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Minnesota lawmakers remain at odds over sports betting legalization bill. The House prepared to take up the proposal Thursday evening despite a lack of support in the Senate. The House bill would put Minnesota’s Native American tribes in control by allowing in-person wagering at tribal casinos and allowing tribes to partner with mobile betting companies. The Senate bill includes the state’s two horse racing tracks. Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller says the House bill doesn’t have the support it needs to pass in the Senate because it only lets tribal casinos in on the action.

Missouri charter schools are up for a funding increase under legislation headed to the governor's desk. The Republican-led House on Thursday voted 116-29 in favor of the bill. The measure calls for at least $62 million more in funding for charter schools per year. Currently, charter school funding is pulled from the local school district's funding. But charter school advocates say that's not enough money. The Republican bill sponsor initially proposed pulling more money from local schools for charters. Critics say that would hurt public schools. Lawmakers compromised by pledging more money for charters and leaving public school funding untouched. 

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Gov. Larry Hogan has signed measures to strengthen cybersecurity in state and local governments in Maryland. The bill signings happened Thursday after lawmakers approved legislation and big investments this year to protect vital systems against cyberattacks. One of the measures aims to help local governments, school systems and health departments work with more resources and assistance from the Maryland Emergency Management Agency to improve cybersecurity. The agency will support local governments in developing vulnerability assessments and response plans. In a year of huge budget surplus, Maryland lawmakers approved roughly $570 million for cybersecurity and information technology upgrades.

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A government proposal that could make Spain the first country in Europe to allow workers to take menstrual leave has sparked debate over whether the policy would help or hinder women in the workplace. A leaked draft of legislation that the Spanish Cabinet is expected to discuss Tuesday proposes giving workers experiencing period pain three days of optional leave a month. It wasn't clear if the leave would be paid or unpaid, or whether it would be offered as flexible hours that employees would have to make up within a specific time frame. Spain’s minister for inclusion, social security and migration, sought Thursday to temper expectations, describing the final version as still “under discussion.”

Three days of early voting for the Kentucky primary election has started at designated polling places across the state. It's the result of a bipartisan election measure passed by state lawmakers. Voters can cast ballots — with no excuse needed — on Thursday, Friday and Saturday ahead of Tuesday’s election. The primary will determine each party’s lineup of candidates for the November general election. The three days of early in-person voting will become a Bluegrass State staple following passage of the 2021 legislation. Secretary of State Michael Adams says voting in Kentucky has never been more accessible or more secure. 

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The 90-year-old retired Hong Kong archbishop who was arrested by Hong Kong police on national security charges has long been a fiery critic of Beijing and the Vatican's efforts to reach a working arrangement with the ruling Communists. Cardinal Joseph Zen left a police station on bail on Wednesday night following his arrest alongside other trustees of the 612 Humanitarian Support Fund. The group provided assistance to people arrested during 2019 anti-government protests. Zen's activism dates back decades, during which he built up deep distrust of the Chinese authorities. In 2018, the retired Hong Kong archbishop warned that a deal between the Vatican and China that cedes too much power to Beijing would place the country’s Catholic followers in a big “birdcage.” 

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Colorado’s Democratic-led Legislature capped its 2020 session by passing a bill designed to confront the fentanyl crisis. The bill aims to make it easier for prosecutors to pursue felony charges while providing substantial support and treatment services. Gov. Jared Polis and fellow Democrats had pledged at the start of the four-month session to tackle rising crime and soaring inflation — key issues highlighted by minority Republicans heading into this year’s midterm elections. Several bills on those issues passed in a session highlighted by a new law enshrining the right to abortion in state statute.  

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South Carolina senators have unanimously approved a compromise that would allow the state to hold true early voting. The House quickly approved the bill raising the possibility voters could head to the polls for two weeks before the June 14 primary. Senators decided Wednesday to add qualifications for election board members and the executive director and give legislative leaders permission to ask a court to let them kick out anyone who doesn’t meet those requirements. They dropped their initial insistence for the Senate to approve the governor’s appointments to the state election board. The governor will likely sign the bill and lawmakers say early voting could be in place by the end of May. State election officials didn't immediately respond to a question if that is possible.

