noted that, while she may be sympathetic to exemptions, it would be
nearly impossible to do anything in the upcoming session, with the ban in
effect only a month. To change an initiative within the first two years
after passage would take two-thirds of both houses of the Legislature to
"It would be incredibly hard to pass," she said.
Olympia, Washington -- Washington lawmakers convene their
election-year session blessed with a fat budget surplus, a booming economy
and a feel-good agenda.
House and Senate leaders plan to move quickly on energy legislation and,
post-Katrina, on emergency response measures. Both parties are pushing
anti-crime bills to deal with child sex abuse and the methamphetamine
House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, offers an ironclad
prediction: the 60-day session will end on time, by March 9.
That means a sprint, starting with the opening gavels and speeches on
Monday, the governor's State of the State Address on Tuesday and a crush of
committee hearings in the first month.
For the first time since 9-11 and an extended recession, lawmakers have the
luxury of a surplus - $1.4 billion. Gov. Christine Gregoire and leaders in
both parties say the trick will be to restrain the impulse to go hog wild
and spend most of it.
Gregoire has proposed a $504 million spending package, but wants the
remaining $900 million socked into reserves.
Democrats have rejected Republican suggestions to roll back last year's "sin
tax" hikes and the state estate tax, but will consider tax breaks for
farmers, aerospace suppliers and energy producers and consumers.
Phoenix, Arizona -- With the political fallout from last session still
hovering over the Capitol and elections looming in the fall, Democratic Gov.
Janet Napolitano and the Republican-controlled Legislature are at odds on a
number of key issues facing the state that range from immigration to the
From the start, the two sides will be pressed to ensure there is enough
money for the state’s non-English speaking students to continue being taught
Lawmakers face a Jan. 24 federal court deadline to come up with a funding
plan or begin paying fines of $500,000 a day. While the governor and the
Republicans both want to avoid the steep fines, the two sides differ on how
to accomplish that goal.
On the budget, the differences between the two sides will come down to one
key issue: The role of government.
Although an $850 million budget surplus signals financial good times for the
state, it could cause a lot of political headaches as lawmakers argue over
what to do with the money.
Phoenix, Arizona -- A new survey gives Arizona Gov. Janet
Napolitano hefty leads over three potential Republican challengers. The same
poll also gives Republican U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl a substantial 50 percent-30
percent advantage over his primary Democratic challenger, Valley real estate
developer Jim Pederson.
The poll, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, gives Napolitano leads of 20
percentage points or more over Republicans Jan Smith Florez, John Greene and
Napolitano leads Greene, a Valley attorney and former state lawmaker, by a
56 percent to 23 percent margin in the Rasmussen survey of likely voters.
The Democratic governor leads Florez, a retired state judge from Nogales, 52
percent to 25 percent. She has a 20-point lead (50 percent to 30 percent)
over Republican party activist Don Goldwater.
Napolitano is favored to win re-election next year and has forged good
relations with business leaders. Republicans have struggled to find a
top-tier challenger to the moderate Napolitano.
The Kyl-Pederson race is expected to be the most expensive in state history
with both sides seeking substantial business support and campaign
The Iraq war and illegal immigration from Mexico are likely to be the top
issues in the 2006 elections.
The poll did show that 56 percent of likely Arizona voters support
construction of new security wall along the U.S. Mexican border.
Conservatives back border wall plans but Napolitano opposes them, arguing
they will not effectively secure the border and will be too costly.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Voters will need to show identification at the
polls to receive a ballot in the city's upcoming primary election.
Proposition 200, passed by Arizona voters in November 2004, requires proof
of citizenship when registering to vote, as well as photo identification at
Under the new law, a voter must announce his name and place of residence to
the election official at the polling place and present one form of ID that
bears his name, address, and photograph, or two forms of ID that bear his
name and address.
Voters unable to produce ID will not be given a ballot and will be
instructed to return with appropriate ID.
