American Classical Academy’s Phil Schwenk Reflects on Becoming a Teacher

Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, host Leahy welcomed Principal Phil Schwenk in studio to talk about his educational experiences and what ultimately led him to teach.

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Connecticut Renters Struggle to Find Affordable Housing

Renters in Connecticut are short on options with prices soaring.

“Currently, Connecticut has a shortage of 85,000 units of affordable housing for those families that earn an income of 80% or below the AMI,” Renée Dobos, CEO of Connecticut Housing Partners, told The Center Square. AMI is an acronym for area medium income.

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Commentary: Industrial Power in Economics and War

Beginning in the 1980s, the American economy underwent substantial changes. Just as the earlier age of industrialization had transformed a rural and agriculture economy into an urban one focused on manufacturing, the industrial age gave way to the information age, with a greater priority for tasks like management, information processing, and finance. The workforce and concentrations of wealth followed suit, with finance and high-tech companies displacing the old industrial giants with their assembly lines and armies of workers. 

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Pennsylvania Budget Lauded by GOP, Dems, but Critics Call Spending ‘Not Sustainable’

Pennsylvania Capitol Building

After missing the June 30 deadline for a budget deal, an agreement has been made.

The $45.2 billion budget was approved by the Senate on Friday after the House approved it Thursday. It awaits the signature of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf to become official.

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State Tax Revenues in May Exceeded Budgeted Estimates, per Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration

The Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration announced Tuesday that overall May state tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates. On an accrual basis, May is the tenth month in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

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Commentary: America’s Recycling Program Failed – and Scarred the Environment

In March 2019, The New York Times ran a shocking story exploring why many prominent US cities were abandoning their recycling programs.

“Philadelphia is now burning about half of its 1.5 million residents’ recycling material in an incinerator that converts waste to energy,” Times business writer Michael Corkery reported. “In Memphis, the international airport still has recycling bins around the terminals, but every collected can, bottle and newspaper is sent to a landfill.”

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Crom’s Crommentary: Is There a Connection Between Biden, the Baby Formula Shortage, and Hunter Biden’s Art?

Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, host Leahy welcomed original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio for another edition of Crom’s Crommentary.

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Commentary: The Green U.S. Supply-Chain Rules Set to Unspool and Rattle the Global Economy

in a warehouse at General Mills

Making a box of Cocoa Puffs is a complicated global affair. It could start with cocoa farms in Africa, corn fields in the U.S. or sugar plantations in Latin America. Then thousands of processors, transporters, packagers, distributors, office workers and retailers join the supply chain before a kid in Minnesota, where General Mills is based, pours the cereal into a bowl. 

Now imagine the challenge that General Mills faces in counting the greenhouse gas emissions from all of these people, machines, vehicles, buildings and other products involved in this Cocoa Puff supply chain – then multiply that by the 100-plus brands belonging to the food giant.

Thousands of public companies may soon have such a daunting task to comply with a new set of climate rules proposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Communities Grant Program to Send $45 Million to 12 Connecticut Cities for Improvement Projects

Ned Lamont

A total of 12 cities will be receiving funding through Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s new grant program.

The governor announced $45 million will be awarded through the Connecticut Communities Challenge Grant Program, which works to leverage $74 million in nonstate, private funding to prop up projects aimed at improving livability and vibrance of cities.

“Investing in our communities is a key part of our plan to accelerate long-lasting and equitable economic development in Connecticut,” Lamont said in a release. “This new grant program we launched will have wide-ranging impacts as we emerge stronger than ever from the pandemic, creating new jobs, improving the vibrancy and quality of life in our neighborhoods, and making all corners of the state even more attractive for investment and opportunity.”

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Ohio Commits More Federal COVID-19 Money to Law Enforcement

Ohio plans to use more federal COVID-19 money to help local law enforcement agencies reduce violent crime, Gov. Mike DeWine announced.

