- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CALIFORNIA

Bill wants green cars to make noise

SACRAMENTO | Electric and hybrid vehicles may be better for the environment, but the California Legislature says they’re bad for the blind.

It has passed a bill to ensure that the vehicles make enough noise to be heard by visually impaired people about to cross a street.

The measure would establish a committee to study the issue and recommend ways the vehicles could make more noise.



The state Department of Motor Vehicles says more than 300,000 of the vehicles are on state roads. Officials say they don’t keep statistics on pedestrian accidents involving those vehicles.

The bill has been sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has not taken a position.

FLORIDA

Education board tries pilot system

TALLAHASSEE | Florida’s education board approved a federal pilot program Aug. 19 to gain more flexibility in dealing with troubled schools.

Under the federal Differential Accountability Program, schools that fail to meet standards under the federal No Child Left Behind program will receive targeted help.

Education leaders can assess each failing school and design specific programs. Florida was among six states accepted to the pilot program this year.

Also Aug. 19, the board approved its requested 2009-10 budget for submission to the Legislature.

HAWAII

State ballots add pick-a-party box

HONOLULU | Hawaii voters for the first time must pick a political party when voting in this year’s primary election, a requirement that election officials hope will result in fewer ballots being thrown out.

But members of both the Democratic and Republican parties worry that voters could get confused during the Sept. 20 primary, resulting in their votes not being tallied correctly.

The primary could decide mayoral races on Oahu, the Big Island and Kauai and will pick final candidates in legislative races.

Voters in Hawaii, as in most states, have always only voted for one party’s candidates in primary elections, which are used to narrow each party’s candidates to one per race before the Nov. 4 general election.

The 2008 election is different because voters will have to choose a political party before filling out the rest of the ballot. In previous years, voters were handed ballots color-coded by party; this year, everyone fills out the same white ballot.

State Election Chief Kevin Cronin said the new voting machines will record votes from the selected political party and disregard stray votes, which previously could have resulted in the whole ballot being thrown out.

“More votes will be counted this year,” Mr. Cronin said. “It could dramatically increase the accuracy of the ballots.”

In 2006, 5,231 ballots were invalidated for multiparty voting during the primary, accounting for nearly 2 percent of votes cast.

KENTUCKY

Plan for inmate early release halted

FRANKFORT | A Pulaski County judge has blocked a plan the General Assembly approved earlier this year to release some inmates from parole early.

Kentucky lawmakers authorized the state to give certain paroled inmates credit toward their sentences. So far, the state has granted credits to more than 1,000 inmates.

Circuit Judge David A. Tapp issued a restraining order last week blocking the state from applying the provision to inmates convicted in his three-county district in south-central Kentucky.

Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown says it’s possible the case could have statewide implications. Still, Mr. Brown says the state was following the legislature’s directions.

Judge Tapp has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Wednesday.

NEW MEXICO

Governor granted fraction of request

SANTA FE | New Mexico lawmakers fretting about state finances gave Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson a fraction of what he wanted for tax relief and health care but a big chunk of highway funding before adjourning a special legislative session.

“The most important thing that happened here is that we didn’t spend near as much as was requested,” Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales said as lawmakers headed home after five days at the Capitol.

Mr. Richardson called it a “modest” effort from which children and working families would benefit.

Legislators scaled back the governor’s health coverage proposal for children, refusing to make insurance mandatory and providing $20 million for Medicaid expansion rather than the $58 million he requested.

The $120 million tax rebate the governor proposed ended up at $56 million.

OHIO

Study: More sick days, fewer jobs

COLUMBUS | A new study commissioned by a small-business group says Ohio would lose 75,000 jobs in the next five years if voters approve a ballot issue that would give most full-time workers seven paid sick days a year.

The research conducted on behalf of the National Federation of Independent Business in Ohio says 20 percent of those job losses would occur in businesses that employ one to 20 employees, even though those businesses would not be required to offer the sick days under the ballot proposal.

Bruce Phillips, a specialist hired to conduct the research, said Aug. 19 that the sick-day mandate would force larger businesses to cut jobs or production, and that would hurt small-business suppliers.

Supporters of the ballot issue, including several big labor unions, say 2 million Ohioans don’t have any paid sick leave for themselves or their families.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Senate reviews movie incentives

COLUMBIA | A state Senate committee will begin a review of incentives aimed at giving South Carolina a bigger role in movies.

The Film Incentives Study Committee is to meet Tuesday afternoon to get an update on current film incentives from the state Commerce Department and the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department.

It will also hear about efforts to help the industry through state colleges.

TEXAS

Immigration question to get legal review

AUSTIN | Texas Republican lawmakers want an attorney general’s opinion on how far the state can go in dealing with illegal immigration, providing an early snapshot of the looming fight in the Texas Legislature next year, the Dallas Morning News Reports.

On Aug. 19, Rep. Frank Corte, San Antonio Republican, and Sen. Dan Patrick, Houston Republican, asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott if the state could legally yank the business licenses of employers who hire illegal workers, hinting that such strong sanctions - already enacted in Arizona - could find support in the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature.

They also asked if they’re allowed to ban cities from enacting “sanctuary” ordinances that prohibit city workers, including police, from enforcing immigration laws - as Fort Worth and Austin have done.

“I really believe that the citizenry are asking for something to be done,” said Mr. Corte, chairman of the House GOP.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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