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Congressman Alex Mooney has won the Republican nomination for one of West Virginia’s two seats in the U.S. House. Former President Donald Trump had endorsed Mooney instead of another Republican incumbent, congressman David McKinley, who has represented West Virginia in the House since 2011. Trump and Mooney sharply criticized McKinley for being one of 13 Republicans to vote in favor of President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. McKinley bet that infrastructure improvements would matter more to voters than Trump’s endorsement in one of the nation’s poorest states. The incumbents were pitted against each other after population losses cost West Virginia a House seat. 

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An adviser to the Mariupol mayor says Russian forces have blocked all evacuation routes out of the city. The adviser, Petro Andriushchenko, said Wednesday that there were few apartment buildings fit to live in after the weeks of bombardment and very little food or drinking water. He says some residents who have remained in the city are cooperating with the Russian occupying forces in exchange for food. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk says Ukraine has offered to release Russian prisoners of war if Russia will allow the badly injured fighters to be evacuated from the Mariupol steel plant. Russian forces have surrounded the plant, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the southern port city.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to use taxpayer money to help pay for abortions for those who can't afford them. California already pays for some abortions through the state's Medicaid program. But some women don't qualify for Medicaid and don't have private health insurance. Clinics will sometimes perform abortions for free when that happens. Newsom on Wednesday proposed giving clinics $40 million in grants to help offset those costs. The money could potentially pay for abortions for women from other states who come to California for care. The U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade this summer.

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A Manhattan federal court jury has returned a mixed verdict in the trial of a New Jersey software developer who authorities say researched and photographed U.S. landmarks for possible attacks. The jury couldn't reach a verdict on one terrorism charge: providing material support for a terrorist group. But jurors did find 44-year-old Alexei Saab had received military-type training from Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization. Saab’s lawyer said much of the evidence can't be considered reliable because it came from what Saab himself told FBI investigators, and was “un-credible, crazy, unsubstantiated information." The judge also questioned whether the terrorism conviction will stand based on rules about the statute of limitations. 

Prospective homebuyers in Oregon can continue to send “love letters” to people selling homes. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez on Wednesday permanently blocked the ban. The Oregon Legislature approved the ban last year, saying such letters could aid sellers in illegally choosing buyers based on factors such as race, color, religion, sex or sexual orientation, which would violate federal fair housing laws. Conservative public interest law firm the Pacific Legal Foundation sued. Hernandez ruled that the ban, which would require a home seller to “reject any communication other than customary documents in a real estate transaction, including photographs, provided by a buyer,” was a violation of buyers’ First Amendment rights. 

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Final congressional approval of a $40 billion Ukraine aid bill seems certain within days. The Senate's top Republicans said Wednesday they expect strong GOP backing for the House-passed measure. That will signal a bipartisan, heightened commitment to helping thwart the bloody Russian invasion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told The Associated Press that he expected “substantial support” for the measure and expected Senate consideration "as soon as possible." No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Thune predicted “a big vote over here” for the bill, perhaps as soon as Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says lawmakers have a moral obligation to back Ukraine. 

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has proposed legislation to expand abortion access and require insurance companies to pay for the procedure Murphy vowed state agencies also won’t cooperate with other states that might try to prosecute New Jersey abortion providers, or women who seek abortions here. The Democratic governor's announcement Wednesday comes four months after the signed a law guaranteeing abortion rights. While offering few specifics at this stage, the governor said he wants to allow advanced practice registered nurses, physicians assistants and certified nurse midwives provide abortion services. The legislation also would mandate that insurance providers cover abortions without cost-sharing or out-of-pocket expenses. 

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Republican Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has filed paperwork to enter the state's 2023 governor’s race. Cameron is hoping to ride his resistance to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus restrictions into the governor’s office. Cameron made history in 2019 as the first African American in Kentucky to serve as attorney general. Now he’s trying to blaze another trail in his bid for governor. Cameron last year led the legal fight against pandemic-related restrictions that Beshear imposed. Cameron won the case in the Kentucky Supreme Court, which cleared the way for new laws to rein in the governor’s emergency powers.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is emphatically opposing legislation that could subject women to prosecution and prison for getting abortions. Edwards is a Democrat who has long broken from his party to support anti-abortion legislation. But he said the bill by Rep. Danny McCormick, an Oil City Republican, is “anti-woman.” He called it “patently unconstitutional” and said it would criminalize some types of contraception and parts of the in vitro fertilization process. McCormick's bill has also drawn opposition from the anti-abortion organization Louisiana Right to Life, as well as numerous groups supporting abortion rights. It's scheduled for House debate Thursday.