The state plans to add $50 million from American Recovery Plan Act funds to the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program, which began this year with $8 million in the state budget.

“One of the most important things that we can do to support our law enforcement officers is to give them the tools they need to keep themselves and the public safe,” DeWine said. “By significantly increasing the amount of funding available, we can help more law enforcement agencies better combat crime and protect their communities.”

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Whitmer, Biden in Opposite Directions for Fuel-Starved United States

Gretchen Whitmer and Joe Biden

President Joe Biden may be preparing to make a big ask of the United States’ neighbor to the north, and if he does it will run contrary to the agenda of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her administration.

According to Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, the first-term Democratic president is considering asking Canada to boost its oil exports to the United States. However, the president halted construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline on his first day of office. XL would’ve have transported 830,000 barrels of Canadian crude from Alberta to Nebraska each day.

In the meantime, the Michigan governor and Attorney General Dana Nessel – both Democrats like Biden – have been working in the courts to permanently shut down a five-mile portion of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline which ships 540,000 barrels of Canadian hydrocarbons daily across a five-mile section of the Straits of Mackinac lakebed. 

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Georgia Lawmakers Sign Off on Flat Tax

Governor Brian Kemp

Georgia lawmakers passed legislation that will gradually drop the state income tax rate over the next few years, a move that proponents say will make the state more competitive.

The state House voted 167-2, and the state Senate voted 41-13 in favor of an amended House Bill 1437. The bill sets the state’s tax level at 4.99% by 2029, starting with a 5.49% flat tax for the tax year beginning Jan. 1, 2024.

The measure, which received broad bipartisan support in both chambers of the Legislature, now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, for his signature. Kemp is expected to sign the bill into law.

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St. Paul to Hold Community Meetings on Reparations

Mayor Melvin Carter

A St. Paul City Council committee will soon be holding community meetings on the establishment of a “permanent standing commission” that aims to create “generational wealth” for descendants of slaves and increase “economic mobility and opportunity” for blacks.

The council’s Legislative Advisory Committee on Reparations, established last June after the idea was approved last January, says it will produce a report on this permanent commission by Friday, June 10, and lay out its recommendations on creating wealth and boosting black economic opportunity the following Wednesday, June 15.

But first, it will hold four community meetings — two virtual, two in person. The virtual meetings will take place on Thursday, April 7, from 5 to 6 p.m. and Friday, April 29, from noon to 1 p.m.

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Small Biz Survey: Pennsylvania Government Favors Big Business

Amazon warehouse

Small businesses worry about the power of larger corporations in the marketplace, but they’re also unhappy with the subsidies and tax breaks big businesses get from the government.

A survey of independent small businesses published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance showed that small businesses perceive a business climate that favors bigger companies. A majority of respondents were retailers, and businesses had an average size of 15 employees.

Survey respondents suggested a handful of policy changes they’d like to see:

Ending subsidies and tax breaks for big businesses.
Breaking up and/or regulating Amazon.
Investing in downtowns and neighborhood business districts.
Strengthening antitrust policy and enforcement.
Capping credit card swipe fees.

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Study Recommends ‘Dynamic Upgrades’ to Address Disparities in Michigan’s Per-Pupil School Funding

Ben DeGrow

Asserting “student aid should take precedence over school aid,” a new study seeks to address among other topics the funding disparities between traditional public schools and charter school academies.

Released earlier this week, “From School Aid to Student Aid” was written by Ben DeGrow, Education Policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

DeGrow notes the COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in parents selecting alternatives to publicly funded schools for their children. He also says schools are recognizing the effects of declining birth rates.

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Wisconsin Lawmakers May Overturn Rule Forcing Local Fairs to Pay Some Winners

Senator Howard Marklein

The state of Wisconsin wants to stop paying people who win multiple prizes at multiple county or district fairs, but lawmakers in Madison say that could kill those local fairs.

Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said they discovered a new rule from the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection last week that would limit state-paid premiums to winners at just one local fair. After the first first-prize, other local fairs would be 100% responsible for all prizes for that same winner.

“This means that if someone wins an award at the Elroy Fair, the Juneau County Fair would not be able to be reimbursed for the premium if they won at the Juneau County Fair,” Marklein explained.

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Georgia Senate Signs Off on Fiscal 2023 Budget

Georgia State Capitol

The Georgia Senate has signed off on a fiscal year 2023 state budget that increases spending by 10.8% over last year.

The Senate voted 56-0 in favor of an amended House Bill 911, a more than $30 billion spending plan that includes pay raises for many state employees and largely returns spending to pre-COVID-19-pandemic spending levels.

The budget proposal includes pay raises for certified teachers and other school workers, including nutrition workers, bus drivers and school nurses. It also increases funding for law enforcement, including for the Georgia Department of Public Safety to hire state troopers and expand crisis intervention training for officers across the Peach State.

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Phoenix Nets Most Inbound Movers, Study Finds

Phoenix home

People are moving to Arizona in droves, especially the Phoenix area.

Last year, the Phoenix metro area took the top spot nationwide in terms of the number of people moving to the city compared to the rate at which people were leaving the city, according to a study conducted by Allied.

Meanwhile, Arizona as a whole was a popular state for people to move to, even outside of the Phoenix metro area; it ranked fifth among inbound states in the country last year. States that ranked ahead of Arizona on the list included: South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Florida. Meanwhile, Arizona ranked ahead of Texas on the list.

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Wisconsin Gov. Evers Signs Bill Appropriating $883K to Promoting Dairy Exports

Gov. Tony Evers

Wisconsin taxpayers will pay $883,000 for a new agricultural exports program to promote dairy products.

The tab results from a bill signed by Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday, which was National Agriculture Day.

Wisconsin Act 207 (Senate Bill 827) requires the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to apply the existing, unused appropriation for a newly created agricultural exports program.

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Commentary: Schools’ COVID-Aid Joy Ride Could Send New Hires off a Fiscal Cliff – Again

As school districts across the country grapple with declining enrollments induced by the pandemic, many are engaged in spending sprees like those of the past leading to widespread layoffs and budget cuts when federal money ran out.

Bolstered by $190 billion in pandemic relief funding from Washington, the nation’s public schools are hiring new teachers and staff, raising salaries, and sweetening benefit packages. Some are buying new vehicles. Others are building theaters and sports facilities.

Using such temporary support for new staff and projects with long-term costs is setting the table for perilous “fiscal cliffs” after COVID funding expires in 2024, some education budget analysts say. And that’s on top of doubts about whether money to battle the pandemic is being properly spent in the first place.

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Crom’s Crommentary: Fog, Economics and Circumventing the Mainstream Media

Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, host Leahy welcomed the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael in studio for another edition of Crom’s Crommentary.

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Central Bank Expected to Raise Interest Rates Wednesday

Person counting cash

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise interest rates after its meeting Wednesday to combat the country’s soaring inflation, Axios reported.

The central bank is believed to raise its target fed funds rate by a quarter percentage point from zero after the end of the two-day meeting ending Wednesday, Axios reported. The Fed’s decision will outline the bank’s monetary policy for the near future and determine whether the U.S. economy enters a recession or continues surging price hikes, according to Axios.

Inflation has soared to nearly 8% year-over-year as of February while unemployment stayed below 4%, indicating that the Fed has been behind the curve in its effort to address sustained inflation, Axios reported. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is now reportedly tasked with fixing a delicate economy without crashing it despite a war in Ukraine and renewed COVID-19 lockdowns in China.

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Youngkin to Go After Unemployment Fraud, Gets Thanks from Virginia Businesses

Woman organizing table contents in restaurant

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced a deal aimed at cracking down on fraudulent unemployment claims, a move that garnered support from members of the business community.

