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Republicans in Oregon Senate end six-week walkout that blocked bills on abortion, trans health care

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Republicans in Oregon Senate end six-week walkout that blocked bills on abortion, trans health care

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Ending a walkout that held up key bills for six weeks, Republicans showed up for work in the Oregon Senate on Thursday after wresting concessions from Democrats on measures covering abortion, transgender health care and gun rights.

The lawmakers’ walkout — the longest in state history and the second-longest in the United States — came as several statehouses around the nation have been ideological battlegrounds, including in Montana and Tennessee.

The Republican boycott, which prevented the state Senate from reaching a two-thirds quorum needed to pass bills, was prompted by a sweeping measure on abortion and gender-affirming care that Republicans called too extreme. The measure would allow doctors to provide abortions regardless of a patient’s age, with medical providers not required to notify the parents of a minor in certain cases.

As part of the deal to end the walkout, Democrats agreed to change language concerning parental notifications for abortion.

Under the compromise, if an abortion provider believes notifying the parents of a patient under 15 years old would not be in that patient’s best interest, the physician would not have to notify the parents — but would need another provider to concur. However, no second opinion would be needed if involving a parent or guardian would lead to the abuse or neglect of the patient.

Democrats said the measure will still ensure abortion access and protect caregivers from anti-abortion or gender-affirming care measures passed by other states. It will also require that health insurance covers medically necessary gender-affirming care.

Democrats also agreed to drop several amendments on a bill that would punish the manufacturing or transferring of undetectable firearms. The now-removed clauses would have increased the purchasing age from 18 to 21 for semiautomatic rifles and placed more limits on concealed carry.

Democrats immediately filed new versions of both measures reflecting the agreements, and the Senate then passed them. Although the bills were approved earlier by the House, they now will go back to that chamber for a concurrence vote before going to Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek for her signature.

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“I’m encouraged that we were able to come to an agreement that will allow us to finish the important work Oregonians sent us here to accomplish,” Democratic Senate President Rob Wagner told reporters.

Republicans, who are the minority party, considered it a victory.

“Parental rights will not be ignored regarding minors seeking abortion and gender-affirming care,” said Republican Sen. Lynn Findley. “Constitutional rights to own and bear arms will not be eviscerated, especially for citizens between 18 and 21 years old.”

GOP Leader Sen. Tim Knopp had said the boycott that began on May 3 would end only on the session’s last day — June 25 — to pass “bipartisan” legislation and budget bills. But an optimistic mood settled over the Capitol this week as GOP and Democratic leaders met to negotiate compromises. On the Senate floor Thursday, Knopp said he looked forward to finishing the session in “an extraordinarily bipartisan way.”

“We asked for lawful, we asked for constitutional, we asked for compromise, and I see that from your side,” Knopp said as he addressed Wagner following Thursday’s roll call. “We appreciate everyone who was involved.”

The longest walkout in the Oregon Legislature’s history happened despite voters passing a ballot measure in 2022 that disqualifies lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences from reelection.

“A whole bunch of legislators aren’t going to be able to come back to this building,” Wagner said.

But Republican senators are likely to sue over the measure if they’re not allowed to register as candidates, starting in September, for the 2024 election. Republicans also walked out in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

On June 1, Senate Democrats voted to fine senators $325 every time their absence denied a quorum.

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On Wednesday, more than 40 Oregon Democratic House and Senate members sponsored a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state Constitution to require a majority of each chamber in the Legislature to be present to conduct business. If passed by the Legislature, it would go before Oregon voters in a ballot measure in the 2024 election. However, Wagner said Thursday the measure was unlikely to pass this year with hundreds of other bills pending

The walkout also blocked the approval of the two-year state budget. Kotek can bring lawmakers back for a special session if the House and Senate don’t approve the budgets by the time the regular session ends.

There are 17 Democrats in the 30-member Senate, meaning at least three Republican or independent members must show up to make a quorum. Five GOP members were in attendance Thursday, and Democratic leaders said Republicans have promised to provide enough senators to make a quorum for the rest of the session.

The Republicans had initially said they were boycotting because bill summaries did not meet a long-forgotten state law that required them to be written at a level an eighth-grader could understand.

The walkout is the second-longest of any U.S. state, after Rhode Island, according to a list by Ballotpedia.

In 1924, Republican senators in Rhode Island fled to Rutland, Massachusetts, and stayed away for six months, ending Democratic efforts to have a popular referendum on the holding of a constitutional convention.

That self-imposed exile followed the detonation of a gas bomb in the Senate chamber. Democrats and Republicans both accused each other of setting it off.

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This story has been updated to correct that the abortion and gun bills passed by the Senate next need to go back to the House.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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