In addition, voter registration information must match the ID.
If the name or address on the ID does not correspond with the information on
the polling place roster, the voter will be given a provisional ballot,
which must be verified by the county recorder before being counted.
Acceptable forms of photo ID include a valid Arizona driver's license or
non-operating identification license; a tribal enrollment card or other form
of tribal identification; or a valid United States federal, state, or local
Phoenix, Arizona -- Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer says
that she will seek re-election, promising as the state's chief elections
officer to update voting laws and technology to ensure accurate elections.
Brewer's announcement was briefly delayed when a handful of protesters
shouted slogans critical of a company that provides some voting equipment in
The event resumed after police officers cordoned off protesters behind
police tape. Still, protesters continued repeating slogans as Brewer spoke
to a group of supporters outside the Arizona Capitol.
Diebold Inc.'s voting machines are vulnerable to computer hackers and
therefore could reflect inaccurate results, said protester Fred McChesney, a
local host on Air America Radio, a liberal radio network.
Brewer said the state has experienced no difficulties with Diebold machines
and has policies in place to ensure that the type of voting problems
encountered during the 2000 presidential election in Florida will not occur
"I feel very, very confident that there will not be problem if the
procedures and security measures are followed," Brewer said.
Brewer, a Republican elected as secretary of state in 2002, said she has led
an effort to update Arizona's election equipment and laws and has worked to
implement Proposition 200, a voter-approved law that denies some government
benefits to illegal immigrants and requires people to show identification
The secretary of state is first in line to succeed the governor if the
governor leaves office midterm.
Possible challengers to Brewer include former Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza.
Brewer is applying for public campaign financing as part of the state's
Clean Elections campaign system.
Phoenix, Arizona -- A bounty of revenues coupled with
election-year politics has the governor and legislators at odds over whether
Arizona can afford more tax cuts.
State revenue experts are predicting Arizona will have at least a $850
Gov. Janet Napolitano and Republican legislative leaders agree the state
should stop the practice of delaying payments to school districts. And there
also is some consensus that some of the special dedicated funds that were
raided in prior years should be replenished.
There also is sentiment to put more money into the state's "rainy day fund,"
essentially a savings account lawmakers can tap in lean years.
The big fight is going to come over what to do with the rest of the money.
Both the governor and lawmakers are committed to a hefty raise for state
employees. That could carry a $100 million price tag. And both want to
provide more funding for the state Department of Public Safety.
Napolitano, up for re-election this year, is not ruling out tax cuts. She
even is weighing a "tax holiday," a period of time — probably a few weeks
before school starts — when the state would not collect sales taxes on
But the governor is unlikely to push for large across-the-board tax cuts,
saying she believes there are higher priorities. "We need to put more into
education," she said.
There is pressure from legislators, who also face voters this year, to
deliver tax cuts — and not to expand state government further.
Anchorage, Alaska -- The state Division of Elections was right to
toss out a petition aimed at recalling state Sen. Ben Stevens, a Superior
Court judge decided.
Ruling from the bench after more than an hour of oral arguments, Judge Craig
Stowers said the recall petition by Citizens for Ethical Government failed
to cite specific, legally sufficient reasons why Stevens should be removed
Stevens, a Republican representing District N in South Anchorage, is
president of the state Senate.
The petition, drafted by Republican Moderate Party founder and former
legislator Ray Metcalfe, contends that Stevens' job as a consultant for the
oil field service company Veco Inc. improperly affected his performance as a
state legislator and amounts to corruption.
Stevens was paid $195,000 in Veco's employ, the petition says, alleging that
the senator "contracted his advice and loyalty to a company seeking to
extract Alaska's resources for as little as possible."
In court Wednesday, attorneys for the elections division and Stevens, as
well as a friend of the court brief filed by the Legislative Council, said
the drafters of Alaska's Constitution envisioned a "citizen legislature"
populated by lawmakers who would have to work for a living outside their
public office. Nothing in the constitution or state law bars an elected
official from working for an employer, even an employer that is active in
political affairs and issues, as Veco is, they said.