The governor and Attorney General Jason Miyares signed an agreement with the Virginia Employment Commission, which allows the attorney general to represent the VEC in the prosecution of criminal unemployment compensation fraud cases.

“The VEC has asked that I take on this responsibility, and I enthusiastically agreed to the VEC’s request,” Miyares said in a statement. “Protecting the Commonwealth from crime is one of my top priorities as Attorney General. Fraudulent claims must be prosecuted and fraud on the unemployment fund diverts resources from those who need them most.”

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Commentary: Joe Biden’s Electric Car Plans Support the World’s Worst Humanitarian Abuses

Joe Biden

In his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, President Joe Biden promoted electric vehicles (EVs), trumpeting his plans to establish “a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations.” In so doing, Biden is unwittingly supporting the worst humanitarian abuses in the world. This is because of the way in which the materials used in manufacturing the batteries that power today’s EVs are obtained.

To obtain a reasonable amount of power per pound of battery weight, EV manufacturers generally use various forms of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, so named because the battery’s positive electrode, called the cathode, is largely made up of the highly reactive metal lithium (Li). To keep the cathode stable when a battery is not in use, the lithium is combined in a metal oxide matrix, with different manufacturers using different combinations of metals.

Most EV manufacturers combine lithium with nickel, cobalt and manganese to create a Li-Ni-Mn-Co oxide matrix to form the cathode. Tesla substitutes aluminum (Al) for the manganese, yielding a Li-Ni-Co-Al oxide matrix for the cathode on their batteries. Tesla maintains that their formulae is more cost-effective as less cobalt is required.

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Farmers Hit Hard by Price Increases as Food Price Spike Looms

Man in white shirt and jeans planting seeds in the ground of a garden

Goods and services around the country are becoming increasingly more expensive, but farmers may be among the hardest hit as inflation, supply chain issues, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are expected to send food prices soaring even higher.

That impact is being felt by farmers around the country.

“The cost of fertilizer is up as much as 500% in some areas,” said Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron. “It would be unbelievable if I hadn’t seen it for myself as I priced fertilizer for our farm in southern Indiana. Fertilizer is a global commodity and can be influenced by multiple market factors, including the situation in Ukraine, and all of these are helping to drive up costs.”

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Michigan House Approves Cutting 27-Cent Gas Tax for Six Months

Andrew Beeler of Michigan

The Michigan House on Wednesday voted 63-39 on a bill aiming to suspend the state’s 27.2-cent per gallon fuel tax for six months.

For the first time since 2008, gas prices broke $4 per gallon nationwide.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, House Bill 5570 would suspend the state fuel tax on gas, diesel, and alternative fuels starting April 1, 2022, through September 30, 2022.

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Commentary: ‘Wokeness’ on Energy Is Weakness

As Joe Biden’s approval numbers sink further into the sewer, the only thing he’s building back better is 1970s-style inflation. Up until Biden, most polls usually named Jimmy Carter as one of the weakest and most inept presidents we’ve ever had. That was until Biden showed up and said, “Hold my beer!” Which you have to know has brought so much joy to Carter. Heck, he probably has a set of “Let’s go Brandon!” PJs that he wears every night as he thanks God for the gift of Biden. 

Fact is, this country is now being “led” by a man who absolutely will go down as one of the worst presidents in our history. In just over a year, Biden has brought inflation roaring back to levels not seen in 40 years, has destroyed our southern border as millions of illegal aliens, along with Chinese fentanyl, flood the country, and now we have been involved in two major international debacles with Afghanistan and Ukraine. The list could go on, but perhaps that’s too depressing. 

Rest assured, however, it’s not going to get better. Biden is like the anti-Midas, turning everything he touches into crap.

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Gov. Evers Signs Law That Exempts Restaurant Revitalization Grants from State Taxes

Gov. Tony Evers holding up recently signed legislation

Another Republican-driven tax cut has been signed by Gov. Tony Evers.

