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Supreme Court strikes down Texas abortion regulations

A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tossed out Texas abortion restrictions that would have closed more than half of the clinics in the state.

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The ruling overturned the heart of the law known as House Bill 2, passed during the second of two tense special legislative sessions in 2013, leaving 19 abortion clinics operating in the state, with the possibility that more could open in the coming months or years.

Ten of those clinics would have closed if the court had upheld the Texas law, including the Austin Women’s Health Center.

The Supreme Court said the Texas rules -- requiring abortions to be performed in hospital-like settings and doctors to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals -- combined to erect an improper barrier for women seeking abortions.

The ruling, 4½ months before the presidential election, is sure to have an impact on the race for the White House, with the winner being able to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the court’s leading conservative voice.

SEE: An interactive timeline of the Texas abortion law’s twists and turns

Abortion providers sued to overturn two parts of HB 2, arguing that the rules were medically unnecessary and were instead intended to close clinics in an unconstitutional attempt to make it more difficult, if not impossible, for many women to get abortions.

Many doctors had difficulty gaining admitting privileges, abortion providers testified, because nearby hospitals opposed abortion, did not want to get involved in a controversial issue or required a certain number of annual admissions that abortion doctors could not meet.

Providers also said abortion, a relatively safe procedure, was not made safer by the surgical-center rules, adding that it was prohibitively expensive, in some cases several million dollars, to renovate existing clinics or build new facilities to create hospital-like settings that call for fully equipped operating rooms, sterile ventilation systems, wide hallways, emergency power and other requirements found in 117 pages of state regulations.

Led by Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton, state officials argued that HB 2 was intended to protect the health and safety of women.

Paxton told the court that requiring all abortions to be performed in accredited surgical centers, would guarantee that women received high-quality treatment while ensuring that Texas would not see a repeat of Kermit Gosnell, a Pennsylvania abortion doctor who is serving life in prison in the murder of three infants born alive after late-term abortions and in the death of a patient. Investigators found bloodstained furniture, unsterilized instruments and bags of remains stored in Gosnell’s clinic.

Paxton also said the admitting privileges rule ensured that abortion doctors would continue caring for patients who experience complications after an abortion -- a claim that professional groups disputed, saying that most complications occur hours or days after the procedure, and women typically seek help from a hospital closest to their home, not the clinic.

The Texas case set the stage for the most significant decision on abortion rights since the 1990s by offering better direction to lower courts as well as state legislators on the increasingly thorny question of how much regulation is too much when it comes to laws that could shut down clinics.

The high court has said since 1992 that state regulations cannot pose an “undue burden,” a nebulous standard that left a lot of room for interpretation on which laws placed a substantial obstacle in the paths of women seeking abortions.

Ten states have enacted admitting privileges rules, for example, but courts have blocked enforcement in six of those states.

 

People post political comments on Facebook for 'self-affirmation,' study says

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Growing tired of the endless Bernie memes or Trump posts on your Facebook feed?

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A set of studies have found the reason why your social media connections feel the need to post their views.

The Huffington Post reports that a Harvard study found that sharing personal beliefs or feelings on social media works as a release for people because it rewards them for letting something out rather than keeping it in. “Expressing beliefs that are important to you functions as a self-affirmation,” psychology professor Joshua Hart of Union College told The Huffington Post. “It reminds you of the values that are central to your identity, and this gives you a psychological boost.”

A study by the Pew Research Center found that the people posting their opinions on social media are “less likely to share their opinions in face-to-face settings” because people are more likely to feel safer giving out their retorts when behind a computer screen rather than in person. “They’re expressing themselves in a forum where they’re likely to get a reaction, whether it’s the one they want or not,” Hart told The Huffington Post.

Hart said most people who post are also looking for the approval of others and “become more confident in their beliefs” when more people like, retweet or comment on the post. The Huffington Post said that there is not very much difference between Republicans, Democrats and independents regarding the number of posts with the leading posts on your own feed most likely factoring in based on your location.

