- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Slappy and Traficant

Slappy White, the pen name of a congressional staffer who writes a humor column for Hillzoo.com, had decided that maybe it was time to drop Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. as his favorite punch line.

After all, the Ohio Democrat, whom Slappy has imagined variously as a fashion plate and a blind date for Janet Reno, was recently indicted and is perhaps on his way out of Congress.

In an open letter to his readers earlier this week, Slappy asked them to vote on whether to keep Mr. Traficant or replace him with Jenna Bush or Dan Rather.

"Two things would sway me from making this move," Slappy said. "Either, Congressman Traficant will have to take to the floor this week during one of his morning speeches and mention me, Slappy White, in whatever context he wishes. … Or you, my adoring public, will have to vote to keep him. The choice will be yours and yours alone. Unless, of course, he makes his move first. In which case, it will be yours and yours alone … except for him."

Well, wouldn´t you know it: Mr. Traficant took to the House floor yesterday for a speech and remarked apropos of we don´t know what: "Something that even Slappy White of HillZoo.com would agree with me on is a ridiculous waste of court time and tax dollars."

Mr. Traficant, it appears, is here to stay.


Mr. Veto

Texas Gov. Rick Perry vetoed 79 measures in one day so many that some lawmakers called it the "Father´s Day massacre."

None of the vetoes that Mr. Perry signed Sunday — the last day he could sign, veto or let legislation become law without his signature — can be overturned because lawmakers have adjourned for the session.

The vetoed bills included measures that would have banned the execution of the mentally retarded, restructured the state Medicaid program and required the State Board of Education to get outside advice when investing the $20 billion school trust fund, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Perry said his vetoes were just part of the legislative process.

"I think that´s the most important thing that I would ask legislators and the public to keep in mind," he said. "The last 20 days a governor singularly and solely makes a decision on whether that´s in the best interest of the state of Texas."

Before Sunday, Mr. Perry had vetoed only three bills. The last Texas governor to come close to Mr. Perry´s high was Gov. Bill Clements, with 59 vetoes in 1989.

"I cannot remember feeling so angry. I cannot remember feeling so insulted," said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, a Democrat who sponsored the bill on Medicaid.

Legislation that the governor did sign Sunday included bills raising the speed limit to 75 mph on some rural stretches of highway and protecting consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls.


Governor rescued

New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson was rescued from a dangerous section of the Rio Grande known as the "Toilet Bowl" after he was pitched overboard from his kayak.

Mr. Johnson, 48, an avid outdoorsman and beginning kayaker, set out by himself Sunday after friends failed to show up, the Associated Press reported.

"He was on the Rio Grande, and he went down through the rapids," spokeswoman Diane Kinderwater said Tuesday. "And as a beginner, he got tossed out of his kayak, and he floated through the rapids."

Ben Goodin, a certified instructor, saw the governor go through the Toilet Bowl, where water cutting under a large rock on one side of the channel could pin a person underwater.

"He didn´t even know where the Toilet Bowl was or what he swam through," said Mr. Goodin, one of the governor´s rescuers. "He was pretty much in the dark about the whole thing."

That section of the Rio Grande is not for beginners, said Marvel Kellogg of Los Alamos, who also was on the river Sunday.

"I think a very poor precedent for how people should be engaging in this activity," Mr. Kellogg said.


Spilling Jeffords´ milk

"The whole world knows how Jim Jeffords´ somersault into 'independence´ cost the Republicans control of the Senate. Less well known is that he may have shot his state in the foot while doing it," the Wall Street Journal said.

"He has set in motion the death of a price-fixing cartel for milk that has raised prices by 20 cents a gallon in New England and is threatening to spread across the country," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"Sen. Jeffords´ pet project, the Northeast Dairy Compact, was created in 1996 to 'stabilize´ the dairy industry by dictating a minimum price farmers are paid for their milk. Its negative effects on consumers led the full Senate to refuse to reauthorize it in 1999. It was saved only when Mr. Jeffords convinced the Majority Leader Trent Lott that his re-election hung on preserving the compact. It was slipped into the final budget with the stipulation that it would expire in September of this year …

"With Sen. Jeffords no longer having the ability to hold an evenly divided Senate hostage, there is no reason for Congress or the White House to prop up such a stupid policy. Let his Democratic friends now support Jim Jeffords against milk consumers. It´s time for the rest of the Senate to shut it down."


Accent on Spanish

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee plans to have his weekly newspaper column and radio address translated into Spanish to try to reach the state´s growing Hispanic population.

Mr. Huckabee said he began talking about having the weekly communications translated several months ago, the Associated Press reports.

"We want to try to reach Hispanics with the same message," he said. "Once we got the legislative session over, we started focusing on things like this."

In the 2000 census, 87,866 Arkansans identified themselves as Hispanic, a 337 percent increase from 1990.

Mr. Huckabee is not the first governor to make such a move. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush often delivers his radio addresses in Spanish, while California Gov. Gray Davis and Texas Gov. Rick Perry occasionally have their radio addresses translated.

Bob Trevino, Mr. Huckabee´s liaison to the Department of Human Services and state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said Mr. Huckabee´s weekly column should start appearing in Spanish-language newspapers in the state in the next few weeks. The weekly radio address should start airing on Spanish-language radio stations within the next month.

Valentin Gutierrez, owner of El Heraldo de Arkansas newspaper in Springdale, said he is excited about the chance to run Mr. Huckabee´s column in his weekly newspaper with a circulation of 3,000.

"If he wants to help the Hispanics, the Hispanics can help him and vote for him," Mr. Gutierrez said.


Bold prediction

Pennsylvania House Majority Leader John Perzel, a Republican, predicts the GOP will pick up four U.S. House seats there as a result of reapportionment.

The Democrats are "going to lose seats, and we´re going to gain seats," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "They can´t change the demographic trends … I didn´t make the people move."

A bipartisan Legislative Reapportionment Commission held its first meeting Tuesday. The state is losing two House seats.


Forget Clinton

The government of Ireland briefly considered asking Bill Clinton to be a spokesman for its tourist industry, but decided it was too risky, the Irish Independent newspaper reports.

The newspaper, citing confidential government documents, said government ministers worried about "the unpredictable reaction of U.S. consumers," who might take offense at seeing the scandal-tarred former president as a spokesman for Ireland and decide to visit Greenland instead.

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