- - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

SENATE

Panel OKs limited funds for high-speed rail

The Democratic-led Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to provide $100 million to build high-speed rail lines, a small portion of what President Obama has proposed for one of his economic priorities.

The panel voted by voice Wednesday to include the money in a $110 billion transportation and housing bill for next year.

The bill’s author Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, included nothing for high-speed rail in the original measure, citing budget constraints.

But senators backed an amendment by No. 2 Senate Democratic leader Richard J. Durbin of Illinois adding the money. He said it would come from unspent money in past home district projects called earmarks.

In the Republican-run House, a subcommittee has approved legislation that denies any of the $8 billion Mr. Obama wants for high-speed rail next year.

JUSTICE

Judge tosses challenge to election monitoring

A federal judge has dismissed a challenge to election monitoring for racial discrimination required under the Voting Rights Act.

U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled against Shelby County in Alabama, which sued the Justice Department to stop the monitoring mostly across the South.

The county said it should no longer need federal approval before changing even minor election procedures such as moving a polling place or redrawing school district lines.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was extended in 2006 for 25 years. It relies heavily on evidence of past discrimination to determine which state, county and local governments should be covered by the “pre-clearance” requirement for election changes.

Judge Bates said that when Congress was renewing the law, it found that discrimination in those jurisdictions still existed.

JUSTICE

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