Read more at The Huffington Post.

Selma to Montgomery: John Lewis live-tweets his memories

Civil rights icon John Lewis took to Twitter Monday to remember the historic Selma to Montgomery marches.

March 7 marked the 51st anniversary of the marches, which the congressman remembers as the “highest point” in the civil rights movement.

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In an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution ahead of the 50th anniversary of Selma, Lewis recalled filling his backpack that day with an apple, an orange, two books, a toothbrush and toothpaste. It was preparation for a cell, not a fractured skull.

Lewis, a Georgia Democrat, tweeted a series of photos and personal memories from the march.

“I was hit in the head by a State Trooper. I thought I saw death. I thought I was going to die,” Lewis tweeted with the hashtag #Selma51.

<iframe src="//storify.com/ajc/rep-john-lewis-remembers-selma/embed?border=false" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/ajc/rep-john-lewis-remembers-selma.js?border=false"></script>[View the story "Rep. John Lewis remembers Selma" on Storify]

Super Tuesday highlights

A look at who won and who lost on Super Tuesday. Staff video by Anthony Shoemaker.

Super Tuesday highlights: Who won, who lost?

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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each won seven states on Super Tuesday, expanding their delegate leads in the race for president.

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On the Republican side Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was able to hold his home state and take Oklahoma. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio scored his first win of the election in Minnesota.

On the Democratic side, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won his home state of Vermont, but also scored wins in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich scored no wins on Super Tuesday. He had second place finishes in Vermont and Massachusetts, but came in last in six states, behind Ben Carson.

Here are the highlights of Super Tuesday:

  • Donald Trump won Alabama, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Arkansas, Virginia, Vermont and Georgia.
  • Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Hillary Clinton won Massachusetts, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia’s Democratic primaries.
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont and Oklahoma. He won Vermont with more than 85 percent of the vote.
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won Minnesota.

Both Trump and Clinton sounded like they were moving on to the general election after their Tuesday wins.

“It’s clear tonight that the stakes in this election have never been higher and the rhetoric we’re hearing on the other side has never been lower,” Clinton said.

Trump, too, had his eye on a general election match-up with the former secretary of state, casting her as part of a political establishment that has failed Americans.

“She’s been there for so long,” Trump said from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. “If she hasn’t straightened it out by now, she’s not going to straighten it out in the next four years.”

John Kasich, who came up winless Tuesday, thanked supporters early in the night at a Super Tuesday rally in Mississippi.

Kasich has been trying to build off his surprising second place finish in the New Hampshire primary last month.

He has yet to win any states. His speech Tuesday was full of family remembrances and tributes to his supporters but very little discussion of the night’s results.

Rubio, speaking at a Super Tuesday rally at his hometown in Miami, criticized Trump.

Rubio said that over the last five days he has begun “to unmask the true nature” of Trump, whom he called a “con artist.”

He said his recent attacks on Trump have given his campaign momentum and said that Trump did not represent the legacy of the “party of Reagan.”

Here’s how each state played out Tuesday night:

—-

ALABAMA

Democrats: Hillary Clinton won big in Alabama. She defeated Sanders 79-18 percent. 53 delegates (35 district, 18 statewide)

Republicans: Donald Trump was announced the winner in Alabama as soon as the polls closed. He won 43 percent of the vote. Ted Cruz was a distant second at 21 and Rubio right behind him at 18. John Kasich came in last with just 4 percent. 50 delegates (21 district, 29 statewide).

—-

ALASKA

Democrats: No election for Democrats tuesday

Republicans: Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump, 36-33 percent in Alaska. The race was called at nearly 4 a.m. ET. 28 delegates.

—-

AMERICAN SAMOA

Democrats: It’s a win for Hillary Clinton in American Samoa.

The South Pacific island chain held its caucus Tuesday.

Clinton won 73 percent of 223 votes cast to earn four of the six delegates at stake. Bernie Sanders picked up two delegates.

