The U.S. Census Bureau announced in February that it would deliver the detailed datasets needed for redistricting to the states by Sep. 30, 2021, after the original April 1, 2021, deadline. Some states’ own redistricting deadlines predate the Census Bureau’s projected data delivery date, prompting states to consider postponements or alternative data sources.
State redistricting deadlines generally take one of three forms:
Constitutional deadlines are set out explicitly in state constitutions. Altering these deadlines typically requires either a constitutional amendment or a court order. Statutory deadlines are set by state legislatures. They are subject to change at the legislature’s discretion. Redistricting deadlines can also be inferred from candidate filing deadlines. For example, if a state sets its filing deadline for congressional candidates for Feb. 1, 2022, it can be inferred that the congressional maps must be fixed by that point.
Despite traffic on state highways, roads and bridges decreasing significantly in 2020, the Ohio Department of Transportation expects to spend nearly $2 billion in the next year on nearly 1,000 projects.
Traffic volume fell by 15.5% during the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic limited road travel, ODOT said. More people worked from home. Stay-at-home health orders, capacity limits, business closures and statewide curfews also reigned in optional travel.
Despite the limited driving, which also leads to less fuel consumption and less taxpayer money available, ODOT pointed to a 2019 gas tax increase, along with budget cuts, for staving off what could have billon a $3 billion swing in taxpayer money for the department.
A surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan has prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to promote a two-week, voluntary lockdown of indoor dining, suspension of school sports and a full return to remote education.
Although she noted more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, the governor added the pandemic continued to wreak havoc in the state.
For example, Michigan hospitals reported 3,508 COVID-19 patients on Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released data on Thursday that revealed the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 492.1 cases per 100,000 people, the highest positivity case rate in the nation.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, and Sen. Zach Duckworth, R-Lakeville, on Friday announced a package aiming to spend billions of federal dollars on hard-hit industries, filling the unemployment fund, and infrastructure plans.
“These one-time funds provide us with the chance to set Minnesotans on a path for long-lasting growth. By targeting our spending for maximum impact, we are setting Minnesotans up to rebuild their community connections, invest in their families, and help our businesses recover and grow.” Duckworth said in a statement. “Most importantly, these investments are being made without increasing taxes on Minnesotans who have already sacrificed so much in the last year.”
The bill language, expected to be released next week, seeks to direct $2.5 billion of the American Rescue Plan to Minnesotans hardest hit by the pandemic and promote economic growth, according to a press release.
Virginia will distribute $270,000 in farmland preservation grants to five localities, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office announced this week.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reminded how important Virginia’s farms are to getting food into our stores and onto our tables,” Northam said in a statement. “In addition to being a vital part of our history, agriculture is central to our growing economy and maintaining the outstanding quality of life we enjoy in our Commonwealth. Partnering with local governments to preserve critical working landscapes and protect our abundant natural resources is key to maximizing the conservation impact of state funds.”
The commonwealth will use the Purchase of Development Rights programs to match local government funding to permanently preserve farmland. The program gives incentives to landowners who protect their working lands and it lets localities limit development on priority farm and forest land.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D–Flint, and state Rep. Julie M. Rogers, D–Kalamazoo, are sponsoring bills aimed to allow high schoolers earn their diploma without Algebra II.
Senate Bill 318 and House Bill 4595 were introduced Wednesday with bipartisan support.
Currently, Michigan students must complete Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and a math elective to graduate. Bill proponents argue these math requirements are often excessive for students who don’t plan to enter a field requiring advanced math and will instead need to understand interest, student loan payments, and how to complete taxes.
A poll released Tuesday by Michigan Rising Action (MRA), a Lansing-based organization dedicated to advancing conservative principles, asserts Michigan strongly supports a ballot proposal to limit the use of gubernatorial emergency powers.
MRA commissioned the poll from Marketing Resource Group, which conducted research between March 15-18, and skews +4 Democrat.
A majority of the 610 likely voters polled within each age group supported restricting the governor’s unilateral use of emergency powers.
Gov. Greg Abbott held a short press conference Wednesday night outside of the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio to discuss allegations about the abuse of migrant minors occurring at a federally run detention center.
