Ohio Republican Leaders Propose Legislation Increasing Threshold for Citizen-Led Ballot Initiatives

Ohio Republicans introduced a new resolution on Thursday that would require citizen-led constitutional amendments to gain a 60 percent supermajority at the ballot for passage.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose and State Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) initiated the “Ohio Constitution Protection Amendment,” which they say is designed to help protect the Ohio Constitution from continued misuse by special interest and out-of-state activists.

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Republican Matt Huffman Unanimously Re-Elected as Ohio Senate President

Ohio Senator Matt Huffman, (R-Lima) will once again serve as President of the Ohio Senate for the 135th General Assembly after a unanimous vote Tuesday, as reported by a release from the Senate.

Huffman was first elected to the Ohio Senate in 2016. He was re-elected to a second term in 2020 when he previously served as Senate President during the 134th General Assembly and prior to that as Majority Floor Leader. This follows his serving four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives building up to his election as Speaker Pro Tempore.

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Ohio GOP Bill Seeks Overhaul of State Education System and Board of Education

A new bill introduced by Ohio Senate Republicans aims to “restructure” Ohio’s State Department of Education, create a new administrative division under the governor’s office, and reduce the duties of the state Board of Education.

Senate Bill (SB) 178, sponsored by Senator Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) was introduced in the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee on Tuesday. The bill seeks to “improve the academic achievement and workforce skills of our students, to drive better outcomes in their education, and to prepare for more effective career readiness,” Reineke told the committee.

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‘Parents Bill of Rights’ Introduced in Ohio House

Ohio school districts would not be able to discourage or prohibit parental involvement in decisions about their child’s mental health if the General Assembly passes a recently-introduced Parents Bill of Rights Act.

House Bill 722 would require schools to draft a policy that promotes parental involvement in their child’s education in honor of that policy.

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Allowing Fentanyl Test Strips Advances in Pennsylvania Senate

Republican legislators in the General Assembly have embraced a harm-reduction approach to deal with drug overdose deaths.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week advanced a House bill to legalize fentanyl test strips by removing them from the definition of “drug paraphernalia.” The strips can detect fentanyl in other drugs such as heroin, which can help users avoid accidental overdoses.

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Open Records Bill Would Mean Major Changes for Pennsylvania ‘State Related’ Universities

A major change in public records requirements for some of Pennsylvania’s best-known universities is working through the General Assembly.

Yet, while expansive, it would leave the public with less information about higher education than is available in other states.

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Pennsylvania Poised to Join EMS Grouping, Lessening Barriers for Workers

Pending the signature of Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania will be the 22nd state to join an EMS compact making it easier for emergency workers to practice across state lines.

The agreement standardizes privilege to practice rules, validates licenses in a national registry, and grants emergency medical workers the ability to work across state lines on a short-term basis. By aligning rules and standards, Pennsylvania poses fewer barriers to out-of-state workers who may relocate to the commonwealth.

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Fewer Students, Bigger Budget Requests for Pennsylvania Higher Education

The pandemic has not been kind to Pennsylvania higher education: Its colleges have seen a 6.4% enrollment drop for freshmen since spring 2020.

The data, from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, is a reminder that Pennsylvania’s shrinking population of college-aged youth has made it harder for colleges to fill seats. The two-year decline means that 22,738 fewer students are on campuses now.

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Legislation Could Create Licensure Reciprocity in Ohio

Ohio moved a step closer to recognizing business licenses from other states, which could help with an ongoing labor shortage, a Columbus-based policy group believes.

The House and Senate each passed versions of bills that would adopt universal occupational license recognition before the summer recess, a move The Buckeye Institute believes will make the state more attractive to newcomers and allow employers more options to fill open spots.

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Tennessee Firearms Association Responds to ‘Unconstitutional’ Set of Gun Control Bills Passed in the House of Representatives

The Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA) responded Friday to a set of gun control bills that passed in the House of Representatives this week. The group also criticized Tennessee lawmakers for “putting Tennesseans’ lives at risk” with current state legislation in place.

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Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association Endorses Senator Jack Johnson for Re-Election

The Tennessee Professional Fire Fighters Association (TPFFA) endorsed Republican State Senator Jack Johnson for reelection in Senate District 27, the group announced Wednesday in a press release.

