Seattle, Washington -- In about six weeks, the state Legislature
convenes in Olympia and there is an idea floating around to raise the tax
when you sell your home.
Most homeowners don't pay any attention to the real estate excise tax until
they try to sell.
Supporters say this is a way to get rid of other fees on developers, but the
realtors don't like the idea at all and they're hoping to stop the plan
before it gets off the ground.
Now, there's talk of raising the rates and that has realtors worried that
higher prices will slow down the market.
But supporters of this idea say this is a fair way to pay for local
governments that have taken real financial hits in recent years.
Some builders like it because they don't like paying impact fees on new
So far, there are no firm estimates on how much a higher real estate tax
would raise, but supporters say it could be more than $100 million for
cities and counties.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- Speed-dating is one of the most efficient
ways for singles to meet as many potential companions as possible. A
five-minute meeting with one man or woman, then a five-minute meeting with
the next and so on and so on.
Now, Republicans in the Utah House of Representatives will let lobbyists
"date" them for a few precious minutes - as long as they donate to their
political action committee.
Organizers say the idea is simply a fun, new way to raise campaign cash.
Around the nation -- They earned their reputations battling Joe
Camel. Next target: The Real Thing.
Having won major settlements against big tobacco, some of the same attorneys
now are honing lawsuits against the soft-drink industry.
Richard Daynard, a Massachusetts law professor who made his name working as
a consultant on class actions against tobacco companies, is part of a broad
effort by both private attorneys and non-profit groups to sue soft-drink
companies for selling high-calorie drinks in schools.
Attorneys expect to file their first suit as soon as next month.
Pierre, South Dakota -- South Dakota's Constitutional Revision
Commission is taking the easy way out, recommending a package of
non-controversial changes and holding the contentious ideas for later.
That makes sense. Anything added to the November 2006 ballot already is
going to have trouble finding its way amid all the other hot-button
Even in a quiet year, though, it would be tough to generate interest in the
proposals passed by the commission.
The proposals include, raising the standard for closing legislative sessions
to the public - from a simple majority vote to a two-thirds vote of
Eliminating the requirement that titles and numbers for each piece of
legislation be read out loud when it's introduced.
Eliminating the old mileage reimbursement of 5 cents a mile for lawmakers'
travel to and from Pierre.
And eliminating a requirement that legislators vote by voice, a mandate that
makes no sense with the ability now to vote electronically.
Salem, Oregon - Backers of proposals intended to alter campaign
financing in Oregon say they have about 106,000 petition signatures, more
than half the number needed to put the measures on next November's ballot.
The measures would ban contributions by corporations and labor unions and
restrict the amounts that individuals could give to campaigns.
Oregon is one of five states with no limits on campaign donations.
A recent poll shows that three out of four voters favor limiting campaign
Pierre, South Dakota -- A report by a nonpartisan group says the
days when South Dakota mattered in presidential races are gone, and a state
senator says that makes a case for the return of the state's early
"There's really no reason for anyone to come here the way things are," said
Sen. Ben Nessulhuf, D-Vermillion.
The report, "Who Picks the President," was written by the group FairVote. It
examined how much money was spent and how many visits the candidates for
president and vice president made during the final five weeks of the 2004
South Dakota was one of several states with no visits or spending, the study
Lincoln, Nebraska -- Senator Ben Nelson would be re-elected in
Nebraska, according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports. At least 52 per cent of
respondents in the Cornhusker State would support the Democrat in
head-to-head contests against two possible Republican rivals.
Nelson was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000, defeating Republican Don
Stenberg with 51 per cent of all cast ballots. Nelson served as Nebraska’s
governor from 1991 to 1999.
Nelson holds a 23-point lead over former Ameritrade CEO Pete Ricketts, and a
32-point advantage over former International Republican Institute (IRI)
resident program director David Kramer.
Boise, Idaho -- New rules to protect Idaho taxpayers from paying
cleanup costs for mining companies that go bankrupt have been approved by
two state agencies.
They next go to the Idaho Legislature for final approval.
The rules apply to mines that use cyanide to leach gold out of ore.
They would increase the bond mining companies pay from $100,000 to the
actual estimated cost to close the mine.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- Governor Lingle says she will submit four
bills to the legislature next month to combat identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission says cases of I-D theft in Hawaii jumped 188
percent between 2001 and 2004.
The F-T-C says it is now the fastest growing crime.
Lingle's proposals would allow victims of identity theft to block credit
reporting agencies from releasing any information on them to unauthorized
parties without permission.
Another bill would ensure that banks or other institutions tell victims when
their personal information has been stolen, lost or similarly compromised.
Denver, Colorado -- Nearly half of the state's registered voters
cast ballots in this month's election, setting a new record for an odd-year
The official turnout for the Nov. 1 election was 49.85 percent, breaking the
record of 47.25 percent set in 2003.
Denver, Colorado -- On a day when many kids were writing letters
to Santa, Gov. Bill Owens presented a wish list of his own to the Joint
Budget Committee on Monday.
At the top of the list, Owens wants an extra $80 million to spend on roads
and $10 million to help Coloradans pay their heating bills this winter.
His requests are possible because Christmas came early this year when voters
approved a bigger budget by passing Referendum C.
"Fortunately, because of the passage of Referendum C, our discussion doesn't
need to be about cutting programs and services," Owens said.
Owens and lawmakers have the happy problem of dealing with two infusions of
money - $440 million for this year's budget and $505 million for next year,
according to the governor's estimates.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- It would be a "horrible step backward
for the health of Oklahomans" to repeal or lower the state's cigarette tax,
a health care official said Monday.
The issue: The House Revenue and Tax Committee is looking into whether
state compacts are giving some American Indian tribes an unfair advantage.
The disagreement: Some tribes say the state broke its compact when the state
sales tax on cigarettes was removed as part of the tobacco tax approved last
year by voters. Compacts allowing the sales tax were signed before last
November's tobacco tax vote.
State officials say some tribes broke the compact by allowing the cheaper
stamps to be affixed in areas outside of where they were to be sold.
The tax, approved by voters last November, is achieving its primary goal of
getting smokers to kick the habit, said Wes Glinsmann, chairman of the
Oklahoma Alliance on Health or Tobacco.
Glinsmann said he is aware there are unresolved issued related to the proper
use of tribal tax stamps by some wholesalers and retailers, especially in
the Tulsa area. He is optimistic state and tribal officials can reach an
agreement to settle the dispute.
Tribal issues should be resolved, he said, but not by reducing the tax.
Doug Allen, general counsel for the Oklahoma Tax Commission, said his agency
cannot enforce tribal compacts with the state. Any disputes in the compacts
are to be settled by arbitration, he said.
"The ultimate long-term solution is voluntary compliance," Allen said.
Grand Junction, Colorado -- Voters may be asked next year to
decide whether Colorado should deny state services to undocumented workers.
The proposed constitutional amendment failed to make the 2005 ballot, but
supporters aim to gather the necessary signatures to get it on the 2006
Republican lawmakers who support barring illegal immigrants in the state
from getting such government services as food stamps say the time is right
to change the way the state handles undocumented workers within its borders.
Tucson, Arizona -- If the Republicans want to have any real chance
of winning this election, they must find a candidate who is strong enough to
effectively challenge Janet Napolitano.
Governor Napolitano has used the veto power more times than any other
governor in Arizona's history, and she has consistently used it to overrule
the decisions of the people's democratically elected representatives on
purely ideological grounds.
Despite her promise to Arizonans that she will address the massive, wildly
out-of-control problem of illegal immigration, she has vetoed almost all the
bills passed by the state Legislature.
It's no wonder, then, that voters felt the need to take matters into their
own hands with the Proposition 200 ballot initiative last year.
Napolitano also tries to paint herself as a moderate on social issues, but
her consistent veto of legitimate restrictions on abortion, like parental
notification for minors and a ban on partial-birth abortion, prove her to be
much further to the left than most Arizonans.
Valdez, Alaska -- The application submitted to the Department of
Revenue by the Alaska Gasline Port Authority to develop Alaska’s natural gas
reserves under the Stranded Gas Act has been denied by the state.
There has been some controversy across the state over whether or not the
Stranded Gas Act is still a valid negotiating tool, considering the current
high market rates for natural gas.
Since its passage, the market for natural gas has exploded across the United
States, a fact noted by a report by Econ One which was commissioned by the
Alaska State Legislature, that noted that under the prices natural gas is
fetching that no monetary concessions would be needed to make the
development of the states gas profitable for the producers.
Wailuku, Hawaii -- State Sen. J. Kalani English has paid a $1,000
fine but admitted no wrongdoing as part of a settlement with the Hawaii
State Ethics Commission over free flights and other gifts he accepted from a
private air ambulance company in 2002.
In the agreement, English acknowledges he was a passenger on Hawaii Air
Ambulance flights between Oahu and Maui, that he was a “guest” in the
Honolulu apartment of CEO Andrew Kluger, and that he used Kluger’s car.
English paid the fine Wednesday, and charges that he violated state ethics
laws were dismissed the same day.
The settlement agreement made no mention of at least two state-issued travel
vouchers English accepted while he was allegedly flying for free, nor of
legislative action English sponsored on the company’s behalf. It also did
not mention another legislator’s claim that English helped him get a ride on
the air ambulance.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- Utah's state coffers are flush, according
to new Utah State Tax Commission estimates. These show nearly $100 million
in tax surpluses this year.
If these trends continue over the next nine months, by the end of the fiscal
year the state will have about $275 million extra.
