Following Full Republican Support, Senate Bill to Establish Legislative Oversight of Governor’s and Agency Orders Now in Ohio House

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Senate Bill to Establish Legislative Oversite of Governor’s and Agency Orders Now in Ohio House

Last Wednesday Ohio Senate Bill 22 (SB22) passed the upper chamber 25-8 – all Republicans were in favor, all Democrats opposed.

SB22 was introduced by primary sponsors Terry Johnson (R-District 14) and Rob McColley (R-District 1) and establishes legislative oversight to the Governor’s and health orders.  

In its original form, the bill granted the General Assembly authority to immediately rescind a public health state of emergency declaration along with rules and orders the Governor and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) issued related to a public a health state of emergency.

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General Assembly Votes to Make Virginia First Southern State to Abolish Death Penalty

The Virginia General Assembly passed a death penalty repeal on Monday. Governor Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bills, which would make Virginia the first state in the South to ban capital punishment. Advocates have argued that the death penalty is vulnerable to wrongful conviction, is expensive, cruel, and applied unfairly, but opponents say some of the most heinous crimes require a death penalty to make sure the criminal doesn’t get free. During the 2021 session, House Republicans have emphasized the names of victims of particularly serious crimes, who they say are being ignored by Democrats.

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Former Michigan House Speaker Resigns from New Job After Pressure from LGBT Community

The Republican former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Monday resigned from his new post as Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit Southwest Michigan First (SWMF) after the organization faced backlash from the LGBT community for hiring him. 

“For the betterment of the Kalamazoo community, the businesses that the board of directors represent, the staff at SWMF and for the sake of my conscience, please see the letter of resignation I offered this morning. I remain grateful for having had this incredible opportunity,” Lee Chatfield said on Twitter. 

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Virginia Bill to Allow Absentee Ballot Distribution by Contractors Heads to Governor’s Desk

Legislation that would allow third-party contractors to handle the distribution of absentee ballots is headed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk as other voting reforms await further action.

Senate Bill 1239, sponsored by Sen. John Bell, D-Broadlands, would allow general registrars to contract to these third parties for printing, assembling and mailing the ballots. This would not allow third parties to handle ballots that have already been cast. The Democratic-led bill passed with some bipartisan support, clearing the Senate 27-12 and the House of Delegates 70-30.

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Minnesota Legislators Want State to Award Contracts Based on Skin Color

A group of black legislators in Minnesota wants the state to begin awarding contracts on the basis of race, according to a Monday report. 

“The United Black Legislative Caucus, made up of 10 Black Minnesota state senators and representatives, announced in a recent virtual town hall that they’ll push for the state to require 15% of all public contracts to be awarded to businesses owned by people of color,” The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal said.

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Georgia Voter ID Bill Could Die as Republican Legislator Stalls Moving it Forward

Georgia State Rep. Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock) said Monday that a Republican colleague is holding up Voter ID legislation that Byrd said will help prevent fraud in the state. As reported, that legislation, if enacted into law, would require non- U.S. citizens to have “BEARER NOT A U.S. CITIZEN — NOT VOTER ID” printed on their licenses, permits and/or identification cards.

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Loeffler Founds Voter Registration Group in Georgia

In what is being viewed as an attempt to counter the efforts of former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a Republican former U.S. Senator from the Peach State has founded her own voter outreach group.

“Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler is starting a voter registration and outreach group called ‘Greater Georgia,’ in her first major public move since losing her Senate seat to Democrat Raphael Warnock in a Jan. 6 runoff,” Fox News reported Monday. 

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Virginia Poised to Mandate ‘Cultural Competency’ Evaluation, Black History Training for Teachers

A pair of bills that recently cleared the Virginia state legislature will mandate that all teachers in the state undergo “cultural competency” training, with history and social science teachers required to undertake additional training regarding African-American history.

The bills, one in the state House of Delegates and one in the Senate, would add “cultural competency” evaluations to the standard slate of regular evaluations to which teachers in the commonwealth are subject and require “each teacher and any other school board employee holding a license issued by the [state Board of Education] to complete cultural competency training, in accordance with guidance issued by the Board, at least every two years.”

