Texas redistricting awaits governor's signature

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

AUSTIN -- After six months, two walkouts and three special legislative sessions, lawmakers have signed off on a new congressional redistricting map that likely will send more Texas Republicans to Washington.

The Texas Senate approved the bill Sunday, sending it to Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who was expected to sign it.

Republicans have said they could pick up as many as six additional seats in Texas' 32-member delegation, which is ruled 17-15 by Democrats. Democrats said the map would add seven Republicans.

After the vote Sunday, Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the new plan better reflects voting trends in the state.

"I think this map will lend, will create, new members of Congress being elected in the 2004 elections," Dewhurst said.

Domestic partner benefits offered in California

SAN FRANCISCO -- California has became the first state to require businesses with large state contracts to offer domestic partners the same benefits that spouses enjoy, although the law will not take effect until 2007.

Outgoing Gov. Gray Davis signed the bill enacting the measure, which had been a key goal of gay rights groups.

Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, called the move "incredibly significant."

"There are a lot of businesses that want state contracts, and in order to be eligible, companies will now have to give equal benefits," Kors said.

In 1996, San Francisco became the first jurisdiction in the country to adopt such a requirement, prompting numerous companies to offer benefits to domestic partners, Kors said. Other cities have since followed suit, and California is the first state to approve such a law, Kors said.

The measure narrowly cleared the legislature earlier this year, passing the assembly with the minimum number of votes needed.

Stewart says she does not expect prison time

NEW YORK -- Martha Stewart, in her first televised comments since she was indicted in a stock-trading scandal in June, says she is scared but does not believe she will go to prison.

The comments, released Monday by ABC News, came in an interview conducted over the weekend by Barbara Walters that will air in November, two months before Stewart's scheduled trial.

"Who wouldn't be scared?" Stewart said, according to the ABC excerpt. "Of course I'm scared. The last place I would ever want to go is prison. And I don't think I will be going to prison, though."

Stewart, 62, is accused of selling ImClone Systems stock in 2001 because she was tipped that the family of ImClone founder Sam Waksal was selling. The next day, the stock plunged on a negative report from the Food and Drug Administration.

Stewart has made two court appearances since she was indicted June 4 along with her former stockbroker, Peter Bacanovic. Both have pleaded innocent and are scheduled for trial Jan. 12.

The five counts against Stewart carry a total maximum prison sentence of 30 years, but Stewart would likely receive far less under federal sentencing guidelines if convicted.

Ex-Milwaukee senator to stand trial on 18 counts

MADISON, Wis. -- A former state senator will stand trial on charges of using his office to collect campaign contributions during his bid for attorney general, a judge ruled Monday.

Sen. Brian Burke, a Democrat, faces 18 felony counts. He is among five Wisconsin lawmakers charged in a probe into illegal campaign activity at the state Capitol.

Prosecutors have alleged the lawmakers used legislative employees and state resources to fuel their quest for campaign donations and traded political favors for contributions.

Burke's lawyer had argued that the allegations were based on guesswork and didn't show he harmed the state.

-- From wire reports

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