A cash flow like that presents the Utah Legislature with a remarkable
opportunity to take the sales tax off food. Not only is there the means to
do it, legislative leaders and Utah's governor have expressed a will to do
At least two plans are on the table. Senate President John Valentine
envisions removing the food tax completely and cutting state programs by
$166 million, which is roughly the state's portion of the tax. Meanwhile,
House Speaker Greg Curtis wants to remove the state and local sales tax from
food and raise sales tax rates slightly on non-food items to recoup most of
the lost revenue. The Curtis plan would give about a $37 million sales tax
cut overall. Both he and legislative Democrats have expressed concerns about
removing the food tax at one time, considering the many needs that exist in
Cheyenne, Wyoming -- After the state poured nearly 40 percent of
its extra revenues into education over the last two years, two leading
lawmakers say they believe it is time that Wyoming began providing more
money to other programs.
The education spending is commendable, Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, the No.
2 ranking senator, said.
Of the $2.2 billion surplus over the last two years, $839 million, or
roughly two-fifths, went to elementary, secondary and higher education,
according to a Casper Star-Tribune analysis. Another $634 million, or 29
percent, went into short-term and permanent savings.
However, with the next surplus estimated at $1.86 billion, he said the
Legislature should shift its attention because not everyone is going to
enroll in college.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Troubled gamblers routinely enter casinos
with dollar signs in their eyes, but leave with zeros on their bank
The sheer number of tribal casinos and horse-racing venues in New Mexico and
Southwest Colorado creates a uniquely severe problem.
Studies have shown that the rate of gambling addiction doubles in areas
within 50 miles of a casino.
In New Mexico, the state legislature, with the go-ahead from Gov. Bill
Richardson, has pledged $120,000 for a public health study that will
catalogue the problem of compulsive betting in the Land of Enchantment.
Experts predict the study will show that as many as 5 percent of New
Mexicans are "problem gamblers." That number soars above the national
average because of the state's bounty of gambling options.
Pierre, South Dakota -- A subcommittee of the state Constitutional
Revision Commission has decided tentatively that all legislative districts
for House members be split in two.
The proposal, which will be reviewed by the full commission when it meets
again next spring, would establish two House districts within each state
Currently, each of the state's 35 legislative districts elects one senator
and two at-large House members, except for a huge district in northwestern
South Dakota. District 28 is split into two House districts.
Reno, Nevada -- Nevada could become the New Hampshire of the West
under a proposal being considered by national Democrats seeking to broaden
the pool of voters choosing the presidential nominee.
The Silver State is one of two Western states likely to be targeted for a
January presidential caucus in 2008. An early caucus would allow Nevada to
join Iowa and New Hampshire at ground zero for presidential hopefuls.
At its last meeting, the DNC commission voted to add two states to the
January window in an attempt to diversify the voters.
The DNC commission is moving toward adding a Western state and a Southern
state in January. Stratton said Nevada and Colorado are the most likely
candidates in the West, largely because neither has joined a separate
movement to schedule a Feb. 5. Western States Primary.
Las Vegas, Nevada -- After never-ending discussions regarding the
topic, the Nevada state Gaming Commission is finally ready to produce
regulations permitting state casinos to operate handheld gaming devices.
Cantor Gaming is the company that has been selected as the future
manufacturer of these mobile gaming systems.
Earlier this year, the Nevada Legislature already approved their use and,
now, members of the Board are expected to generate regulations on how and
where gamblers can use them. Under the discussed method of operation, in
order to obtain a mobile device, players would be required to deposit money
in advance, or use their casino credit.
Operation in unsupervised spaces, such as parking lots, garages and hotel
rooms would be strictly forbidden.
Lincoln, Nebraska -- Senator Dennis Byars of Beatrice plans to
file for re-election despite the voter-approved law that forbids him to run
again, he said this week.
If Secretary of State John Gale rejects Byars’ filing Monday — which Gale
plans to do — the senator will appeal to the state Supreme Court on the
grounds his constitutional rights are being violated, he said.
Gale said Thursday the term limits law will require his office to reject
Byars’ re-election filing, along with similar filings that come across his
desk from other outgoing senators.
“I’d anticipate there will be more than one,” Gale said.
Voters approved term limits on state senators in 2000. Under the
constitutional amendment, senators are limited to serving two consecutive
Byars is among 20 of the 49 senators in Nebraska’s one-house Legislature who
are barred from seeking another term in 2006.
Byars said he has an “inalienable” right to run for re-election.
Courts in Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming have thrown out term
limits, and lawmakers in Idaho and Utah repealed them.
Las Vegas, Nevada -- To hear Gov. Kenny Guinn tell it, problem
gambling is something the state should have been funding "all along."
That might come as a surprise to problem gambling advocates in Las Vegas who
had spent the last several years pushing for the state to earmark funds to
treat compulsive gamblers.
Starting next year, the government will begin devoting a fraction of gaming
taxes to a fund that will pay for problem gambling treatment and education.
Legislation Guinn signed during the 2005 session also created a nine-member
Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling that will review grant requests and
make recommendations to fund treatment providers.
Even after the gaming industry eventually got behind the plan and made it a
priority, Guinn had been on record saying that he didn't believe it was
ultimately the responsibility of government to raise money for gambling
Guinn may have been playing politics.
He took a very different point of view last week when he spoke to a group of
casino managers participating in MGM Grand University's Leadership
Institute, a six-month program for "rising stars" at MGM Mirage properties.
He told of his private philanthropic efforts to help those less fortunate as
well as efforts to boost funding for mental health services.
"You need to invest in human capital," he said. "Don't forget about the
Carson City, Nevada -- Buoyed by the approval of a similar measure
by Denver voters, marijuana proponents say they're growing more confident
about the chances for success next year of a Nevada ballot initiative that
would allow adults to possess an ounce of pot.
Neal Levine, leader of Citizens to Regulate and Control Marijuana, said he
thinks the Nov. 1 vote to legalize marijuana in Denver is a sign that "the
mainstream" electorate now supports adults' private use of pot.
The Denver ballot measure, approved by a 54 percent to 47 percent vote,
allows people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
Because of a successful petition drive by Levine's group last year, Nevadans
will be faced with a similar question on the November 2006 election ballot.
Levine said the initiative is far more restrictive than a November 2002
ballot measure that was shot down by a wide margin in Nevada.
That proposal called for the legalization of 3 ounces, three times more than
the current initiative.
Bismarck, North Dakota – If true property tax and school funding
reform emerge from the 2007 Legislature, North Dakota will join other states
in what’s become a growing movement.
Home owners and legislators in at least nine states – Illinois, New
Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina,
Texas and Virginia – have taken action to cap or slow property tax increases
in recent years.
And as with North Dakota, the dilemma in other states is often tied to
public school funding. The lower the percentage of school expenses paid by
statewide funds, the higher the local property taxes must be to make up the
Property taxes are out of whack, carrying a disproportionate share,
lawmakers and other officials say.
The biggest chunk of local property taxes goes to public school districts.
To cut property taxes, lawmakers want to expand sales or income taxes, which
are paid by everyone, statewide, regardless of property ownership.
Cheyenne, Wyoming -- Gov. Dave Freudenthal says Wyoming should put
$415 million of its current surplus into a reserve account as a hedge
against any possible future drops in energy prices.
Freudenthal on Friday announced that his budget scheduled for release next
week will recommend placing $415 million in the Legislative Stabilization
If approved by the Legislature, the transfer would bring the account, which
lawmakers created last year as a "rainy day" fund, up to $500 million.
Combined with other required investments in the state's Permanent Mineral
Trust Fund and Budget Reserve Account, Freudenthal said his recommended
investment in the reserve account would bring total state savings to more
than $1.2 billion for the 2007-2008 biennium.
Helena, Montana -- Just when it seemed as though there'd be no
special legislative session to resolve Montana's school funding crisis, the
governor said he'd call one after all.
Two Democrats on the interim legislative committee working on a funding
formula, pronounced themselves pleased.
But Republicans, who have accused the governor of failing to provide
leadership on the issue, said Schweitzer's plan was a turkey.
"The governor's inexperience is showing," said Senate Minority Leader Bob
Keenan, R-Bigfork, who noted that even members of the governor's own party
were caught unawares.
Keenan termed Schweitzer "reckless" for calling a session without a
guarantee that it would result in successful legislation.
The Quality Schools Interim Committee met for 12 1/2 hours on Friday to
review a draft of a school funding bill — released that same morning — but
was unable to agree on its provisions.
The draft called for spending an extra $100 million next year on public
schools, which were deemed "constitutionally deficient" by the state Supreme
Court earlier this year.
The governor wouldn't say what he considered a reasonable amount to spend on
schools. In addition to the committee's plan, a coalition of school groups
has put together an alternate funding plan, which also calls for spending
about $100 million.
Helena, Montana -- The scope of a U.S. Justice Department
investigation of indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff is wider than
previously believed and now may include his dealings with U.S. Sen. Conrad
Prosecutors in the Justice Department's public integrity and fraud divisions
are looking at “possible influence-peddling” by Abramoff with congressional
Republicans - former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Rep. Bob Ney
of Ohio, Rep. John Doolittle of California and Burns.
Burns' spokesman, J.P. Pendleton, as saying the senator's office has not yet
been contacted by the Justice Department and that Burns has not retained a
criminal defense attorney.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- The tobacco tax increase which Oklahoma
voters approved overwhelmingly last year has run into a buzzsaw of
controversy of late. The only thing really clear is that the issue is likely
headed to the courts or to the Legislature.
Cherokee Nation officials admitted their stores are selling cigarettes to
each other, cutting the state out of nearly $1 a pack for cigarettes. Stores
are buying cigarettes with a border stamp, a lower tax rate, and reselling
them in non-border stores where a higher tax rate is required.
Diane Hammons, director of the Cherokee Nation's Justice Department, said
the tribe does not believe the retail-to-retail sales are wrong.
