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WHITE HOUSE

President signs 9/11 survivor-aid bill

HONOLULU | President Obama has signed into law a bill to provide aid to survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks and first responders who became ill working in the ruins at the World Trade Center.

The bill was one of the last measures Congress passed before adjourning in December. Some Republicans were concerned with how to pay for the bill and they tried to block the measure. But they dropped their opposition after lawmakers struck a compromise to reduce the costs.

The $4.2 billion measure will be paid for with a fee on some foreign companies that get U.S. government procurement contracts.

Mr. Obama signed the bill in Hawaii, where he's vacationing with his family.

ENERGY

House GOP to fight Obama carbon plan

The incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is promising a fight over the Obama administration's new approach on limiting greenhouse-gas emissions.

Congress failed last year to pass limits and let companies buy and sell pollution permits. That system was known as "cap and trade" - but to Republicans it was "cap and tax" because they said it would raise energy prices.

The administration now says it'll act on its own to clamp down on power plant and oil-refinery emissions by developing new standards over the next year.

But Michigan Rep. Fred Upton tells "Fox News Sunday" that the GOP-led House won't "let this administration regulate what they've been unable to legislate." He says Republicans want to tackle the problem "in a reasonable way."

NEBRASKA

Lawmakers expect to weigh abortion bills

OMAHA | Abortion foes fueled by success restricting the procedure in Nebraska during the last legislative session don't expect the issue to fall by the wayside in 2011.

Two anti-abortion groups that lobbied lawmakers during the last session are shopping new legislation for introduction this month, and at least one senator is working on a bill of her own.

Sen. Annette Dubas, of Fullerton, says she's preparing legislation that would limit insurance coverage for abortions under the federal health care overhaul.

Under the reform law, private plans in new insurance markets opening in 2014 can cover abortion, but payment must come from enrollees themselves, not from federal tax credits that will be offered to make premiums more affordable. Part of the law allows states to restrict abortion coverage by those private plans.

KENTUCKY

Governor's race looms over legislative session

FRANKFORT | All signs point to a tension-filled 2011 legislative session, thanks to an acrimonious governor's race involving two of the state's political heavyweights.

Posturing has already begun between Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who is seeking re-election, and Republican Senate President David Williams, who wants the state's top job for himself.

The gubernatorial matchup had given the upcoming legislative session the feel of a political showdown, with Mr. Williams taking shots at Mr. Beshear weeks ahead of the Tuesday start date.

Mr. Beshear challenged Mr. Williams to put his gubernatorial aspirations on hold until the legislative sessions ends in late March.

"There's plenty of time to run the governor's race after the session is over with," Mr. Beshear told reporters in a year-end interview.

Mr. Williams dismissed Mr. Beshear's challenge, telling reporters that the first-term governor won't honor the challenge himself.

KANSAS

GOP planning long-term rule

TOPEKA | Coming off its first clean sweep of congressional and statewide races in Kansas since 1964, the state Republican Party has drafted a plan for maintaining that dominance in politics for at least another decade.

The state GOP wants to increase its already large majorities in both houses of the Legislature, boost the percentage of voters who register Republican, set up a farm system that recruits business leaders early as potential candidates and hold quarterly forums to connect business leaders and party activists with elected officials.

The goals are outlined in an eight-page strategic plan from state Chairwoman Amanda Adkins, and the ultimate aim is giving Kansas a state government that's consistently controlled by pro-business, anti-tax, small-government conservatives — and results in the policies such control implies.

The work by party officials comes as some prominent Kansas Republicans are pondering how to capitalize on the rise of the tea party movement and as downtrodden Democrats ponder their future after a bad election.

Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, who takes office Jan. 10, said the state GOP showed last year that it could operate as a unified party. But he said it wants to sustain that success.

SENATE

Charges filed in Levin pie-in-face case

BIG RAPIDS | An antiwar protester who hit Michigan Sen. Carl Levin in the face with an apple pie has been charged with assault.

An indictment filed Thursday charges Ahlam Mohsen of Coldwater with two counts of assault against the Democrat while he was meeting with constituents in August in Big Rapids. Her friend Max Kantar of Big Rapids was also charged.

U.S. Attorney Don Davis in Grand Rapids says elected leaders should be able to listen to constituents without being attacked.

Messages seeking comment were left for Miss Mohsen and Mr. Kantar, who are both 23. Miss Mohsen's father, Mohamed Mohsen, said she's unaware of the indictment.

Levin spokeswoman Tara Andringa said he wasn't immediately available for comment. At the time of the incident, the senator said his critics were hurting their cause.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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