Fairbanks, Alaska -- Fairbanks Rep. Jay Ramras kept his date with
the state Friday, submitting a list of signatures in an effort to allow
voters a chance to shorten the annual legislative session to 90 days.
Ramras said the current limit of 121 days costs the state too much in time
State workers have 60 days from Friday to confirm that the list contains at
least 31,451 names of registered state voters. If the initiative is
certified, voters will have the option in November of approving a shorter
The initiative, which is co-sponsored by state Sens. Gretchen Guess and Tom
Wagoner, mirrors two bills introduced by legislators last year. Ramras said
any of the three could save the state close to $1 million per year.
Anchorage, Alaska -- The Legislature reconvenes in Juneau with one
of the biggest agendas of recent years, including a budget surplus of over a
$ 1 billion and the potential for a fiscal contract to build a natural gas
The session could be complicated by election year politics. The state has a
lot of cash and some big problems, while at least two members of the
Legislature want to replace Gov. Murkowski, who has not yet said if he's
running for a second term, but while most Legislators are up for re-election
this year, one of the biggest questions this session will be how they get
along with each other.
Carson City, Nevada -- Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Becker says
she'll seek re-election later this year to the Nevada Supreme Court.
Becker says she wants to continue working on victims' rights and
protections, and on streamlining Nevada's court system to save taxpayer
Becker's a former Las Vegas deputy city attorney, Municipal Court judge and
Clark County District Court judge.
She was first elected to the state high court in 1998 and won a six-year
term in 2000.
She's the first sitting justice to seek re-election since a controversial
2003 Supreme Court ruling temporarily suspended a constitutional requirement
for a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes.
Lincoln, Nebraska -- Ordering a shot of liquor
and a pint of beer is legal in Nebraska, but pouring the shot into the beer
before taking a swig is not.
A 1935 state law prohibits bartenders, and even customers, from adding any
liquor to beer. One popular form of the drink, called a boilermaker, is to
drop a shot of whiskey into a mug of beer.
A bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature on Friday by Sen. Doug
Cunningham of Wausa would remove the 71-year-old law, which apparently is
not very well enforced, from the books.
Omaha, Nebraska -- Congressman Tom Osborne
hopes to become Nebraska's next governor and make the transition from
Washington, D.C., back to his home state.
Osborne said he can be of greater service to the state and its residents as
Osborne, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, is traveling across the state
with running mate, State Auditor Kate Witek. He will face Gov. Dave Heineman
and Omaha businessman Dave Nabity in a primary election on May 9.
Osborne said the three areas he and Witek would focus on are government
efficiency and accountability, Medicaid and substance abuse, which are all
related to the taxation problem Nebraska residents face.
“The biggest issue facing the state at this time is the tax issue,” Osborne
He also would like to prevent Medicaid fraud by passing a bill allowing a
review of assets within the five years prior to a person applying for
assistance if the person has divested themselves of assets.
He also would like to see people who are capable stay within their home and
receive home health care, rather than being sent to a nursing home.
He said he would like to see Nebraska work with less populated, surrounding
states to form a larger drug purchasing pool to buy prescription drugs more
Osborne also said he would have the “courage and political will” to
introduce a defined-contribution plan similar to the plans in Florida and
Another financial and social burden is underage drinking and substance
abuse, especially the methamphetamine problem, Osborne said.
Another issue Osborne mentioned was the development of Nebraska as a
bioscience research and development state and a tourism and hunting
Osborne said his leadership abilities, which were observed by Nebraskans for
25 years, give him experience to “unify and move people in the same
Through his 25 years as a coach and his voting record as a congressman,
Osborne said, “there is a fairly high level of trust we felt we have earned
to do the right thing.”
Lincoln, Nebraska -- Nebraska’s Republican
Senate candidates jockeyed for position in a flurry of debate and positive
campaign pledge proposals.
