Feds Won’t Investigate Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Policy

Old woman sitting on brown bench

The U.S. Department of Justice won’t investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s nursing home policies.

The initial inquiry was opened under former President Donald Trump’s administration, which requested data from Michigan.

Now, 11 months later under Joe Biden’s administration, the probe won’t happen. Democrat Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel refused to investigate as well.

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Tennessee Spends Nearly $4M Annually to Educate Unaccompanied Minors

Tennessee has spent nearly $60 million over 15 years educating children who entered the state as unaccompanied minors, according to the state’s Fiscal Review Committee estimates.

Krista Lee Carsner, executive director of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Fiscal Review Committee, presented her cost estimate research to the state’s Study Committee on Refugee Issues, saying 8,800 unaccompanied minors have come to live in the state since fiscal year 2015.

Carsner estimated Tennessee spent an average of $3.9 million annually on education for those minors and the highest estimated year was a cost of $13.9 million. The state also spent nearly $85,000 annually on TennCare health care costs for those minors, Carsner said.

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Ohio Communities Gain Control of Wind, Solar Projects

Three wind turbines

Local communities in Ohio got a little more power regarding renewable energy projects after Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law that addresses wind and solar projects.

DeWine made Senate Bill 52 law and gave power to county boards on whether to allow or prevent certification of wind and solar projects. The legislation also establishes decommissioning requirements for certain wind and solar facilities.

“One of the most important things we can do as state legislators is to listen to the input of our fellow constituents,” Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, said Monday after DeWine signed the bill. “I can confidently tell you that Ohioans within Seneca County vehemently spoke out against a wind project being built within their communities – Senate Bill 52 being signed into law solidifies their right to local control over these types of projects.”

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Federal Bill Would Ban Vaccine Database in Response to Biden’s ‘Door-to-Door’ Pledge

Ted Cruz

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a bill that would prohibit the federal government from creating and maintaining a federal database of every American who has received COVID-19 vaccines.

Cruz introduced the bill after White House officials announced a plan to use taxpayer dollars to pay individuals to go door-to-door in regions of the country where there are relatively low vaccination rates.

In response to statements made by President Joe Biden and White House press secretary Jen Psaki about the door-to-door outreach initiative, Cruz tweeted, “When the Biden admin calls for ‘targeted’ ‘door-to-door outreach’ to get people vaccinated, it comes across as a g-man saying: ‘We know you’re unvaccinated, let’s talk, comrade.’ My bill to ban federal vaccine passports prohibits the feds from maintaining a vaccine database.”

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American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Sues the State House of Representatives Over for Redistricting

Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio wants a court to force Republican lawmakers to turn over records related to redistricting it says it asked for five months ago and never received.

The group has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Ohio, seeking the records as the state closes in on the release of U.S. Census Bureau data and a constitutional mandate to redraw congressional and state representative district boundaries.

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, have not responded to open records request made in February, the lawsuit said. The ACLU said the records will help it monitor the redistricting process.

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Virginia Extends Expanded Childcare Subsidies for the Rest of the Year

Additional childcare subsidies provided during the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended until the end of 2021, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday.

The state program, which provides financial assistance for childcare services, temporarily loosened the eligibility requirements through July 31, 2021. Northam directed the Virginia Department of Education to continue covering copayments through December 31, using federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“Access to high-quality child care is not only critical to the health and safety of Virginia’s children, but it is also important for advancing a strong, equitable recovery,” Northam said in a statement. “Extending these resources through the end of 2021 will help close the affordability gap for parents and providers, allowing thousands of Virginians to return to work, support their families, and grow our economy.”

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Virginia Board Might Change, End Confusing COVID-19 Regulations Tuesday

A Virginia board will meet Tuesday to consider changing or ending business regulations it introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic, some of which have been confusing business owners.

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor and Industry established permanent regulations on businesses, which could only end or be changed through another meeting by the department’s Safety Health Codes Board. When the board adopted the regulations, it also added a provision that required it to meet within two weeks after the state of emergency for COVID-19 ended. The last day of the emergency declaration was June 30.

The rules were initially in line with Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders, but after the governor rescinded some of the requirements, the two standards seemed to contradict on certain issues. The governor requires some employees to wear masks if they are not fully vaccinated. The DOLI regulations require those employees to wear masks and make no mention of vaccinations, but later guidance stated vaccinated individuals were not required to wear masks.

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Michigan House Votes to Suspend $300 Weekly Federal Unemployment Payments

David Martin

The Michigan House of Representatives voted to approve House Bill 4434, which would end the state’s participation in the federal unemployment program.

The bill passed Thursday by a 350-49 vote, and now moves to the Michigan Senate.

