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Right-to-life petition-driven bill subverts democracy

Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013
Right-to-life petition-driven bill subverts democracy story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A petition-driven bill by right-to-life to prohibit insurance companies from including abortion coverage as standard in what they sell is now in the hands of the Michigan legislature.
 
Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's a matter best left to voters, not to legislators--who themselves also signed the petition.

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Let's pretend for a moment that you and I and a group of like-minded souls have long wanted to ban football from high schools because the sport is a source of injury that many players will be suffering from in one way or another for years to come.

We know that the whole state won't agree with us. So we convince four percent of Michigan voters to sign our petition that insurers can no longer routinely cover the cost of treating football injures.

And that the Michigan High School Athletic Association ought not be in the business of providing insurance anyway.

We submit it to our legislature, where we have friends, they act on it, and it becomes law. Just like that.

Kids who can't afford insurance can't play. And we're on our way to banning the sport altogether.

Unlikely,  illogical, and undemocratic to be sure; but it's analogous to what the right-to-life petition does.

It would protect women from pregnancy from rape by forcing them to purchase an optional rider on their insurance policy. It doesn't even require insurance companies to offer such a thing.

And the only thing standing between the petition and it becoming state law is our Republican-led legislature—most of whom, by the way, already signed that petition.

It's a stacked deck.

It was also signed by about 300,000 registered voters. Four percent of the total. That's all.

Four percent! This is the way we run our democracy? Where we allow the will of a handful to dictate to the rest?

The last time I looked, on the issue of abortion, Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land.

It allows women to maintain control over their bodies. It's up to them to determine whether they will carry a pregnancy full term.

My own view is that life is the greatest choice. But a choice it remains.

And I've heard the refrain too many times: how so terribly liberal it is for that woman to have an abortion.

And on the other side: how so terribly liberal, and what a drain on the economy, for that woman to collect public assistance and food stamps to raise that child of hers.

Gov. Snyder says he thinks the bill is inappropriate, but that its not his call.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate say they're undecided.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says forcing women to buy rape insurance is the most misogynistic proposal she's ever seen.

The only right thing for this government to do now is allow the matter to go to a state-wide vote next November.

It would stop this "friends-in-high-places" approach to lawmaking, and let democracy work by letting the people—all of the people—decide.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on January 30, 2015 18:13 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy slowed in the final three months of 2014 as a big burst in consumer spending was offset by weakness in other areas.

The Commerce Department says the overall economy grew at a 2.6 percent rate in the October-December period, down from sizzling gains of 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 5 percent in the third quarter.

Consumers did their part in the fourth quarter, pushing up spending by fastest rate in nearly nine years. But businesses investment, trade and government spending weakened.

For the year, the economy grew at a moderate rate of 2.4 percent. But economists believe 2015 could be a breakout year for growth, with consumer spending boosted by strong employment gains and falling gas prices. Many expect growth above 3 percent this year.

EMPLOYMENT COST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wages and benefits rose at the fastest pace in six years last year, a sign strong job gains could be forcing companies to pay a bit more for workers.

The Labor Department says the employment cost index, which measures pay and benefits, rose 2.2 percent in 2014, up from 2 percent the previous year. That's the biggest gain since 2008. It's also ahead of inflation, which rose 1.3 percent.

Yet the increase is still sluggish by historical standards. In a healthy economy, the index usually rises at about a 3.5 percent pace.

The Federal Reserve is closing watching wages as it considers when to raise the short-term interest rate it controls. Fed Chair Janet Yellen considers rising wages a key sign that the job market is nearing full health.

US-CONSUMER-SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers are more confident than they've been since January 2004.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 98.1 in January from 93.6 last month.

Consumers say the prospects for the U.S. economy are the strongest in a decade, and half of consumers expect the expansion to keep going another five years.

The Michigan survey was the latest evidence that strong job growth and tumbling oil prices have lifted consumers' spirits. The Conference Board on Tuesday reported that its consumer confidence index climbed to the highest level since August 2007. And the Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending rose from October through December at the fastest pace in nearly nine years.

AMERICAN AIRLINES-PILOTS

DALLAS (AP) -- Pilots at American Airlines and US Airways have approved a single labor contract. That's a step toward combining workforces at the two carriers, which merged in December 2013.

The multiyear deal gives pilots a 23 percent pay raise retroactive to Dec. 2.

The pilots' union said Friday that the contract was approved 66 percent to 34 percent, with 95 percent of eligible pilots casting a vote.

TOYOTA-FATAL CRASH

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A jury of six men and six women is continuing deliberations in a case alleging a 1996 Toyota Camry had a design defect that caused a fatal crash.

Jurors received the case late Wednesday afternoon and deliberated all day Thursday without reaching a verdict. They returned to a federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Friday to keep working.

The jurors must decide whether Toyota's design of the 1996 Camry had a defect that was unreasonably dangerous. If they find there was a defect, they must decide if it directly caused injuries to those hurt or killed when Koua Fong Lee crashed into another car in 2006.

Lee spent 2 1/2 years in prison before being released after reports suggested some Toyota cars had sudden acceleration problems.

GERMANY-BMW-SECURITY FLAW

BERLIN (AP) -- German automaker BMW says it has fixed a security flaw that made 2.2 million of its vehicles vulnerable to break-ins.

The company says the problem affected BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce models equipped with its ConnectedDrive technology, which allows drivers to access certain car functions with a smartphone.

German automobile club ADAC, which discovered the flaw last summer, says hackers could have used a fake cellphone base station to intercept network traffic from the car and lower the windows or open the doors. There are no reports such a break-in ever took place.

BMW spokeswoman Silke Brigl said Friday that hackers wouldn't have been able to start or stop the engine.

Brigl said the problem has been fixed with an automatic update and customers don't need to take any action.

POM JUICE-RULING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court says many advertising claims for POM Wonderful juice were deceptive in asserting that it curbs the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction and is clinically proven to work.

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholds the conclusion that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims. The conclusion was reached by the Federal Trade Commission.

The ads appeared in national publications, on Internet sites, bus stops, billboards, newsletters and on tags attached to the products.

POM Wonderful LLC produces a number of pomegranate-based products.

RUSSIA-FINANCES

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh says his country's economic crisis is forcing athletes to scale back their training plans for next year's Olympics in Brazil.

Training camps abroad can be crucial in acclimatizing athletes for Rio de Janeiro's tropical conditions, but they are rapidly becoming unaffordable after the ruble lost almost half of its value against the U.S. dollar in the last 12 months.

Nagornykh tells Russian agency R-Sport that, with the ruble's value low and the Sports Ministry's budget facing cuts, athletes should stay in Russia rather than train abroad "in order to spend less of the currency reserves."

Officials will select priority sports and athletes for scarce funding, Nagornykh said.

The measures affect athletes for the Rio Olympics, and the 2018 Winter Olympics, he added.

OHIO STATE-ROYALTIES

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio State University is cashing in after the Buckeyes' national championship victory.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the university expects a $3 million increase this year in royalties from licensed merchandise sales as fans continue to buy national championship gear and keepsakes.

Retailers say the team's special story has helped boost sales. The Buckeyes, who defied naysayers in their 42-20 victory over the University of Oregon, earned the final playoff spot after losing two starting quarterbacks to injuries.

Licensing officials also attribute increased sales to the fact Ohio State hadn't won a championship since 2002.

More than half of each dollar that comes into the school's licensing office goes to academic affairs. The athletics department, alumni association and student life program also receive portions of the revenue.

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