Two separate state agencies received reports of child abuse and neglect occurring at the Freeman Coliseum, problems Abbott says “are a byproduct of [President Joe] Biden’s open border policies and lack of planning and fallout from those disastrous policies.”
The U.S. Department of Education (USED) denied Michigan’s request to waive the federal requirement to administer state summative assessments.
In late January, the Michigan Department of Education cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason not to test Michigan’s 1.5 million students. MDE requested waivers to federal requirements for state summative tests,and waivers of associated high-stakes accountability requirements. The accountability waivers were approved on March 26.
Of the more than 700 unaccompanied migrant minors who were transported to the San Diego Convention Center from Texas, roughly 10% have tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple news reports citing health officials.
The Department of Health and Human Services reported on March 30 that 70 of these minors tested positive; none required hospitalization.
The San Diego Convention Center is currently holding 723 girls between the ages of 13 and 17 – all of whom were transferred from federal shelters in Texas.
As Minnesota returns to a semblance of normalcy with an increasing number of injected COVID-19 vaccines, one Republican aims to ban “vaccine passports.”
SF 1589 aims to ban forced COVID-19 vaccinations, forced digital contact tracing, and required proof of COVID-19 vaccination before entering a government business.
“Your personal health information should not be made public. I stand against the special interests that want your private health information,” Senate Health Committee Chair Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, posted on Facebook.
An equestrian center is suing Fairfax County over a dispute about whether the center should be deemed agricultural in nature and therefore exempt from certain regulations.
Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax City, is providing the center with legal representation. Petersen is the chair of the senate’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Virginia law prohibits local governments from interfering with farming activities on land zoned as agricultural. Yet, the county is trying to subject the Harmony Hills Equestrian Center to urban code requirements and ordinary commercial property requirements because it does not consider the center to be a farm.
In Virginia’s first full month of legal gambling, the commonwealth’s sportsbooks took in about $265.8 million in wagers, which is the second largest sum for any state in its first full month.
Legalized gambling began in mid-January, taking in $58.9 million that month. In the 28 days of February, the state more than quadrupled that number. The per-day amount of money spent on wagers nearly doubled from $5.4 million in January to $9.5 million in February. The per-day jump is the largest any state has seen in one month.
“The enthusiasm from bettors will eventually settle down, and sportsbooks will pull back a bit from this heavy promotional period,” Jessica Welman, an analyst for PlayVirignia, said in a statement. PlayVirginia is an organization that provides analysis on the gaming industry in the commonwealth.
A little more than eight months after the billion-dollar government bailout of the state’s nuclear energy industry led the arrest of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, Gov. Mike DeWine officially put it to rest.
DeWine signed House Bill 128 into law late Wednesday. It repeals the nuclear provisions of the infamous House Bill 6.
Gone is the bailout for the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants in northern Ohio. Also eliminated was the ability for FirstEnergy to have its revenue levels relatively the same even during years when energy consumption decreases. HB 128 directed refunds of money already collected under the guarantee.
A bill to increase state funding for Georgia charter schools was passed by the General Assembly and awaits approval by Gov. Brian Kemp.
Senate Bill 59 increases charter school allocations by about $100 per student. It also secures an equal portion of federal funding for local charter schools and gives teachers and staff more access to the State Health Plan.
The General Assembly approved the bill with limited debate in both chambers this week before its legislative session ended. The House gave SB 59 its final approval, 113-51, on Wednesday after it cleared the Senate, 40-11, on Tuesday.
More than 500 agencies in Ohio have adopted the state’s new law enforcement minimum standards to be state certified, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday.
Ohio changed its standards after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota last spring and the subsequent protests.
The Ohio Department of Public Safety’s 2021 Law Enforcement Certification Report showed 529 Ohio agencies have adopted fully the primary standards, which include new ones created last year. Eleven agencies are in the process of adopting and being certified.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam proposed 18 amendments to the budget legislation passed by the General Assembly, which includes giving the executive branch more authority to address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I also propose three language amendments to ensure our ability to continue responding to needs related to the COVID pandemic by giving agencies the flexibility to respond and the authority to address the opportunities presented by the federal funding such as the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), until we can address the matter fully at a special session,” Northam said in a letter to the House of Delegates.
