Thursday, July 7, 2011

Today's News Clips, July 7, 2011

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News Clips from America Votes

Thursday, July 7, 2011

News Clips

COLORADO: APNewsBreak: Colorado pot campaign starts Thursday

The Associated Press

DENVER—The anticipated campaign to legalize marijuana in Colorado is about to begin.

Backers of a suggested ballot measure to make pot legal for adults in small quantities say they'll start gathering signatures Thursday afternoon in Denver. The backers were waiting for final clearance Wednesday from a state board that certifies language before it can be placed on ballots.

Colorado has one of the nation's lowest thresholds for putting items on a ballot. Pot backers need about 86,000 valid signatures to go to voters.

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FLORIDA: Carlos Gimenez, Miami-Dade’s new mayor, pledges reforms and cuts

Martha Brannigan for the Miami Herald

Newly minted Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez pledged before a packed house at his ceremonial installation Wednesday to serve “with honesty, integrity and transparency,” and urged county commissioners to join him in putting “meaningful and comprehensive charter reform” on the 2012 presidential primary ballot for a broad section of county voters to consider.

Despite the rain, County Hall gave its new chief executive a welcome Wednesday with all the pomp and circumstance of an honor guard, a choir belting out the national anthem and invocations from a rabbi and a Baptist minister.

But when the no-nonsense Gimenez took the lectern, he was all about the work ahead. He reiterated that next fiscal year’s proposed budget — which he must present to county commissioners by July 15 — would reverse the immensely unpopular property-tax rate hike that his predecessor, Carlos Alvarez, pushed through last year. That will mean a yawning budget gap that Gimenez said would require “shared sacrifice” and a focus on “preserving essential services.”

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MICHIGAN: Serpentine, oddly shaped district proposals will be decided in court

Jocelyn Benson for the Detroit News

Last month, Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature enacted their configuration of Michigan's congressional districts for the coming decade. The map is arguably the most oddly shaped in Michigan's history, with districts swirling around Southeast Michigan like colors in a Willy Wonka lollipop.

The map's defenders claim the federal Voting Rights Act compels such bizarrely shaped districts. That act is widely interpreted to require Michigan to maintain two congressional districts where African-Americans comprise over 50 percent of the voting population.

But critics argue that this requirement in no way entails the creation of such contorted districts. As evidence, they point to a wide array of alternative maps — including one drawn by the president of the College Republicans at Central Michigan University — that meet VRA standards with compact districts that also guarantee population heavyweights like Oakland County the opportunity to send one of its own residents to Congress.

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MINNESOTA: Hennepin County prepares for ripples from shutdown

Kevin Duchschere for the Star Tribune

Seven days into the state government shutdown, Hennepin County is ready for anything while at the same time hoping that nothing will happen.

Notices of possible layoffs have been sent to 1,200 county employees, nearly all of them in the Human Services and Public Health Department. Road projects will continue for now, and service centers are still open for vehicle tabs and the like.

What happens next in the state's largest county largely depends on recommendations on funding requests expected as soon as Thursday from Special Master Kathleen Blatz. The former state chief justice was assigned by Ramsey Chief District Judge Kathleen Gearin to decide which state services should continue during the shutdown.

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NEVADA: With districts not drawn, election calendar pushed back

Anjeanette Damon for the Las Vegas Sun

Although most voters might not have noticed — or wanted to — the state’s U.S. Senate race is in full swing. Republican and Democratic candidates entered the race this year and are aggressively campaigning.

Not so for the state’s legislative or congressional races. Why? No one knows exactly what those districts look like yet.

The Nevada Legislature’s failure to pass a redistricting plan has disrupted crucial off-election year planning, potentially jeopardizing Republicans’ chances for taking over the state Senate and complicating Democrats’ efforts to reclaim the U.S. House.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE: RGGI, title loan bills are vetoed

Kevin Landrigan for the Nashua Telegraph

CONCORD – Gov. John Lynch vetoed separate bills Wednesday, one that would get the state out of an anti-greenhouse gas program and another that let title companies raise interest rates on short-term loans.

Lynch said the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative supported energy efficiency projects as well as stimulating economic growth.

“I am vetoing this legislation because it will cost our citizens jobs, both now and into the future, hinder our economic recovery, and damage our state’s long-term economic competitiveness,” Lynch wrote in his veto message.

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NEW MEXICO: Clerk: No resources for ranked voting

Julie Ann Grimm for the New Mexican

Santa Fe's next city election is set to feature a new public campaign finance system, although another election change that voters requested four years ago is less likely to be implemented soon.