The state negotiated compacts with tribes which allow them to charge a lower
rate in border areas so they can compete with smoke shops in neighboring
Tucson, Arizona -- President Bush is scheduled to visit Arizona
Monday, making a stop at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson Monday
afternoon, then flying to Phoenix to attend a fund-raiser for Republican
Sen. Jon Kyl.
Bush will speak about border security and immigration issues at the Tucson
base at about 2:30 p.m., according to the White House. White House spokesman
Blair Jones said no other stops in Tucson are planned.
Bush will be accompanied by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
Immigration issues have come to the forefront this year, with various
immigration-reform measures being debated in Congress, the higher profile of
the Minutemen border watch group, the deaths of dozens of illegal immigrants
in the Arizona deserts and worries by some business groups and farmers about
Phoenix, Arizona -- A potential $600 million state surplus is
creating a schism in the business community about what to do with the extra
Some industry lobbyists think the excess revenue should be used for tax
breaks. But there is no consensus on whether income or property taxes should
be cut first.
Others contend the top priority should be taking the cash and correcting the
bookkeeping "gimmicks" used in prior years to balance the budget.
And still others think the state's financial situation provides an
opportunity to invest in education.
The session starting Jan. 9 presents an opportunity for lawmakers who just
last session adopted tax cuts aimed at business.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Jim Kolbe's disclosure that the time had come
to "hang up the spurs" reverberated through Southern Arizona like the shot
of a starting gun for a political marathon.
The race will not only dominate public-policy discussions throughout the New
Hampshire-sized 8th Congressional District over the coming year, but likely
will be the focus of national attention as Republicans and Democrats mount
an all-out effort for control of Congress in 2006.
Adding further prominence to the race is the newfound national attention
heaped on two issues that have long been key concerns in the 8th district:
immigration and border security. President Bush will discuss both during a
Tucson visit Monday.
Washington, D.C. -- For a man who has been dead for 16 years,
Warren G. Magnuson has been involved in some lively politics lately.
His legacy has been toasted and his name invoked in debates over the
Endangered Species Act, environmental protections of Puget Sound, even an
effort to break up the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Much of the talk has burbled up as the Republican-controlled Congress has
taken aim at environmental laws the liberal senator from Seattle once
This fall, Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, and Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, both
cited Magnuson in discussing the need to protect the Sound from potential
oil spills. Aides to Republican and Democratic congressmen, as well as
several environmental groups, have mentioned Magnuson while defending legal
protections for endangered species.
"They are taking on the Magnuson mystique and Washington state lore here,"
said Douglas Clapp, the state's official lobbyist in D.C.
This month, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, one of Magnuson's protégés,
introduced legislation that would overturn a 1977 amendment that Magnuson
designed to limit the number of oil tankers entering Puget Sound. The limits
were intended to protect the Sound and its marine-mammal life from oil
Salt Lake City, Utah -- A conservative state senator and Utah's
attorney general are joining forces to propose a new level of legal
protection for an unlikely group - the news media.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said he plans to sponsor a bill that would allow
reporters to keep the names of their confidential sources secret, even from
criminal prosecutors. Utah is one of just five states that fail to protect
reporters in such cases, either through judicial case law or legislation,
according to the Utah chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
"The media is regularly critical of public officials, and I am no
exception," Bramble said. "But the ability of the media to get information
is one of the things that sets us apart from other countries."
Bramble promises to work with Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and a task
force of media representatives to draft legislation before the 2006
legislative session begins in January.
Salem, Oregon -- Oregon's economic rebound has exceeded state
officials' expectations - so much so that state taxpayers could be in line
for the first "kicker" rebates in six years, according to new projections.
Although the economic outlook for Oregon is one of growth, state economist
Tom Potiowsky said the prospects are hardly a repeat of the robust growth of
the 1990s, which delivered the spate of kicker rebates to Oregonians through
The housing market remains strong, retail and wholesale sectors are booming,
and the natural-resources sector has had one of its best stretches in years
- thanks in part to the demand for wood products to help rebuild where
hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit.
The moderately good news on the economic front brought with it reports that
taxpayers haven't heard since the sizzling days of the 1990s: Personal
income tax collections now appear on track to exceed the Legislature's
estimates, set in the budget earlier this year, by more than 2 percent.
That's the threshold at which the state must begin paying the excess
receipts back to taxpayers.
With 1.61 million income-tax filers, the average rebate would be about $150
if the kicker total remained at the projected $240.2 million. The amount
would vary depending on each filer's circumstances.
Olympia, Washington -- Gay and lesbian couples across the state of
Washington are growing anxious, awaiting a Supreme Court ruling that may
allow them to marry.
Arguments challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage were made before
the Washington Supreme Court last March. A ruling could come at any
The case involves eight same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses
in King County.
In August, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing said that the
Washington State Constitution guarantees basic rights to lesbian and gay
people - and that those rights are violated by a state law prohibiting
same-sex couples from marrying.
Downing's ruling went on to say that the couples must be given marriage
One month later, a court in Thurston County ruled similarly.
Fargo, North Dakota -- Two of North Dakota's public service
commissioners say state and local taxes on heating fuels should be repealed,
arguing it doesn't make sense to tax people for providing winter heat for
Commissioners Tony Clark and Kevin Cramer said they will ask lawmakers to
dump the 2 percent tax on heating fuels when the Legislature meets again in
January 2007. They said they do not favor a special session for repealing
"I've looked high and low over the last few days and tried to find a
philosophically worse tax in the state," Clark said. "I'm not sure that I
could find one."
The commissioners called the levy a regressive tax that affects poor
residents and people on fixed incomes. Clark said heating bills are exempted
from taxation in 29 states, and Cramer said killing North Dakota's tax would
be "an easy and clean way" to provide relief to residents.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- If she had an extra $1,000 a semester for
college, Santa Fe Community College junior Andrea Lujan would be able to
focus on her studies without worrying so much about expenses.
She could pay her rent, day care for her 3-year-old and other expenses more
"It would make a huge difference," she said.
Lujan, a single mom, could be one of 12,500 students in the state who get
the money under a plan Gov. Bill Richardson will pitch to lawmakers in
Helena, Montana -- A single rifle shot last Tuesday morning
signaled the end of a 15-year-old moratorium on bison hunting in Montana.
The state legislature this year opened a three-month season on the animals,
limiting the take to 50 lucky permit holders. More than six thousand
applicants vied for the coveted permits, which were awarded via a lottery
earlier in the year.
During the 1980s, when bison hunting was last legal in Montana, state game
wardens would phone up hunters as soon as bison strayed from the protected
confines of nearby Yellowstone National Park. Animal rights activists
decried hunting the innocently grazing animals as hardly sporting. The
ensuing nationally televised protests and tourist boycotts forced the
Montana legislature to shut the hunt down beginning in 1991.
But this year, with a bison hunter in the governor’s mansion and the din of
the state’s hunting lobby growing louder, the Montana legislature lifted the
ban, but not without some strings attached. For starters, the hunt is
limited to a 450,000-acre area. State game officials are expressly forbidden
from “helping.” And hunters must get certified in their knowledge of the
rules of the hunt.
Baker City, Oregon -- Some ranchers are so fed up with the state's
new plan for managing wolves expected to migrate in from Idaho that they
want to close their lands for hunters and anglers.
They don't like the fact that they can't shoot wolves they suspect of
preying on livestock, and that there is no state fund to reimburse them for
livestock killed by wolves.
Some ranchers in Baker County have closed their land to hunters and anglers.
The Oregon Cattlemen's Association has adopted a resolution to work toward
that end statewide if the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission adopts the
plan next month.
The plan was adopted last February, but has to be amended since the
Legislature did not authorize key elements. It originally would have allowed
ranchers to shoot wolves attacking livestock. That provision was taken out
to conform to a federal court ruling that any wolves moving into Oregon
would be protected as a threatened species.
Salem, Oregon -- A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to ask
Oregon voters to approve a hefty cigarette tax hike to extend health care
coverage to thousands of uninsured Oregonians.
The move comes after Republicans blocked a proposal for new taxes in the
The new initiative, which would go on the 2006 ballot, would boost the state
cigarette tax by 60 cents a pack.
Sponsors say the tax hike would help provide health insurance for nearly
200,000 low-income Oregonians who currently have no coverage.
Phoenix, Arizona -- The Sept. 12 primary is months away, but a
wide field of candidates is already jockeying for three seats in the state
Several factors make District 17, which covers Tempe and south Scottsdale, a
hot race, experts say. Republicans are a few seats away from achieving a
"veto-proof" edge in the Senate and the House of Representatives. That would
allow them to push legislation without fearing a "no" from Democratic Gov.
District 17 also is one of a handful of districts where Democrats and
Republicans virtually have an equal shot at winning.
Juneau, Alaska - Ketchikan leaders didn't worry much about the
national criticism of their bridge because they figured Sen. Ted Stevens and
Rep. Don Young had it locked in. Now they are launching a "Save Our Bridge"
public relations blitz.
They need to convince Railbelt state legislators it's not a "bridge to
"We always believed that Don and Ted would take care of this. And
consequently the people in the Alaska state Legislature don't understand
(the need for the bridge)," said JC Conley, one of the main organizers of
Ketchikan's effort to salvage the bridge project.
"We need to go to them and explain our story," he said.
After months of ridicule, Congress last week dropped its earmarks for both
the so-called "bridges to nowhere" - the Ketchikan project and Anchorage's
Knik Arm crossing. The state will still receive the $452 million in federal
funds. But state legislators can now spend the money on projects other than
the two bridges, and legislators from the state's Railbelt population
centers are questioning the Ketchikan bridge.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Arizona voters are bullish on the future of
their state but just as dour on the direction of the country, a new poll
The majority of those polled, 62 percent, said they believe Arizona "is
headed in the right direction." At the same time, 53 percent said they
believe the country is headed the wrong way, which closely mirrors the 54
percent of Arizonans who said they disapprove of the job President Bush is
Crawford, Texas - More than a dozen war protesters returned to a
roadside near President Bush's ranch before dawn Wednesday, defying two new
local bans on roadside camping and parking.
