LANSING

With deal nearing, state agencies brace for fallout

As Michigan lawmakers work toward an agreement on a new spending plan, some state departments already are planning temporary layoffs and other cutbacks to make ends meet.

About $430 million in cuts and spending limitations are needed to balance the new spending plan set to take effect Nov. 1.

The state attorney general’s office, for example, has planned three temporary, unpaid layoff days around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day to help deal with what it expects could be a $2 million reduction. Employees said they’d rather have everyone take layoff days than have to cut more staff, as happened earlier this year.

Lawmakers have until next Wednesday to agree on a new spending plan, or risk a repeat of the partial government shutdown that struck in the early hours of Oct. 1. The state is operating under a 30-day extension of the past spending plan.

LOS ANGELES

Red tape grounded aircraft as Calif. fires began

As wildfires were charging across Southern California, nearly two dozen water-dropping helicopters and two massive cargo planes sat idly by, grounded by government rules and bureaucracy.

How much the aircraft would have helped will never be known, but their inability to provide quick assistance raises troubling questions about California’s preparations for a fire season that was widely expected to be among the worst on record.

It took as long as a day for Navy, Marine and California National Guard helicopters to get clearance early this week, in part because state rules require all firefighting choppers to be accompanied by state forestry “fire spotters” who coordinate water or retardant drops. By the time those spotters arrived, the powerful Santa Ana winds stoking the fires had made it too dangerous to fly.

WASHINGTON

Dems attack Rice’s management of Iraq diplomacy

House Democrats yesterday accused Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice of grossly mismanaging diplomatic efforts in Iraq and concealing information from Congress, putting a visibly frustrated Rice on the defensive.

At a hearing by a congressional watchdog committee, Democratic lawmakers said the State Department under Rice had been too lax with armed security contractors, ignored corruption at the highest levels of the Iraqi government and was sloppy in overseeing construction of the costly new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

WASHINGTON

House passes SCHIP, but margin not veto-proof

The House passed a revised children’s health proposal yesterday, but not by the two-thirds margin that supporters will need if President Bush vetoes the measure as promised.

The 265-142 vote was a victory for Bush and his allies, who urged House Republicans to reject Democrats’ claims that changes to the legislation had met their chief concerns. If the same vote occurs on a veto override attempt, Bush will prevail, as he did earlier this month when he vetoed a similar bill.

The tally was seven votes short of a two-thirds majority. Several House members were absent.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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