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Virginia Budget Deal Cuts School Choice Program by More than Half

The Virginia budget deal, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly, would cut funding for a school choice tax credit program by more than half of its current funding.

The Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits Program provides a 65% tax credit for individuals or businesses who make donations for scholarships to students so they can attend certain private schools and nonpublic preschool programs. Current law caps the state funding for the program at $25 million per year, but a provision in the budget proposal would reduce that cap to only $12 million per year.

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Georgia to Create Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams to Improve School Safety

Georgia is working to create Behavioral Threat Assessment Teams throughout the state as a part of a broader school safety effort.

Eight regional Homeland Security Coordinators, all sworn law enforcement officers, will lead the teams and respond to threats or concerning behavior that may be considered a pathway to violence. The BTATs will provide help and guidance to local schools and communities to mitigate potential threats.

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Ohio Supreme Court Tosses Redistricting Maps – Again

Calling the actions of Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission a “stunning rebuke of the rule of law,” the Ohio Supreme Court rejected for a fifth time a set of Ohio House and Senate district maps.

The decision came three days before a deadline set by federal judges, who said they would implement maps ruled unconstitutional if no new legal maps were created.

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Bill to Expand Education Choice Passes in the Pennsylvania House

A bill with some momentum in the General Assembly would expand school choice with public funding, but may struggle to become law despite public opinion that supports it.

The Pennsylvania House passed an education bill to give students in low-performing schools a scholarship to move districts. The bill, HB2169, was introduced by Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Wellsboro, to establish a Lifeline Scholarship for students to leave an underperforming local school and enroll elsewhere. It narrowly passed 104-98.

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Lamont: Sikorsky Deal Keeps Company in Connecticut

An agreement ratified by the General Assembly will keep a military company in Connecticut for years to come, Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The governor announced an agreement has been finalized with Lockheed Martin to keep its helicopter manufacturer in the state through 2042. Sikorsky will sustain more than 7,000 jobs in the state under the new deal which could expand helicopter lines being produced at its Straftord facility.

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Connecticut Bills Could Bring Changes to Property, Income Tax Calculations

Holly Cheeseman

As inflation soars to 40-year highs, Connecticut lawmakers are considering a package of bills that could bring changes to the manner property and income taxes are calculated in the future.

This legislative session, the General Assembly is considering House Bill 5487, which could increase thresholds for the state’s property tax credit and eliminate some of the eligibility restrictions that are in place.

Also on the Legislature’s radar this session is House Bill 5489, which calls for inflation indexing the personal income tax, and House Bill 5490, which would establish a personal income tax deduction on rent paid, so long as the person’s primary residence is in Connecticut.

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Ohio Supreme Court Leaves Primary Election Date in Hands of General Assembly

Robert Cupp and Vernon Sykes

The Ohio Supreme Court rejected a Democrat request to move the state primary to June, while independent map makers told the Ohio Redistricting Commission progress is slow creating a fourth set of state legislative districts.

The Supreme Court left the power to establish election dates and times in the hands of the General Assembly after Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, and House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, filed a motion last week to have the court set a new date.

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Virginia Democrats Encourage House GOP to Back Felon Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment

Virginia House and Senate Democrats are urging House Republicans to support resolutions to allow voters to decide the fate of two proposed constitutional amendments: the automatic restoration of voting rights for felons and same-sex marriage rights.

To adopt a constitutional amendment, both chambers of the General Assembly must pass two identical resolutions two years in a row, with a House of Delegates election in between those years. If approved in the Legislature, the proposed amendment would appear on the general ballot during the fall elections. If supported by the majority of voters, the proposed amendment would be adopted.

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Crime Task Forces, Bus System Among Issues Discussed at Connecticut Budget Appropriations Meeting

The efficacy of crime task forces, status of CTtransit bus lines and issuance of non-driver IDs were among the wide ranging issues Connecticut lawmakers dug into with state officials at a recent hearing looking into the back half of Gov. Ned Lamont’s biennium budget.

Members in both chambers of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee held a hearing Feb. 18 with state officials serving on transportation, regulation and protection agencies.

