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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Hundreds of lobbyists in at least 20 states get public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards.

Legislatures granted them access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public. In many cases, such access also includes state health care benefits.

But several states have started to question whether these organizations should get such benefits, since they are private entities in most respects: They face no public oversight, can pay their top executives private-sector salaries and sometimes lobby for positions in conflict with taxpayers.

New Jersey and Illinois are among the states considering legislation that would end their inclusion.

But such groups argue that they are entitled to public pensions because they give a voice to government entities that serve taxpayers.

Read more...

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tens of thousands of people are expected to participate in a march on the National Mall ahead of the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The march scheduled Saturday comes a few days before the actual anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963, event that featured the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Saturday's event will be led by the Rev. Al Sharpton and King's son Martin Luther King III. After several speeches, participants will walk the half-mile from the Lincoln Memorial to the 2-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Organizers say they hope Saturday's event will serve to inspire people again to educate themselves about issues they see as making up the modern civil rights struggle.

Read more...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — With gay marriage now legal in 13 states, some churches think it is only a matter of time before they are sued by gay couples.

That's why some Christian attorneys are advising churches to change their bylaws to include their belief that the Bible only allows marriage between one man and one woman.

Attorney Kevin Snider with the Christian legal group the Pacific Justice Institute is one of those recommending the bylaw change.

Snider says he doesn't know of any churches that have been sued yet, but some religious leaders have been threatened with lawsuits.

Critics say the changes are unnecessary.

Gay Christian Network Director Justin Lee says there is no movement to force churches to perform weddings that violate their religious beliefs.

Read more...

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