American Samoa is one of five U.S. territories that cast votes in primaries and caucuses to decide the Democratic presidential nominee, even though those residents aren’t eligible to vote in the November general election.

The island chain has a population of 54,000 and is about a six hour flight from Hawaii

Republicans: No race

—-

ARKANSAS

Democrats: She used to be the first lady of this state, so she was announced the winner here as soon as the polls closed. She won 66 percent of the vote to just 30 percent for Sanders. 32 delegates (21 district, 11 statewide)

Republicans: Trump won a close race here defeating Cruz, 33-30 percent. Rubio was at 25. Carson at 6 and Kasich at just 4 percent. 40 delegates (12 district, 28 statewide)

—-

COLORADO

Democrats: Bernie Sanders scored a big win in this swing state Tuesday night. It looks like he will get more than 55 percent of the vote here against Clinton. 66 delegates (43 district, 23 statewide)

Republicans: No election for Republicans today.

—-

GEORGIA

Democrats: Hillary Clinton won Georgia early, as soon as the polls were closed. It looks like she will win more than 70 percent of the vote here. She won every county in the state except for Echols County on the Florida border. (67 district, 35 statewide)

Republicans: The race was called for Donald Trump as soon as the polls closed. The billionaire is set to get the bulk of the 76 delegates up for grabs in Georgia, the second-biggest trove of the sweep of states that are holding primaries or caucuses on Tuesday. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are in a close contest for second. Kasich is in last behind Ben Carson. Rubio managed to win the four counties in the Atlanta metro area. 76 delegates (42 district, 34 statewide)

—-

MASSACHUSETTS

Democrats: It went late into the night, but Clinton was able to declare victory in Massachusetss around 11:15 p.m. Looks like she will have just over 50 percent of the vote. 91 delegates (59 district, 32 statewide)

Republicans: Donald Trump won easily in Massachusetts taking nearly 50 percent of the vote and winning every county in the state. Rubio and Kasich are in a close fight for second. 42 delegates

—-

MINNESOTA

Democrats: Sanders scored a big win here defeating Clinton 60-40 percent. He won every district in the state. 77 delegates (50 district, 27 statewide)

Republicans: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio won his first state of the entire election here defeating Ted Cruz, 37-29 percent. Minnesota also handed Trump his first third place defeat of the entire election. John Kasich came in last with just 6 percent of the vote. 38 delegates (24 district, 14 statewide)

—-

OKLAHOMA

Democrats: Sanders won every county in Oklahoma but two and scored a big win here defeating Clinton, 52-42 percent. 38 delegates (25 district, 13 statewide)

Republicans: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was able to win his neighboring state. He beat Trump there 34-28 percent. Rubio came in third with 26 percent. Kasich was last, behind Ben Carson with just 4 percent. 43 delegates (15 district, 28 statewide)

—-

TENNESSEE

Democrats: Clinton was called the winner in Tennessee early, as soon as the polls closed. She has nearly 66 percent of the vote here. 67 delegates (44 district, 23 statewide)

Republicans: Trump was called the winner early in Tennessee and won every county except for Williamson, near Nashville. That one went to Rubio. But Cruz came in second here. 58 delegates (27 district, 31 statewide)

—-

TEXAS

Democrats: Hillary Clinton won Texas big Tuesday taking at least 65 percent of the vote. 222 delegates (145 district, 77 statewide)

Republicans: The crown jewel of the night and Ted Cruz was able to hold his home state. Cruz won 44 percent of the vote. Trump was a distant second at 27 percent. Kasich came in fourth, behind Rubio. 155 delegates (108 district, 47 statewide)

—-

VERMONT

Democrats: Bernie Sanders won his home state as soon as the polls closed. He received more than 85 percent of the vote there.

Sanders, celebrating his victory pledged to “win many hundreds of delegates” on Super Tuesday.

After thanking the raucous crowd, which periodically chanted his name, he touted how far his campaign had come in the last 10 months.

