3.30.15:  Indiana state lawmakers to address religious objections law


NDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Both Democratic and Republican leaders in the Indiana General Assembly plan news conferences to address a new state law that’s been criticized over concerns it could foster discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Republican Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long and Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma plan a Monday morning event, saying they’ll “discuss their plans for clarifying” the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

A half-hour later Monday morning Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane and House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath plan a news conference “to respond to calls for legislative action” regarding the law.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the measure last week and defended it during a television appearance Sunday. The act prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs.

Gov. Pence is defending his state’s new religious rights law from criticism that it could foster discrimination against gays.

Pence appeared on ABC’s “This Week” to discuss the Religious Freedom Restoration Act he signed last week prohibiting state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs.

The Republican did not answer directly when asked whether it would be legal for a business to refuse to serve gay customers. Pence said the law is “about empowering people to confront government overreach” and is modeled on a 1993 federal law.

Pence said if lawmakers send him a bill to clarify the law’s intent, he’ll look at it, but insisted that the law won’t be changed.

3.30.15:  National parks call on Americans to ‘Find Your Park’


WASHINGTON (AP) — After nearly 100 years, the National Park Service holds some of the most beautiful and historic places in the country. But there’s also an $11 billion backlog of unfunded maintenance and a visitor base that’s aging and mostly white.

Now the park service is preparing for its centennial in 2016 by launching a major campaign Thursday to raise support and introduce a new, more diverse generation of millennials and children to the national parks.

Michelle Obama and Laura Bush will co-chair the campaign, calling on Americans to “Find Your Park” to enjoy their public lands. Behind the scenes, officials are also working to expand their fundraising and congressional support to improve the nation’s parks.

The push to “Find Your Park” is the third major campaign in the national parks’ history.

3.30.15:  JetBlue computer outage causes delays for passengers


NEW YORK (AP) — JetBlue says a computer outage that has caused delays for its passengers has been resolved.

JetBlue Airways says that it has fixed a systemwide computer problem that has caused delays because the airline had to manually check in passengers.

NBC News reports that the airline had to issue handwritten boarding passes to passengers at many airports.

JetBlue did not immediately respond to inquiries on how long it would take to work through delays and get operations back to normal.


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.