Florida Transgender Sports Ban Advances Despite Potential Backlash

Women playing lacrosse

Florida Republicans are advancing bills banning transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports despite – perhaps, in spite of – potential corporate criticism and likely sanctions by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

“I certainly couldn’t care less,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said Wednesday after the House approved the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act in a 77-40 vote after a four-hour debate in which 18 amendments were rejected.

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, House Bill 1475, filed by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, would enact a blanket ban on transgender athletes competing as women in Florida. Transgender athletes could still compete in men’s sports.

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Bill Aims to Ban Minnesota Vaccine Passports

Senator Michelle Benson

As Minnesota returns to a semblance of normalcy with an increasing number of injected COVID-19 vaccines, one Republican aims to ban “vaccine passports.”

 SF 1589 aims to ban forced COVID-19 vaccinations, forced digital contact tracing, and required proof of COVID-19 vaccination before entering a government business.

“Your personal health information should not be made public. I stand against the special interests that want your private health information,” Senate Health Committee Chair Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, posted on Facebook.

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General Assembly OKs Paid Parental Leave for Georgia State Workers

A follow-up attempt by lawmakers to implement paid parental leave for Georgia state employees is on its way to Gov. Brian Kemp.

The measure allows state employees in Georgia to take three weeks of paid parental leave. The House agreed Monday, 153-8, to the Senate’s changes to House Bill 146 after it unanimously passed the Senate last week. A similar measure cleared the House in 2020.

Under HB 146, state or local school board employees who worked at least 700 hours over the six months preceding the requested paid leave date can qualify for the paid time off after the birth of a child, adoption of a child or taking in of a foster child. Paid parental leave would be granted only once a calendar year. State agencies and school boards are able to dictate the policy rules.

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Measure Granting Tennessee School Boards Sole Authority to Close Schools Heads to Lee’s Desk

Gov. Bill Lee

A bill that will give local school boards the sole authority to close schools was approved Thursday by the Tennessee House and is on its way to Gov. Bill Lee.

Senate Bill 103, which passed the House, 85-2, makes it clear local school boards can close public or charter schools in the state, not the governor through executive orders or local health departments.

The bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, aimed to clarify who had the authority because during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was unclear in some locales whether the county health department or local school board held the authority.

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Georgia Senate Passes Measure Blocking Local Efforts to Reduce Police Funding

A bill that bans counties and municipalities in Georgia from reducing their police department budgets by more than 5% has passed the Georgia Senate and will be sent back to the House.

Sen. Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, a law enforcement veteran, said the legislation, House Bill 286, is a response to local efforts to “defund the police.”

“I think everyone sees the things that are going on around our country right now related to law enforcement, and what this does is just guarantee the citizens of any community that they’re not caught up in the politics that revolves around policing and offers protection,” said Robertson, who sponsored the bill.

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Ohio Lawmakers Want Easier Access to Ballot Drop Boxes

Two Democratic Ohio lawmakers want state voters to have more access to voter drop boxes throughout the state, and they say Secretary of State Frank LaRose can make voting more convenient for Ohioans.

Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, and Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, want the state to require multiple ballot drop boxes per county based on geography and population. They say current law allows multiple boxes, despite LaRose’s decision to restrict them to one per county.

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Georgia House Passes on Effort to Study State’s Tax, Revenue Structure

The Georgia House has rejected a bill that would have launched a review of the state’s revenue and tax structure.

Senate Bill 148 would have created two panels to study and make recommendations for the state’s coffers. It would have re-established the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians and create the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure.

The House voted, 139-20, against the bill Thursday. It had 39 sponsors. 

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Eleven States File Motion to Intervene in Ninth Circuit Case over Public Charge Rule

Eleven states, led by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, have filed a motion to intervene in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case over challenges to a 2018 public charge rule change that required immigrants coming to the U.S. to prove they could financially support themselves.

The Biden administration removed the rule change, effective March 9. Subsequently, the Department of Homeland Security announced on March 11 it will no longer apply the rule.

In a statement, it said it had “closed the book on the public charge rule and is doing the same with respect to a proposed rule regarding the affidavit of support that would have placed undue burdens on American families wishing to sponsor individuals lawfully immigrating to the U.S.”

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Michigan’s New Unemployment Director Faces Questions from House Oversight Committee

Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency Director Liza Estlund Olson was grilled Thursday morning by the state House Oversight Committee.

Committee members asked pointed questions about recent revelations relating to the departure of Olson’s predecessor, Steve Gray, in November. Gray received a $76,626 payout and another $9,246 in attorney fees and signed a confidentiality agreement with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s Ex-MDHHS Director Got $155,500-Taxpayer-Funded Payout to Leave Quietly

When state health director Robert Gordon abruptly resigned in January, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer didn’t mention his $155,506-taxpayer-funded payout.

That sum was equal to nine months of Gordon’s annual salary and health benefits. The monies received by Gordon release the state from any potential legal claims.

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Virginia Budget Agreement Includes Five Percent Teacher Pay Raise, Tax Relief for Businesses

A Virginia budget compromise will include a 5% pay raise for teachers and tax relief for businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic after several weeks of debate among lawmakers.

The budget legislation still needs to pass both chambers of the General Assembly, which is expected. Then, the bills will head to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk at which time he can choose to sign the legislation or propose changes to it and send it back to the legislature.

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More Michiganders Than Ever Obtained Concealed Pistol License Permits in January, Gun Group Says

Gun, ammo sales, and concealed pistol license (CPL) applicants have skyrocketed in Michigan since 2020.

In January 2021, Michigan added 13,891 net CPL holders to reach 717,281 – the most significant one-month change since 2008, when the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners started tracking monthly records.

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