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Briefs: House GOP looks at food stamp overhaul

Ohio: ‘Heartbeat’ abortion bill on governor’s desk

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected is headed to the governor’s desk.

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state House voted to approve the so-called “heartbeat bill” Tuesday night after it passed in the Senate earlier in the day, clearing the way for what would be one of the nation’s most stringent abortion restrictions.

The legislation would prohibit most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy after the first detectable heartbeat.

Gov. John Kasich, an abortion opponent, has previously voiced concerns about whether such a move would be constitutional. He has not said whether he plans to sign the measure.

State Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said the twice-defeated bill came back up again because of Donald Trump’s presidential victory and the expectation he will fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices who are more likely to uphold stricter abortion bans.

The ban would make an exception if the mother’s life is in danger but not in cases of rape or incest, he said.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion, states were permitted to restrict abortions after viability — the point when the fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving under normal conditions outside the uterus. The ruling offered no legal definition of viability, saying it could range between 24 and 28 weeks into a pregnancy.



House GOP looks at food stamp overhaul

WASHINGTON — House Republicans are laying the groundwork for a fresh effort to overhaul the nation’s food stamp program during Donald Trump’s presidency, with the possibility of new work and eligibility requirements for millions of Americans.

The GOP majority of the House Agriculture Committee is releasing its two-year review on Wednesday. It stops short of making specific policy recommendations, but it does hint at areas that congressional Republicans could focus on with their GOP monopoly under Trump: strengthening current work requirements and perhaps creating new ones, tightening some eligibility requirements or creating new incentives to encourage food stamp recipients to buy healthier foods.

“There’s nothing off the table when it comes to looking at solutions around these areas where we think improvements need to be made,” House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The food stamp program, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, now serves about 43.6 million people and cost $74 billion in 2015. Participation in the program rose sharply as the country suffered a recession, and the program now costs roughly twice what it did in 2008.



North Carolina: Next governor finally gets to celebrate

RALEIGH, N.C. — Democrat Roy Cooper finally Tuesday got to bask in his victory in the close race for North Carolina governor, telling supporters his narrow triumph over Republican incumbent Pat McCrory is a victory for the middle class and for the state’s diverse population.

“Hello friends and hello North Carolina — finally,” Cooper said just after taking the dais in front of several hundred people cheering for him in Raleigh. “It is also humbling and it has been a long journey for all of us, but we are finally here.”

Holding an evening victory rally four weeks after Election Day wasn’t something Cooper, the outgoing attorney general, had anticipated. But McCrory didn’t concede until Monday after most formal election protests were set aside and a partial county recount showed Cooper still ahead by a little more than 10,000 votes from 4.7 million cast.

Cooper’s campaign essentially was a referendum on North Carolina’s recent conservative political shift thanks to McCrory and the GOP-controlled legislature. The prime example Cooper had for the rightward slant came when McCrory signed a bill last March that limited LGBT rights and directed transgender people to use the restrooms in schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

Cooper said during the campaign the law known as House Bill 2 is discriminatory and vowed to repeal it, although that will remain difficult even when he takes office next month given the General Assembly is still controlled by Republicans.

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