- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 30, 2008

CALIFORNIA

Critics say bill touts drinking

SACRAMENTO | A bill that would allow Budweiser to distribute free T-shirts to adults in California is being protested by small breweries and anti-alcohol advocates who fear the measure would give the “King of Beers” an unfair business advantage and encourage underage drinking, the Mercury News reports.

The bill, carried by Assemblyman Alberto Torrico, Fremont Democrat, seeks to modify the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which prohibits beer makers from giving away promotional marketing items valued at more than 25 cents.

Anheuser-Busch has complained for years that the monetary limit prevents the giant company from giving away more than key chains and can openers at marketing events. The proposed law, which has cleared the Legislature and is on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk, would increase the limit to $3. The higher amount, a company spokesman said, would allow Budweiser to hand out T-shirts and baseball caps.

California’s alcohol laws allow the makers of distilled spirits to give promotional items worth $5.

“Our goal here is to simply level the playing field between beer and distilled spirits,” said Andrew Baldonado, a Sacramento-based executive for Anheuser-Busch, the principal supporter of the measure.

COLORADO

Hiring, construction targeted for cuts

DENVER | Saying uncertain economic times require tough measures, Gov. Bill Ritter last week announced a freeze on hiring new state employees and ordered a halt to new construction.

It was a major reversal for Mr. Ritter, who previously said it was too early to begin slashing the state budget before Congress approved a bailout of the financial industry.

Among the first items to be cut was a plan to spend $30 million for expanding full-day kindergarten and $50 million for capital construction projects that were approved but not under way.

At the University of Colorado, officials began reviewing what impact Mr. Ritter’s order would have on its campuses and said the freeze might affect three construction projects, including two on the Boulder campus.

“As we have in the past, we will work closely with the governor to do our part to help Colorado address its fiscal challenges,” CU President Bruce Benson said.

The freeze could affect a $9.4 million renovation of the Ketchum Arts and Sciences Building, which was scheduled to be completed by June 2009, said Bronson Hilliard, a spokesman for the Boulder campus. Also, the state had dedicated $14.1 million for a $15.7 million renovation at the Ekeley Sciences Building that was expected to be finished by July 2010.

“We don’t know what this will do to the timeline,” Mr. Hilliard said. “It will potentially impact the time of completion.

CONNECTICUT

Female office-seekers at all-time high

HARTFORD | Encouraged by national trends and the state’s campaign finance reforms, a record number of 102 women are running for General Assembly seats this year, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz announced.

“In Connecticut, 2008 is turning out to be the year of the woman,” Miss Bysiewicz said. “In the 1970s, Ella Grasso shattered Connecticut’s glass ceiling; the women running this year are continuing in that tradition of adding important ideas and perspective to the political process.”

Fourteen women are candidates for the state Senate, and 88 are running for state representative, the Danbury New Times reports.

“It is great news that more women are running for office,” Miss Bysiewicz said. “Both major political parties, the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University and the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) deserve credit for their work in recruiting women.”

Teresa C. Younger, executive director of PCSW, said in an interview that she thinks Connecticut’s long history, exemplified by Mrs. Grasso’s 1974 gubernatorial election, in which she became the first female governor in the nation, has set the scene for the 102 candidates.

“It’s record-breaking, and I think it’s a reflection of a perfect storm,” Miss Younger said. “In the past couple of years, there have been more opportunities for women to run for office and mechanisms to run for office, along with an incredibly long history with women in leadership roles.”

MICHIGAN

Lawmakers wrestle with graduation criteria

LANSING | The debate over Michigan’s tougher high school graduation requirements continues in the state Legislature.

The Democrat-led House passed a bill last week that would allow some students to opt out of the mandatory curriculum earlier than now allowed by state law. Students still would have to get permission to skip some of the mandatory classes and start what’s called a personal curriculum with alternative classes.

The Michigan Department of Education is fighting efforts to weaken graduation standards, which call for four years of math and English and other requirements.

The requirements start with the graduating class of 2011.

RHODE ISLAND

Law makes retiring this season’s event

PROVIDENCE | All around Rhode Island, retirement parties have emerged as the social events of the season.

State offices from Providence to Cranston are lined with invites promising cocktails, dinner or just coffee honoring another, and another, departing colleague, the Providence Journal reports..

As the state closes in on Wednesday’s deadline, after which new retirees will have to pay more - in some cases double - for their health insurance, hundreds of employees across state government have retired. Many of those say they made the difficult decision to leave years before they otherwise might to avoid the increases.

Thus far in 2008, 1,259 of the state’s roughly 14,000 employees have announced their departures, close to four times the number that did so between January and September of last year, according to the state treasurer’s office, which oversees the retirement board.

Some in state government predict that number could increase substantially by Wednesday’s deadline.

The exodus prompts questions about what happens to the departments and units left with gaping holes in their staffs.

Unlike other years when the governor has simply replaced those who have retired, the administration this year says it is “not certain” how many of those jobs it can refill, given the leftover $33.6-million state deficit and the national financial crisis.

WYOMING

State ranked low for disclosure laws

CHEYENNE | Wyoming once again has received a failing grade for its political campaign-disclosure laws and practices.

The Campaign Finance Disclosure Project has ranked Wyoming at or near the bottom of its national survey on campaign disclosure since it began in 2003.

However, a spokeswoman for the project says that an online system the Wyoming State Legislature approved last year should improve public access to campaign information. The system is scheduled to be operational by 2010.

Kim Alexander is president of the California Voter Foundation, a group that helped publish the report. She says Wyoming’s new system is a significant sign of hope things will improve.

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