News Clips from America Votes
Thursday, June 23, 2011
FLORIDA: Office of Congressional Ethics investigating Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings
Lesley Clark for the Miami Herald
WASHINGTON — A congressional ethics panel is looking into allegations that Rep. Alcee Hastings sexually harassed a former staffer, according to a conservative group that first aired the accusations.
The Office of Congressional Ethics contacted the staffer, Winsome Packer, and is "reviewing the numerous allegations in the lawsuit," Judicial Watch attorney Tom Fitton said Wednesday.
Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in March against the Broward Democrat on Packer's behalf. Fitton alleged at the time that Packer, a staffer on a House commission that Hastings led, was subjected to a "never ending barrage of unwanted sexual advances" and was threatened and intimidated when she tried to report Hastings' behavior.
MICHIGAN: New suit challenges Michigan's emergency manager law
Karen Bouffard for the Detroit News
Lansing— Michigan's new emergency manager law faces a fourth challenge Wednesday with the filing of a lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court.
It's the second lawsuit filed to stop Public Act 4, signed in March by Gov. Rick Snyder. The law is also the target of two petition drives aimed at repeal.
The law grants sweeping powers to emergency managers of school districts and municipalities to unseat elected officials and toss out union contracts.
MINNESOTA: Dayton plunges (back) into court shutdown fight
Bob von Sternberg for the Star Tribune
Gov. Mark Dayton filed a petition Wednesday morning with the state Supreme Court, asking it to toss out a brief filed Monday by a group of Republican state senators that is trying to block a district court judge from intervening in the budget crisis that could lead to a state government shutdown on July 1.
In his petition, Dayton argues, backing up Attorney General Lori Swanson, that the senators are out of line in demanding that a district court judge be prevented from appointing a mediator to sift through the disagreements between the Democratic governor and the GOP legislative leadership team.
NEVADA: NLV City Council meets to discuss special election
Aida Ahmed for the Las Vegas Sun
The North Las Vegas City Council will meet today to discuss holding a special election in Ward 4, despite a lawsuit filed Tuesday to block the new election for the council seat.
The lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court, seeks to halt a council-ordered re-election in one Ward 4 precinct between Wade Wagner and incumbent Councilman Richard Cherchio.
In the June 7 general election, Wagner won by a single vote, but five days later the Clark County Elections Department found one invalid vote was cast. The City Council voted on June 15 to hold a new election in Precinct 4306.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Budget bills pass, await Lynch’s OK
Kevin Landrigan for the Nashua Telegraph
CONCORD – The two-year $10.3 billion state budget (HB 1) and its massive trailer bill (HB 2) easily cleared the Republican-dominated Legislature on Wednesday.
Now it’s up to Gov. John Lynch to decide whether he can live with the significant cuts in spending and sweeping changes in state policies.
Debate on both budget measures was long, predictable and overwhelmingly partisan.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Lynch loses abortion veto battle
Kevin Landrigan for the Nashua Telegraph
CONCORD – Well into a historic fourth term, Gov. John Lynch has never failed to win a veto fight – until now.
The winning streak came to an end in triplicate Wednesday as lawmakers passed over Lynch’s objection to three state laws, including one to compel minor girls to notify a parent before getting an abortion (HB 329).
Other bills now law despite Lynch vetoes repeal the state’s minimum wage law (HB 133) and prevent local planning board from requiring that developers install sprinkler systems in one- or two-family homes (HB 109).
NEW MEXICO: Governor to tighten oversight on immigrant driver's licenses
Kate Nash for the New Mexican
Gov. Susana Martinez is making good on her vow to administratively tighten rules for granting driver's licenses to foreign nationals.
Martinez, whose efforts in this year's legislative session to do away with the license law failed, said Wednesday the state Motor Vehicles Division will recommend changes in the documents that foreign nationals must submit as identification and proof that they are New Mexico residents.
The recommendations, which the administration says are to improve security, will go to the governor in late July, a spokesman said.
OHIO: Ohio Senate removes controversial photo ID mandate for voters, but plans to move it in separate legislation
Joe Guillen for the Plain Dealer
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Faced with multiple legal threats, Ohio Senate Republicans on Wednesday retreated from a plan to require voters to show a photo ID at the polls as part of a sweeping election reform package.
Instead, Republicans will seek a photo ID requirement through separate legislation that appears fast-tracked for approval.
Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican from Clermont County, said the separate voter ID bill, which the House already has approved, could be passed in the Senate Thursday or next week.
PENNSYLVANIA: Corbett and legislators meet through day on budget
Angela Couloumbis for the Philadelphia Inquirer
HARRISBURG - With the deadline to enact a state budget fast approaching, Gov. Corbett met with legislative leaders throughout the day Wednesday and reported progress in the slow crawl toward a deal.
"I still have confidence that we will have a budget on time," Corbett said as he emerged from the negotiating room. "We made substantial progress today."
There is pressure to reach an agreement.
WISCONSIN: Walker fields at least 15 GOP requests for budget vetoes
Jason Stein for the Journal Sentinel
Madison - Republican lawmakers have lined up seeking budget vetoes from Gov. Scott Walker, making at least 15 requests for him to nix a range of provisions affecting craft beer brewers, credit unions and ethics statements from public officials.
That gave a few points of bipartisan opposition to provisions in the bill, though every Republican lawmaker has voted in favor of the budget, which relies on spending cuts rather than tax increases to close a $3 billion budget gap over two years.
Requests for vetoes are coming in as Walker, who holds the most powerful partial veto pen in the country, is expected to release his rewrites of the state budget within days.
