- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Bloomberg’s war

“Is New York’s mayor trying to destroy the city?” James Taranto asks in his Best of the Web Today column at www.opinionjournal.com, referring to Republican Michael R. Bloomberg.

“Not only is he raising taxes; he seems to be waging a campaign of harassment against productive citizens,” Mr. Taranto said, citing a report in the New York Post that city police are issuing $2,500 fines to businesses that violate an obscure law allowing only a store’s name and street number on awnings.

“Meanwhile, WINS news radio reports that cops ticketed a Bronx man for ‘unauthorized use of a milk crate,’ a ‘crime’ that can carry a $100 fine. Jesse Taveras wasn’t a bum; he was sitting outside the hair salon where he works, taking a break. He says the cop told him to ‘blame Bloomberg.’”

Targeting Frist

“Scared off by President Bush’s popularity, look for Senate Democrats to pile instead on Republican leader Sen. Bill Frist in the coming weeks,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“Democratic strategists tell Whispers that the anti-Frist campaign will copy recent Republican efforts to paint devil horns on Democratic leader Sen. Tom Daschle. It will start with letters to Frist’s hometown papers in Tennessee hitting his judgment and leadership and expand to attacks by Democratic senators,” Mr. Bedard said.

“Early ammo is being provided by the Republicans and criticism that Frist bungled Bush’s tax cut. ‘He’s inept,’ says a Dem. ‘We’ll just quote Republicans.’”

The slim exception

Wisconsin fitness centers can bar men or women from joining their clubs under a bill Gov. James E. Doyle, a Democrat, signed Monday that exempts the gyms from the state’s antidiscrimination laws.

Mr. Doyle said he hopes the legislation will encourage more people to exercise regularly, pointing out that women lobbied for the bill because they said they feel more comfortable working out at a fitness center that caters only to them.

“Government should do everything we can to encourage physical fitness, and if this bill can help encourage women to exercise by offering a supportive environment, then it deserves our support,” Mr. Doyle said.

Wisconsin law prohibits discrimination in public accommodations based on sex, race, color, creed, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry.

Kentucky vote

Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Ben Chandler were nominated for Kentucky governor yesterday, setting up a fall battle between two well-known politicians to replace Gov. Paul E. Patton, a lame-duck, scandal-tainted Democrat.

Mr. Fletcher, a three-term U.S. representative, is considered the best Republican hope in years to capture an office his party hasn’t won since 1967. But his opponent has major name recognition. Mr. Chandler is the state attorney general and a grandson of Albert B. “Happy” Chandler, a former governor and Major League Baseball commissioner.

Mr. Fletcher said he would draw a sharp contrast between himself and Mr. Chandler.

“It’s going to be a very aggressive campaign,” he said. “That’s the nature of campaigns in Kentucky, and we’re ready for it.”

With 97 percent of precincts in, the Associated Press reports, Mr. Fletcher had 88,693 votes, or 57 percent of the total. Former Jefferson County official Rebecca Jackson trailed with 43,114 votes, or 28 percent. In the Democrat race, Mr. Chandler had 141,082 votes, or 51 percent, edging state House Speaker Jody Richards, who had 125,143 votes, or 45 percent.

California priority

The Democrat-dominated California Assembly on Monday called for U.S. Rep. Howard Coble, North Carolina Republican, to resign as chairman of a key House subcommittee because of his comments several months ago about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

During a Feb. 4 radio show, Mr. Coble said the internment was in part for Japanese-Americans’ own protection. Mr. Coble leads the House subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security.

“We were at war,” Mr. Coble said. “For many of these Japanese-Americans, it wasn’t safe for them to be on the street.”

Monday’s vote was 70-0, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Coble’s chief of staff, Missy Branson, said Mr. Coble would have no comment beyond an earlier statement in which he said, “I regret that many Japanese and Arab Americans found my choice of words offensive because that was certainly not my intent.”

California priority II

“California Controller Steve Westly said Monday that state government is likely to shut down if lawmakers take as long as they did last year to agree on a budget,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Westly wrote to lawmakers that the state would run out of cash in September and would not be able to get loans to continue operations into the fall. There would be consequences, Westly wrote, even if a budget is signed by the July 1 start of the next fiscal year: Some school and highway money would stop flowing, and vendors, contractors and legislative staffers would not get paid.”

Indiana candidate

Former Indiana and national Democratic Party Chairman Joe Andrew announced his candidacy for governor Monday by pledging to make job creation his top priority and Indiana a leader in automobile technology.

“If you want a governor who values those Hoosier virtues of hard work, frugality, faith, patriotism and common sense, then join me on this journey,” he said before family, friends and supporters at an Allen County farm where he spent some of his boyhood years.

State Sen. Vi Simpson is also seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Five Republicans have announced plans to run, and Mitch Daniels, who is stepping down as White House budget director, is widely expected to join the race, the Associated Press reports.

Riley’s taxes

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley proposed the largest tax increase in state history Monday, a $1.2 billion package that would erase the worst budget deficit since the Great Depression.

Mr. Riley, a Republican, said Alabama is facing a $675 million shortfall. Without new revenue, he said, the state must lay off 3,000 teachers, release thousands of prisoners and cut medication for the mentally ill.

He proposed changes in income, property, sales and business taxes that would affect the 35 percent of residents with the highest incomes. Others are supposed to see a drop or stay even, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Riley called the Legislature into special session Monday to consider the plan and an accompanying package designed to make the increases more palatable, including college scholarships based on grades rather than income.

Gas-tax fight

“Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, Colorado Republican, is slowly gathering allies in her fight to prevent an increase in the federal gas tax to pay for additional highway construction,” United Press International reports in its Capital Comment column.

“The increase, or the indexing of the current tax to inflation, is one idea being floated out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee even while the White House is sending strong signals it is opposed to such a measure,” the wire service said.

“In spite of veiled suggestions that those opposed to the tax increase might have difficultly getting their projects on the approved list, Musgrave has managed to get almost 30 of her colleagues to sign on to a letter to Speaker [J.] Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. While not, by any means, a majority of the conference, the 30 members who have signed the letter get Musgrave 60 percent of the way to the 50 signatures needed to request a formal meeting of the House Republican Conference — where the party could adopt an official position against raising the gasoline tax.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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