Pete Ricketts called a news conference at the Capitol to propose that the
three candidates agree to a trio of debates.
Don Stenberg said he’d be happy to agree to participate as soon as his
opponents sign a pledge not to distort or misrepresent each other’s
positions or make reference to one another in campaign advertising.
David Kramer said there really ought to be five debates. He’s already
accepted invitations to debate in Kearney and Lincoln, he said.
Topics might include taxes and spending, immigration and border security,
The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Ben Nelson in the
general election. Although the Democratic senator has not yet announced his
candidacy, he has raised more than $3 million to prepare for a re-election
Stenberg is a former three-term attorney general. Kramer formerly served as
Republican state chairman. Ricketts is an Ameritrade executive.
Lincoln, Nebraska -- Gov. Dave Heineman
announced a comprehensive legislative proposal aimed at protecting
Nebraska families from sexual predators.
The bill is a cooperative effort with Attorney General Jon Bruning and Sen.
Pat Bourne of Omaha, Chairman of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee and
sponsor of the bill.
The bill would create separate felony classifications for sexual assault of
a child and proposes increased sentences for child molesters, in addition to
a new civil commitment standard for sex offenders as part of the Mental
Health Commitment Act. It also calls for additional supervision of high-risk
offenders upon their release.
The bill also expands the list of criminal offenses requiring offenders to
register with the Nebraska State Patrol and stiffens the penalties for
failing to maintain registration.
It also grants law enforcement agencies broader access to information on the
whereabouts of sex offenders deemed at greatest risk to re-offend.
Finally, the proposal would provide some legal parameters for local
governments interested in pursuing residency restrictions for high-risk sex
offenders who commit crimes against children.
Bismarck, North Dakota -- North Dakota is
getting low grades in a national report measuring states' education
policies. State officials say they would like to know more about the grading
Quality Counts, an annual state-by-state analysis of public education, gave
North Dakota a D-plus overall grade this year. The national overall average
was a C-plus.
North Dakota's lowest point was a D-minus in the resource equity category.
Greg Gallagher, director of standards and achievements for the state
Department of Public Instruction, said North Dakota officials have questions
about the report's methods.
"It's not readily understandable how they reach these scores," Gallagher
said Wednesday. "They simply say 'trust us.'"
Salem, Oregon -- The Oregon State Building
and Construction Trades Council has endorsed Gov. Ted Kulongoski's
"His commitment to getting Oregonians back to work has been effective and is
a breath of fresh air for Oregon politics," said Bob Shiprack, the executive
secretary of the council.
The council includes 26 union locals representing about 30,000 members.
Kulongoski is one of two Democrats who have filed for the Democratic primary
for governor; the other is Lane County Commissioner Peter Sorenson.
San Antonio, Texas -- Now that the Texas
Supreme Court has ruled that the state's current property tax-based
school-finance system is unconstitutional, state lawmakers have been forced
to go back to the drawing board to develop a more equitable formula.
However, any school-finance alternative will likely affect Texas' business
community because it will require offsetting the tax burden already placed
on homeowners and other property owners.
In an online Business Pulse survey conducted by the San Antonio Business
Journal, 50 percent of the newspaper's readers say they would support an
expanded business-franchise tax to help relieve school-property taxes.
Forty-one percent said they would not support expanding the
business-franchise tax. Another 8 percent were undecided.
School districts in Texas have a state-mandated cap of $1.50 per $100
valuation on the amount they can charge property owners within their
The Texas Legislature has until June 1 to develop an acceptable school
Austin, Texas -- With Republicans firmly in
control of the Texas Legislature, subtle fault lines – none so obvious as a
simple partisan divide – ran through candidate filings for the state House
Within the dominant party there were conservatives seeking to unseat
moderates, education professionals finding fault with the GOP's leadership
on schools, and a scramble for newly vacant seats that could help define and
expand the party's sway.
