- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2008

ARKANSAS

Former first lady appointed to task force

LITTLE ROCK | Former first lady Janet Huckabee was appointedTuesday by Gov. Mike Beebe to serve on a panel studying ways to help troops adjust to life at home when they return to the state.

Mr. Beebe, a Democrat, announced that the wife of his Republican predecessor, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, will serve on the Arkansas Yellow Ribbon Task Force. The task force will first meet at the state Capitol on July 29, Mr. Beebe’s office said.

“These volunteers recognize that while we’ve gotten better at coordinating the services our men and women in uniform need, there is still more to be done,” Mr. Beebe said.

The appointment of Mrs. Huckabee to the panel comes after officials with the Governor’s Mansion said they removed her name from an entrance to a banquet hall at the mansion. Commission officials said the plastic lettering was removed for “aesthetic reasons.” A plaque outside the building still refers to the hall as “Janet M. Huckabee Grand Hall,” which it was named in 2006.

The commission overseeing the mansion also voted to no longer name rooms after people at the mansion.

Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said her appointment to the panel had nothing to do with the flap over the removal of her name from the mansion.

The former first lady works as the American Red Cross Arkansas program manager for services to military families.

CALIFORNIA

State government get low ratings

SACRAMENTO | Only two in five voters gave Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger positive marks for his job performance, a sharp decline from his ratings late last year but virtually unchanged from a month ago, according to a California Field Poll.

The state Legislature is viewed favorably by just over one in four voters, and only one in five thinks the state is heading in the right direction - half the number who said the state was on the right track six months ago.

Although two-thirds of respondents view the state budget deficit as serious, they aren’t very confident in the ability of the governor and Legislature to resolve it, the poll showed. Only 14 percent said they have a “great deal” of confidence in Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, to “do what is right” to fix the budget; the corresponding figure for the Legislature was 4 percent.

The source of the skepticism seems clear: Three weeks after the start of the fiscal year, the Legislature has yet to vote on a budget, let alone broker a compromise. Democrats and Republicans remain far apart over how to close a $15.2 billion deficit.

As poorly as Mr. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature fare among voters, it could be worse, said Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. The public has built up a resistance to late budgets, he said, because they happen almost every year.

But if the standoff drags on another month or two, there could be a backlash, the pollster said.

MAINE

Collaboration urged to curb energy costs

AUGUSTA | Gov. John Baldacci on Tuesday called on Mainers to team up and resort to their “Yankee ingenuity” to overcome the spiraling cost of heating their homes this winter, the Kennebec Journal/Morning Sentinel reports.

In the governor’s vision, electric company meter readers, oil distributors and businesses big and small would collaborate to ensure the state’s most vulnerable citizens receive the assistance they need to stay warm.

“We need to empower and help everyone everywhere as much as we can,” the governor said in a ceremony at which he accepted recommendations from a 90-member task force on surviving the approaching winter season.

“We need them all and they all need to be involved and we need to understand that it’s upon us to help our neighbors and friends.”

In the same ceremony, the governor said he was still “not sure” whether he would convene a special legislative session to address rising energy costs.

“The question is what can’t I do that requires legislative action,” he said. “I’m going to do everything short of that.”

MICHIGAN

Small-government group faces complaint

LANSING | The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has filed a campaign-finance complaint against organizers of a sweeping constitutional amendment that would cut the size of the Legislature and appellate courts.

The complaint announced Wednesday says Reform Michigan Government Now didn’t file a statement of organization with the secretary of state last year despite working on the ballot proposal in 2007.

A spokeswoman for Reform Michigan Government Now says the ballot proposal and campaign didn’t exist in 2007.

But the complaint says that a recently uncovered PowerPoint presentation was created in November and that unions and Democrats conducted focus groups and polling more than a year ago.

The PowerPoint talks about changing the rules of Michigan politics to help Democrats.

NEW YORK

Bloomberg orders translation of services

NEW YORK | Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is ordering all New York City services to be translated into six languages.

The executive order is the first uniform, citywide policy requiring agencies to provide assistance and translation in the languages most commonly spoken by New Yorkers with limited English proficiency.

Those are Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Italian and French Creole.

The mayor says the 1.8 million New Yorkers who struggle with speaking English should be able to interact more easily with government.

MONTANA

Panels backs off carbon sequestration

HELENA | A panel of lawmakers Wednesday backed away from plans to address carbon sequestration at next winter’s legislative session, saying the topic had too many unknowns, the Billings Gazette reports.

“We need more information,” said state Sen. Verdell Jackson, a Republican, shortly before he joined six other lawmakers in agreeing not to put forward any carbon sequestration legislation in January.

Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing carbon dioxide, one of the main gases behind global warming, and injecting it underground where it cannot cause further warming.

Naturally occurring, carbon dioxide is produced by burning fossil fuels like gasoline and coal. Most carbon sequestration deals with capturing carbon from smokestacks and injecting it.

OKLAHOMA

Funding pushed for Indian museum

OKLAHOMA CITY | A state board has voted to speed up funding for an American Indian museum in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Legislature approved $25 million in bond financing for the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum.

Members of the Oklahoma Capital Improvement Authority voted Tuesday to seek interim financing from local banks to keep work on the project on track, while continuing the process of selling the bonds.

Gov. Brad Henry, board chairman, says the action will save money because of rising construction costs and the expense of the current contractor having to stop work on the project.

The museum was originally envisioned to cost $150 million. The Legislature approved an initial $38 million in bond financing for the project and about $5 million in federal funds have been secured.

TEXAS

Davis ruled eligible for state Senate race

FORT WORTH | A state district judge ruled Tuesday that Democrat Wendy Davis could appear on the ballot this fall opposite incumbent Republican state Sen. Kim Brimer. Mr. Brimer’s lawyer said he would appeal, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Mr. Brimer filed a lawsuit this month claiming that the former Fort Worth City Council member wasn’t eligible to run. The Texas Constitution says that people holding a “lucrative office” are not “eligible to the Legislature.”

Judge Tom Lowe ruled that the oath of office was lawfully administered to Ms. Davis‘ replacement at a private ceremony on Jan. 1, a day before the filing deadline for the state Senate primary for District 10, which includes parts of Fort Worth and Arlington. Ms. Davis was unopposed in that primary.

Judge Lowe wrote that he based his 10-page decision in part on an earlier state Supreme Court decision. Judge Lowe wrote that he had concerns about possible judicial activism in that “sharply divided” decision, but he felt compelled to follow its precedent.

The judge also ordered that each party pay his or her own legal expenses.

“I’m ready to begin discussing the concerns and the questions that people have about how we are going to go forward in representing them,” Ms. Davis said. Her representatives e-mailed a letter to Mr. Brimer and the media Tuesday afternoon calling for a series of debates on campaign issues.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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