- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2008

ALASKA

City puts limits on energy relief

JUNEAU | City Manager Rod Swope said recent enhancements to the residential portion of a $3 million city-funded energy-assistance program are as far as he is willing to go now, the Juneau Empire reports.

“We’re not expanding it beyond this,” he said.

United Way of Southeast Alaska announced Thursday an increase in the eligibility pool for access to several million dollars, already appropriated by the Juneau Assembly, to aid “those at most risk” of financial ruin in the face of short-term skyrocketing electricity rates.

They expect nearly 50 percent of the city to apply.

Juneau Unplugged was originally open only to homes receiving federal assistance. It offered to provide grants equal to 70 percent of the rate increase. Now, homes earning as much as 300 percent of the federal poverty guideline, or $79,500 for a family of four, are eligible to receive grants equal to 30 percent of their price increase.

ARIZONA

Texting ban up for approval

A proposal to bar motorists from text messaging while driving appeared headed for preliminary approval in the state Senate on Tuesday, the Arizona Republic reports.

But opponents drew upon creative legislative maneuvers, and even a President Bush fundraiser, to help put off a vote.

Last week marked the first legislative discussion on the proposed texting ban since it was introduced in January.

Proponents said the ban would promote greater awareness that text messaging is dangerous and, in some instances, deadly. Critics, however, characterized the proposal as unenforceable, “feel-good” legislation that weakens existing laws aimed at dangerous driving.

COLORADO

Pro-life measure cleared for ballot

DENVER | State election officials say a proposed state constitutional amendment defining a fertilized human egg as a person has enough petition signatures to get on the November ballot.

Secretary of State Mike Coffman said that backers turned in an estimated 103,000 valid signatures, far more than the 76,000 required.

Mr. Coffman said the estimate is based on an examination of a computer-selected random sample of about 6,500 of the signatures, or 5 percent of the 130,000 submitted.

Mr. Coffman’s spokesman, Rich Coolidge, says any appeal of the decision would be made in state district court.

Some supporters hope the amendment, if passed, will restrict or limit abortions in Colorado.

KENTUCKY

Renovations keep pace despite cuts

The Kentucky Senate is renovating its offices at the state Capitol Annex in Frankfort, while public health programs, law enforcement, education and other state services face cuts, the Herald Leader reports.

Last week, the state requested bids for construction on the annex’s second floor to build new Senate offices, caucus rooms with kitchens, a press conference room and a Senate lounge. The 5,250 square feet of space previously was used by executive-branch agencies, which are slowly being evicted as the General Assembly claims more space in the Annex. New furniture, appliances and electronics will be purchased.

Senate President David Williams said he won’t know the project’s cost until bids are opened next week. But lawmakers can afford it. While the legislature this winter told Gov. Steve Beshear to cut $230 million from the executive branch’s $9.1 billion budget, it awarded itself 13 percent more over two years, taking it up to $55.6 million in 2010. It tucked about $1.4 million for capital projects into this year’s budget.

TEXAS

Senators question tuition increases

AUSTIN | One by one, representatives of the state’s universities were called before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday to explain why they have raised tuition 50 percent or more during the past five years, the Houston Chronicle reports..

“It was done after much anguish,” said Welcome Wilson Sr., chairman of the University of Houston’s board of regents, of the decision earlier this month to increase tuition by almost 6 percent.

Senators weren’t moved, suggesting that legislators have grown weary of ever-rising costs in the years since they gave regents the power to set tuition and raising the question of another way to pay for higher education.

Mr. Wilson and representatives of eight other universities - including the University of Texas, Texas A&M;, Texas State University, Texas Southern University and Texas Tech - appeared before the Senate Finance higher education subcommittee to discuss the issue and possible solutions.

PENNSYLVANIA

Tax breaks seen as economy boosts

HARRISBURG | State Senate Finance Committee Chairman Pat Browne, Lehigh Republican, announced yesterday that he and other Republicans will push for enactment of several tax breaks to boost Pennsylvania’s economic activity, the Philadelphia Bulletin reports.

Mr. Browne emphasized the widespread view many have of the state as a place hostile to business growth because of elements of its tax structure - chief among them the corporate net income tax, which surpasses all state corporate income taxes in size except for Iowa’s.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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