Obama signs 2 major bills Obama signs 2 major bills
HONOLULU -- Rounding out a tough and frustrating year, President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan budget deal Thursday that eases spending cuts and a defense bill that cracks down on sexual assault in the military, as the president and Congress began pivoting to the midterm election year ahead.
Mr. Obama put his signature on both hard-fought bills while vacationing in Hawaii, where he has been regrouping with his family since Saturday. The bill signing marks one of Mr. Obama's last official acts in a year beset by a partial government shutdown, a near-default by the Treasury, a calamitous health care rollout and near-perpetual congressional gridlock.
SALT LAKE CITY -- The last of the Utah counties that were holding out on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples reversed course Thursday and decided to hand out licenses to all eligible applicants.
County clerks say they had little choice after an appeals court Tuesday declined to intervene and halt gay marriage. U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ruled last week that Utah's ban on gay marriage was unconstitutional, sending gay couples rushing to clerk offices for licenses.
The state plans to take its fight to the U.S. Supreme Court as early as today while it prepares an appeal of Judge Shelby's ruling to the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Ryan Bruckman, a spokesman for the Utah attorney general's office.
Transgender school law
SAN FRANCISCO -- With a law that spells out the rights of transgender students in grades K-12 set to take effect in California, school districts are reviewing locker room layouts, scheduling sensitivity training for coaches and reconsidering senior portrait dress codes.
The law, the nation's first requiring public schools to let children use sex-segregated facilities and participate in the gender-specific activities of their choice, could end up suspended within days of its launch next Wednesday if a referendum to repeal it qualifies for the November ballot.
To obtain a public vote on the law, passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, a coalition of conservative groups called Privacy for All Students has collected hundreds of thousands of signatures. Counties have until Jan. 8 to verify them through random spot-checking.
LAX shooting plea
LOS ANGELES -- Paul Anthony Ciancia pleaded not guilty Thursday to 11 federal counts, including murder and attempted murder, in connection with the Nov. 1 shooting rampage at Los Angeles International Airport that left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead.
If convicted, Mr. Ciancia could face life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors have not yet said whether they will seek the death penalty. They said the decision would be made by the U.S. attorney general. A trial date was set for Feb. 11 in Los Angeles, but prosecutors said that date likely could be pushed back.
Violence in New Jersey
NEWARK, N.J. -- Five people were shot and killed in two separate shootings Wednesday in and around Newark, N.J., an outbreak of violence that led to renewed questions about public safety in New Jersey's largest city.
The violence began outside a strip club in Irvington, where three men were shot and killed shortly after midnight, and culminated in a shooting in Newark's South Ward neighborhood that left a 13-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy dead.