One amendment to the budget would grant the director of the Department of Planning and Budget the authority to direct the additional Medicaid revenue from the recent federal stimulus plan to current services. Another would grant the superintendent of public instruction the authority to issue temporary flexibility or waivers for deadlines and requirements that cannot be met because of the COVID-19 state of emergency and school closures.
The Tennessee Legislature is considering the removal of a $400 annual “privilege tax” on certain professions in Tennessee.
The state levies an annual $400 professional privilege tax on individuals licensed or registered to practice in any of seven professions: attorneys, securities agents, broker-dealers, investment advisers, lobbyists, doctors and osteopathic physicians.
Senate Bill 884 would eliminate the tax for attorneys, physicians, investment advisers and lobbyists. Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) (pictured above) who sponsors the bill, said the legislation is likely to change as the Legislature continues budget negotiations in the coming weeks.
An estimated 46 million people — or 18% of the country — would be unable to pay for health care if they needed it today, a recent poll conducted by Gallup and West Health found.
In another survey by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the majority of hospitals in the U.S. have yet to comply with a transparency ruling implemented this year that would help patients shop around for the most affordable prices.
Gallup’s findings are based on a poll conducted between February 15 and 21 among 3,753 adults with a margin of error of 2%.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine praised the $8.3 billion state transportation budget he signed into law despite it missing the increased vehicle fees and massive cuts for public transportation he proposed.
The two-year budget, House Bill 74, provides money for road and bridge construction and maintenance, as well as other transportation priorities established by the committees in the House and Senate, along with DeWine.
“The budget ensures that we can continue to maintain and invest in Ohio’s roadways,” DeWine said Wednesday. “Ohio’s transportation system continues to be a critical part of our economy, moving materials and people safely across our state. This budget advances our commitment to invest in state and locally-maintained roadways.”
A follow-up attempt by lawmakers to implement paid parental leave for Georgia state employees is on its way to Gov. Brian Kemp.
The measure allows state employees in Georgia to take three weeks of paid parental leave. The House agreed Monday, 153-8, to the Senate’s changes to House Bill 146 after it unanimously passed the Senate last week. A similar measure cleared the House in 2020.
Under HB 146, state or local school board employees who worked at least 700 hours over the six months preceding the requested paid leave date can qualify for the paid time off after the birth of a child, adoption of a child or taking in of a foster child. Paid parental leave would be granted only once a calendar year. State agencies and school boards are able to dictate the policy rules.
A restaurant survey indicates 74% of respondents supported a required metric-driven plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions.
On Tuesday, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) released a statewide survey indicating public support to resume indoor dining and travel.
The survey also indicated wide support for hospitality workers receiving prioritized vaccination as well as for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to produce a metric-driven plan to retain control over COVID-19 restrictions.
The GOP-led Minnesota Senate recently approved several bills that aim to support families and teachers in recovering from learning loss suffered during COVID-19-related school closures.
Senate File 628 seeks to require the Department of Education to administer in-person statewide Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments during the spring of 2021, regardless of the current learning format. MCAs measure student progress in core academic subjects and were canceled last year.
“At this point, we are all familiar with the pain and hardship that school closures have caused students,” Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said in a statement. “The Senate is taking the smart steps necessary to help students catch their breath and recover from some of the worst side effects of COVID.”
Landlords are struggling after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended a national ban on certain evictions apparently to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The CDC extended the moratorium, first enacted in Sept. 2020, through June 30.
The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group, filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa on behalf of Asa Mossman of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and other housing providers.
The Georgia General Assembly has approved a $27.2 billion spending plan for the 2022 fiscal year, which starts July 1.
The Senate and House agreed to spend more money on health care, education, transportation, state positions, internet access and economic initiatives.
The House approved the measure, 148-21, late Wednesday night after it cleared the Senate unanimously, 52-0. Lawmakers now must send the proposal for state spending through June 30, 2022, to Gov. Brian Kemp for consideration.
Ohio continues to add resources to a public-private partnership to combat unemployment fraud, which the state says has cost taxpayers more than $200 million, and the newest additions are a pair of big names.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced recently a new agreement between the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Google to conduct data analytics on all outstanding claims. The state will pay the tech company $1.4 million to use Google Analytics to help discover fraud.