About an hour after the group pitched six tents and huddled in sleeping bags
and blankets, a McLennan County sheriff's deputy arrived and warned the
group to leave or face arrest.
Former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright told the deputy that most of the group would
stay in the public right-of-way because they believed the bans restrict
their free-speech rights. The deputy said the group would have two more
warnings, then he drove away.
Dallas, Texas -- The Legislature must fix the state's
unconstitutional property tax system for public schools, the Texas Supreme
Court ordered Tuesday, but lawmakers are off the hook for a big tax hike to
pour billions more into education funding.
The latest decision in the state's long-running school finance litigation
was a partial victory for hundreds of school districts that filed the
lawsuit because it will force lawmakers to pass a new education funding
system before the 2006-07 school year.
But state leaders also claimed vindication because the ruling stopped short
of requiring a massive infusion of new money into public education as school
districts had sought. Still, the court cautioned that current funding levels
for schools are barely adequate.
Chicago, Illinois -- A businessman who won a state lease under
George Ryan entertained Ryan at his luxurious Jamaica home for years, and
every time, Ryan handed him a check to cover his lodging. But Harry Klein
testified at Ryan's corruption trial Tuesday that he always reimbursed Ryan
Klein said it was at Ryan's insistence that he took checks for $1,000 or
$2,000, depending on the length of his stay at the beachfront home. But
Klein said he reimbursed Ryan because he and his wife didn't want to take
money from a houseguest. Ryan and Klein continued with that arrangement
every time Ryan and his wife, Lura Lynn, visited for either one week or two
weeks most years from 1993 to 2002, Klein testified.
But Klein said he never expected state business in exchange for giving Ryan
free stays in Jamaica. He also said Ryan paid for his own food and expenses
and bought things such as a microwave and a year of cable for the home.
Olympia, Washington -- For nearly 70 years, Washington's
independent, ticket-splitting ways were encouraged by a "blanket primary"
that allowed voters to pick a favorite for each office, regardless of party
But a series of federal court rulings doomed that system several years ago,
holding that political parties have a First Amendment right to pick their
own nominees and exclude crossover voters.
Then-Gov. Gary Locke last year used his veto pen to create a so-called
Montana primary, requiring voters to restrict themselves to one party's
action, although ballot choice was kept confidential. Voters tried it in
September, 2004, but many disliked the loss of crossover voting.
A few weeks later at the general election, voters approved a so-called "Top
2" replacement by a landslide 60 percent. This plan, also called the
Louisiana or Cajun primary, is a lot like the old blanket primary, allowing
a voter to pick a favorite for each office, with the top two going to the
November runoff, regardless of party.
But the federal court didn't like this any better.
The Grange, the group that has made wide-open primaries a signature issue,
and state attorneys are appealing. State and Grange spokesmen say it's a
tough case, but that they still hope to win back the Top 2 system.
The political parties say they are very certain of victory.
Lawyers submitted briefs to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last week and
await word on scheduling of oral arguments. No decision is expected before
spring. The losing side is likely to ask the Supreme Court for review.
Seattle, Washington -- Many workplaces have sexual harassment
policies. Now, doctors offices in Washington State do as well, thanks to new
rules passed Friday by the State Medical Quality Assurance Commission.
The Commission has received complaints about physicians asking patients out
on dates, or asking for sexual favors. The new rules ban that and other
non-medical acts that fall short of obvious sexual contact.
The Washington State Medical Association opposes the rules. It says there
are already enough ways to discipline doctors. Opponents also say the new
policy could be used to unfairly strip the licenses of good doctors.
Oregon has rules that prohibit dishonorable conduct by physicians. But the
guidelines don’t spell out sexual misconduct the way Washington’s new rules
Salem, Oregon -- Gov. Ted Kulongoski became the first Democrat to
formally file papers for the May 2006 gubernatorial primary, confirming what
he has been telling aides for months.
Kulongoski's commitment to run for re-election could give pause to fellow
Democrats who have been talking openly of challenging him.
The low-key election filing - there was no news conference or campaign
kickoff event - also allowed Kulongoski to keep the emphasis on his role as
the incumbent governor rather than just being another candidate.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- State government just keeps on raking in
the money as Utah's economy continues churning. And pressures to spend a
bunch of that money and give tax cuts with a bunch of it also has been
increasing as the Tax Commission's cash register rings on.
The growth in jobs, construction and "new revenue data indicate Utah is in a
major economic expansion," said Doug Macdonald, chief economist for the Utah
State Tax Commission, which compiles the monthly revenue updates.
Does the growing surplus ensure some kind of tax cut next year?
"I believe it does," said House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy. "When the
economy is growing at such an unexpected rate, and government revenues are
substantially more than anticipated, we must look at returning them."
Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, said he believes the latest revenue
report adds weight to a position he took two weeks ago: "Take the sales tax
off food, and do so without raising other taxes."
Republican Governor Jon Huntsman ran last year on a campaign platform that
included removing the sales tax from food, although the governor has not put
forward an exact plan on how to do that.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Gov. Bill Richardson announced his
intention to seek $50 million from the New Mexico Legislature to fund an
endowment for the College Affordability Act, which was signed into law
earlier this year but that did not receive any appropriation in the 2005
The College Affordability Act scholarships would be worth up to $1,000 per
semester and would be entirely based on financial need. If the endowment is
funded in the January session, no more than a third of the money will be
used to fund scholarships for the 2006-2007 academic year.
Richardson also proposed $10 million for career, technical-vocational
programs, and $1 million to redefine the New Mexico High School Competency
Exam to align it with higher education requirements.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Governor Napolitano criticized a state court
appellate court saying a three-judge panel “took their sweet time” in not
ruling until last month on appeals to challenges to the state’s legislative
and congressional district maps.
The delay means the case won’t be resolved before the 2006 elections.
Both the timing and outcome of the Court of Appeals ruling Oct. 18
represented major setbacks for Arizona Democrats’ efforts to force the state
Independent Redistricting Commission to draw a new legislative map that
includes additional competitive districts.
The Court of Appeals panel unanimously overturned a trial judge’s ruling
that agreed with the Democrats, who last week filed an appeal with the
Arizona Supreme Court.
Republicans, who hold a 5 1/2-percentage point lead over Democrats in
statewide voter registration, hold majorities in both the state House and
Phoenix, Arizona -- Governor Napolitano, who has announced she
will ask the Legislature to provide funding to fight border-related crime,
said that without knowing what Congress might send to the president in the
way of immigration reform, it’s hard to say how much of an issue it will be
in the governor’s race.
“We have to be very strong and very realistic about immigration,” she said.
U.S. House Republican leaders reportedly will try to pass legislation for
tightened border security and tougher immigration enforcement before the end
of the year, including tougher sanctions against illegal immigrants,
smugglers and employers who hire undocumented workers.
President Bush’s immigration plan would permit some illegal immigrants
currently in the U.S. to legally stay for several years as long as they hold
jobs that no U.S. citizen wants. The plan would require these immigrant
workers to return to their countries after their time in a temporary worker
Arizona’s congressional delegation is at the forefront of proposals to deal
with illegal immigration.
Phoenix, Arizona -- While lawmakers draft a proposal to limit how
quickly the state increases spending, activists pushing to get a similar
plan on the ballot in 2006 as an initiative are saying they might wait until
2008 because of a potential constitutional challenge.
Chad Kirkpatrick, chairman of the Arizona Federation of Taxpayers, the group
that would spearhead an initiative drive for the proposal, says the chances
are “50/50” the group will hold back at least a portion of the proposed
ballot measure because of concerns that amending the state constitution in
one fell swoop may violate the single-subject clause of the constitution.
The initiative, known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, would
restrict increases in government spending to reflect the state’s population
growth plus the rate of inflation. Any revenue the state collects beyond
that amount would either be returned to the taxpayers or saved in a rainy
day fund the state could tap during tough economic times.
Denver, Colorado -- In semi-arid Colorado, there are well-known
reasons for the high cost of water service. Among them: scant reservoir
space and an immense mountain range separating water from people.
A less-discussed reason is that in Colorado, water is property, and in much
of the state, somebody already owns a right to use every gallon. Getting
that water requires entering a volatile market where prices can double in an
In the West, the battle for water has long been depicted as a clash of
greedy, growing cities against a dwindling supply of life's fundamental
But the stories of the Denver suburbs illustrate something else: how the
competition for water to fuel metro Denver's growth has created an
unregulated and often untraceable commodities market in Colorado - one that
is making a lot of people wealthy and has encouraged private investors to
look for new and profitable ways to deliver water to the Front Range.
Helena, Montana -- A legislative funding panel balked Friday at
endorsing a 186-page rewrite of Montana’s unconstitutional school-funding
system, possibly snuffing hopes of a special session next month to provide
more money for public schools.
The Quality Schools Interim Committee didn’t give up on its five months of
work, agreeing after a marathon meeting to come back to Helena in two weeks
and review the bill again.
“It’s clear that this committee is committed to finishing this funding
formula (bill),’’ said Rep. Rep. Monica Lindeen, D-Huntley.
But she said there’s no way the panel can have anything ready for a December
special session, as had been anticipated and that final action by the
Legislature may have to wait until the 2007 regular session.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- The new year could bring a new life to
hundreds of homeless in Las Cruces.
Gov. Bill Richardson has plans to ask the New Mexico Legislature for $2
million for a new program to help the homeless get back on their feet.
The money would be used to set up personal bank accounts that people would
use to find a job, home or even create a small business.
If approved, more than 3,000 homeless residents would be helped.