MONTANA: Governor says Republicans 'hoodwinked' Montanans on budget numbers
Mike Dennison for the Billings Gazette
HELENA — Gov. Brian Schweitzer, in the wake of last week’s news that state tax revenue this year already is $70 million higher than expected, said Wednesday that Republican legislative leaders “hoodwinked” the public by insisting that tax revenue would be lower.
The Democratic governor, at a Capitol news conference, went so far as to accuse Republicans of “deceit and fraud,” saying faulty revenue forecasts were used to justify a state budget approved by the GOP-controlled 2011 Legislature that will short vital programs.
The consequences of the pared-down budget will be higher college tuition, higher local property taxes to offset inadequate state school funding and a loss of 2,400 jobs that could have been financed by a state construction project bill, he said.
IDAHO: Cobell tribal settlement gives Obama help for Indian votes
Rocky Barker for the Idaho Statesman
U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan gave final approval to the settlement of a long-standing lawsuit over the federal government’s abysmal record of serving as trustee for its American Indians.
Hogan said the settlement of the Cobell v. Salazar case doesn’t make up for the losses Indians have suffered over more than a century. But the $3.4 billion settlement promises to pay up to 500,000 American Indians for mismanagement of billions of dollars in oil, gas, grazing, timber and other royalties overseen by the Interior for Indians since 1887.
Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet Indian from Montana, who was the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, will get $2 million.
WASHINGTON: Marijuana-initiative backers say state could lead change
Lynn Thompson for the Seattle Times
Washington state would be defying federal drug laws if an initiative filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State to legalize and regulate marijuana is adopted.
But backers said Wednesday that states can take the lead in ending what they call the nation's failed war on drugs, much as individual states, including Washington, repealed Prohibition before the federal government.
"If people at the state and other states in this country say we're ready to try a rational approach to marijuana laws, the federal government has to take notice," said campaign director Alison Holcomb, who is taking a leave from her job as drug policy director at ACLU Washington.
OREGON: Bill to transform, lower cost of Medicaid moves forward in Oregon Legislature
Harry Esteve for the Oregonian
SALEM -- With pressure mounting to adjourn this week, Oregon lawmakers took the first significant step late Wednesday to approve a bill that sets the stage for dramatic changes to the state's Medicaid system.
Known around the Capitol as health care "transformation," the bill requires the state to set up a new, less expensive medical insurance program next year for more than 600,000 low-income and disabled residents on the Oregon Health Plan. It passed out of a mere subcommittee, but in the waning days, that's tantamount to legislative leaders' seal of approval.
The bill, a top priority for Gov. John Kitzhaber, has been bottled up for weeks because of haggling over details, including whether an expected new public workforce of caregivers would be unionized. But after dozens of proposed amendments that stripped out the union language, key lawmakers signaled it has the votes to pass.
MICHIGAN: Senate committee approves GOP redistricting map
Sam Inglot for Michigan Messenger
A Senate committee today approved the Republican redistricting map as Democrats pleaded with them to slow the process down and allow more public involvement.
The heated debate will now move to the Senate floor reports the Associated Press.
There are some ongoing discussions about the proposed maps, particularly for southeast Michigan districts, as the legislation advances to the Senate floor. But Republicans appear to be sticking to their plan to wrap up the redistricting process this month, well ahead of a Nov. 1 deadline.
Republicans say they want to wrap up votes this month in part to leave time for possible legal challenges from groups who may be opposed to the boundary changes. Democrats cautioned against a self-fulfilling prophecy on the legal front.
“If this is pushed through too fast, you’re more likely to have a lawsuit,” said Sen. Steve Bieda, a Democrat from Warren.
FLORIDA: Scott signs ‘Choose Life’ bill into law
Virginia Chamlee for the Florida Independent
Among the bills Gov. Rick Scott signed into law yesterday was House Bill 501, a measure that redefines how money made from sales of Florida’s bright yellow “Choose Life” license plates is spent.
Funds raised through the sale of the plates have traditionally gone to individual counties — the counties that sold the most plates receiving the bulk of the funds. The majority of the money was then distributed to pregnancy centers that worked to meet the physical needs of women seeking an adoption plan for their unborn child. By law, only 30 percent or less of those funds could go toward counseling services or advertising (which many argue perform no real medical purpose).
The newly signed bill undoes that 70/30 split, allowing for any amount of the funds to go toward crisis pregnancy centers, largely religious organizations that have been found to disseminate false information.
FLORIDA: More on Radiance Foundation’s billboards targeting African-Americans
Virginia Chamlee for the Florida Independent
In a press conference held in Oakland, Calif., on June 18, Radiance Foundation representatives and other anti-abortion activists gathered to tout a set of recently unveiled billboards that have been causing controversy across the country.
The billboards, which read “Black & Beautiful,” are decidedly less controversial than a previous Radiance campaign, which proclaimed, “Black babies are an endangered species.” Radiance unveiled the 70 Los Angeles-area billboards as part of an eight-week campaign to promote TooManyAborted.com, a site devoted to “exposing Planned Parenthood.” Critics argue that the ads, and Radiance’s overall efforts, aim to associate Planned Parenthood with racism. Representatives from the foundation have touted plans for 60 additional billboards in Oakland, but did not confirm their exact location.
Activist Catherine Davis was one of the speakers during Saturday’s conference. According to the Radiance Foundation’s website, Davis leads Operation Outrage, “an ongoing effort to educate Americans about the holocaustic impact abortion has had on the Black community.”