As Friday's deadline approaches, we're pointing to stories that should help everyone get ready for "the sequester" — the $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending that would begin to kick in that day if lawmakers don't strike some sort of deal before then. (We won't call them "must-reads" because we'd never want to tell anyone that they "must" read anything about this subject. Let's refer to them as "should-reads.")
A school flexibility bill recently passed by the Alabama House is slated for debate in the Senate.
The Senate's Republican leadership plans to ask the Senate to pass the bill Tuesday. It is one of the goals for the Legislature's Republican majority this session. The bill would allow schools system to have flexibility in complying with many state education laws, provided the changes are approved by the State Board of Education. Senators say the battle will be over whether to allow flexibility in complying with teacher tenure laws.
Legislation has been introduced in the Alabama House and Senate that would repeal common core standards in schools.
The standards are also known as Alabama's College and Career Ready Standards. Supporters say the standards make it easier for Alabama students to transfer to another school or another state without being far behind or ahead.
The standards were adopted by the state Board of Education in 2010 after a number of public hearings were held around the state.
Military communities are keeping a wary eye on the sequester debate in Washington, D.C. In Maine, employees of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard have already been dealing with budget cuts. Now they could face furlough days as well. The smaller payroll could send shock waves through the local economy.
Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 8:44 am
The country has been debating gun regulations for months. Later this week, a Senate committee will start work on various proposals, including a background check on every gun sale and a ban on assault weapons.
But this debate over guns goes beyond disagreements about policy. Advocates on both sides quite literally disagree on the terms of the discussion — as in, the words they use to describe it.
Ask "gun control advocates" to describe what this debate is about, and they'll say "control" really isn't the word they prefer.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday in a case that could throw a monkey wrench into the widespread use of DNA testing — a case that pits modern technology against notions of personal privacy.
Twenty-eight states and the federal government have enacted laws that provide for automatic DNA collection from people at the time of their arrest. The question is whether it is unconstitutional to do that without a warrant, for the sole purpose of checking the DNA against a national DNA crime scene database.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 6:23 pm
To understand what's happening with federal judge vacancies, consider this: The Senate voted Monday night to approve the nomination of Robert Bacharach to sit on the federal appeals court based in Denver.
Bacharach had won support from both Republican senators in his home state, and his nomination was approved unanimously. But he still waited more than 260 days for that vote.
The Supreme Court says it won't hear a case that would have let candidates solicit money from corporations. By doing so, the court is reaffirming one strict ban on corporate political money, three years ago after easing other limits in its controversial Citizens United ruling.
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 9:55 am
Barring a last-minute deal that at the moment seems unlikely, months of brinkmanship are set to culminate on Friday.
The sequester — $85 billion worth of across-the-board cuts in federal spending — will begin to kick in, with potentially serious economic consequences, including federal furloughs and the slashing of programs.
Here are three stories we've plucked from the ether that should give a good picture of what's going on as we approach sequester D-Day:
The commission working on rewriting parts of Alabama's 112-year-old Constitution may soon become more diverse.
Alabama's Constitutional Revision Commission has 16 members and only one, Carolyn McKinstry, is an African-American. McKinstry told The Anniston Star (http://bit.ly/ZBuf2G ) that she can speak for herself, but not all African-Americans in the state.
Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 11:10 am
Once, the special election to succeed the disgraced Jesse Jackson Jr. in Illinois' 2nd District seemed impossible to handicap, especially with some two dozen or so candidates on the ballot. Thus, it became not so much a horse race discussion as a conversation dominated by concerns about race and guns. Now, according to many observers, many of the questions have given way to the sense that Tuesday's winner will be Robin Kelly, a former state representative. (We officially must wait for the general election, on April 9.)
Originally published on Mon February 25, 2013 9:01 am
With less than a week before the across-the-board-spending cuts go into effect, Republicans and Democrats are sounding off about the sequestration.
"There's easy ways [sic] to cut this money that the American people will never feel," Rep. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said on Fox News Sunday. "What you hear is an outrage because nobody wants to cut spending ... and it will be somewhat painful, but not cutting spending is going to be disastrous for our country."
Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 12:08 pm
We're getting word that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered U.S. special forces to leave Wardak Province within two weeks amid allegation of torture and disappearances centering on Afghans who are part of the U.S. forces.
Update at 1:07 p.m. ET. Order Came After Report
NPR's Sean Carberry is reporting on the move for our Newscast unit. Here's what he says:
Organizers of Selma's annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee say Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will participate in the events.
Democratic state Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma said Saturday the Bidens will attend a unity brunch and participate in the annual crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 3. Sanders said the Bidens will help observe Selma's historic role in the civil rights movement. The Bridge Crossing Jubilee celebrates the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march that led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin speaks with NPR National Political correspondent Mara Liasson about the week in politics, including the looming spending cuts facing Congress and the administration's urging of the Supreme Court to strike down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act.