Evers on Monday signed AB 717, which exempts any and all Restaurant Revitalization grants from state taxes.

“This will ensure that these funds are treated like the Paycheck Protection Loans by making them state-tax-exempt,” Evers said.

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$800M Opioid Settlement to Start Paying Out in 2022

pill bottles spilled onto a table

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined local leaders to announce the next steps of Michigan’s anticipated receipt of $800 million opioid settlements over the next 18 years. 

The settlement includes the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

“I took legal action once I took office to try to recoup money for the devastating impact that the opioid epidemic has had on the communities across our state,” Nessel said in a statement. “I am pleased to see our work pay off with this historic settlement that will bring Michigan communities millions of dollars to support abatement efforts. I know that no amount of money will make whole the thousands of Michigan families impacted by opioids, but this is an important victory in a hard-fought battle.”

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Commentary: John Kerry Is Putin’s Useful Climate Idiot

Vladimir Putin and John Kerry shaking hands

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine marks the end of the West’s Era of Illusions. It was an era in which Western elites obsessed about solving climate change because the climate crisis was far more dangerous than issues of war and peace and the stability of the international system. They even convinced themselves that climate change causes war, so climate change policy could double as national security policy; and, for many years, the annual round of kumbaya UN climate talks was the apogee of international relations.

In a BBC World Service interview, presidential climate envoy John Kerry expressed concern about the amount of greenhouse gas being emitted from the war in Ukraine. Kerry was just getting warmed up with a string of platitudes that show him as a deluded climate relic, unable to come to terms with the reality that Putin has imposed on the world. “Equally importantly,” Kerry complained, “you’re going to lose people’s focus,” as if the first invasion of a sovereign European country since the Second World War is an annoying distraction. Hopefully, Kerry continued, Putin would realize that Russia’s land is thawing, and the people of Russia are at risk.  

Kerry concluded with an expression of pure self-deception, saying he hopes Putin “will help us to stay on track with respect to what we need to do for the climate.” Stay on track? Russia has never hidden its intention to avoid cutting its emissions. Russia’s second Nationally Determined Contribution, submitted in November 2020 under the Paris climate agreement, is to limit its 2030 emissions to “no more than 70% of 1990 levels.” The document is careful to avoid pledging to cut or reduce emissions. The 1990 baseline year was the last one before the collapse of the highly inefficient and heavily polluting centrally planned Soviet economy. Thus, the 70% limit actually enables Russia to increase its emissions by 34% – and that’s before taking account of any changes in forestry and land use that would allow Russia to claim credit for negative emissions. 

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U.S. Added 678K Jobs in February, While Unemployment Decreased Slightly

The U.S. economy added 678,000 jobs in February, according to a Friday report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), beating economists’ expectations.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 678,000 in February, according to the BLS report, while the unemployment rate dropped to 3.8%, a pandemic low. Job gains were most pronounced in the leisure and hospitality sectors, which added a total 179,000 jobs.

“The labor market continues to be quite hot,” Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed, told The Wall Street Journal. “It looks like the labor market is still primed for lots of strong employment growth.”

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Commitment to Behavioral Health in Connecticut Governor’s Spending Plan

Ned Lamont

A number of programs within Connecticut’s health-related agencies could be the benefactors of added cash infusions in the second year of Gov. Ned Lamont’s 2022-23 biennium budget.

Members of the Connecticut General Assembly sitting on the Joint Appropriations Committee discussed with agency heads a range of issues — from sports gambling to staffing shortages to lead abatement programs — at a Feb. 24 meeting.

Lamont, a 68-year-old Democrat, earlier this year announced a proposed amendment to the second half of the biennium budget. He wants to add 2.4% into the spending plan for fiscal year 2023, which would bring its total to $24.2 million.

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Baltimore to Spend $90 Million in Federal Funds on Hotels for Homeless and Other Homeless Programs

Baltimore plans to spend $90.4 million of federal funds to buy hotels to replace existing homeless shelters and support other homelessness programs, The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday.

