- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2008


State earns high marks for disclosure

JEFFERSON CITY | Five years after receiving a “D” for access to campaign-finance data, the Missouri Ethics Commission’s Web site has become one of the 10 best disclosure systems in the country, according to a study released Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.

The accolades came from the Campaign Disclosure Project, a California-based group that grades states annually on how easy it is for the public to follow the money in political campaigns.

The latest report gives Missouri a B and calls it the fourth “most improved” state. Missouri tied with Hawaii for the seventh-best disclosure system nationally.

Illinois, which ranked second in 2003, dropped to 14th, partly because testers had trouble navigating to the disclosure site from the state of Illinois’ home page. The state still got a B.

The grades are based on factors such as how much detail is provided about a contributor.


Companies not fined for lack of ‘green’

CARSON CITY | Nevada’s biggest power companies will once again avoid paying fines for failing to meet mandated levels of “green” or renewable energy usage, under terms of a tentative agreement outlined Thursday at a state Public Utilities Commission hearing.

The agreement helps Reno-based Sierra Pacific Power Co. and Las Vegas-based Nevada Power Co., which didn’t meet a mandate imposed by the Legislature in 2001 to get 9 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal sources in 2007. Of that, 5 percent is supposed to come from solar-energy sources.

The overall 9 percent figure for 2007 is scheduled to increase to 15 percent by 2013, under terms of the 2001 law. That figure was raised to 20 percent by the 2005 Legislature, in efforts to encourage conservation and boost usage of renewable energy.

The agreement notes that for 2007, Sierra Pacific met the solar portfolio standard but not the non-solar standard, while its sister company, Nevada Power, didn’t meet either standard.


Lawmakers take aim at hunting rights

BISMARCK | Property rights advocates are squaring off with sportsmen and ranchers as the state Legislative Assembly decides whether to extend a ban on selling the right to hunt on property separately from the land itself.

The ban - the only one of its kind in the nation - has support from the group that represents the state’s beef cattle industry, the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, but its foes predict more opposition as people learn more about it.

“I don’t think it’s a legislator’s business to determine what somebody should be or shouldn’t be able to do with their land,” said Rep. Duane DeKrey.

Last year, the legislature overwhelmingly voted to bar landowners from permanently selling the right to hunt on their property without selling the land itself along with it.

The restrictions expire June 30. The legislature’s interim Natural Resources Committee, which has been studying the issue during the past year, has recommended making them permanent.

North Dakota law allows landowners to sell other property rights separately, including the right to mine coal, graze livestock, pump water and explore for oil.

The legislation does not prevent landowners from leasing temporary hunting rights to others, and a North Dakota Game and Fish Department program that pays landowners to allow hunters access to their property is exempt from its provisions.


Gun-ban law struck down

COLUMBUS | The Ohio Supreme Court has struck down a law in the city of Clyde that banned people from carrying concealed guns in a public park.

In a 4-3 decision announcedThursday, the high court said the city ordinance conflicts with Ohio’s concealed-carry law. The court rejected Clyde’s claim that the city was exercising its home-rule powers.

The city was sued by the group Ohioans for Concealed Carry, which argued parks are prime spots for criminals and that visitors ought to be able to protect themselves.

The state General Assembly in 2006 passed a concealed-weapons law stripping local governments of the authority to pass tougher gun laws than the state law, which bans concealed weapons from most public buildings, including stadiums and arenas but not parks.

Clyde is about 40 miles southeast of Toledo.


Turnpike lease deal dead for fall

HARRISBURG | Pennsylvania’s search for billions of dollars to patch up its transportation infrastructure was dealt a significant setback Friday when key leaders of the state Senate said a Pennsylvania Turnpike lease deal will not be approved this year.

“There is no support for taking it up in this fall session,” said Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, Delaware Republican. “And we should not rush into such a major policy decision under some sort of artificial deadline.”

Gov. Edward G. Rendell and the plan’s other supporters last week called for speedy legislative action on the lease idea after federal regulators rejected a competing plan to raise transportation dollars by tolling Interstate 80.

The 75-year turnpike lease would include a $12.8 billion upfront payment to subsidize mass transit and repair the state’s bridges and roads.


Candidate on duty in Ike’s wake

AUSTIN | Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Noriega, who reported Sept. 14 for Hurricane Ike duty with the Texas Army National Guard, is unsure of how long he’ll need to remain at his post at Austin’s Camp Mabry.

Mr. Noriega, a lieutenant colonel in the Guard’s 36th Division, which has 2,300 soldiers on duty around the state, said Sept. 16 could be absent from the campaign trail for a longer spell before the Nov. 4 election, the Austin American Statesman reports.

“I mean, the question is: Is a U.S. Senate race that compelling?” the Houston state representative said. “I don’t know the answer to that.

“We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball here. We’ve got an entire island that’s been wiped off the face of our state. All of our guys are going to be involved in that, both on Bolivar Peninsula and [Galveston] island.”

Like other candidates, Mr. Noriega and Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican seeking his second term, confront a political season affected by weather beyond their control, though the Texas secretary of state’s office said Sept. 16 that it’s too early to tell if Ike fallout will delay early voting, slated to begin Oct. 20.


Drunken driving cases continue to rise

CHEYENNE | Drunken-driving convictions continue to rise in Wyoming, and could top 4,500 for the first time this year, state figures show, the Jackson Hole Star Tribune reports.

“I think for 2008, we are going to see a rise again,” said Tom Loftin, support services administrator for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, during testimony to the Legislature’s Joint Interim Judiciary Committee on September 15.

Drunken-driving convictions are increasing by an average of about 150 per year, putting Wyoming on track for 4,538 convictions in 2008, state figures show.

More than 3,100 people were convicted of drunken driving for the first time in 2007, up from 2,842 in 2006.

Repeat offenders are also on the rise. Nearly 980 people received a second-drunken driving conviction in 2007, up from 883 in 2006.

The number of third-time drunken-driving convictions rose to 278 in 2007, up from 244 in 2006.

State officials attribute the increase in convicted drunken drivers to a number of factors including more funding and training for law enforcement, public pressure on law enforcement and an increased willingness by the public to report drunken drivers.

State lawmakers defeated an attempt to strengthen drunken-driving laws last year.

House Bill 73, which would have made it a felony to receive three drunken-driving convictions in seven years, or five convictions in a lifetime, died in the Senate.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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