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State Official: More Money Needed for Ohio Primary Elections

Frank LaRose of Ohio

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose wants more money from the General Assembly to conduct the state’s May 3 primary after continued delays in creating new district maps increased pressure on county boards of elections.

LaRose, who also is a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission that twice had maps thrown out by the Ohio Supreme Court, also ordered county boards to start taking steps to place candidates for the General Assembly on the ballot, even though the court has yet to approve a third set of maps passed late last week.

“The General Assembly has the legal authority to set the time, place, and manner of our elections, and they’ve made it clear that the state House and Senate contests will be placed on the May 3 ballot,” LaRose said. “I’ve also communicated to the legislative leaders the risks associated with rushing this process. Elections officials across Ohio are concerned about the compressed timeline for candidate certification, ballot preparation and the programming and testing of voting equipment.”

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JC Bowman Commentary: Thoughts on Bill Lee’s State of the State on Education

States are where policymaking magic happens because they can experiment with innovative policy ideas. Tennessee citizens are unsurpassed in courage, passion, determination, and kindness reflected in our diversity; that is actually why Tennessee is America at Its Best. As a state, we must set our agenda with relentless optimism and resolve toward our future. In education, we understand that there must be needed changes in school funding, including additional monies. Governor Lee’s proposal in the State of the State tonight needs much deeper review, study, and time. In Tennessee, we do not “pass the bill so people can find out what’s in it.”

The Tennessee Constitution requires the General Assembly to provide for the maintenance, support, and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools. There are many key policy levers needed to improve public education and many are interlinked. Teachers are the critical element in improving education. It’s not about more programs, more standards, or more tests. It’s about that relationship between an adult and a child. Students need an adult who believes in them and their ability to succeed in life. Moving education policy is a lot like the game Jenga. If you remove the wrong piece the structure collapses. This is especially true in education funding. Without skilled personnel, education cannot succeed.

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Measure Directs $225 Million to Recruit, Retain Pennsylvania Health Care Workers

Pennsylvania Republicans highlighted legislation Wednesday that is moving through the General Assembly to direct $225 million to recruit and retain health care workers for hospitals and behavioral service providers.

Leaders of the House and Senate gathered on the lieutenant governor’s balcony between the two chambers for a news conference on House Bill 253, sponsored by Rep. Clint Owlett, R-Tioga.

The legislation allocates $225 million to hospitals and behavioral and psychiatric service providers for retention and recruitment programs for staff. The bill is targeted specifically at nurses and other hospital employees, and it excludes hospital executives, administration, contracted staff and physicians.

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Griffey Says Wife Rebecca Will Run for His Seat in the 75th State House District

Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, host Leahy welcomed State Representative Bruce Griffey of District 75 in studio to discuss his future plans, Kyle’s Law, and breaking news that his wife Rebecca Griffey will pull papers this week to run for his vacant seat.

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Ohio Lawmakers Introduce Anti-Corruption Bill Aimed at State Vendors

Vendors wanting to do business with the state of Ohio would be banned if they are caught committing fraud under proposed legislation in the General Assembly.

What sponsoring lawmakers are calling anti-corruption legislation also is aimed at stopping influence and collusion. Ohio is one of a few states that does not have a law modeled after similar federal legislation.

“Ohio is potentially letting criminals get away with millions of dollars of ill-gotten taxpayer dollars by failing to adopt these long-needed and commonsense reforms,” Rep. Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, said. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t pass these bills to catch and punish fraud.”

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Ohio Closer to Establishing Electric Vehicle Commission

A bill passed in the Ohio House would help the state prepare for a future with electric vehicles.

House Bill 292, which was passed in the House on Thursday, establishes the Electric Vehicle Commission, consisting of elected officials and industry leaders, to study electric vehicle production and the steps needed to take to adapt to potential growth in the industry.

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Republicans, Democrats Still at Odds over Ohio Congressional Maps

Thomas West and Rob McColley

Ohio’s effort to redraw congressional districts bounced back to the General Assembly, where Democrats are calling the Republican proposal heavily gerrymandered and against the wishes of Ohioans who voted for reform in 2018.

State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, however, said the Republican proposal meets state constitutional requirements.

“It is the product of a deliberate effort to draw compact districts, while keeping Ohio’s largest cities whole,” McColley said in sponsor testimony.