Around the nation -- Soaring state tax collections have created
momentum for tax cuts in 2006, when most governors and legislators will face
State and local revenue rose 7.2% in the first nine months of this year, the
biggest jump since 1990, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Spending is up 6%, the most since 2001.
Three years of strong revenue growth have left many states with large
surpluses. New Mexico is looking at a $1 billion surplus. Florida expects
more than $3 billion.
Even financially troubled California took in $3.4 billion more than it spent
in the budget year that ended June 30 — the state's first surplus since
2000. California's deficit was erased by a 13.2% revenue increase.
Portland, Oregon -- Short-term lenders in Portland charge an
average 480 percent on loans aggressively marketed to workers sometimes
struggling between paychecks, a consumer research group reported Wednesday.
Many of the 69 payday lenders operating in Portland charge customers $60 for
a two-week $300 loan, which amounts to an annual interest rate of 521
percent, according to the Oregon Student Public Interest Research Group in a
15-page survey report called "Preying on Portlanders."
Borrowers who are unable to pay back a loan in two weeks are charged another
$60 to extend it two more weeks. They can do up to three such rollovers and,
after eight weeks, pay $240 in fees on the $300 they borrowed.
The number of short-term lender licenses statewide has doubled over the last
five years to 356.
Rapid City, South Dakota -- Funding for South Dakota public
schools is not adequate, according to a firm hired by an education group.
But the consultants - Augenblick, Palaich and Associates - have not yet
backed that up with numbers, said Brian Aust of the Associated School Boards
of South Dakota.
The contention was in a preliminary report this past week to the Alliance
for Education, comprised of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota,
School Administrators of South Dakota, South Dakota Education Association,
ESD+6, Mid-sized School Coalition and the South Dakota Coalition of Schools.
Money from 127 of South Dakota's 172 school districts helped fund the
$153,000 study by the education finance consulting firm.
Beaumont, Texas -- Beaumont Fire Chief Micky Bertrand was
suspended this week for condoning the purchase of tobacco products for
firefighters in the week following Hurricane Rita.
Bertrand was suspended for seven days by City Manager Kyle Hayes and will be
back on the job Wednesday, said Charles Mullins, the assistant fire chief.
Mullins authorized the purchase. Bertrand later stood by the decision and
did not discipline him, Mullins said, prompting Hayes to suspend Bertrand.
With firefighters at their posts around the clock beginning the Thursday
before the storm, they also were running out of clean clothes and personal
hygeine items, Mullins said.
When the opportunity arose to purchase supplies, Mullins said he included
tobacco items to boost morale for the overworked firefighters.
"You need to sustain the spirit as well as the body," Mullins said.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- As state health officials heralded
Oklahomans' participation in Thursday's Great American Smokeout, tobacco
retailers complained loudly to a legislative committee about the state's new
Mike LaFevers, who owns 10 convenience stores in Poteau, said he was being
discriminated against because of the tax and a series of compacts that allow
different, lower rates for Indian tribes.
"How long do the Oklahoma taxpayers have to subsidize the Indians?" LaFevers
asked during testimony before the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. Rep.
Kevin Calvey, R-Del City, is chairman of the panel, which is conducting an
interim study on the issue.
Olympia, Washington -- Anti-tax activists are again aiming their
sights at the Washington state estate tax.
Unable to derail an estate tax adopted by Democrats in the state Legislature
earlier this year, opponents say they now plan an initiative for 2006 that
would wipe out the state's renewed tariff on personal estates.
"It is a tax on the deceased's estate. The heirs don't even get a sniff of
it until the vultures in Olympia have theirs," Dennis Falk, campaign manager
for the Committee to Abolish the Washington State Estate Tax, declared.
State legislators voted in April to re-enact a state-level estate tax. The
money goes toward class-size reductions and additional enrollment slots in
state universities and colleges. The tax rate ranged from 10 percent to 19
percent, and it mirrors the federal tax in that it exempts the first $1.5
million of an estate this year and the first $2 million in future years.
Olympia, Washington -- The high failure rate among high school
students taking the state's high-stakes assessment test is spurring the
state's top school official to push for a new $42 million summer school
Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson hopes to give those
students an opportunity to spend five weeks of their summer break in the
classroom, trying to learn the reading, math and writing skills they will
need to graduate from high school in 2008. At the top of her 2006
Legislative agenda is money to pay for her voluntary statewide summer school
"We can't hide the fact that we gave diplomas last year to kids who couldn't
read," Bergeson said.
Seattle, Washington -- The Republican challenge to the ballots
cast by Teri Carpenter, Elizabeth Stanhope and about 200 other King County
voters Nov. 8 isn't really about those votes, nor about the outcome of the
election, which wouldn't change in any event.
It's an early skirmish in what the GOP promises will be a long and bitter
war, a conflict that breaks sharply along the political divide, with both
Republicans and Democrats claiming the moral high ground.
"It's perfectly logical to see that we're tying to prevent vote fraud,"
state GOP Chairman Chris Vance said.
His Democratic counterpart, Paul Berendt, countered, "The Republicans have
been fighting to take away the right of people to vote."
To Vance, it's simple: The votes of voters registered at private mail boxes
or commercial storage units are illegal and shouldn't be tallied.
Denver, Colorado -- Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., and interfaith leaders
failed to agree on wording for a joint statement.
What began as a search for common ground between Congressman Tom Tancredo
and Colorado interfaith leaders has disintegrated, with the two sides unable
to agree on a joint statement about religion, terrorism and retaliation.
For more than two months, the Colorado Republican and a group of Muslim,
Christian and Jewish representatives tried to broker peace after Tancredo
suggested it was acceptable to bomb Muslim holy sites in response to
Not only did the envisioned statement crumble over a few words but the
religious leaders came away even more upset over Tancredo's comments linking
Islam to the French riots and to a Sept. 11 memorial.
Austin, Texas -- Awaiting only final marching orders from the
Texas Supreme Court, a high-profile committee of business leaders headed by
a prominent Democrat is poised to tackle the divisive issues that roiled
three sessions of the Legislature this year: tax and education funding
The 24-member Texas Tax Reform Commission, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry and
led by his one-time political rival, Democrat John Sharp, will begin work
today on recommendations for cutting school property taxes and raising new
revenue for education through higher business and consumer taxes.
The issues dominated Austin while lawmakers struggled and squabbled, but
they have receded as policymakers await the high court's ruling on a lawsuit
by school districts over the state's funding system.
"We are open to everything except an income tax," the former state
comptroller said, adding that even expansion of gambling in Texas, which
failed to pass the Legislature, will be on the table.
Any recommendations face the legislative gantlet, though, and reaction among
lawmakers has been polite if not enthusiastic.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick have already agreed
to appoint seven members from each chamber to seek a compromise once the
Supreme Court has ruled. Unlike the Sharp panel, the House-Senate committee
will look at not just taxes, but also school reforms and new funding rules
Salt Lake City, Utah -- For more than two years, officials in the
county, which is home to spectacular redrock vistas enshrined in countless
Hollywood films, have been sticking a figurative finger in the eye of the
Interior Department, daring it to do something about the federal road signs
they have removed and the county road signs they have put up in and around
the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. All without authorization
from the Bureau of Land Management, and in defiance of the BLM's existing
transportation plan for the area.
County officials frankly admit they are trying to provoke a response from
the feds to force a lawsuit or a criminal trespassing charge that will land
them in court and give them a chance to make their claim to the roads under
an old mining law known as Revised Statute 2477, which granted rights-of-way
across federal land.
Boise, Idaho -- Many Idahoans do not make a livable wage and the
state needs to create more jobs with higher pay, according to a committee
that studied jobs and wages in Idaho.
The committee organized by Idaho Community Action Network in conjunction
with Northwest Federation of Community Organizations and its supporters
released the Northwest Job Gap Study.
The study estimated living wages for families in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and
Washington, the number of job openings that pay a living wage, and the gap
between living wage jobs being created and the number of people searching
for those jobs.
Idaho's Legislature also should consider raising the minimum wage and
creating a state insurance system to drive costs down and a heating
assistance program for low-income earners, the committee said.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- Governor Linda Lingle will ask the Legislature
for $15 million to help the state prepare for a possible flu pandemic.
The state Department of Health would use the money to stockpile antiviral
medications and develop a data management system to track and monitor
illnesses around the state.
State officials said their plan generally conforms to the National Pandemic
Flu Plan released this month by President Bush.
The national plan recommends stockpiling enough antiviral pills to treat 25
percent of a state's base population -- about 300,000 Hawaii residents.
State hopes of getting a share of the federal bird flu money were quashed
yesterday when the 2006 health-spending bill was defeated by the U.S. House.
Denver, Colorado -- With illegal immigration promising to be a
hot-button issue in the Colorado General Assembly’s 2006 session, the
state’s top Democratic lawmakers are helping prepare a multistate forum on
immigration to be held here Dec. 12.
Legislators have been invited from Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico to join
Colorado lawmakers at the regional meeting being co-sponsored by the
National Conference of State Legislatures, a left-leaning public policy
San Francisco, California -- Taking a step closer to Gov.
Schwarzenegger’s goal of building a million solar roofs in 10 years, the
California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a proposed decision
today to replenish the 2006 pot of money for businesses interested in
installing solar power while also setting a deadline of December 15, 2005 to
finalize a larger solar proposal intended to achieve the governor’s broader
solar goals that include residential roofs as well.
After the California legislature broke for the year without passing SB 1
(Murray), The Million Solar Roofs bill, Gov. Schwarzenegger announced his
intention of establishing sufficient rebate funds for a million homeowners,
businesses, schools and farms to invest in solar power via the PUC.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano pooh-poohed
possible state income tax cuts for next year. Napolitano was asked recently
about Republican plans to slice state income taxes when the state
Legislature reconvenes in January.