GOP Chairwoman Tina Benkiser dismissed any suggestions of disarray among
Republicans. "As far as the Republican Party goes, it is stronger that it
has ever been, and we'll continue to see growth at all levels," she said.
The filings suggest that House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, could
preside over a chamber where dissenters have been squeezed aside:
Republicans who defied the speaker on meat-and-potatoes conservative issues
find themselves challenged by conservatives from within the party.
Denver, Colorado -- Republican former Sen.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell said Tuesday he will not run for Colorado governor
this year, accusing conservative Republicans of driving away good
"You can't be held to a strict ideological code that you can't do anything
about," said Campbell, 72, a former Democrat who was the only American
Indian in the Senate from 1992 to 2004.
"What they want is absolute obedience," said Campbell, who became a
Republican in 1995. He refused to name the GOP leaders involved.
Campbell declined to endorse either Republican in
the race, Rep. Bob Beauprez and former University of Denver President Marc
Pharr, Texas -- The wife of a state
representative filed Monday to run against her husband in a South Texas race
that both candidates said coincides with an impending divorce.
Democratic state Rep. Armando "Mando" Martinez, an incumbent from Weslaco,
faces a primary challenge from his wife, Jessica Reyes-Martinez. The
District 39 seat covers part of Hidalgo County.
Reyes-Martinez, 28, filed as a candidate in the March 7 primary only 30
minutes before the Monday deadline, The Monitor reported in its Tuesday
edition. She's making her first bid for public office and is now a
The two live in separate houses in Weslaco, and did not speak with one
another after making short speeches at the Hidalgo County Democratic Party
kick-off on Monday night.
Martinez, a 29-year-old firefighter and paramedic, took office in 2004.
There are no Republican candidates.
Denver, Colorado -- Colorado lawmakers
return to the Capitol this month to start what should prove to be a raucous
political year. The most important election in decades is expected to
transform the legislative session's usual political undercurrents into a
Almost everything state leaders do this session will be with an eye toward
November's election, which will decide every statewide office and control of
the legislature. Insiders agree the outcome probably will shape the state's
political climate - from statehouse to Congress - for years to come.
Policymakers will use the coming legislative session as a stage to launch
their campaigns. And the politics are sure to be brutal.
Republicans are still stinging after losing control of the legislature in
2004 for the first time in four decades.
The newly empowered Democrats, however, are hoping to prove they belong in
charge and that their takeover was not an aberration in a solidly Republican
Salt Lake City, Utah -- Utah's state
retirement system is 93 percent funded. That means there is enough money on
hand for the system to meet 93 percent of the promised pension payments to
the existing 35,000 retirees and the 97,000 future retirees still on the
As recently as 2001, most public pension plans held an average of 100
percent of the money needed to meet obligations to workers. But many lost
money when the stock market tanked and by 2004, the average funding level
had dropped to 87.8 percent.
Some public pension plans, such as those covering Florida state workers and
Georgia teachers, are still more than 100 percent funded. But other pension
plans are struggling.
Governments could contain those costs by moving away from traditional
pension plans, putting workers in charge of managing their own retirement
funds. But that could increase costs to governments in the long-term, as
they are forced to pay benefits to those impoverished when investments fail.
In addition, while switching to so-called defined contribution plans like
401(k)s would cut costs over time, that would not substantially reduce the
pressure in the short term.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- Wholesalers are
protesting proposed emergency rules that they say would shift the state's
problem of collecting cigarette taxes from tribal smoke shops to them.
"It appears the Tax Commission is transferring their enforcement
responsibilities to the business community by requiring vast amounts of
paperwork and endless red tape," said Paula Glidewell, president of the
Oklahoma Wholesale Marketers Association.
Proposed rules by the Oklahoma Tax Commission would require tobacco
wholesalers to limit their sales of cigarettes bearing cheaper 6-cent border
stamps to tribal smoke shops, based on 2004 sales, plus 10 percent. The
commission will consider adoption of those rules again Jan. 3.