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Tennessee Bill that Allows Partisan Elections for School Board Members Passes Both Chambers, Now Heads To Lee’s Desk for Signing

On Monday, a bill that would allow Tennessee counties to decide if school board elections can be partisan passed both chambers and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

The bill, HB 9072 – SB 9009, “requires elections of school board members to be conducted on a partisan basis.” The legislation also “removes prohibition for a person seeking a position on a school board to campaign as the nominee of a political party and authorizes political parties to nominate candidates for school board membership by any method authorized under the rules of the party or by primary election.”

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General Assembly Keeps Foreign Languages, Home Economics in Ohio Schools

Cleveland Metropolitan School District 8th grade students read with their kindergarten buddies and help the young learners discover the joy of reading.

Foreign languages, business education and home economics still will be a required part of curriculum in Ohio schools after the Ohio Senate voted unanimously to stop a proposal from the Ohio Department of Education that would have allowed them to be eliminated.

The Senate concurred with House Concurrent Resolution 35 to stop a plan that would have changed the state’s administrative code to eliminate those required courses of study, a change put forth by the State Board of Education. The House passed the resolution, 95-0.

Wednesday’s vote marked the first time in 25 years the General Assembly stopped a rule from going into effect, according to Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, who serves on the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review.

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Third Lawsuit Filed to Stop Ohio’s New Legislative District Map

Two more lawsuits have been filed with the Ohio Supreme Court challenging Republican drawn legislative district maps, claiming they are unconstitutional and gerrymandered.

The most-recent challenge came Monday from the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and was filed by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law and the law firm Reed Smith.

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Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Prisoner Redistricting Law

A law that requires a prison inmate’s most recent address to be used for the purpose of redistricting will remain in effect after the Virginia Supreme Court denied a petition.

Legislation that went into effect last year changed how the prison population was considered when redistricting maps. Before the change, an inmate was counted as a resident of the locality in which the prison was located, but the new law requires he or she be counted as a resident of his or her most recent address, before incarceration, if that person was a resident of Virginia.

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Voting Reform Bill Reintroduced after Pennsylvania Governor’s Veto

Seth Grove and Tom Wolf

The prime sponsor of a vetoed voting reform bill said Friday he reintroduced the measure after Gov. Tom Wolf shifted his public opinion on some components of the legislation over the summer.

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said House Bill 1800 would bolster voting rights “through three broad concepts of increased access, increased security and modernization.” 

“We know access and security are not mutually exclusive,” he said.

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Death Penalty Ban, Other Laws from Legislative Session Take Effect Thursday

Several laws from the Virginia legislature’s session will take effect Thursday, including one groundbreaking law abolishing the death penalty in the state. 

Virginia will be the first southern state to take such a measure. 

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Norment, Saslaw Discuss If Virginia Will Remain Business-Friendly in the Future

In a post-session virtual luncheon hosted by Wason Center Academic Director Quentin Kidd, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City) expressed alarm at erosion of Virginia’s business-friendly status while Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said moderate pro-business senators were helping protect Virginia’s business environment — for now.

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One-Fourth of Bills Passed in 2021 Virginia General Assembly Sessions Passed Along Party Lines

In 2020 and 2021, the Democrat-led General Assembly passed nearly 20 percent more bills through strict party-line votes than in the three previous years when Republicans controlled both chambers. According to a data visualization from the Virginia Public Access Project, in 2020, 24 percent of bills passed were passed along party lines with Democrats voting for and Republicans voting against. In 2021, that number grew to 25 percent. In the Republican controlled sessions of 2017, 2018, and 2019, the percentage of bills passed along party lines was respectively 7.7 percent, 4.7 percent, and 5.7 percent.

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Out-of-Court Settlement Reached to Provide Space for Virginia Legislators to Meet With Constituents

On New Years Eve, Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) struck a deal with leaders of the Virginia General Assembly that will provide space for constituents to meet with legislators near the Capitol grounds even though the Pocahontas Building and Capitol Building remain closed to outsiders due to COVID-19.

DeSteph said the out-of-court settlement was a win. “This will allow citizens, subject matter experts, and other professional staff to meet face-to-face with legislators during the upcoming regular session. This is a huge victory for the First Amendment and for open access to government for all Virginians,” the press release states.