Arizona is poised to run a large budget surplus and GOP lawmakers and some
business groups want to cut personal income taxes. Such reductions,
advocates say, would bolster economic growth and help middle and upper
middle income families as well as small businesses who file under individual
Income tax cuts are gaining momentum among conservative groups,
small-business advocates and Republican lawmakers.
The Democratic governor did not sound like a tax cut fan when asked about a
possible plan at her weekly press conference with reporters.
Napolitano first said she was not going to speculate about possible tax cut
plans. Then she added a more pessimistic view of sweeping tax cuts that
could be put forward by Republicans next year.
Napolitano is up for re-election next year and Republicans want to press her
hard on tax cuts. A Napolitano veto of a major tax cut package would provide
plenty of campaign fodder for Republicans in next fall's elections.
GOP legislative leaders are looking at a number of sweeping tax cut plans
and income tax reductions have gained support as lawmakers discuss the
matter with business advocates.
Phoenix, Arizona -- A newly formed group of multimillionaire
entrepreneurs wants the Legislature to approve major tax cuts, including
reductions for both businesses and individuals.
The proposals are still being drafted but could total $400 million. That
includes $100 million cut for corporations and $300 million of income tax
cuts for individuals, with the money coming from an anticipated state budget
Members of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club formed the group earlier this
year after expressing frustration with what they viewed as the rapid
expansion of state government and the lack of a tax-cut mentality at the
"The thing that we have to educate people on is that this shouldn't be the
government's choice to keep the money," said Steve Voeller, the club's
president and a former congressional staffer. "They are not entitled to it.
People can keep more of the money they earn, and they will invest it."
The Free Enterprise group's founders included Phoenix-area entrepreneurs and
investors Dave Thompson, Randy Kendrick, Sam Garvin, Dean Riesen and Eric
Scottsdale, Arizona -- Top legislative leaders offered cool
assessments of Governor Napolitano's performance on budget issues and
suggested that they expect the GOP-controlled Legislature to be at odds with
her on spending and tax issues during the upcoming session.
Senate President Ken Bennett told a business-oriented tax lobbying group
that the state's fiscal picture is brightening but that the state would be
in relatively poor shape if lawmakers had gone along with past Napolitano
proposals on spending and borrowing.
Bennett and House Speaker Jim Weiers also said they and fellow lawmakers
should be more assertive about publicly taking credit for the state's fiscal
Earlier, Napolitano budget director Gary Yaquinto told the Arizona Tax
Research Association that the state's spending rate is relatively low
commpared with other states and that imposition of new spending limits would
crimp such areas as education and health care.
Maricopa, Arizona -- Construction is expected to start in December
or January on an ethanol-producing plant outside of Maricopa that would
produce more than 50 million gallons of the clean-burning fuel a year.
John Skelley, president of Arizona Grain Inc., said groundbreaking would
take place at the company's grain-storage facility five miles east of the
Pinal County town as soon as financing is pinned down.
The plant would be owned and operated by Pinal Energy.
The proposed plant received its final permits from the city of Maricopa this
week, which should clear the way for financing.
The plant, which will take a year to build, will cost $60 million.
Juneau, Alaska -- Gov. Frank Murkowski on Wednesday defended his
preference for a natural gas pipeline proposal by three North Slope oil
companies over two competing applications.
BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil have the advantage because they hold the
leases to the North Slope gas, Murkowski told an audience at the Resource
Development Council of Alaska's annual conference in Anchorage.
Other would-be pipeline sponsors would have to sue the oil companies to get
to the gas, putting the project in doubt and possibly delaying construction,
The oil companies also have the cash needed to pay for the project, which is
estimated to cost more than $20 billion, Murkowski said.
Juneau, Alaska -- The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.'s board of
trustees has approved a major increase in the amount of the state's $31.7
billion rainy-day account it puts into alternative investments, such as
hedge funds and venture capital projects.
The board also approved new regulations to keep more of its investment
Alternative investments -- from private equity entities to hedge funds and
commodities -- now make up just $292 million of the fund's assets. The
change adopted by the trustees at an Anchorage meeting this week would allow
that amount to increase to $2.5 billion, at the fund's current value.
The bulk of the fund's investments are now in stocks, bonds and real estate.
Austin, Texas -- The state Republican Party avoided prosecution,
and potentially grand jury indictment, by agreeing Thursday to comply with
state law preventing use of corporate contributions for political purposes.
The agreement follows an investigation by Travis County Attorney David
Escamilla, who handles misdemeanor charges, into the party's spending of
$5.6 million in corporate money during the 2002 campaigns.
The Texas GOP acknowledged in the agreement with Mr. Escamilla that it
improperly spent more than $65,000 on political activities. Texas law allows
corporate or union money to be used to cover the administrative expenses of
a political party or committee, and the party said the improper spending
stemmed from misunderstandings about what constituted overhead.
Denver, Colorado -- Eleven Republican legislators met Wednesday to
collect expert testimony on illegal immigration, but serious statistics and
calls for strict enforcement were mixed with what one critic called "fear of
Former state Sen. John Andrews testified first, calling illegal immigration
"a silent invasion," threatening the American traditions of assimilation and
respect for law.
Madeleine Cosman, former professor of medical law at City College in New
York, said illegal immigrants in California are giving birth to sick
children to collect welfare.
Testifying on a DVD shown at the hearing, she said that "people from Mexico"
are the cause of a rise in diseases that "explode hearts" and cause other
Yeh Ling-Ling of the Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America warned
that Mexicans are planning to "reconquer" the southwestern United States and
that some are voting and "even running for office."
The meeting in the old state Supreme Court at the Capitol was set up by the
Republican Study Committee of Colorado, formed this year to help Republican
politicians in state government focus on such issues as lower taxes,
personal responsibility and limited government.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- The Department of Education will receive an
additional $6.4 million in Federal Impact Aid because of the number of
children displaced by housing renovations on military installations.
State Rep. K. Mark Takai, D-34th (Pearl City, Newtown, Royal Summit), who
discovered the provision that allows for additional funding for students
forced to live off-base, said applying for the additional funding has
brought in almost $20 million in extra funding over the past three years.
This extra $6.4 million will be a 16 percent increase from the $40 million
the DOE was anticipating.
Federal Impact Aid pays for a portion of the educational costs of
federally-connected students, such as school operating expenses like
textbooks, computers, utilities and staff salaries.
St. George, Utah -- Education and how environmentalists "put a
crimp" on what the Utah Legislature tries to do were among the topics
discussed Tuesday evening during a preview of the upcoming legislative
The forum included Mike Noel, R-Dist. 73, and those he called the "Sunshine
Boys" from Washington County: Sen. Bill Hickman, R-Dist. 29; Rep. David
Clark, R-Dist. 74; Rep. Brad Last, R-Dist. 71; and Rep. Steve Urquhart,
Three women in the audience who were there to ask about education issues
included Alice Holmes of Hurricane, Kathleen Wagner of Hurricane and Sue
Porter of Richfield.
The women are educators and said, after the meeting, that it left them with
some real concerns.
"If they want to build the economy, they have to put their bucks in
education," Holmes said.
Porter said the percentage of the state's budget allotted to education is
steadily declining. One question during the forum asked about the
Legislature's plan to deal with an increase of students with less teachers.
Last said the topic is causing a great deal of concern locally and
throughout the state. Because housing is so expensive in Washington County,
it is difficult for people to go into teaching as a profession, he said.
Santa Fe - Gov. Bill Richardson proudly declares himself a
tax-cutting Democrat, and says if you don't believe him, you can ask the
conservative Cato Institute.
In each of his first three years in office, Richardson has pushed through
big-ticket tax cuts. In 2003, the Legislature reduced taxes for those in the
upper bracket. Last year it removed the tax on food and some medical
services. And this year it passed a tax break for those in the middle- and
But, at the same time the Legislature has passed those big-ticket tax cuts,
it has also raised taxes and fees on everything from vehicle registrations
to cigarettes - a total of 46 increases in all. These have come without
nearly the fanfare given to the tax cuts.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- Twelve Pearl harbor sailors, ranging in rank
from seaman apprentice to lieutenant and assigned to the USS Chung Hoon, one
of the Navy's newest destroyers, have been convicted of charges ranging from
fraternization to adultery.
In all, 13 Chung Hoon sailors were involved in the incidents, which the Navy
said took place from September 2004, when the destroyer was commissioned at
Pearl Harbor, to last April.
Bismarck, North Dakota -- Lawmakers say they plan to consider
property tax limits as part of an effort to increase North Dakota's share of
aid to local schools. The cap may limit tax payments to a percentage of the
market value of property.
The Legislature's interim Finance and Taxation Committee agreed Tuesday to
consider a property tax limit, in the context of lessening local schools'
dependence on property tax collections to finance their operations.
Property taxes and other locally collected fees now pay about 43 percent of
schools' expenses, the Department of Public Instruction says. State money
provides about 42 percent, and the federal government provides most of the
The North Dakota Legislature this year rebuffed a plan to abolish school
general fund property taxes, and replace them with higher income and sales
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- Complaints the state's tobacco tax
drives Oklahoma smokers out of state and that tribal stores sell cigarettes
with wrong, cheaper tax stamps were discussed Monday by a committee formed
as part of last year's passage of the tax.
Retailers on the committee said Oklahoma had the cheapest cigarette tax in
the region before the state's tax took effect Jan. 1 and now has the
The tax is blamed for sending smokers to buy cigarettes in states with lower
taxes and giving some American Indian tribes an unfair advantage over
Honolulu, Hawaii -- The Army has banned the use of cell phones by
drivers at all of its Hawaii bases, a policy that includes headsets and
It's a policy that state lawmakers shied away from adopting this past
The policy memorandum was signed on Nov. 7 by Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon,
commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, whose jurisdiction covers
Army posts that include Schofield Barracks, Tripler Army Medical Center and
Stefanie Gardin, Army spokeswoman, said Mixon's cell phone ban centered on
"Every day, thousands of soldiers and civilians are on our streets," Gardin
said. "Whether they're drivers or pedestrians, they have a right to the
safest environment possible. The new cell phone policy helps ensure their
safety by limiting additional distractions to motorists."
