- - Wednesday, January 12, 2011


CREW files complaint

A leading ethics watchdog group filed a formal complaint on Wednesday against two Republican House members who took part in committee debates and floor votes despite having missed last week’s formal swearing-in ceremony for the 112th Congress.

GOP House leaders admitted the glitch involving Reps. Pete Sessions of Texas and freshman Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, scheduling a belated oath for the two members with new Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and passing a bill nullifying votes the pair had cast on a half-dozen bills.

But officials at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said they filed a formal complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics after learning that the two Republicans missed the swearing-in session to attend a fundraiser in another part of the Capitol. Mr. Fitzpatrick contended the event was not a fundraiser but a reception for constituents and supporters.

“Two Republican House members have blatantly violated not only House rules, but federal law and the Constitution,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Will they be held accountable or given a pass?”


Lawmakers cite failure to disclose

A Senate document says the Pentagon failed to disclose clandestine cyber-activities in a classified report on secret military actions that goes to Congress, providing a public peek at ongoing oversight questions surrounding the government’s computer-war capabilities.

A brief written exchange between Senate questioners and the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for special operations, Michael G. Vickers, underscores worries that oversight of the Defense Department’s cyber-operations is still a murky work in progress for the Obama administration.

The question posed to Mr. Vickers by the Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concerns that some cyber-activities were not included in a quarterly report on clandestine activities.

Mr. Vickers has been nominated as the Pentagon’s new intelligence chief. If confirmed, he said, he would keep Congress apprised of cyber-activities.


Gay marriage repeal shelved

CONCORD | Republicans who control the New Hampshire House have decided that repealing the state’s gay marriage law won’t be on their agenda this year.

House Republican Leader D.J. Bettencourt confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday that jobs and the economy will be the top priorities on an agenda to be announced Thursday. Mr. Bettencourt says there’s widespread agreement that social issues will have to take a back seat.

Gay marriage was enacted in 2009 when Democrats controlled the Legislature. Democratic Gov. John Lynch signed the law and has since said he would veto any repeal attempt.

Conservatives were hoping for enough votes to repeal gay marriage and overturn a veto after voters in November elected a Republican majority to the Legislature.


State election bill to cover mail

TOPEKA | Kansas Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach’s plan for addressing election fraud will include proposals dealing with mail-in ballots.

Mr. Kobach told the Associated Press on Wednesday that the provisions he is drafting to deal with mail-in ballots are important to his goal of giving Kansas the strongest law on election fraud in the nation.

The Republican promised during his campaign last year to propose legislation requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls and to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote for the first time in a new location.

But he said Wednesday that his proposal will require voters who request mail-in ballots to provide a driver’s license or identification number. Also, he said county officials will have to verify the requesters’ signatures.


Lawmaker considers spear-hunting bill

HELENA | A Thompson Falls lawmaker wants Montanans to have the option of hunting with a hand-thrown spear.

The Independent Record reports that the Senate Fish and Game Committee discussed Republican Sen. Greg Hinkle’s bill on Tuesday and nearly voted to approve it. However, committee members decided the bill needed to clarify the hunting season in which the practice would be allowed. The committee is expected to consider the bill again on Thursday.

Mr. Hinkle said about a dozen other states have legalized the use of spears in hunting. Senate Bill 112 also would allow the use of an atlatl, a spear thrown with a separate device to increase power.

Spear hunters often await their game from up in trees or track the game with dogs.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is taking no position on the bill.


Initial checks show accuracy

The U.S. Census Bureau is confident that official 2010 census results reflect high levels of accuracy, improving from a decade ago.

Director Robert M. Groves said Wednesday that a preliminary comparison of 2010 results with independent measures showed good accuracy.

He acknowledged that census workers in some dense urban and low-income areas had trouble getting responses. In those cases, the government queried building managers for information.

Last month, the Census Bureau reported a 2010 tally of 308.7 million people, with most growth in the South and West.

In 2000, the census count was 1.3 million people too many, largely because some affluent whites were counted twice. About 4.5 million people were missed, mostly blacks and Hispanics.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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