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Feds Threaten to Remove Work Requirement from Georgia’s Partial Medicaid Expansion

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) could decide in a matter of weeks whether it will remove the work or activity requirement in Georgia’s partial Medicaid expansion plan.

The CMS said the plan, which was approved by former President Donald Trump’s administration in October, does not “promote the objectives of the Medicaid program” and would be impossible to accomplish because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Former State Rep Who Brought Impeachment Against DeWine Announces Run for Ohio GOP Chair

Friday, former Ohio lawmaker John Becker, who represented Ohioans from House District 65 between 2013-2020, announced his candidacy for Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP).

The top spot in the Ohio GOP is open after former Chairwoman Jane Timken announced her resignation on February 5 to run for the U.S. Senate.

The Southwestern Ohio Republican declared his candidacy in a letter to the ORP State Central Committee that contained his resume.

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New Georgia Bill Would Demand More Detailed Vote Reporting System from Secretary of State

Georgia legislators have submitted a bill that would require the secretary of state create a far more detailed election reporting system for general primaries, general elections, and runoffs from general primaries and general elections. “Such system shall provide for the entry of the number of ballots cast by type in each precinct, the results of state and federal races by precinct, the number of absentee ballots issued and returned, the number of absentee ballots certified, the number of absentee ballots rejected, the number of provisional ballots cast, and such other information which the Secretary of State deems relevant and useful to the citizens of this state,” according to the language of the bill.

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Georgia Democrats Push for Law to Bypass Nation’s Electoral College

Sixteen Democrats in the Georgia State Senate have filed a bill calling on Georgia to enact the Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote. According to the language of the bill, this agreement calls on states “to join together to establish an interstate compact to elect the president by national popular vote.”

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Senator Amanda Chase Still Dominates Virginia Gubernatorial Conversation as Other Candidates Announce New Policy Plans, Make Campaign Stops

More gubernatorial polls this week show most voters are undecided, allowing contest leaders to continue to claim front-runner status while allowing everybody else to claim theoretical wins. But there’s more gubernatorial news than that — this week’s campaign news features new policy announcements, major endorsements, messaging controversy, and a late-night television mention.

First, the poll: 49 percent of Democratic voters and 55 percent of Republican voters are undecided, according to a Christoper Newport University/Wason Center Poll. Former Governor Terry McAuliffe leads Democrats with 26 percent, while Senator Amanda Chase leads Republicans with 17 percent.

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Harlan Hill Commentary: With ‘Republicans’ Like Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Who Needs Democrats?

by Harlan Hill   Due to their Republican leadership, many great states like Florida are open for business while successfully managing and mitigating the COVID-19 crisis. The same cannot be said for Ohio: you’d be forgiven for mistaking its leadership as Liberal. Ohio is not open, as its Republican-in-name-only Governor…

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General Assembly Passes Bill to Study Gold Mining, but Removes Gold Mine Moratorium

The General Assembly passed HB 2213, Delegate Elizabeth Guzman’s (D-Prince William) bill to create a work group of scientists, local representatives, activists and state officials to study the impacts of gold mining. Although the bill originally included a two-year moratorium on permits for new gold mines bigger than 10 acres, the Senate removed that clause before passing the bill Tuesday 23 to 16. The House passed the amended version Thursday 56 to 43, sending it to the Governor for final approval.

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Home Schooling in Minnesota Skyrocketed 50% Amid School Closures

Homeschoolers

A Friday report from the Minnesota Department of Education confirmed what many have suspected all along: parents are opting to take their children out of public schools.

Overall public-school enrollment decreased by 2% between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, MDE said in its report, which translates to a net loss of about 17,000 students. This decrease was driven largely by a 9% drop in public kindergarten enrollment, according to the MDE.

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Chances for Ohio Death Penalty Repeal Appear to be Growing

The biggest-ever bipartisan coalition on Thursday announced a renewed effort to repeal the death penalty in Ohio.

State Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, and Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, hosted a virtual press conference to announce that they and three other Republican and four Democratic senators so far have said they will co-sponsor the repeal legislation. The measure also has bipartisan support in the House.