And he vowed to “take our fight” to the 35 states that would have not yet voted by night’s end.

He pledged to enact judicial reform, fix the nation’s “broken” campaign finance system and he, once again, pledged a “political revolution” and said that he and his supporters would stand up to “billionaire class” that dominates the nation’s political system. 16 delegates.

Republicans: John Kasich almost scored his first win of the election here, but ended up losing to Trump, 33-30 percent. The race remained too close to call for most of the night, but gave Trump his seventh Super Tuesday win. 16 delegates

—-

VIRGINIA

Democrats: Hillary Clinton was announced the winner in Virginia as soon as the polls closed. She defeated Sanders, 64 percent to 35 percent. 95 delegates (62 district, 33 statewide)

Republicans: Donald Trump was declared the winner around 9 p.m. with Marco Rubio a close second. Trump defeated Rubio, 35-32 percent. Cruz was third with 17 percent and Kasich was fourth with 9 percent. 49 delegates.

Kasich: Debates are 'the dumbest thing going'

Ohio Gov. John Kasich went on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week and said the current presidential debates were “the dumbest thing going.”

“It’s sort of like tell your entire life story in 30 seconds,” Kasich said of the debates. “Harry Truman couldn’t get elected this way. The thing I love are the town halls.” (Scroll down for video.)

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It shows. Kasich is regarded by many to have had his best performance yet during Thursday night's CNN Republican town hall.

During that event, Kasich described what it was like to lose his parents suddenly as an adult, and the dark place he found himself. He credited his faith with getting him through it.

That is why a moment he had earlier in the day with a Georgia college student was particularly poignant. 

At a town hall event in South Carolina, 21-year-old Brett Smith told Kasich that he had recently experienced a series of harships, including the suicide of a friend and the divorce of his parents.

Smith told Kasich, “I would really appreciate one of those hugs you’ve been talking about.”

Kasich told CNN's town hall audience on Thursday that he has heard stories like Smith's all across the country.  

>>If you're on mobile, click here to watch video of Kasich and Colbert.

Why students don't have to stand for Pledge of Allegiance in Florida

Compiled from Associated Press and Florida News Service reports.

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Students excused from having to daily recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Florida public schools would no longer have to stand and hold their hands over their heart either, under a bill that is headed to the House floor.

The House Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill (HB 1403) that would change how students are notified of their right to skip the daily pledge and what the excused student must do during the pledge.

Current law requires schools to conspicuously post a notice, telling students they don’t have to recite the pledge if a parent asks in writing for a student to be excused. The law also requires excused students to still stand and hold their hands over their hearts while the pledge is recited.

The bill would allow the notice to instead be placed in a student handbook, and excused students would no longer be required to stand or hold their hands over their hearts.

The bill was filed after a parent of a child at a Panhandle school told the school district it was not following notice requirements. A Senate companion bill has not yet been heard in the first of its three required committees.

New Hampshire recap: John Kasich's gamble pays off

This story originally published Feb. 3.

Editor’s note: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who hasn’t lost an election since his bid to lead Ohio State University student government in 1973, is closing in on the biggest bet of his political life as he tries to win over Republican presidential primary voters. 

On Monday, Feb. 1 — the day he finished eighth in Iowa’s Republican caucus — Kasich kicked off an eight-day stretch of campaigning in New Hampshire. On Tuesday, Feb. 9, he finished second to Donald Trump, securing a major win in the lead-up to the GOP nomination process.

Here is the back story. 

—-

Monday, February 1, 2016

Kasich and New Day for America, the super PAC backing him, are banking on a dicey strategy to skip Iowa and invest heavily in New Hampshire in the hopes that a solid finish will catapult him into the limelight and bring in campaign cash. It’s a strategy that has worked for some in the past and been fatal for others, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who placed sixth in Iowa and then came in fourth in New Hampshire after being the national front-runner.