There is no cell phone usage ban while driving on Navy and Air Force bases.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- The scene looks like something out of a
movie -- a squadron of motorcycle police leads a fleet of government
vehicles, SUVs with tinted windows -- through the streets of a foreign city.
It is March 2004, and Gov. Bill Richardson has come to Chihuahua, Mexico, to
attend a meeting of the New Mexico-Chihuahua Commission and sign a trade
agreement. A pack of television cameramen, walking backward and shooting as
they go, lead the way as Richardson and then-Chihuahua Gov. Patricio
Martinez stroll the hallways of the historic state building, followed by a
heard of men dressed in dark business suits.
Richardson is treated like visiting royalty at every stop. The meeting
completed and the agreement signed, he and Martinez are whisked away in a
small RV, where they celebrate the pact with shot of tequila before
Richardson boards one of two state planes that were used to fly officials to
Richardson's frequent travel rankle his opponents, even before a
controversial decision to disregard the spending limit set by the
Legislature and purchase a new $5.5 million jet.
South Padre Island, Texas – Border security should not be lost to
a hasty evacuation as a hurricane approaches, a Border Patrol official said
Tuesday, warning the governor's evacuation task force of long bottlenecks at
security checkpoints in the Rio Grande Valley.
Federal officials cannot allow those "waiting to do harm to the United
States to cloak themselves" in the rush inland, Chief Lynne Underdown of the
Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector said Tuesday.
Illegal immigrants, Chief Underdown said, could avoid detection at the
checkpoint by heading to shelters in McAllen, about 60 miles inland.
Salt Lake City, Utah -- A Utah hate-crimes bill that would
eliminate victim categories has drawn a cool reception.
Democratic representative David Litvack, a longtime sponsor of what has
become a perennial measure, said he has been considering offering a bill
that would replace the penalty enhancement called for in past bills with an
aggravating factor, to be considered by the sentencing judge or the pardons
Litvack has said the possible new direction arose out of a working group as
a way to "hopefully take some of the venom out of the issue" and garner
Republican support for the measure.
Hate-crimes bills in Utah have failed repeatedly.
Cheyenne, Wyoming -- Governor Dave Freudenthal wants the state to pay
$100 million to help cover infrastructure costs in the eight Wyoming
counties most affected by natural gas development.
The governor on Monday announced that he will include the $100-million
request in his 2007-2008 budget recommendations.
"Right now, the state gets the revenue, and the local governments get the
bill," Freudenthal said. "The surge in natural gas production has strained
some local budgets in Wyoming to the breaking point as towns and counties
try to meet dramatically increased needs for infrastructure."
Wyoming's 15 other counties would also benefit under Freudenthal's proposal
by facing reduced competition for another grant program.
Cody, Wyoming -- State legislators assured commissioners and city
council members from Park County last week that the $1.86 billion state
surplus will boost municipal funding.
Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, expects the surplus to reach $2 billion by February
when the Legislature meets.
“Natural gas in Wyoming is red hot,” he said. “We're number three in the
country. The bottom line is natural gas demands are expected to go up. That
will bode well for (municipal funding).”
Lincoln, Nebraska -- Springfield did it. So did South Sioux City and
Dakota City. Now, Southeast Nebraska towns including Gretna, Ashland,
Papillion and Waverly are looking at laws that would restrict where
registered sex offenders could live within their city limits.
The proposed ordinances mostly mimic an Iowa state law that prohibits sex
offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school or licensed day care.
Two thousand feet is about four or five blocks or about one-third of a mile.
After that law took effect in September, some Iowa towns passed more
restrictive ordinances that also bar sex offenders from living near parks,
playgrounds or libraries.
In some cases, towns have become virtually off-limits for sex offenders.
In its next term, the Nebraska Legislature may consider similar measures in
response to concerns that Iowa sex offenders may migrate here to avoid the
Bismarck, North Dakota -- North Dakota's sharp increase in its marriage
license fee this year has made it one of the nation's most expensive states
to get hitched, a survey shows.
The survey, reviewed Monday by the Legislature's interim Judiciary
Committee, showed only five states - California, Florida, Minnesota,
Tennessee and Wisconsin - that charge more than North Dakota's $65 fee for a
In California and Wisconsin, the license fee varies by county. California
counties may charge up to $80, while the fee can reach $100 in Wisconsin.
Carson City, Nevada -- The number of workers in state government and in
the university system will exceed 25,000.
There will be $350,000 set aside to continue developing the Nevada Online
And the Boulder City Railroad Museum will be improved and expanded with an
Those and other facts about the state's spending pattern for the next two
years are included in the Nevada Legislative Appropriations Report, released
Prepared by the Legislative Fiscal Analysis Division, it details where the
2005 Legislature spent taxpayer money.
A breakdown of spending shows 33.9 percent of the budget goes to
kindergarten through high school; 19.8 percent to the university system,
28.3 percent to human resources; 8.9 percent to public safety; 2.8 percent
to constitutional agencies; 3 percent to finance and administration and 1.7
percent to commerce and industry.
Phoenix, Arizona -- Governor Janet Napolitano has quietly dropped plans
to seek federal emergency funds to help pay for more law enforcement along
Arizona's southern border.
The governor said Monday that she believes the request would be a fruitless
pursuit that would "fall on deaf bureaucratic ears" at the Federal Emergency
An aide said the governor's decision was based, at least in part, on the
billions of dollars the federal government is spending on relief after
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Helena, Montana -- The Helena School District Board of Trustees approved
in a 5-2 vote to approve a school-funding resolution that urges Gov.
Schweitzer to convene a special session to address school funding needs.
According to superintendent Bruce Messinger, most of the educational
community believes that there is a critical need for a legislative special
session next month.
The board has concerns about funding for the next school year if a remedy
The board’s resolution states that, “Helena Public Schools will not be able
to maintain the present level of educational programs unless additional
resources are added to the funding formula by the Legislature in a special
The governor has indicated he would call a special session if a consensus
could be reached. The Quality Schools Interim Committee is scheduled to meet
on Friday with hope of reaching a final agreement on a plan that will compel
the governor to make his move.
Helena, Montana -- Gov. Brian Schweitzer's popularity is strong,
while U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns' support appears to be dropping, a poll
released Thursday shows.
Leading state Democrats did far better than Republicans in the poll, with
Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus enjoying one of his highest approval ratings
while Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg hovers around 50 percent.
The results came a day after the pollsters reported that President Bush's
popularity in Montana reached a new low.
Sacramento, California -- On November 9 2005 the day after the
special election the Nissan Corporation announced its moving its north
American headquarters from Los Angeles (Gardena) to Tennessee.
The writing on the wall couldn't be clearer, and a possible trigger or
professional nod to other companies who were for a time holding off moving
to see if our governor could turn the state around might be at hand.
Other California companies such as Google and eBay are expanding into
Arizona, seeking a haven from the high costs of doing business. And economic
development leaders say the trend can only grow as the two states' economies
become more joined at the hip.
DHL Systems, the package delivery giant that consolidated data centers from
the Bay area and other locations in Scottsdale in 2002 and has continued to
add offices and hundreds of employees.
Countrywide Financial Corp., the Calabasas, Calif.-based mortgage lender,
opened a campus in Chandler and expects to have 4,000 customer-service
representatives, information-technology workers and other employees here by
the end of 2006.
Intel Corp., the Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker, has begun building a
third plant in Chandler.
Honolulu, Hawaii -- High demand for flu shots, and manufacturing
troubles for Chiron Corp., one of the country's leading suppliers of
vaccine, have caused shortages. The Hawaii Medical Service Association,
Times Supermarkets and Longs Drug Stores canceled flu clinics this month,
prompting lines that went out the door and down the block yesterday at
Sharon Lau was pushing her 98-year-old aunt, Teruko Kawabe, in a wheelchair.
She said she had tried to get her aunt vaccinated by her doctor, but was
told in September and again last month that he didn't get a supply of
Sioux Falls, South Dakota -- Two anti-abortion counseling services
have been allowed to join a legal battle over a state law that would further
tighten abortion restrictions in South Dakota.
Federal Judge Karen Schreier recently granted a motion to allow the Alpha Center
of Sioux Falls and the Black Hills Crisis Pregnancy Center of Rapid City to
intervene in the federal lawsuit. Schreier says both organizations could be
helped or harmed, depending on the outcome of the case. She also says the
counseling centers have different interests than the main parties in the
The measure passed by the 2005 South Dakota Legislature would force doctors to
tell women that abortions end human lives and may later cause serious
psychological problems for women who have abortions. Planned Parenthood of
Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota has challenged the measure as
Kansas City, Missouri -- Some legislators are worried that a proposed
constitutional amendment to increase cigarette taxes for health care has
language that could tie their hands in setting Medicaid spending.
The language also appears to conflict with part of the Missouri Constitution
that prevents ballot measures from spelling out how lawmakers spend money.
Critics say the confusion could open the measure to a legal challenge even
before it gets on the ballot next November.
The amendment would raise taxes on cigarettes from 17 cents to 97 cents a pack
and raise taxes on other tobacco products from 10 percent to 30 percent. All
told, state officials estimate the measure could generate $351 million to $499
million a year.
The money would be dedicated to paying doctors and hospitals more to treat
Medicaid and uninsured patients; providing debit cards for uninsured people with
certain conditions to help cover medical expenses; and funding anti-smoking
Phoenix, Arizona -- Only two years removed from record deficits,
Arizona faces a possible $750 million budget surplus as Gov. Janet Napolitano
and lawmakers head into 2006.