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Ohio School Reverses Instruction Asking Students to Lobby City Council in Support of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity Protection Ordinance

An Ohio school has walked back an order requiring teachers to read a script and play a video for students encouraging them to lobby their city council in support of a Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity ordinance. 

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Bill to Ban Guns Near Polling Places Heads to Virginia Gov. Northam’s Desk

Legislation that would prohibit most people from possessing guns near a polling place passed the Virginia Senate on Thursday and is heading to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature.

If signed into law, House Bill 2081, sponsored by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, would prohibit knowingly possessing firearms within 40 feet of the locations beginning one hour before polls are open and an hour after they close. Violation would be a Class 1 misdemeanor if convicted, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine up to $2,500 or both.

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Embattled Whitmer Declares State of Emergency During Michigan Cold Snap

Whitmer MI Capitol overcast

Embattled Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), known for her strict and sometimes unconstitutional COVID-19 lockdown measures, signed an emergency order Saturday reducing commercial trucking regulations while the state faces severe winter weather. 

“As many states have been experiencing consistent extreme cold temperatures, the demand for energy has increased significantly, which has put a strain on the nation’s energy infrastructure,” a press release from Whitmer’s office said. “Michigan has experienced an abnormally high demand for propane from in-state and regional consumers, causing longer lines at propane distribution centers. In an effort to reduce this strain and ensure a consistent flow of energy, the executive order temporarily suspends restrictions on commercial driver hours to allow the immediate delivery of energy to homes and businesses.”

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Georgia to Provide More Than $550M in Rental, Utility Assistance

Georgia will provide $552 million in rent and utility assistance to landlords and tenants, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday.

The federal government provided the COVID-19-related aid through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and it will be paid directly to landlords and utility companies.

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More Than 1 Million Minnesotans Have Gotten a COVID-19 Vaccine

Less than one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Minnesotans have received more than 1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Tim Walz announced Friday.

About 728,081 Minnesotans had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and 286,543 have completed the two-dose series. 

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Georgia Bill Would Provide Hearings for People Denied Right to Vote

Five state senators in the Georgia General Assembly filed legislation late last week that would, if enacted into law, provide people the right to a hearing when government officials challenge whether they may legally vote. The Georgia General Assembly identified State Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas) as the bill’s primary sponsor.

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PPP Loan Tax Exemption Bills Go into Conference in Virginia General Assembly

The General Assembly has so far failed to find middle ground for tax breaks on forgiven Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) loans, and will now form a committee of three senators and three delegates to reconcile differences between the two chambers.

While a Senate bill calls for a $100,000 cap on income deductions claimed under PPP expenditures, the House of Delegates bill calls for only a $25,000 cap. When the two chambers considered each other’s bills, the House modified SB 1146 to a $25,000 cap, while the Senate amended HB 1935 to a $100,000 cap. After passing the modified versions, both chambers then rejected the modified versions of their original bills. On Friday, the two chambers agreed to form a conference committee to work together to create a bill that can pass both chambers.

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As High School Football Begins, Northam Allows up to 250 Spectators at Outdoor Sports

Governor Ralph Northam released an amended Executive Order 72 that allows outdoor sports to have up to 250 spectators or 30 percent of venue capacity, whichever is less, effective Monday. The February 17 amendment modifies language that previously allowed just two guests per player, up to 30 percent of venue capacity. Indoor sports are still limited to 25 persons per field.

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Cincinnati Border Patrol Seizes Cocaine Covered ‘Frosted Flakes’

Law enforcement in Cincinnati intercepted a creatively designed ploy to smuggle drugs into the country, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) press release. 

“On February 13, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Cincinnati intercepted smuggled narcotics in a shipment of cereal originating from South America,” the release said. “The shipment contained about 44 pounds of cocaine coated corn flakes, which could have a street value of up to $2,822,400.”

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New Bill Would Mandate That Absentee Ballots Go Only to Registered Georgia Voters

Georgia legislators have filed a bill that would require that government officials mail absentee ballot applications only to registered voters. The Georgia General Assembly’s website identified State Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) as the bill’s primary sponsor.

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Ohio Secretary of State Restricts Ballot Drop Boxes, ACLU Vows to Fight

Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State is catching heat from liberal groups, despite allowing the state to proceed with absentee voting via drop boxes.