Tony Mastin, director of tax policy for the commission, said he doesn't
understand why wholesalers think the new rules would burden them with more
paperwork. The wholesalers already are required to provide the commission
with information about how many stamps they sell to each tribal shop.
The proposed rules indicate that if a wholesaler wants to start selling to a
new customer, the wholesaler would be required to get the written consent of
the tribal shop operator before information about sales in 2004 could be
released by the Tax Commission.
Currently, smoke shops near the border are allowed through compacts signed
with the governor to sell cigarettes with only 6- cent tax stamps in an
effort to level competition with out-of-state vendors. However, surveys by
the Tulsa World show that most smoke shops in the Tulsa area have been
selling cigarettes with the cheap stamps. The Cherokees and Osages should be
selling packs of cigarettes bearing 86-cent stamps, state officials say.
Tribal leaders say when they signed compacts with the governor, they were
paying only a fourth as much as nontribal convenience stores paid in sales
tax on tobacco products. Now that those taxes are being considered as
excise, rather than sales tax, the state says they owe more.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Instead of closing a
budget gap or wondering whether the economic recovery is real, Arizona
legislators this year will be deciding how to carve up a projected budget
surplus for the current fiscal year, with the expectation of more dollars to
come in the next.
As the Jan. 9 kickoff for the Legislature's 2006 regular session approaches,
it's already clear there won't be a shortage of ideas for using the
additional dollars available for the 2006-07 fiscal year that begins July 1.
The ideas start with proposals to spend more dollars on all-day
kindergarten, teacher salaries, programs to help families, road
construction, state employee pay, expanding the new Phoenix medical school
branch campus and long-ignored building upkeep. There also will be costs for
proposals to counter illegal immigration.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- Some South
Dakota educators, reacting to a three-year, $39 million proposal to provide
laptop computers to all students, say they'd rather make their own decisions
about technology spending.
Gov. Mike Rounds unveiled the proposal in his budget address to the
Legislature last month as part of his 2010 Education initiative. He proposed
using $13 million in state funds to help school districts buy or lease
laptop computers for students in grades 9-12.
Rounds has said he expects to pay less than $1,000 apiece for computers with
three-year leases, software and warranties. He said schools could continue
the program later as the price decreases.
Providing funding for laptops would erase any disparity among districts in
terms of technology in education, said Rick Melmer, state education
"Unless you give students the technology access beyond the school day, then
you're really not penetrating into an area where all kids can use the
technology," he said.
But some schools would like the money spent in other ways.
If schools have to pay two-thirds of the cost, it might be better just to
give the state money to the schools for technology so they could spend it as
they see fit, Brandon Valley Superintendent George Gulson said.
Carson City, Nevada -- The Nevada Center
for Public Ethics, a group presided over by UNLV ethics professor Craig
Walton, has developed a proposed "candidate's pledge." Professor Walton
reports the group has sent copies to all Nevada political party chairs, as
well as to the five announced candidates for governor.
"All those who send us a signed copy will have their names posted on our Web
www.nevada-ethics.org," Mr. Walton said. "The pledge contains the seven
principles of public ethics we have developed over the past year. These are
not partisan principles, but instead speak to the working fundamentals of
responsible citizens and their chosen or appointed representatives."
Salem, Oregon -- Tim Birr has made a solemn
New Year's resolution. But it won't put him on a crash diet or have him
cutting up his credit cards.
Birr, a retired firefighter, is on a mission to make Oregonians remember
people such as Pamela Lynn Hernandez, who was killed nearly a year ago when
an unattended cigarette started a fire in her West Linn apartment.
Firefighters battled flames for 15 minutes before they could get into the
Country Garden Apartments. They found Hernandez, a 43-year-old painter and
landscaper, in her living room, lying dead.