“This is one of the first things the private sector group told me when they came in is drilling down on this data and doing it in a very sophisticated way,” DeWine said.
More than 850 criminals have been encountered at the U.S. border with Mexico this year, including 92 sex offenders and 63 gang members, a U.S. Border Patrol agent tweeted this weekend.
Included among “the copious amounts of groups being encountered” at the Rio Grande Valley, Hastings said, are “a Salvadoran man with a prior conviction for murder” along with 862 criminals, Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings tweeted.
Owosso barber Karl Manke was handed fines amounting to $9,000 after defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders in spring 2020.
Manke garnered national headlines when he refused to close his barbershop during a barrage of executive orders issued by the governor that forced the closing of businesses Whitmer deemed nonessential throughout the state. On May 18, 2020, two days prior to the Operation Haircut protests, Manke’s barber license was suspended by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The Office of The Legislative Auditor released an audit Monday finding the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Behavioral Health Division (BHD) had inadequate internal controls and violated safeguards to prevent fraud and abuse.
“Since the creation of the Behavioral Health Division in early 2018, DHS did not analyze the risks of fraud, waste, abuse, and noncompliance with legal requirements related to oversight of BHD grants,” auditors wrote.
Faced with ongoing state lockdowns and changing school restrictions last year, frustrated parents increasingly pulled their children out of public schools nationwide and found other educational options for their children, one of which was home-schooling.
According to a new U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, a substantial increase in the number of parents who chose to home-school occurred in 2020 compared to 2019. The survey is the first data source to offer both a national and state-level look at the impact of COVID-19 on homeschooling rates, the report states.
Using a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. households, the survey found that home-schooling was notably higher than national benchmarks. It was conducted in phases to assess parental choices over different periods of the school year.
“Normalcy is on the horizon,” Gov. Tim Walz told Minnesotans in his 2021 State of the State speech.
Walz delivered his speech Sunday night from his old Mankato classroom.
The state is recovering quickly from the global pandemic, he said, with 80% of seniors having a single vaccine dose and two-thirds of school personnel vaccinated. Starting Tuesday, he said, all Minnesotans ages 16 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Red states are leading economic growth in the U.S., a new report by the U. S. Commerce Department shows, with South Dakota, Texas and Utah reporting the highest growth.
The report is based on 2020 fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data and February 2021 unemployment rates.
Real GDP increased in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2020. Real GDP for the U.S. as a whole increased at an annual rate of 4.3%. The percent change in real GDP in the fourth quarter ranged from 9.9% in South Dakota to 1.2% in the District of Columbia.
Virginia businesses will benefit from the federal government extending the deadline to apply for Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans, according to associations representing industries.
With bipartisan support, federal lawmakers passed legislation to extend the loan application from March 31 to May 31 and give the Small Business Administration an additional 30 days to process the applications. The legislation is expected to be signed by President Joe Biden.
The loans allow businesses economically harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic restrictions to borrow money from the federal government. If businesses use the money in accordance with federal guidelines, the loans will be forgiven, meaning that the businesses will not have to pay the money back.
A bipartisan bill claims it would reduce the cost of prescription drug costs to save taxpayers a potential millions – if not billions – of dollars.
Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, held a Friday news conference with Rep. Mike Howard, D-Richfield, highlighting the bill
SF 2178 would allow the state to share bid information submitted by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) for public employee contracts. The reverse auction process incentivizes PBMs to compete against each other by submitting lower offers in bidding rounds to win a contract, which is meant to achieve cost savings without impacting the quality of state health benefit plans.
Eighty-three days into 2021, Grand Rapids-based Above and Beyond Catering owner Kim Smith said she hasn’t recorded a dollar of revenue in 2021 thanks to COVID-19 restrictions enacted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Catering isn’t alone.
Wedding and funeral owners are pushing back on COVID-19 restrictions killing their business for the last year.
Smith has been in business for 45 years, she told the House Oversight Committee Thursday. Although she’s “done everything to keep afloat” since the state forced her business closed in March of 2020, her revenue is down 93.6%.
