- - Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Gingrich lines up cash to defeat justices

Potential presidential candidate Newt Gingrich quietly lined up $150,000 to help defeat Iowa justices who threw out a ban on same-sex marriage, routing the money to conservative groups through an aide’s political committee.

Mr. Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker who has aggressively courted the conservatives who dominate Iowa’s lead-off presidential caucuses, raised the money for the political arm of Restoring American Leadership, also known as ReAL.

That group then passed $125,000 to American Family Association Action and an additional $25,000 to the Iowa Christian Alliance - two of the groups that spent millions before November’s elections that removed three of the state’s seven state Supreme Court justices. The court had unanimously decided a state law restricting marriage to a man and a woman violated Iowa’s constitution.


Lawmakers back government bank

A bipartisan group of senators, joined by both business and labor leaders, is calling for the creation of government-owned but independent infrastructure bank to channel private sector investment into transportation, energy and water projects.

Democrat John F. Kerry of Massachusetts says the bank could generate as much as $640 billion in its first 10 years to “help bridge the infrastructure deficit that has been plaguing our nation for decades.”

He was joined in introducing the legislation by fellow Democrat Mark R. Warner of Virginia, Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The bank, to be established with federal start-up money of $10 billion, would provide loans and loan guarantees for projects at least $100 million in size.


Barbour press secretary resigns

JACKSON | Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s press secretary resigned Monday after remarks he meant as jokes about earthquake-ravaged Japan and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno became public.

Dan Turner said Mr. Barbour never saw the jokes that were included in a daily e-mailed news digest. Mr. Turner said they should not be considered a reflection on whether Mr. Barbour, a likely candidate to run for the Republican nomination for president, is ready for a wider political scene than Mississippi’s.

“The governor didn’t make these mistakes. I did,” he said in a telephone interview with Associated Press in New Orleans. “Gov. Barbour never even saw the comments. The daily news summary was transmitted electronically. He receives hard-copy of clips each day. I wasn’t trying to hide anything from the governor. That’s just the way it works.”

The comments were parenthetical remarks about events from a website listing daily historic events.

About Otis Redding’s posthumous gold record for “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” Mr. Turner wrote “(Not a big hit in Japan right now.”)

About Janet Reno’s confirmation as the first female U.S. attorney general, he wrote, “(It took longer to confirm her gender than to confirm her law license.)”

“Those were mine. And I was wrong,” Mr. Turner said.


Recreation sites under new rules

Recreation facilities across the country must become more accessible to people with disabilities under changes in Justice Department rules that implement the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The major rule changes are the first in two decades. It will add swimming pools, parks, golf courses, boating facilities, exercise clubs and other recreational facilities to the 7 million places of public accommodations protected by the law. It also covers 80,000 units of state and local government.

Those subject to the revised regulations, which went in effect Tuesday, have until March 15, 2012, to comply with them.

The Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas E. Perez, says the amended rules usher in a new day for the more than 50 million people with disabilities.


Panel extends import duties

A U.S. panel Tuesday voted to continue import duties on shrimp from Thailand, China, Vietnam, India and Brazil for five more years in a victory for U.S. shrimpers hurt by last year’s BP oil spill.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, by a vote of 5-1, said it believed revoking the anti-dumping order would open the door for the five countries to resume selling frozen shrimp in the U.S. market at unfairly low prices.


Lawmakers OK taxpayer thanks

SANTA FE | New Mexico lawmakers want to give taxpayers a more prominent pat on the back.

The state Senate unanimously approved a proposal Monday requiring the installation of a plaque on a new or renovated public building that provides a thank you to taxpayers before listing any elected officials in office at the time of construction.

State law already requires an acknowledgment for taxpayer funding of buildings, but the legislation ensures that gets top billing.

Republican Sen. Mark Boitano of Albuquerque sponsored the legislation, which goes to the House with little time left in the session. The Legislature adjourns Saturday.

Mr. Boitano also has proposed a measure to stop the naming of public buildings after elected officials while they remain in office. However, a Senate committee shelved that bill.

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