Washington Lawmakers negotiating a new long-term highway bill have dropped a Senate-passed provision that would have penalized states that don’t enact tough laws against high-risk drunken drivers.
The decision to reject the Senate language came as House and Senate negotiators neared a compromise on a $286.5 billion bill to fund highway, transit and safety programs from 2004-2009.
Aides said the bill, which would replace an act that expired almost two years ago, could be completed and taken up by the House today.
“I’m profoundly disappointed,” said Wendy J. Hamilton, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. High-risk drunken drivers “are the ones who really need to be taken off the road with tough sanctions.”
Committee approves former Bush adviser
Washington The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the nomination of Karen Hughes, a former political adviser to President Bush, as the State Department’s top public relations official.
The Senate is expected to complete the confirmation process this week before leaving for its August recess.
Hughes’ main assignment as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs is to reverse anti-American sentiment around the world.
Smart kidnap suspect incompetent for trial
Salt Lake City The man charged in the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart was declared on Tuesday mentally incompetent to stand trial.
The decision by Judge Judith Atherton will send Brian David Mitchell to a state hospital until he is deemed capable of standing trial.
The judge issued her decision after six days of hearings over the past seven months. Mitchell repeatedly shouted Biblical admonitions and sang hymns during the hearings, prompting him to be removed from court several times.
Mitchell, 51, is accused of kidnapping then 14-year-old Elizabeth from her bedroom in 2002, sexually assaulting her and keeping her as his second wife.
Wife of BTK killer gets emergency divorce
Wichita, Kan. A judge waived the usual 60-day waiting period and granted an immediate divorce Tuesday to the wife of BTK serial killer Dennis Rader, agreeing that her mental health was in danger.
Rader didn’t contest the filing or appear for the hearing. He signed over the couple’s property and all his retirement benefits to Paula Rader, his wife of 34 years.
The property settlement approved by the court includes the family home in Park City, which recently sold at auction for $90,000.