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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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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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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Georgia State Employees Could See $5K Pay Raise

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaking

As lawmakers convene in Atlanta on Monday for the start of a new legislative session, Gov. Brian Kemp wants to give state employees $5,000 raises and increase their benefits.

Two budgets are passed through the General Assembly every legislative session. Lawmakers must review and approve spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year, also known as the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) budget, and approve the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Kemp told state agencies in August not to propose spending increases for the next two years as a safeguard against uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Wisconsin Gov. Evers: Republicans Must Try Again with New Political Map

Tony Evers

The latest version of Wisconsin’s new political map will not become law if Gov. Tony Evers has anything to do with it.

The governor on Thursday told Republican lawmakers that he will not sign the map they unveiled on Wednesday.

“If Republicans want to get serious about passing maps I can sign, they need to do a heck of a lot more listening to the people of this state,” Evers said in a statement.

The governor claims the Republican-drawn map is “gerrymandered,” but didn’t offer any specific suggestions of the changes he’d like to see.

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Pennsylvania Lawmaker Arrested, Accused of Harassment, Violating Protection Order

Kevin Boyle

State Rep. Kevin Boyle, D-Philadelphia, was arrested late Friday by city law enforcement on charges accusing him of harassment and violating a protection from abuse order.

Court documents show the 41-year-old lawmaker was arraigned in the early hours of Saturday morning. A trial date is set for Tuesday.

The news comes just days after Spotlight PA reported that House Democratic leadership stripped Boyle of his committee chairmanship and limited his access to the state capitol building.

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Maricopa County Audit Supporter Threatens Arizona GOP Lawmaker

A Republican member of the Arizona Legislature says her family’s safety is her first priority after getting a threatening email over her scrutiny of Maricopa County’s 2020 election. 

State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, posted a screenshot of an email from an account named Matt Boster that started out by calling her a racial slur.

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Columbus Schools Will Require Masks When Ohio Students Return

Woman sitting alone with a mask on.

Ohio’s largest school district will require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks inside buildings and on buses this fall, but an Ohio lawmaker has introduced a bill that prohibits schools from requiring masks.

The Columbus City Schools Board of Education said in a news release it relied on recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with talks with Columbus Public Health, to reach the decision.

“Safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall is a priority, and masks provide and extra layer of protection in reducing transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” Superintendent Talisa Dixon said Wednesday in a news release. “Throughout this pandemic, we have relied on the guidance of our public health officials. We feel that this was the best decision for our district and community.”

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Michigan State Auditor to Review Nursing Home COVID-19 Deaths

State Auditor Doug Ringler says he will review how many Michiganders died from COVID-19 in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Ringler wrote the June letter to House Oversight Chair Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, over the concerns of inaccurately counted COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

“We will be working with various departments’ databases to address your concerns, which will impact the timing of our work,” Ringler wrote. 

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Short-Term Rental Bills Divide Michigan Local Governments, Renters

State Representative Sarah Lightner

Legislation in Lansing aims to dictate whether local governments can ban Michiganders from generating income via short-term rentals (STR).

The Michigan Municipal League (MML) opposes the bill backed by GOP lawmakers, Senate Bill 446 and House Bill 4722, which aim to stop governments from banning STRs. A vote is expected within two weeks.

Each side says the other wants governmental overreach. MML says Lansing outright prohibiting local government from banning STRs statewide is advocating for “big government,” while the GOP says local government telling residents how they can and can’t use their home is also government overreach.

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Georgia Lawmakers to Study Crime in Atlanta

Police line do not cross tape

Georgia lawmakers will study the rise in crime in Atlanta this summer.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee plans to hold a series of hearings to look at the causes and solutions for the increase in crime in the state’s capital city.

“We want to have productive hearings that can get down to exactly what’s going on because, as you all know, the success of the city of Atlanta is directly impacted by the success of Georgia and vice versa,” Committee Chair J. Collins, R-Villa Rica, said.

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Secretary of State Benson Calls on Lawmakers to Revamp SOS Services, Give Unspecified Amount of Money

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Thursday asked for an unspecified amount of money to completely revamp the Michigan Department of State (MDOS).

The money would be used to provide “pop-up” offices, provide virtual interactions instead of in-person, and pass other laws that would result in less interaction with the department.

“Michiganders can now complete most of their transactions online, by mail or at one of our new self-service stations located at their local grocery store,” Benson said. “And the remaining in-person transactions are carried out by appointment, ensuring the vast majority of customers have little to no wait time.”

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Georgia Legislature Approves $27B Budget for New Fiscal Year

Blake Tillery

The Georgia General Assembly has approved a $27.2 billion spending plan for the 2022 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The Senate and House agreed to spend more money on health care, education, transportation, state positions, internet access and economic initiatives.

The House approved the measure, 148-21, late Wednesday night after it cleared the Senate unanimously, 52-0. Lawmakers now must send the proposal for state spending through June 30, 2022, to Gov. Brian Kemp for consideration.

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Virginia Businesses Will Benefit from Paycheck Protection Program Extension, Groups Say

Virginia businesses will benefit from the federal government extending the deadline to apply for Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans, according to associations representing industries.

With bipartisan support, federal lawmakers passed legislation to extend the loan application from March 31 to May 31 and give the Small Business Administration an additional 30 days to process the applications. The legislation is expected to be signed by President Joe Biden.

The loans allow businesses economically harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic restrictions to borrow money from the federal government. If businesses use the money in accordance with federal guidelines, the loans will be forgiven, meaning that the businesses will not have to pay the money back.

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Ohio Lawmakers Look into Strengthening State’s Election, Cybersecurity Efforts

by Steven Bittenbender   With election security frequently in the news, the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee took the opportunity recently to discuss a cybersecurity bill. The panel convened a hearing on Senate Bill 52, which deals with bolstering the state’s cybersecurity. A major part of the initiative…

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