Unfortunately, this was not an isolated case. According to the state fire
marshal's office, six of Oregon's 41 fire deaths in 2004 were caused by
cigarettes. Nationally, cigarette-caused fires kill an average of 900 people
a year and cause an estimated $4.6 billion in property damage.
"The cause for fires like these is always listed as 'smoker's carelessness,'
" said Birr, former spokesman for Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. "But the
truth is many fires like this could be prevented if we required fire-safe
"Fire-safe" or self-extinguishing cigarettes do not continue to burn on
their own if left unattended. Unless the smoker takes regular puffs, these
cigarettes go out. Manufacturers can make self-extinguishing cigarettes by
using special ultra-thin paper with tiny "speed bumps," rings of thicker
paper that inhibit burning unless a smoker draws in air.
Cigarettes typically start fires when they land on bedding or furniture. The
cigarettes burn longer than the materials can resist ignition. The same
holds true when cigarettes are tossed out of cars into the sun-dried woods
of late summer.
Three states -- California, New York and Vermont -- and Canada already
require self-extinguishing cigarettes. Just after Christmas, a similar bill
was introduced in the Washington Legislature.
Salem, Oregon -- Oregon will miss a Jan. 1
federal deadline to make it easier for disabled people to vote in 2006 but
will meet one to form a statewide database of registered voters.
The state will have the equipment to help people with disabilities vote
before the first federal election of 2006, said John Lindback, Oregon's
state elections director.
"We will have this equipment in place for the May primary. All systems are
go," he said.
Lindback said the state may buy a machine called the AutoMark voter-assist
terminal that enables a blind or sight-impaired voter to cast a regular
optical-scan ballot independently and privately.
The May 16 primary will involving party nominations for the U.S. House.
Neither U.S. senator is up for election.
The Help America Vote Act, passed by Congress in 2002, requires at least one
machine at each polling place to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Oregon is the only state with all-mail voting, so state and county officials
have been able to concentrate more on helping voters with disabilities.
Phoenix, Arizona -- From the sprawling
suburbs of the East Valley to the boutiques of Sedona and the border towns
farther south, illegal immigration is on the minds of voters and the lips of
politicians. It could be the issue of 2006 in Arizona politics.
That's borne out by results of a recent Arizona Republic Poll of 602
More than nine in 10 respondents said a candidate's approach to illegal
immigration would be at least somewhat important when it comes to deciding
their vote for governor. Nearly two-thirds called the issue very important.
While illegal immigration is a federal responsibility, poll respondents gave
the state government poor marks for its work on the matter. And neither
party was immune.
More than half of poll respondents said they'd support the passage of a
state law to revoke business licenses from companies caught hiring
undocumented workers. One-third said construction of a fence along the
border would be effective.
Denver, Colorado -- Three weeks isn’t much
in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an eternity in an election season.
One candidate can surge in three weeks while another stumbles. An extra
three weeks could give a candidate time to raise more money while another
sees coffers run dry.
Colorado’s election season is going to be about three weeks longer in 2006.
Election Day is still Nov. 7. But all of Colorado’s other important dates in
the election — precinct caucuses, county assemblies, state party conventions
and the primary — have been pushed up about three weeks.
“It gives us more time for the secretary of state and the county clerks to
certify the ballot so we don’t face problems like we did in 2004,” said Dana
Williams, spokeswoman for Secretary of State Gigi Dennis. “By moving
everything up, it gives us more slack in the process.”
Boise, Idaho -- Lawmakers could have a
tough time during the Legislative session this year, caught between an
anti-tax revolt and a push to spend more money on education.
A spokesperson for State Schools Superintendent Marilyn Howard says that for
the past four years, funding has been tight for school districts. Education
costs Idaho about $1 billion per year. That's roughly half the state budget.
One of the largest issues on the table is school construction. Last month
the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the state's system for funding school
buildings is unconstitutional and must be changed.
The state Board of Education is also seeking approval for a plan to increase
high school math and science requirements that would cost as much as $17
million per year by 2013.