State leaders already are considering their options, which range from increased
spending for education and pay hikes for state workers to tax cuts or putting
the money away for an economic downturn.
The surplus is the result of record tax collections from Arizona's real estate,
construction and tourism industries. Some lawmakers worry that the boom may soon
turn into a bust and that much of the money should be socked away to offset a
future deficit. Others say money should go to state employee pay raises.
So expect some pitched political battles when the legislative session begins
Reno, Nevada -- Blacks and Hispanics stopped by Reno police are twice
as likely as whites to be searched, handcuffed or asked to get out of their
vehicles after the stop is made, a new study says.
Reno police say initial findings of an ongoing study shows racial profiling is
not a factor in the local traffic stops. But they said the department will
accept a recommendation to continue studying the matter.
The 2001 Nevada Legislature required law enforcement agencies to conduct racial
profiling studies in traffic stops. The Reno City Council authorized money for
Bismarck, North Dakota -- - After nearly a month under a city smoking
ban, restaurant-bar managers say business has dropped.
"We just don't see the crowds coming in for the late evenings like we used to,"
said Jason Johnson, the general manager of TGI Friday's in Bismarck. "Week
nights and weekends - we notice around 9:30, the bar is pretty much empty."
The new city ordinance bans smoking in restaurant bars. It is more restrictive
than state law, which allows smoking in bars that are part of restaurants,
bowling alleys or motels, if the bars are enclosed.
Madison, Wisconsin -- The state Assembly on Thursday voted to make
Wisconsin the first state to allow prison inmates access to Communion wine.
"If this bill passes and is signed into law, Wisconsin will allow prisoners who
are alcoholics to consume alcohol in prison," said Rep. Joe Parisi, D- Madison.
"This is not a First Amendment issue; this is a mental health issue."
But supporters of the measure, which passed the Republican-controlled Senate
last month, said wine is a vital part of the sacrament for most Christians. Many
ministers and priests say their faith precludes substituting grape juice for
wine during prison Communions.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania -- Two state Supreme Court justices – the
only names on Pennsylvania’s Nov. 8 statewide ballot – ran into a buzz saw of
voter wrath over a pay raise approved by legislators whose names won’t be on the
ballot until next year.
Justice Sandra Schultz Newman squeaked by with only 54 percent approval, while
voters ousted her fellow justice, Russell Nigro, with 51 percent voting to dump
him. It is the first time that a judge has been tossed off the bench in the 36
years since the state established its retention system, which seeks voter
approval of elected judges every 10 years.
Carbondale, Illinois -- President Bush's administration has threatened
to sue Southern Illinois University, alleging its fellowship programs for
minority and female students violate federal civil rights laws by discriminating
against whites, men and others.
The U.S. Justice Department charged that three SIU programs that aim to increase
minority enrollment in graduate school exclude whites, other minorities and
males, in violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.
"The University has engaged in a pattern or practice of intentional
discrimination against whites, non-preferred minorities and males,'' says a
Justice Department letter sent to the university last week.
Olympia, Washington -- Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) rejected ideas to
impose a harder five-year deadline on welfare aid and cut back child care
Instead, Gregoire will ask the Legislature for $46 million more in welfare
funding. She expects that, combined with program changes, to close a $91 million
hole in welfare spending in the state's two-year budget.
Seattle officials welcomed many of the governor's ideas and the fact that she
decided not to restrict eligibility for child care subsidies. Seattle has its
own child care program for families just above the state income limits, and the
proposed change could have meant longer waits.
In the end, anti-poverty leaders were pleased with much of a final plan that
calls for more money and faster case reviews and claims to improve child support
collections, education and training.
Santa Fe, New Mexico -- Officials have their work cut out for them in
re-establishing the state's fiscal integrity and investment reputation, winning
back public confidence and minimizing fallout from the scandal that is rocking
the state Treasurer's Office.
The trick will be convincing everyone who has an interest that the corruption
was the act of individuals and is not systemic.
But the guilty plea Tuesday by former state Treasurer Michael Montoya - and his
shocking admissions before federal Judge James Parker about kickbacks he got
from investment commissions he funneled to cooperating investors - leaves no
doubt the state needs extensive reforms.
Billings, Montana -- If Montanans want to see the economy grow, its
physical and intellectual infrastructure must be upgraded and maintained, a
Democratic state senator says.
“Companies move to where there are good schools, hospitals and infrastructure,”
said Sen. Jim Elliott, D-Trout Creek. “We have good people, but we have to stop
gutting infrastructure as the Republicans have.
Elliott, a holdover senator in the 2006 election cycle, is traveling the state,
preparing the seedbed for Democrats running for the Legislature next year.
Democrats won the Montana Senate last year and gained a 50-50 tie in the House.
They also captured the governor's seat, reversing a decade of GOP control of
both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office.
Lincoln, Nebraska -- Prosecutors plan to look at state birth records
involving men who have fathered children with girls 15 and younger for possible
Attorney General Jon Bruning is involved in a highly-publicized prosecution of a
Falls City man accused of impregnating and then marrying a 14-year-old girl.
State statistics show that men 19 years of age or older fathered 90 babies in
Nebraska born to girls 15 or younger from 2000 through 2004 alone.
The agency also has records for all those births, listing the names of the
mothers, fathers and their ages.
The Legislature last session eliminated the statute of limitations for
prosecuting first-degree sexual assault. Before that, it was seven years.
Sacramento, California -- Attorney General Bill Lockyer announced
the 2005 Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) program set a record
with the seizure of 1,134,692 plants during the eradication season.
The 2005 total surpasses the previous record, set last year, by 513,377
plants.! The marijuana eradicated in 2005 had an estimated street value of
more than $4.5 billion.
Headed by the California Department of Justice (DOJ), the multi-agency CAMP
program also includes the California National Guard (CNG), the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA), the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM),
the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the U.S. Forest Service
(USFS), the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES), the Central
Valley High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (CVHIDTA), the California
Department of Fish and Game (DFG), California State Parks and local law
enforcement agencies throughout the state.
Around the nation -- Less than three percent of the $250 billion
settlement between the tobacco companies and the fifty states has been used
to fund anti-smoking campaigns.
When the tobacco industry settled out of court with the 50 states seven
years ago this month, state officials said the money would be used to
prevent kids from starting to smoke.
Boise, Idaho -- The Idaho Transportation Dept. chose a joint venture
of Washington Group International, Boise, and CH2M Hill, Denver, on Nov. 2
to manage a $1.2-billion expansion and construction program for more than
254 miles of highways.
The program, dubbed "Connecting Idaho," was approved by the state
legislature in April as a means to improve highway safety and facilitate
commerce in the state. Steve Johnson, senior executive vice president of
Washington Group, says that the firm has been focused on the project since
Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R) delivered his address introducing it in January.
Olympia, Washington -- Voters who pulled the plug on dueling
medical-malpractice initiatives may finally prod lawmakers to change the
system, officials say.
Democratic legislative leaders believe their previous attempt at a
compromise, which failed by a slim margin in the state Senate, is a strong
starting point for the 2006 Legislature.
Some Republicans, however, say they're not ready to give up limits on
pain-and-suffering awards that some blame for driving malpractice insurance
rates to intolerable levels.
Juneau, Alaska -- Gov. Frank Murkowski said Wednesday he hasn't
decided whether he's going to seek re-election next year and won't make up
his mind until he finishes with the gas pipeline negotiations.
"I'll think about it after the gas line. I'm just not ready to do it," the
Republican governor told reporters in Juneau.
The wait could pose a problem for other possible Republican candidates
waiting for Murkowski to decide before they commit to the race. Campaign
finance law limits the amount candidates can get from a contributor in each
calendar year. So politicians not raising money by New Year's are at a
Republican Lt. Gov. Loren Leman said Wednesday he will run for governor if
Murkowski doesn't. But Leman has not ruled out challenging Murkowski and is
not going to wait forever for Murkowski to make a decision.
Former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin is running for governor no matter what
Murkowski does. But at least two other Republicans, Fairbanks Sen. Ralph
Seekins and Fairbanks businessman John Binkley, are waiting to hear
Murkowski's plans before making a decision.
Meanwhile, the two Democratic candidates for governor, state Reps. Ethan
Berkowitz and Eric Croft, have started their campaigns and are raising
Anchorage pollster Ivan Moore said he thinks it's a smart political move for
Murkowski to keep quiet. Republicans interested in challenging Murkowski in
next year's Republican primary are "going to be very hard pressed to succeed
unless they raise a significant amount of money this year," Moore said.
That of course is Murkowski's whole point in this charade. No serious
campaign watcher really thinks he'll take a pass on re-election.
-- Texas social conservatives want to translate their
resounding victory on a gay marriage ban into broader results: reducing the
state's divorce rate and passing a nationwide amendment to prevent same-sex
Rep. Warren Chisum, who wrote the amendment, Proposition 2, endorsed by
Texas voters by a ratio of more than 3-1, said Wednesday that it's too easy
for spouses to split up.
The state should consider repealing or modifying its no-fault divorce law,
the Pampa Republican said.
"Gee whiz, our divorce rate's higher than New York," Mr. Chisum said.
He proposed that between now and their next regular session in 2007,
lawmakers study ways "to make marriage thrive more in our state."
Meanwhile, leaders of the pro-amendment campaign said Tuesday's vote should
add momentum to the drive to have Congress pass a federal constitutional
amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.
Texas became the 19th state to place a gay marriage ban in its constitution
with an overwhelming vote Tuesday, 76 percent to 24 percent. Just one of
Texas' 254 counties – Travis, home of traditionally liberal Austin – voted