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Political Scene

- - Monday, July 26, 2010

CONGRESS

Langevin marks disabilities act

Rep. Jim Langevin, who is paralyzed from the chest down, presided over the House for the first time on Monday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Rhode Island Democrat, who in 2000 was the first quadriplegic elected to the House, used a newly installed mechanical lift system to gain access to the speaker's podium in his motorized wheelchair.

Mr. Langevin, 46, has used a wheelchair since being paralyzed in a shooting accident as a teen. The disabilities act opened access to public places and employment for people with physical and mental handicaps.

Mr. Langevin said his temporary turn wielding the gavel marks an important step for people with disabilities and he hopes it inspires others.

"What a powerful symbol of inclusion and opportunity for anyone who wants to serve in the United States Congress," he said in a telephone interview with Associated Press on Monday. Congress has become increasingly accessible in the past decade for people with disabilities, he added.

Mr. Langevin was paralyzed as a 16-year-old Boy Scout cadet working with police in Warwick, R.I. He was in a locker room watching officers examine a gun they thought was unloaded when the weapon accidentally fired. A bullet ricocheted off a metal locker and severed Mr. Langevin's spinal cord.

The lawmaker recalled lying in a hospital bed after the shooting and wondering what his life would be like from then on.

"I know the inspiration I took from other people and how they overcame their challenges," said Mr. Langevin, a leading advocate in Congress for people with disabilities.

CONGRESS

Pelosi, McConnell diverge on stimulus

LOUISVILLE, Ky. | House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are giving starkly different assessments of what last year's $787 billion stimulus package has done amid the deep recession.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, told a gathering of state legislators meeting Monday in Louisville that the stimulus has created or saved as many as 3.6 million jobs so far. She said more jobs will be created in the first eight months of this year than were created in the eight years George W. Bush was president.

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the stimulus hasn't prevented the loss of another 2.5 million jobs. He says the stimulus is an example of congressional Democrats centralizing power in Washington at the expense of states.

The two spoke at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

WHITE HOUSE

First lady, daughter plan trip to Spain

The White House says first lady Michelle Obama will travel to Spain next week for a private trip with longtime family friends.

Mrs. Obama will be traveling with her youngest daughter, Sasha. President Obama and daughter Malia will not be on the trip.

The White House says Mrs. Obama will pay an official visit to Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia. That meeting, as well as Mrs. Obama's other activities, will be closed to the press.

IRS

Small charities get tax reprieve

The Internal Revenue Service is offering a reprieve to hundreds of thousands of small charities in danger of losing their tax-exempt status because they missed a tax filing deadline.

A 2006 law required nonprofit organizations with receipts of less than $25,000 to file tax returns for the first time in 2007. If charities failed to file for three years, they were going to lose their tax-exempt status. The law excludes churches.

The deadline for filing a return was in May. IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman said the agency is extending the deadline to Oct. 15.

The IRS has identified 325,000 charities that did not file, but many may be defunct.

FTC

Mortgage service marketers banned

Federal regulators have banned eight persons and companies from selling services to help troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure, part of settlements to charges that they used deceptive advertising to lure customers.

The Federal Trade Commission says one of the marketers was ordered to pay $11.5 million. Two other companies together must pay $6.2 million. They were the latest batch of settlements with the FTC in actions against marketers making false promises of help with mortgage modifications or foreclosure relief.

Among the companies settling charges are Loss Mitigation Services, Direct Lender and Hope Now Modifications.

CALIFORNIA

GOP invests in Fiorina ads

Republicans have reserved $1.75 million for television ads to help Carly Fiorina in the final week of the U.S. Senate race in California.

The buy signals GOP optimism about unseating three-term Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November.

Amber Marchand, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, confirmed the decision to invest in the bid of former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Fiorina. The committee previously had declined to say where it would be putting its money going into the Nov. 2 elections.

TRANSPORTATION

Delta subsidiary fined for bumping

A regional air carrier owned by Delta Air Lines has been fined $275,000 for violating regulations on bumping passengers from overbooked flights, the Transportation Department said Monday.

An investigation in response to consumer complaints revealed that Cincinnati-based Comair violated federal regulations by failing to solicit volunteers to leave overbooked flights and by not paying bumped passengers the compensation to which they were entitled, the department said.

DOT's Aviation Enforcement Office also found that Comair had filed inaccurate reports with the department on the number of passengers involuntarily denied boarding.

Federal regulations require airlines that overbook a flight to seek volunteers willing to give up their seats for compensation. If there aren't enough volunteers, passengers bumped involuntarily are entitled to up to $800 in cash depending on their ticket and the length of the delay.

In June, the department proposed raising the maximum compensation amount to $1,300 and adjusting that amount to account for inflation.

"Our bumping rules are designed to protect passengers when airlines overbook a flight," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "We expect carriers to comply with these rules and will take enforcement action when they do not."

From wire dispatches and staff reports