City voters in 2008 approved public funding of campaigns and also called for ranked-choice voting in municipal elections. Also called "instant runoff," the ranked-choice plan is to allow individual voters to list candidates in order of preference instead of picking only one.

Proponents say the system keeps a candidate from getting elected without support from a majority of those who cast ballots. When few candidates seek an office, however, even backers of instant-runoff voting say it's not as important.

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OHIO: Ohio Tea Party groups seek ballot measure to reject new federal health care law

Joe Guillen for the Plain Dealer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A coalition of Tea Party and constitutional rights activists submitted more than half a million petition signatures Wednesday in an effort to block a requirement in President Barack Obama’s national health care law that mandates everyone buy health insurance.

The group wants to put on the Nov. 8 ballot a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would preserve Ohioans’ right to choose their health care.

"This is a serious effort at quarantining government power in its rightful place," Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, said at a news conference at the Statehouse. "The best way to do that is to leave people alone and let them choose for themselves."

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PENNSYLVANIA: Dad's donation riles state Democrats

Laura Olson for the Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG -- The day before Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate, his father donated $25,000 to the State Republican Committee.

State Democratic Party operatives on Wednesday condemned that action after they discovered the donation on a campaign finance report. But the elder Mr. Krancer contends that the timing is nothing more than coincidence.

Neither the size of that check nor its recipient are unusual for Ronald Krancer, a major GOP donor in southeastern Pennsylvania. He contributed $150,000 to Gov. Tom Corbett's gubernatorial campaign, as well as donating tens of thousands to GOP power-broker Bob Asher's political action committee and at least $125,000 to the state Republican Party since 2008.

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WISCONSIN: Two Democrats raise more than their GOP challengers in recall elections

Tom Tolan for the Journal Sentinel

Two Republican senators targeted for recall trail their chief Democratic opponents in the latest campaign finance reports, both in money raised and in cash on hand.

The reports, filed late Tuesday, paint a contrast with earlier contests reported in Wednesday's paper.

Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) reports collecting $100,522 so far this year, trailing the amount collected by his main Democratic opponent in the 2nd Senate District, Nancy Nusbaum of De Pere. She reported $177,300 in receipts in a campaign report filed Tuesday.

Cowles trails Nusbaum even more in the amount of cash on hand; Cowles has $62,168, while Nusbaum has more than double that, $133,682.

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WISCONSIN: Recall incumbents were allowed to receive unlimited donations while writing budget

Jason Stein and Patrick Marley for the Journal Sentinel

Madison - Driven by recall elections and rules that allow unlimited contributions, members of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee received huge campaign donations in recent months while they were writing the state budget.

For instance, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), co-chairwoman of the committee, raised $30,000 this year from a single contributor. Normally, state senators can't receive more than $1,000 from a single donor, but since she was facing a recall Darling was able to raise unlimited amounts for a period of time because of a quirk in state law.

Rep. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), another member of the budget committee and a challenger in a recall election, couldn't raise those unlimited amounts but still snagged 29 maximum $1,000 donations.

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WISCONSIN: Donors to Walker's campaign exceeded limit, group says

Emma Roller for the Journal Sentinel

Madison - Ten donors to Gov. Scott Walker's campaign and the campaign itself may have exceeded state limits on political contributions, according to a statement issued by an advocacy group Wednesday.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign filed a complaint with the state Government Accountability Board, in which the group found 10 donors to Walker's campaign donated more than the $10,000 state limit for individual contributions to gubernatorial candidates.

The Democracy Campaign tracks campaign spending and advocates for public financing of campaigns.

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IDAHO: Idaho redistricting commission hopes to finish on July 27, but members see four major hurdles

Dan Popkey for the Idaho Statesman

After 13 public hearings, members of a bipartisan commission have high hopes they can redraw Idaho’s political map well ahead of their Sept. 4 deadline.

Co-Chairman Allen Andersen, a Pocatello Democrat, said hearings across Idaho were a success.

“Looking at the lack of flexibility that we have, there’s not going to be a lot of room for negotiation,” Andersen said Tuesday. “My sense is we’re pretty much on the same page.”

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WASHINGTON: GOP budget slashes EPA, Fish & Wildlife

Staff for the Seattle Post Intelligencer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency faces an 18 percent cut in its budget, and severe restriction on what it can do to limit greenhouse gases, under an appropriations bill unveiled Wednesday by House Republicans.

The EPA’s new budget of $7.15 billion is $2.1 billion below the past fiscal year, and $3.8 billion below what President Obama requested. Much of the reduction would come in clean water programs.