“Even though Ohio law does not explicitly provide for the use of secure receptacles, commonly known as ‘drop boxes,’ for an absentee voter to return their ballot to the director, this Directive, once again, provides for the continued use of secure receptacles outside of the boards of elections,” Frank LaRose (R) said in a February 12 directive. 

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Macomb County Restaurants Sue Michigan Gov. Whitmer Seeking Damages for Nearly a Year of Restaurant Restrictions

A Macomb County restaurant group has filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other state entities.

In the lawsuit filed Feb. 8 in Macomb County Circuit Court, the Macomb County Restaurant, Bar, and Banquet Association (MCRBBA) alleges top state officials violated the state Constitution’s Taking Clause by closing businesses for the past 11 months with just compensation and are seeking damages.

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Georgia Launches COVID Vaccine Registration Website

This week, Georgia rolled out a COVID-19 vaccination registration website, as the state gears up to begin vaccinating more residents. 

“COVID-19 vaccines continue to arrive in Georgia in extremely limited supply,” the site’s homepage says. “As we await additional vaccine supply from the Federal Government, we urge currently eligible Georgia residents to pre-register today.”

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Minnesota Gov. Walz Announces Plan for All Schools to Offer Some In-Person Learning by March 8

On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz updated Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan to allow more middle school and high school students to return to the classroom for hybrid or in-person learning as early as Monday.

Walz expects all schools to offer their students some form of in-person learning by March 8, but said he won’t force them to comply.

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State Lawmaker Proposes Bill to Reimburse Fines and Expunge Records for Ohio Businesses

  COLUMBUS, Ohio – State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) introduced a bill Wednesday that would both expunge the records of businesses cited for COVID violations and return fines and penalties paid. Upon its introduction, House Bill 127 was assigned to the House State and Local Government Committee on Thursday. HB127…

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Bipartisan Effort to Create an In-Person Learning Bill Slowly Moving Through the Virginia General Assembly

Senator Siobhan Dunnavant’s (R-Henrico) SB 1303 requiring schools to provide both in-person and virtual learning options is still moving through the House of Delegates, but slowly. Dunnavant’s bill earned bipartisan support in the Senate, thanks in part to support from Senators Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) and Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond.) But a House Education subcommittee initially introduced several amendments to the bill that would effectively leave the status quo intact, prompting opposition from House Republicans

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Minneapolis Lifts Bar Seating Ban, Still Requires Multiple Distancing Rules

Residents of Minneapolis received a small reprieve from stringent COVID-19 restrictions Friday, but plenty of rules still remain in place. 

“The city of Minneapolis has lifted its ban on bar counter seating just in time for the weekend,” Minnesota Public Radio News (MPR) reported. “Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the decision was based on public health data, showing a decrease in COVID-19 cases in the city.”

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Virginia GOP Fights off Two More Attempts to Block a Nominating Convention

Two attempts to force the Virginia GOP to reconsider its decision to hold a convention failed this week, the latest scene in the ongoing drama among the party’s leadership.

The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC) has voted to hold a nominating convention. Because the SCC can’t muster the three-fourths approval needed to declare an unassembled convention, it is stuck with a default in-person convention. The SCC has spent months rehashing the decision in formal Zoom meetings and private discussions.

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REPORT: 270-Hour Observation of Fulton County Elections Revealed Extensive Chain of Custody, Absentee Ballot Processing Issues

A Fulton County elections report revealed extensive problems occurred with chain of custody and absentee ballot processing during the general election. The State Election Board contracted Seven Hills Strategies (SHS) to monitor Fulton County from its pre-electoral processes through the recent runoffs. An SHS monitor synthesized 270 hours of observation into a 14-page report, published last month. The monitor was careful to emphasize that they didn’t witness any fraudulent activity such as ballot stuff or double-counting.

In addition to multiple reports of absentee ballots sent to incorrect addresses, the monitor reported that the absentee ballot processing was “extremely sloppy” and rife with chain of custody issues. The monitor cited one example of the headquarter building functioning as both the additional voter verification area and a holding room for ballots between the mail room and another processing room. The monitor stated that it witnessed staff members attempting to move unverified absentee ballots into a stack headed for State Farm Arena to be scanned and counted.