The city has not yet announced which hotels it will buy, but it plans to replace 275 existing beds in several shelters with private rooms in city-owned hotels, the Sun reported.

“Non-congregate shelter is a best practice we’re seeing throughout the nation,” Director of the Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services Irene Agustin told the Sun. “We know this is an intervention that’s going to work within the city of Baltimore.”

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Another Key Inflation Indicator Surged to Highest Level Since 1983

woman in a grocery aisle with a mask and backpack on

A key inflation indicator increased to its highest level in 38 years while consumer demand remained strong despite soaring prices, the Commerce Department announced Friday.

The Commerce Department’s personal consumption expenditure (PCE) index grew 5.2% in January, exceeding the 5.1% Dow Jones estimate, the Commerce Department reported. The PCE is the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, and January’s figure marks monthly the largest year-over-year increase since April 1983.

The PCE increased 0.5% on a monthly basis in January, the same pace as the previous three months, according to the Commerce Department. Including food and energy prices, overall PCE surged 6.1% since January 2021, marking the most annual growth since February 1982.

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Senate Committee Examines Economic Benefits of Horse Race Betting in Georgia

Legislation to legalize horse race betting again has been introduced in the Georgia Legislature.

Similar bills have been pushed in Georgia over the past three years after the federal government lifted a federal ban on sports betting outside of Nevada in 2018.

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Bill Proposes Minnesota Join 19 States with Co-Pay Caps for Insulin

Two Minnesota DFL legislators announced a bill to cap state-regulated health plans’ co-pays for certain prescription drugs at $25 per month.

The bill Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, and Sen. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, if passed, HF 3592, would apply the caps to drugs and medical supplies that treat severe allergic reactions and chronic conditions, such as diabetes and asthma. The bill would become effective in 2023.

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Wholesale Prices Jump in January as Inflation Continues to Soar

Wholesale prices jumped a full percentage point in January and 9.7 percent over last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday, as inflation continues its rapid rise.

“On an unadjusted basis, final demand prices moved up 9.7 percent for the 12 months ended January 2022,” BLS said.

That increase comes after a 0.9% increase in November and a 0.4% increase in December.

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‘Scientific Malfeasance’: Economists Point Out Flaws in Biden Nominee’s Signature Research

Dr. Lisa D. Cook

President Joe Biden’s latest nominee to the Fed has faced criticism for embellishing her resume, but recently some economists have raised the possibility that her most famous research contains fatal flaws.

Lisa Cook, a professor of international relations and economics at Michigan State University, was nominated to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System on Jan 14. Three weeks later, on Feb. 5, an anonymous Twitter account pointed out a mistake in Cook’s 2014 paper, “Violence and economic activity: evidence from African-American patents, 1870-1940.”

The anonymous tweet sparked a flurry of blog posts criticizing Cook’s paper. Andrew Gelman, a statistics professor at Columbia University, compared Cook’s dataset with a more recent dataset from the Brookings Institution and said the results did not match. “Hey—this is a lot different!” wrote Gelman.

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Survey: More Than One-Third of Wisconsin Businesses Plan to Pay More

woman working in a warehouse

It is a good time to be a worker with in-demand skills in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business group, on Monday said its latest Employer Survey shows many businesses across the state plan to raise wages by more than 4% at some point this year.

“Wages are rising much faster than they have in recent memory,” WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer said. “Wisconsin does not have enough people to fill the jobs we have available, and that creates an aggressive competition for talent. We are seeing wages rise at a faster rate, sign-on bonuses, work flexibility and many other strategies from companies to attract and retain talent.”

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Tennessee Education Commissioner Vows Arts Teaching Jobs Will Not Be Outsourced

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn made clear Thursday the state’s new public school funding formula will prioritize teachers and will not outsource teaching responsibilities in the arts.