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Bedford County Passes Resolution Opposing Repeal of Qualified Immunity

The Bedford County Board of Supervisors (BOS) unanimously passed a resolution repudiating efforts to repeal qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that provides extra protection to law enforcement officers from personal liability while on-duty unless they commit willful misconduct. An effort to repeal qualified immunity was defeated in the Virginia Senate during the recent special session.

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Governor Northam Signs Revised State Budget

Governor Ralph Northam signed Virginia’s new biennial budget, according to a Wednesday press release. The budget is the product of a recent months-long Special Session held by the General Assembly and features key provisions for homeowners, children, and businesses.

“This budget gives us the tools we need to contend with the challenges brought on by the ongoing pandemic,” Northam said in a press release.

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Fear Drives Record Gun Sales

Virginia is setting records for gun sales this year; already the FBI has processed 617,472 firearms background checks, beating 2019’s total of 512,766.

Bob Marcus owns Bob’s Guns in Norfolk. He said the increase in sales began a year ago. “We saw it after the General Assembly turned over back in November. It started with the election, and then the General Assembly went into session. And there were threats of the so-called assault weapons ban, and other restrictions, so it continued through January, February, and into March.”

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Virginians to Decide Gerrymandering Amendment

An anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendment that would change the way legislative districts are drawn in Virginia will be decided on the ballot.

The amendment is intended to prevent gerrymandering by establishing a 16-person bipartisan redistricting commission that would propose redistricting plans to the General Assembly. The General Assembly would be allowed to approve or decline the proposals, but would not be allowed to offer any amendments.

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Gov. Lee Considers Calling Special Session of Legislature to Pass Bill Giving Businesses Protection From COVID-19 Lawsuits

Gov. Bill Lee is thinking about calling the Legislature in for a special session to pass a bill to provide retroactive COVID-19 legal protection for businesses, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said.

The General Assembly ended their session on Friday without the House passing the Tennessee Recovery and Safe Harbor Act. It received 46 of 50 votes needed. House Majority Leader William Lamberth (R-Portland) questioned whether the measure was legal under Tennessee’s Constitution regarding the impairment of contracts. (The Senate had approved the bill.)

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State Senator Kerry Roberts Comments on Status of Gov. Bill Lee’s Heartbeat Bill

On Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Host Michael Patrick Leahy welcomed Tennessee State Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield) in the studio to discuss the decision-making pattern of Governor Bill Lee.

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Concerned Citizens: Leahy Takes Listener Calls and Breaks Down the Consequences of Governor Lee’s Refugee Stance

“So what the governor’s letter is going to do is make Tennessee a magnet. Tennessee will be a magnet for refugees,” host Michael Patrick Leahy told listeners Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am.

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Social Justice Warriors at The Tennessean Publish Op-Ed Claiming ‘Tennessee Is a Racist State and So Is Its Legislature’

A progressive social justice warrior-community organizer has labeled the entire State of Tennessee as racist with the aid of The Tennessean, which ran her ranting op-ed Wednesday. Aftyn Behn describes herself as the statewide organizer of Indivisible for Tennessee and Kentucky. Her op-ed blaming the state – especially the General…

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North Carolina House Elections Committee Chairs Announced

North Carolina’s Speaker of the House Tim Moore has announced the appointment of State Representatives Holly Grange (R-D20) and Destin Hall (R-D87l) as co-chairs of the North Carolina House Committee on Elections and Ethics Law. “These two House members have a strong legal background and will be an integral part…

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Kasich Vetoes Bill Expanding Benefits for Families of Fallen First Responders

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) vetoed a bill Friday that would expand benefits for widows and children of deceased first responders because it also included legislative pay raises. According to The Dayton Daily News, Senate Bill 296 included a provision that would increase pay for lawmakers by 4 percent in…

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Tennessee Firearms Association Blisters Republican-led Legislature For ‘Pitiful’ 2nd Amendment Protections

Firearms blue

The recently ended legislative year in Nashville was “pitiful” in terms of protecting gun rights, a state firearms advocacy group says in a report. The “Tennessee Firearms Association 2018 Legislative Report and Review” takes the Republican super-majority in the General Assembly to task on 15 new laws and/or amendments to…

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