- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Legislators on tour

JUNEAU | Now that Alaskan legislators have wrapped up a week of natural-gas pipeline hearings in the state capital, they’re heading out on an unusual, likely unprecedented, “road show,” Anchorage Daily News reports

Individual lawmakers and sometimes committees have held hearings before in cities and villages outside Juneau, but this time, all 60 senators and representatives are eligible to join the road show.

The tour is expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars, and lawmakers are divided on whether a swing across the state is necessary.

Backers defend it as a proper prelude to one of the Legislature’s most important decisions - whether to support or reject a $500 million deal with a Canadian company proposing to build a natural-gas pipeline.

“It’s probably going to be expensive, and we’ll probably take some heat for it,” said Rep. Craig Johnson, Anchorage Republican.

The way he and some of his colleagues see it, lawmakers need some face time with real Alaskans - with people other than lobbyists and lawyers.

During the next month, through July 8, legislators aim to hold hearings in Fairbanks, Anchorage, Palmer, Soldotna, Barrow and Ketchikan.


Mosquito money follows floods

PIERRE | Gov. Mike Rounds said the state is providing an additional $202,000 for local mosquito-control programs in cities hit by heavy rains and flooding. State disaster funds are being tapped to provide the extra money in the fight against West Nile virus.

More than 1,600 cases have been reported in the state since 2002, including 26 deaths. The state earlier had given $412,000 to communities for mosquito control.


Leaders seek gentler debate

PHOENIX | More than a dozen religious leaders are urging elected state officials and community leaders to find a more compassionate way to debate immigration policy.

The mostly evangelical leaders wrote a letter to the governor, House speaker and Senate president asking them to rethink their rhetoric as they search for a viable approach to the problem of illegal immigration.

The discussion “is dividing our community, confusing enforcement procedures and creating an unwelcoming spirit for many seeking to make Arizona their home,” the leaders said in a letter. “The debate continues to focus on broad fears and assumptions concerning the complex issue of immigration.”

The Rev. Gary Kinnaman, pastor of the 6,000-member Word of Grace Church in Mesa, said faith leaders aren’t advocating a specific policy to address illegal immigration. However, they do support discussing a path to citizenship for the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants, Mr. Kinnaman said.

“No one is illegal in the eyes of God,” Mr. Kinnaman said. “Regardless of how we stand politically and how we see this issue, there are real people in the crossfire. Somehow we have to affirm the need for law and order, but by the same token, we’ve got to do something that’s compassionate.”


Pigeon pellets aid convention

ST. PAUL | The city is trying to control its pigeon population by mixing a contraceptive into bird feeders on downtown roofs. The contraceptive prevents bird eggs from hatching by blocking development of the layer between yolk and egg white.

The pellets don’t harm the birds, and the plan has the backing of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It’s part of an effort to spiff up the city before the Republican National Convention.


Text ban on move

BATON ROUGE | A bill that would ban drivers from sending text messages while driving moved to Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s desk Friday.

The bill by Sen. Julie Quinn, Metairie Republican, would make it a crime for any driver to send text messages while behind the wheel, with exceptions for emergencies. The measure, approved 30-1 by the Senate Friday, would not apply to police officers or firefighters.

Mr. Jindal has not taken a position on the bill.

Miss Quinn also has proposed other bills that would impose restrictions on cell phone use for young or inexperienced drivers. Her measure would ban drivers who have learner’s permits from using hand-held cell phones but allow them to use hands-free phones.

Penalties for either offense would be a maximum fine of $175 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.


Senator says law needs ‘some teeth’

LITTLE ROCK | In 2007, the Legislature enacted a law requiring school districts to notify prosecutors when a motorist passed a school bus that was loading or unloading children.

The law hasn´t made much difference. There´s been no verifiable reduction in the number of bus passings or surge in prosecutions of bus passers, the Arkansas Democrat reports.

A state senator who sponsored the legislation blames prosecutors. He said they aren´t being tough enough on lawbreakers.

Sen. Kim Hendren, Gravette Republican, says he plans to try to get the Legislature to revise his law in January. The safety of schoolchildren is too important to leave them unguarded against reckless drivers zooming into their path, he said.

“It hasn´t been implemented like it needs to be. The prosecutors are just not getting it done. We have to put some teeth into it and require some accountability,” Mr. Hendren said.


Graham challenger has GOP past

COLUMBIA | The man running as a Democrat against South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was an official in his county Republican Party until just before the primary election he won this month.

Bob Conley was on the executive committee of the Horry County Republicans. North Myrtle Beach Republican Club President Cleo Steele says Mr. Conley was ousted when the organization realized he was running as a Democrat in the primary to challenge Mr. Graham.

Before the Democratic primary, Mr. Conley said he had left the Republican Party years ago. Miss Steele says Conley stepped up in February of last year to become the Republican executive committee member for the area.

Mr. Conley and his campaign staff did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.


Standards lowered for scholarships

NASHVILLE | Gov. Phil Bredesen signed into law some bills to revise the state’s lottery scholarship retention rules and expand availability of home-based care.

College students will need to maintain just a 2.75 GPA to keep their scholarships through their junior years, down from the previous 3.0.

The long-term care law seeks to redirect more resources to home and community-based care.

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