Schwinn was asked about the outsourcing after questions arose from comments she made during a Feb. 3 steering committee meeting when asked about schools working with nonprofits for art education.

Schwinn clarified Thursday she was referring to the flexibility of getting added help for additional arts programs. She said the new formula, the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISP), would have the same allowances the current Basic Education Program (BEP) has for schools to get additional help for custodial contracts or after-school programs from outside sources.

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State Labor and Industry Department Addresses Unemployment Fraud for Pennsylvania House Committee

Representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry and the Office of Administration discussed ongoing fraud and other issues in the commonwealth’s unemployment system Thursday during a House hearing.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Labor & Industry Jennifer Berrier told the House Labor and Industry Committee that “overall the (unemployment compensation) system is in a good place,” but acknowledged a raft of ongoing issues, from hundreds of millions of dollars stolen through fraud to large backlogs of unresolved claims and fraud cases.

Berrier said the unemployment compensation system has processed more than 611,000 claims since the modernized system went live in June, paying out about $3.4 billion in benefits. During the height of the pandemic, the department faced a backlog of 300,000 nonmonetary determinations, or those involving eligibility, that since has been whittled down to 95,000, she said.

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Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi Sue Biden over Minimum Wage Hike for Federal Contractors

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration again Thursday, this time for requiring federal contractors to pay a $15 an hour minimum wage. It’s the 21st lawsuit the attorney general has filed against the administration. Joining him are the attorneys general from Louisiana and Mississippi.

“The president has no authority to overrule Congress, which has sole authority to set the minimum wage and which already rejected a minimum wage increase,” Paxton argues.

Their lawsuit follows one filed last December by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of outdoor adventure guides, Arkansas Valley Adventures (AVA), ​​a licensed river outfitter regulated by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, and the Colorado River Outfitters Association (CROA). The CROA, a nonprofit trade association, represents more than 150 independent operators who primarily conduct business on federal lands using special use permits through Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.

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State Budget Makers Approve $194 Million for Childcare in Wisconsin

three kids holding hands

Republican lawmakers and Gov. Tony Evers are, perhaps surprisingly, on the same page when it comes to spending more money on childcare in Wisconsin.

The state’s budget-writing panel, the Joint Finance Committee, on Wednesday unanimously approved a plan to spend $194 million in federal funds to support childcare across the state.

“$194 million is a lot of money,” Rep Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, told lawmakers. “This is our job as a committee and members of the legislature to have a voice in how these programs are supported or created or expanded. Or in some cases not created and not expanded.”

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Minnesota College Planning Appreciation Lunch for Non-White Staff Only

Gustavus Adolphus College

Alpha News has learned that a private liberal arts college in southern Minnesota is planning an appreciation lunch for just non-white staff and faculty later this month, which potentially violates federal civil rights law.

The equity and inclusion office at Gustavus Adolphus College, located in the town of St. Peter and affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, recently announced the “People of Color & International Faculty and Staff Appreciation Lunch” that will take place on Friday, Feb. 25.

An email sent out to faculty and staff from the college’s office of marketing and communication mentioned that “Faculty and Staff who are People of Color and/or international … are invited to an appreciation lunch on Friday, February 25 from 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the Three Crowns Room.”

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Whitmer to Pitch Additional $500M in ‘Economic Development’ Spending

Gov. Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to pitch spending $500 million of additional federal taxpayer money on private companies that produce electric vehicles (EV). The governor will discuss her proposal on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

However, it’s unclear if general economic development is an approved use of federal COVID dollars under U.S. Treasury guidelines.

The Detroit News first reported the story.

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Governor Lee Proposes $626 Million in Transportation Spending in Tennessee Budget

construction worker holding a stop sign

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget includes $626.5 million in road projects for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The proposal includes 22 new projects that are categorized under the State Highway Partnership Program ($226 million), Rural Interchange Improvement Program ($176 million), IMPROVE Act Acceleration ($100 million) and economic development projects ($77 million).