“We will know on the morning of the 10th (of February) whether we are a story and it’s really going to be whether you’re saying ‘Oh, my goodness, this guy Kasich, we sort of counted him out.’ … And all of sudden you folks (in the media) will be forced to shift a little bit of your attention away from the Trumper. You might have to talk about John Kasich,” Kasich told CNN. Watch Kasich here on CNN.

Bypassing Iowa, and performing poorly in Monday’s caucuses, could hurt Kasich’s momentum in New Hampshire because voters will likely consider the Iowa results in deciding who to support, said Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Cedarville University Center for Political Studies.

“There is a very real bandwagon effect when it comes to presidential primaries,” Smith said. “People like to be associated with the winning candidate, the successful candidate.”

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Selling the candidate

Kasich, 63, entered the race in July, qualified for all seven GOP debates, earned the endorsements of the Boston Globe, New York Times and several New Hampshire newspapers, and held nearly 100 town hall meetings in New Hampshire and raised $7.6 million, outside the millions raised by New Day For America. Kasich’s narrative is that he is an experienced executive who knows how to manage government, balance budgets, fix problems, cut taxes and help those in need. He tells voters on the trail that there is the establishment lane, the outsider lane and the Kasich lane.

The race in New Hampshire is still unsettled since six out of 1o Republicans there said they have not made up their minds, according to a recent CNN/WMUR poll.

New Hampshire’s primary process, in which voters cast ordinary ballots, offers the candidates a more straightforward sprint toward victory than Iowa. But undeclared voters, who make up the largest bloc in New Hampshire, can vote in either party’s primary, infusing the race with an added level of uncertainty.

Several polls show Kasich in second place behind reality TV star Donald Trump, who finished second in Iowa behind U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. But Kasich’s grasp on second place could be in jeopardy if U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s strong third-place showing in Iowa gives him momentum and campaign money in New Hampshire, said University of Dayton political scientist Dan Birdsong.

“If, and admittedly this is a big if, Rubio can ride the momentum from Iowa into New Hampshire, he could put a dent in Trump’s support but he will likely take some support away from candidates like Kasich and (New Jersey Gov. Chris) Christie,” Birdsong said.

He added: “The only thing that should pull Rubio down is his lack of experience. Republicans are so upset with the ‘novice’ in the White House, are they really willingly to put another one in? This has been the puzzle for me. Rubio’s speech from Monday night was almost a carbon copy for the 2008 Barack Obama Iowa speech. Partisanship can be blinding.

“If Kasich wants to break Rubio’s momentum he must make the next week and the rest of the campaign about experience vs. inexperience. Although a Rubio-Kasich or Kasich-Rubio ticket could make for an interesting General Election.”

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The Trump alternative

Smith said Rubio’s third-place finish in Iowa “probably made it difficult for Jeb Bush to do anything.”

Smith said if Rubio wins or places second in New Hampshire that could make him “the clear Trump alternative,” which wouldn’t bode well for Kaisch.

Kasich is getting some help from the home team, with as many as 200 people already campaigning for him, a number which could double next week, said Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.

“We will knock on doors, make phone calls and talk to voters, help him organize rallies and town halls and various things that he’s doing to help win voters over and help him get his message out there,” Borges said.

Borges, and spokeswoman Brittany Warner, and state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, are headed to New Hampshire this week and former Centerville Mayor Mark Kingseed is already there. State Rep. Jeff Rezabek, R-Clayton, just returned from campaigning for the governor.

“The folks here are so tuned in and involved in the primary,” said Kingseed. “I think they take their duty very seriously here knowing that they have a huge influence on who the president is going to be.”

Antani, a Kasich delegate, said it is exciting to have an Ohioan in the presidential race and he’s looking forward to talking to voters in New Hampshire.

“Getting out the vote is crucial. This is probably going to be the important weekend of the campaign because if he can get a solid second place it will vault him into the other primary states and therefore give him the national exposure he needs in order to win,” Antani said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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