April 16, 2009 in City

In brief: House backs plan to join popular-vote compact

 

Washington could enter a compact with other states to cast its 11 presidential electoral votes for the national popular vote winner, under a measure approved by the Legislature.

The House passed the bill on a 52-42 vote Wednesday night. It now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has expressed support for the measure.

The compact has been ratified in Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland and New Jersey and is moving ahead in several other states. It wouldn’t take effect until enough states sign on to account for 270 electoral votes – the number it takes to win the White House.

Senate passes amended bill on felon voting rights

Convicted felons could get their voting rights back once they’re no longer in state custody, but not if they stop paying court-ordered fines, under a measure passed by the Senate.

The bill passed 29-19 Wednesday, but because the Senate made some changes it now goes back to the House, which passed it last month.

Under current law, felons can’t vote until they have served their sentences and are no longer under state custody, including any parole or probation, and have paid all restitution and other court fees.

Under the bill that passed Wednesday, felons could register to vote once they’re no longer under parole or probation. The Senate added an amendment allowing those rights to be revoked if a felon fails to make regular payments on financial obligations, including court fees or restitution.

“We want to give men and women coming out of prisons a chance to go in a new direction,” said Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, who sponsored the amendment and voted for the bill. “But that also has to be balanced with the consequences of not doing the right thing.”

MISSOULA

Key witness won’t testify in Grace asbestos trial

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean says a key expert witness in the case against W.R. Grace & Co. will not take the stand for the prosecution as was earlier planned, which will significantly shorten the government’s case.

Columbia, Md.-based Grace and five former executives are charged with knowingly exposing the residents of the small town of Libby to asbestos, a substance linked to cancer.

McLean told the court Wednesday the government will likely rest its case early next week.

The government canceled the testimony of Christopher Weis, a toxicologist for the Environmental Protection Agency, after Grace attorney David Bernick announced he would seek to exclude the testimony because it would overlap the testimony of other expert witnesses.

Inland Northwest

Vox seeks ideas on teens who’ll make a difference

The Vox, a monthly newspaper produced by area teens, will feature five Spokane-area graduates who promise to improve our world in the June/graduation edition, and it’s looking for suggestions.

This isn’t a contest. It’s a story – and we are soliciting ideas from readers.

Please send your suggestions by April 28 to Vox adviser Erin Daniels-Bangle at erind@spokesman.com or 999 W. Riverside Ave., Spokane, WA 99201. Members of the Vox staff can’t be nominated, and the student must be graduating from a Spokane-area school this year.

From staff and wire reports


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