The economic development projects, in what are characterized as some of the state’s fastest-growing counties, include a Cleveland Street extension and Interstate-24 underpass in Davidson County ($40 million), a Sullivan County alignment project ($22 million) and widening State Road 334 in Blount County ($15 million).

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State Senate Republicans Pitch $65 Million Law Enforcement Recruiting Package for Minnesota

Minnesota Senate Republicans pitched a 2022 “top priority” $65 million law enforcement recruiting package Wednesday.

The proposals – dubbed the “Creating Opportunities in Public Safety” (C.O.P.S) program – would incentivize law enforcement recruitment statewide to address a police officer shortage, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said in a news conference. 

“Across the state, we’ve been hearing from law enforcement agencies that are struggling with staff,” Miller said. “Law Enforcement officers are leaving the force in far higher numbers than they are applying to join the force and it’s hitting a critical stage for their ability to provide for safe communities,” “This isn’t an accident. These losses are a direct result of the ‘Defund the Police’ and anti-police rhetoric, that has demonized police officers and left them personally demoralized and their agencies diminished in size and standing.”

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Detroit Lawmaker Seeks $43 Million Annual Tax Hike for Museums

Marshall Bullock

A Detroit lawmaker is pitching up to a 20-year, additional 0.4 mill tax hike to Wayne and Oakland County residents to fund museums – similar to the Detroit Institute of Art tax.

Sen. Marshall Bullock, D-Detroit, sponsored Senate Bill 653 that would apply only to counties with a population over one million – narrowing to the above two counties to fund the Detroit Historical Society and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Bullock’s office hasn’t responded to multiple requests by The Center Square for comment.

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Commentary: The GOP Can Reclaim the Child Tax Credit – And Use it to Win in 2022

family of three eating pizza

As part of his Contract with America, House Speaker (and my former boss) Newt Gingrich helped first introduce the Child Tax Credit (CTC), passing it in 1997. Originally the idea of President Ronald Reagan, the CTC was founded on the conservative principles that raising children is God’s work, and parents should not be punished or held back for choosing family in a country that is always moving forward. President Trump continued this tradition by doubling the CTC in 2017. As Speaker Gingrich said during a 1995 speech, “We believe that parents ought to have the first claim on money to take care of their children rather than bureaucrats.”

Democrats reformed the CTC in 2021, as part of their wildly overdone American Rescue Plan. They’ve sought to continue their changes to the CTC in the even-more-overdone Build Back Better Act (BBB), a hulking Frankenstein of bad Democratic ideas. But the new version of the CTC may be an exception. It continues fulfilling Speaker Gingrich’s contract, empowering families to work and earn, and to raise their children with their own values. The spirit and core of that policy is even better reflected by flat, poverty-busting monthly disbursement of the credit. It’s the only salvageable ship in the sinking BBB fleet.

The CTC – in its 2021 form – does not stray too far from the $500-per-child tax cut that was initially passed in 1997. The payments, which provided eligible families with up to $300 per month for each qualifying child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each qualifying child aged 6 to 17, stimulated regional economies, protected families from rising costs, provided direct cash relief, and removed bureaucratic hurdles.

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Commentary: It’s an Unraveling, Not a Reset

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that a shortage of fertilizer is causing farms in the developing world to fail, threatening food shortages and hunger. Ironically, the lead photo is of mounds of phosphate fertilizer in a Russian warehouse.

Modern synthetic fertilizers are typically made using natural gas or from phosphorous-bearing ores. The former provides the nitrogen that is critical to re-use of fields in commercial agriculture. They constitute more than half of all synthetic fertilizer production. 

So what happens when oil and natural gas extraction are crippled in industrialized nations? One likely outcome is that the fertilizer manufacturing industry is also crippled, leaving both large commercial growers and smaller farms around the world starved of a key substance they need to grow food for hungry populations.

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