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Virginia Man Sentenced to Three Years for Driving Through BLM Protest

A Virginia man was sentenced to three years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to charges stemming from driving through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protestors last year. 

Emmanuel “Manny” Wilder pleaded guilty to failure to appear, reckless driving, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace, according to WAVY. Wilder did not hit anyone during the incident. 

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Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer Exposes the ‘Dirty Truth’ About School Closures

U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer exposed the “dirty truth” about school closures at a Friday event hosted by the Center of the American Experiment.

Emmer represents Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District and chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee. He believes education will remain a hot topic in the 2022 midterms.

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General Assembly Advances Bills That Allow Abortion Coverage in Health Care Plans on Commonwealth Exchange

The House of Delegates has approved SB 1276, a bill that allows abortions to be included in coverage from private insurance companies listed on the commonwealth’s healthcare exchange. On Thursday, the Senate passed a companion bill, HB 1896, 22 to 17.

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Georgia Bill Would Honor Certain Out-of-State Professional and Occupational Licenses

A new bill in the Georgia General Assembly would, if enacted into law, help individuals who relocated from out-of-state obtain a license to practice certain professions and occupations. State officials could grant expedited licenses to those people — other than dentists, physicians, and osteopaths. This, according to a bill that 12 Georgia legislators filed late last month.

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In Announcement for U.S. Senate Bid Timken Untangles from Kasich, Binds to Trump

Jane Timken, former chairwoman of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP), announced Thursday she will seek the 2022 Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that is currently occupied by Republican Rob Portman who announced last month he will retire from federal politics at the end of his current term.

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A More Restrained Bicycling Safety Act Passes the Virginia Senate

Delegate Chris Hurst’s (D-Montgomery) Bicycling Safety Act passed the Senate on Wednesday. The Senate version of the bill focuses on increasing passing safety. It requires drivers to move over a lane if there isn’t room to pass bicyclists by three feet, and it also allows two bicyclists to ride side-by side in a lane. It also creates a study of the potential effects of a ‘Safety Stop,’ a traffic law that would allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yields under certain conditions.

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Michigan Internet Gaming Reaps $42.7 Million in Gross Receipts in First 10 Days

Sports Book Betting

Michigan internet gaming and sports betting operators reported $42.7 million in gross receipts for the 10 days after its initial launch.

Michigan’s online sportsbooks generated $115.2 million in wagers in the 10 days in January, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).

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Bill to Legalize Marijuana Passes Minnesota House Subcommittee

After an hour and a half hearing Thursday, a bill that would legalize the use of recreational marijuana passed a Minnesota House Commerce Finance and Policy subcommittee. 

“There being 10 ayes and seven nays, House File 600 is recommended to be referred to the Committee on Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy,” chairman of the subcommittee state Rep. Zach Stephenson (DFL-MN-36A) said after the roll call at the end of the online hearing. 

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New Georgia Legislation Would Let Churches and Businesses Stay Open During Health Emergency

Georgia State Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R – Dallas) this week introduced legislation that he said supports a church and a business owner’s rights to keep their establishments open during a pandemic like COVID-19 or other health emergency. This, only if the business can abide by all of the mandated safety precautions that local and state governments issue, Anavitarte said.

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Nonprofit Law Center Fighting for Michigan Man Fired for Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

A legal nonprofit has taken the case of a Michigan man who was fired from his job for using the phrase “All Lives Matter,” according to a press release.

Rick Beaudin, a Re/Max realtor in Pinckney, Michigan, posted what he thought was an innocuous comment on Facebook, in a response to Black Lives Matter organizing a protest there. 

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Virginia Senate and House Disagree over How to Restore Felon Voting Rights

The Senate and the House of Delegates face a disagreement over constitutional amendments to end felon disenfranchisement. SJ 272, introduced by Senator Mamie Locke (D-Hampton) and HJ 555, introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) both effectively restore felon voting rights after the term of imprisonment is completed. However, the two bills feature different language, and on Wednesday, the Senate shot down an attempt by the House to change SJ 272 to match HJ 555. Now, the two chambers will attempt to draft a compromise bill in conference.

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