California’s two U.S. Senators, both Democrats, are calling on President Joe Biden to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars in the United States.
Sens. Diane Feinstein and Alex Padilla sent a letter to Biden urging him to “follow California’s lead and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold be zero-emission vehicles.”
Last September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who now faces a potential recall election, signed an executive order banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars in California by requiring all new cars and trucks being sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Currently, electric vehicles account for less than 3 percent of all vehicle sales in the U.S.
A bill that bans counties and municipalities in Georgia from reducing their police department budgets by more than 5% has passed the Georgia Senate and will be sent back to the House.
Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, a law enforcement veteran, said the legislation, House Bill 286, is a response to local efforts to “defund the police.”
“I think everyone sees the things that are going on around our country right now related to law enforcement, and what this does is just guarantee the citizens of any community that they’re not caught up in the politics that revolves around policing and offers protection,” said Robertson, who sponsored the bill.
A health care reform package the House passed Wednesday is creating a rift between the state’s business groups and the GOP.
Michigan business leaders formed a new Michigan Affordable Healthcare Coalition that aims to reduce health care costs without raising costs on small businesses.
In a Thursday afternoon press conference, business leaders voiced opposition to House bills 4346 and 4354, claiming they would raise health insurance premiums that are already a heavy burden for many businesses.
The Ohio House has sent a message to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, urging her to abandon her plan to force a company to close a pipeline that could threaten Ohio energy supplies and jobs.
Whitmer, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger filed a lawsuit Nov. 13 in Ingham County Court demanding Enbridge Inc. cease Line 5 operations by May. The easement has been in place since 1953.
Thirty-seven of 44 shelters, or 87 percent, currently housing unaccompanied migrant minors in Texas reported positive COVID-19 test results between March 5 and 23, according to data collected by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Cases are identified by shelter facilities and foster care providers, which are then reported to officials at the agency.
“The Biden Administration has been an abject failure when it comes to ensuring the safety of unaccompanied minors who cross our border,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said. “The conditions unaccompanied minors face in these federally run facilities is unacceptable and inhumane. From a lack of safe drinking water in one location to a COVID-19 outbreak in another, the Biden Administration has no excuse for subjecting these children to these kinds of conditions.
The Ohio Senate approved more than $8 billion it hopes will spur both economic development and job growth while tackling the state’s transportation needs over the next two years.
The state’s proposed transportation budget passed the Senate unanimously Thursday with some adjustments made by the Senate, including additional money for public transportation, local road projects and emergency road repair. It also requires the Ohio Department of Transportation to reopen currently decommissioned weigh stations to serve as overnight parking areas for commercial truckers.
“This transportation budget makes critical investments in Ohio’s communities and local infrastructure,” said Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima. “I am confident House Bill 74 will improve roads and infrastructure that Ohioans use every day and will enhance Ohio’s economy and promote job growth.”
President Joe Biden on Thursday set a new target of 200 million Americans being vaccinated by the end of April while also facing questions about the southern U.S. border crisis, the potential to end filibusters in the U.S. Senate and other issues.
At the first news conference of his presidency, held later into his first term than recent presidents, Biden said the U.S. was on target to vaccinate more than 200 million Americans by his 100th day in office.
A wide spectrum of Ohioans could catch a break when it comes to state taxes after the Ohio House passed a bill Wednesday that brings state tax rules in line with federal rules.
The bill, which already passed the Senate and now awaits Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature, increases the child and dependent care credit, provides tax breaks for student loan payments and eliminates taxes on the first $10,200 in unemployment compensation.
As President Joe Biden made his first visit to Ohio since taking office Tuesday, he was criticized for what one policy group called unnecessary spending.
Biden, in Columbus to tout his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the recently passed American Rescue Plan, visited the James Cancer Hospital at The Ohio State University late Tuesday afternoon.
Results of a new poll indicate a majority of Michigan residents are unhappy with the direction the country is headed, and an increasing number are displeased with the job performance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The Michigan Poll from Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group, released Tuesday, concludes that 52% of respondents believe the country is on the wrong track compared to 36% that said otherwise. Six months ago, the results were 66% wrong track and 25% right direction.