3.27.15:  GOP-controlled Senate OKs budget plan


WASHINGTON (AP) — The House and the Senate will have to begin negotiations on a compromise budget in mid-April, when they return from spring recess.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed a balanced-budget plan early this morning that calls for shrinking projected federal deficits by more than $5 trillion over the coming decade by cutting health care and other benefit programs without raising taxes.

It’s similar to a plan passed Wednesday by the GOP-controlled House.

3.26.15:  Ohio House OKs bill banning abortions after 1st heartbeat


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A ban on most abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat has again cleared the Ohio House following a startlingly emotional floor debate in which a veteran female lawmaker revealed she’d been raped and had an abortion.

The bill’s advocates have the rest of the two-year session to lobby its opponents in the state Senate.

Sponsor Christina Hagan said Wednesday her own heartbeat stopped repeatedly while she was being delivered.

Amid the tears and raised voices, the Republican-controlled chamber approved the bill 55-40 in the third such vote in as many sessions.

Proponents defend the bill as life-protecting. Opponents call it unconstitutional and heavy-handed.


3.26.15:  Indiana Gov. Pence set to sign religious objections bill


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s governor is expected to sign into law a religious objections bill that some convention organizers and business leaders are opposing.

Republican Mike Pence plans to sign the measure Thursday in a private ceremony. It would make Indiana the first state to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced. The measure would prohibit state and local laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people, businesses and associations to follow their religious beliefs.


3.26.15:   Fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week


WASHINGTON (AP) — Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, evidence that strong hiring should continue despite signs of slower economic growth at the start of 2015.

The Labor Department says weekly applications for jobless aid fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 282,000. The decrease suggests that a recent slowdown in manufacturing, housing starts and retail sales have not trickled into the job market, a possible indication that economic growth will rebound after a harsh winter.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, tumbled 7,750 to 297,000. Over the past 12 months, the average has dipped roughly 7 percent.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. The relatively low average shows that employers are holding onto workers and may increase hiring. Applications below 300,000 are generally consistent with solid monthly job gains.

3.26.15:  Tornadoes hit Oklahoma, Arkansas; 1 dead, several injured


TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A National Weather Service meteorologist says it was likely a tornado that struck a mobile home park in a Tulsa suburb, leaving one person dead.

Meteorologist Joe Sellers said Thursday that survey teams are going to Sand Springs to confirm whether or not it was a tornado, but that video footage he’s seen suggests it was.

State Department of Emergency Services spokeswoman Keli Cain said Thursday that at least nine people were hospitalized with injuries suffered in the storms. She said the total number of injuries isn’t yet known.

Just more than 20,000 power outages were reported Thursday morning, down from nearly 80,000 Wednesday night.

3.25.15:  Teens deal with many distractions behind the wheel


WASHINGTON (AP) — A study finds that distractions play a far greater role in car crashes involving teen drivers than has been previously understood. Researchers with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers moments before crashes found that distractions were a factor in nearly 6 of 10 moderate to severe crashes. That’s four times the rate in many previous official estimates that were based on police reports.


3.24.15:  GM ignition switch death toll rises to 74


DETROIT (AP) — Families of at least 74 people killed in crashes caused by defective General Motors ignition switches will get compensation from the company.

Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who was hired by GM to compensate victims, updated the total Monday. It was up from 67 last week.

An additional 126 injured people also are eligible for compensation.

The fund received a total of 4,342 claims by the Jan. 31 deadline. Of those, 1,326 are still under review. Feinberg says more than half were ineligible or lacked documentation.

GM knew about problem switches in Chevrolet Cobalts and other small cars for more than a decade but recalled them only last year. They can slip out of the “on” position, which cuts off the engine, knocks out power steering and turns off air bags.

3.23.15:  Cruz says his eyes are on the White House


LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas plans this morning to announce that he’s running for president in 2016.

The announcement will be made at the Christian college Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Hours ago, Cruz announced his plans on Twitter, saying, “I’m running for president and I hope to earn your support!”


Cruz may not be along for long.  former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and two Senate colleagues, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, are eyeing announcements soon.


3.20.15:  Schools nationwide struggle with substitute teacher shortage 

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A shortage of substitute teachers nationwide has school districts scrambling to fill positions, with some raising pay as they try to attract more applicants as the economy improves.

School officials say the problem has forced schools to divide classes when teachers are absent, making it more difficult for teachers to be effective. Using other school staff also causes problems, detracting from other duties.

A frequent source of substitutes has been education majors looking for experience. But officials say fewer college students are choosing teaching as a career path.

The founder of the Substitute Teaching Institute at Utah State, which in 2008 spun off into an online training program for substitutes, says increased pay alone usually doesn’t attract more qualified substitutes. Geoffrey Smith says they also want better training.


3.20.15:  Another snow storm to hit the northeast


PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The snow just won’t let go of the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic.

Even today, the first day of spring, a snow storm is expected, dumping several inches in some areas.

South central Pennsylvania and Western Maryland are expected to get the worst of it, with 8 to 10 inches.

New York City could get 6 inches while Boston is expected to get an inch or two.