The budget slashing does not stop there. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would see its funding cut by 21 percent or $315 million. The National Park Service would receive no increase in funds, even to cover maintenance backlog or the cost of inflation.

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OREGON: Oregon taxpayers will spend $1.3 billion on prisons -- and it won't be enough

Les Zaitz for the Oregonian

Oregon's most modern prison sits empty, unused since it was finished three years ago.

Though the state borrowed $120 million to build the medium-security unit at Deer Ridge Correctional Institution, it hasn't had the money to guard, feed and otherwise care for inmates the prison was supposed to hold.

It still doesn't.

Oregon taxpayers over the next two years will put more money than ever into the state prison system, but it won't be enough. And the need will only grow as the state braces to add nearly 1,500 prisoners over the next four years.

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MAINE: Challengers' resources pale next to Snowe's

Jonathan Riskind for Maine Today Media

WASHINGTON — Scott D'Amboise, a Republican primary challenger to three-term U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, raised $117,394 during this year's second quarter, according to his campaign.

Snowe, facing tea party-affiliated challengers D'Amboise of Lisbon Falls and Andrew Ian Dodge of Harpswell, took in just over $1 million during the second quarter and had more than $2.74 million on hand as of June 30, according to her campaign. In the first quarter of the year, Snowe raised more than $877,000.

The deadline for campaign finance reports is July 15, but it is typical for campaigns to release bottom-line numbers early. Dodge has not yet released any fundraising totals.

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FLORIDA: Former President Clinton blasts new voting restrictions in Florida and elsewhere

Travis Pillow for the Florida Independent

Florida got a special shout-out from former President Bill Clinton for its efforts to limit access to the polls. Speaking before the annual gathering of the liberal student activist group Campus Progress, Clinton railed against what has become a national trend.

As reported by Politico:

“I can’t help thinking since we just celebrated the Fourth of July and we’re supposed to be a country dedicated to liberty that one of the most pervasive political movements going on outside Washington today is the disciplined, passionate, determined effort of Republican governors and legislators to keep most of you from voting next time,” Clinton said at Campus Progress’s annual conference in Washington.

“There has never been in my lifetime, since we got rid of the poll tax and all the Jim Crow burdens on voting, the determined effort to limit the franchise that we see today,” Clinton added.

Clinton mentioned Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s move in March to overturn past state precedent — including under former GOP governors — that allows convicted felons to vote once they’ve served they’ve finished probation periods.

That last bit refers to the state cabinet’s decision earlier this year to roll back voting rights for felons. The rebuttal, from Chris Jankowski of the Republican State Leadership Committee, includes talking points that will be familiar to anyone who followed the debate surrounding Florida’s House Bill 1355, perpetuating the notion, which seems to lack supporting evidence in Florida, that frauds and criminals are swarming the polls on election day:

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FLORIDA: Rubio and Ros-Lehtinen’s ‘hopelessly complicated’ abortion bill

Ashley Lopez for the Florida Independent

Florida GOP lawmakers recently introduced federal legislation requiring each state to uphold other states’ parental notification before abortion laws in both chambers of Congress. The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (aka CIANA) was introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in an effort to correct a “loophole” in abortion laws that allows a minor to cross state lines in order obtain an abortion without notifying her parents.

Critics of the bill claim that it is “hopelessly complicated,” as well as unnecessary.

Ros-Lehtinen has introduced this bill many times before. According to a press release from her office, CIANA “has been previously passed by both the House and the Senate but it has never been sent to the President for his signature.”

Rubio, a former Ros-Lehtinen intern, co-introduced the bill with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

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MINNESOTA: Laid-off union workers to rally at Capitol against all-cuts budget

Jon Collins for the Minnesota Independent

Laid-off public employees plan to gather at the State Capitol Wednesday evening to put in some hard work building a town from the ground up. They’re naming the fantasy city Downeyville in honor of Edina Republican Rep. Keith Downey, who authored legislation that would eliminate the jobs of 5,000 state workers and threaten collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Jennifer Munt, public affairs director for AFSCME Council 5, said the event will include street signs for places like Beard Boulevard, named for Shakopee Republican Rep. Mike Beard, who has proposed an 85 percent cut to Metro Transit.

“We’re trying to make sure people understand what’s at stake with an all-cuts budget,” Munt told the Minnesota Independent. “The shutdown gives people a taste of what that would be like, but the Republican budget proposals as they stand today are far worse than the shutdown for the average person in Minnesota.”

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