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Abortion legislation that was rejected in a Senate test vote Wednesday would enshrine into federal law the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Senate Democrats moved quickly to try to codify the 50-year-old ruling after a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion suggesting the court is poised to overturn the case was leaked last week. But they were unable to overcome a GOP filibuster of the bill, falling well short of the 60 votes needed in Wednesday’s 51-49 vote against moving the legislation forward. The bill would also expand protections, invalidating many state laws that Democrats and abortion-rights advocates say have infringed on the original ruling.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski has issued a statement saying he would not attempt to change existing law in Connecticut concerning abortion if he’s elected governor in November. However, the Madison businessman said Wednesday the state “should consider” legislation that would impose a parental notification requirement for minors under age 16, except in cases of rape or incest. Stefanowski says a parental notification requirement is already in place for most medical procedures performed on minors and abortion should be no exception. Nancy DiNardo, chairperson of the Connecticut Democrats, called Stefanowski’s statement “defensive, weak, riddled with extreme Republican talking points” without clarifying whether he’d sign a law outlawing abortion.

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The Senate has fallen far short in a vote toward enshrining Roe v. Wade abortion access into federal law. Wednesday's 51-49 negative vote almost along party lines provided a stark display of the nation’s partisan divide over the landmark court decision and the limits of legislative action. The afternoon roll call promised to be the first of several efforts in Congress to preserve the nearly 50-year-old court ruling. President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass legislation that would guarantee the constitutional right to abortion services after the disclosure of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. But Democrats in the split Senate lacked the votes to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.

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Minnesota lawmakers are considering lifting a cap on growler sales and letting local distilleries sell normal-sized bottles of their spirits direct to drinkers. The bill slated for debate in the House on Wednesday would further chip away at a system that long prevented direct sales to consumers. The bill was written to benefit the state’s five largest breweries: Summit in St. Paul, August Schell in New Ulm, Surly and Fulton in Minneapolis, and Castle Danger in Two Harbors. They've all grown to the point where they can no longer sell half-gallon jugs known as growlers from their taprooms. 

Alaska school districts could not adopt dress codes that bar students from wearing hairstyles associated with race or from wearing traditional tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies under legislation passed by state lawmakers. The bill, as it passed the Senate in March, also would have restricted businesses from adopting workplace dress codes that prohibit employees from wearing natural hairstyles or hairstyles associated with race. However, the section related to businesses was stripped in the House, which passed the pared down version relating to school dress codes on Tuesday. The Senate agreed to the House changes on Wednesday.

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Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly has signed a plan from Republican lawmakers into law to phase out the state’s sales tax on groceries over three years. Kelly had a ceremony Wednesday  at a grocery store in Olathe to fulfill a promise to sign the bill even though it is not as aggressive in eliminating the tax as she and fellow Democrats want. They had hoped to eliminate the entire 6.5% tax as of July 1. Only 13 states charge any sales tax on groceries. Kansas’ rate is second only to Mississippi’s 7%. The new law drops the tax to 4% in January, to 2% in 2024 and to zero in 2025.

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A first-of-its-kind federal study of Native American boarding schools that for over a century sought to assimilate Indigenous children into white society has identified more than 500 student deaths at the institutions so far. But officials say that figure could grow exponentially as research continues. The Interior Department report released Wednesday expands to more than 400 the number of schools that were known to have operated across the U.S. for 150 years, starting in the early 19th century. It identified more than 500 deaths in records for about 20 of them. The agency says a second volume of the report will cover burial sites and the impacts of the boarding schools on Indigenous communities.

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Several property owners in Virginia are suing the state Department of Wildlife Resources over a state law that allows hunters to retrieve their hunting dogs from private property. A number of states allow hunters to retrieve their dogs without permission from property owners under certain circumstances. But Virginian’s law says hunters are allowed to retrieve dogs even when the property owner has specifically denied access. The property owners allege that allowing hunters to go on their property without permission amounts to an uncompensated taking of their land. However, the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance says the vast majority of hunters are considerate of land owners and want to continue Virginia's centuries-old tradition of hunting with dogs.

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