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“This legislation was a top federal priority for my administration and is a great example of bipartisanship teamwork that will create thousands of jobs,” Mr. Walker said. “The construction of this safer, better bridge will bring a welcome economic boost to the region.”

Thursday’s vote capped a frantic push to pass the legislation after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton warned the bill’s House sponsor, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, that he would redirect state funding if a vote wasn’t held by March 15. The Senate passed the exemption unanimously in January.


Koch lawsuit aims at Cato takeover

Billionaire brothers and political donors Charles and David Koch are pursuing a lawsuit in their native Kansas about the ownership of a libertarian-leaning think tank based in Washington.

The Koch brothers also are longtime shareholders in the Cato Institute, a research organization that promotes free-market, small-government policies. Their lawsuit seeks a court ruling that would leave the institute with only one other shareholder, its president and chief executive officer, Ed Crane, who also is a defendant.

The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in Johnson County District Court, centers on the 25 percent ownership interest in the Cato Institute previously held by William Niskanen, who retired as chairman in 2008 and died in October. The Koch brothers contend that under shareholders’ agreements in 1977 and 1985, his wife can’t retain the shares and control his ownership interest but must give the shares back to the institute.

“We support Cato and its work,” Charles Koch said in a statement. “We are not acting in a partisan manner … all we seek is adherence to the shareholders’ agreement.”

Mr. Crane said in a statement that while Charles Koch and entities he’s controlled have provided financial support, he’s had “no significant influence” over the institute’s management, direction or work.

“We view Mr. Koch’s actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization,” he said.


Bernanke cites problems of lengthy unemployment

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is reiterating his concern that chronic long-term unemployment threatens to reduce the nation’s supply of skilled workers.

In a second day of congressional testimony, Mr. Bernanke noted that the economic recovery has been slower than normal. But he said he doubts that the Great Recession permanently reduced the economy’s growth potential.

Mr. Bernanke said he worries that more than 40 percent of America’s unemployed — 5.5 million people — have been out of work for more than six months. He said that if the problem persists, more of the long-term unemployed will lose job skills and struggle to regain them.

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