House Republicans rallied hard behind the bill, which would immediately halt the federally funded $300 weekly boost to Michigan unemployment checks. The federal program currently is scheduled to cease in September, but legislators argue the additional money is hindering the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Michigan House Votes to Suspend $300 Weekly Federal Unemployment Payments

Michigan State Capitol

The Michigan House of Representatives voted to approve House Bill 4434, which would end the state’s participation in the federal unemployment program.

The bill passed Thursday by a 350-49 vote, and now moves to the Michigan Senate.

House Republicans rallied hard behind the bill, which would immediately halt the federally funded $300 weekly boost to Michigan unemployment checks. The federal program currently is scheduled to cease in September, but legislators argue the additional money is hindering the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Over 7,000 Affidavits Delivered to Michigan Lawmakers Claim Election Fraud

voters polling place

Hundreds of people concerned about the integrity of the Nov. 2020 election gathered outside the Michigan Capitol Thursday to protest and deliver roughly 7,000 affidavits claiming fraud and demanding a forensic audit.

Michigan Conservation Coalition spokesperson Matt Seely said thousands of Michigan voters have questioned the integrity of the 2020 election.

“If we do a deep-dive forensic audit similar to Arizona, it will do either one of two things. It will prove that all of the politicians who say there’s nothing to see there, that they were right. Or it will prove that there’s a big problem with the integrity of our elections and that we need to address it in a major way,” he told The Center Square in a phone interview.

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Report: Vax-A-Million Lottery Not Spurring Vaccinations Growth

Millions of dollars, college scholarships and other cash and prize incentives may not be enough to encourage more people around the country to get the COVID-19 vaccination, at least if numbers in Ohio are any indication.

The Associated Press reported the number of new Ohioans receiving at least the first dose of a vaccine fell by nearly half after the state announced its first $1 million and college scholarship winners. After Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement of the vaccine lottery in early May, the report said vaccination numbers increased by 43% over the previous week.

The report said the number of people receiving the vaccine from May 27 through June 2 dropped about 43%. March and April were the state’s highest months for the number of vaccines, according to The AP.

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Michigan Undercounted Nursing Home COVID-19 Deaths, Reporter Says

Staff member at nursing home showing smartphone to elderly woman

ulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff says Michigan has undercounted COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

The accusation follows a settlement between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and LeDuff with legal services provided by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. LeDuff and the MCPP sued the government when it failed to provide public records as required by law.

“This data is an essential part of accurately understanding the effects of this pandemic and the public policy implemented in response,” Steve Delie, an attorney and the Mackinac Center’s FOIA expert, said in a May 21 statement. “It also leaves open the possibility that the state is undercounting the number of deaths of those in nursing homes.”

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Minnesota to End Statewide Mask Mandate Friday

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday announced the end of Minnesota’s statewide mask requirement starting Friday, aligning Minnesota with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on face coverings.

“So, those peacetime emergencies are done and the business mitigations are coming to an end. I want to be clear it’s not the end of the pandemic, but it is the end of the pandemic for a  lot of vaccinated folks,” he told reporters.

Minnesotans who aren’t fully vaccinated are strongly recommended to wear face coverings indoors.

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More Than $60 Million to Go to Virginia Schools to Offset Pandemic Learning Losses

To offset learning losses caused by the shutdown of in-person public education, Virginia will be spending more than $60 million in recovery grants for public schools, Gov. Ralph Northam announced.

After public schools in the commonwealth were completely shut down for in-person classes for a period of time, the governor implemented restrictions that required hybrid teaching models that included both virtual and in-person learning for months. Since those guidelines have been lifted, some schools have returned to fully in-person education, while some are still using a hybrid model.

To minimize the learning gaps caused by the closures, the state will provide $62.7 million in LEARNS Education Recovery grants. About $55 million of the funding will come from federal relief and the remaining $7.7 million will come from state funds.

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Ohio Black Caucus Concerned About Redistricting Deadlines

Matt Huffman

The U.S. Census Bureau and the COVID-19 pandemic have created a constitutional issue for Ohio, and a possible change has members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus concerned the public will be excluded.

Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, proposed asking voters to approve a constitutional amendment that gives the state options with critical Census Bureau information not expected until September and Ohio facing a constitutional deadline of Sept. 30 to redraw state House, state Senate and congressional district maps.

That has Black Caucus leaders worried public input could be reduced or eliminated.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom Faces Recall Election After Enough Petition Signatures Verified

The California Secretary of State’s Office confirmed Monday that it has received and verified enough signatures to trigger an election for the removal of Gov. Gavin Newsom from office.

Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber said Monday the threshold of verified signatures reported by counties had been met and exceeds the required amount of 1,495,709.

“A recall election will be held unless a sufficient number of signatures are withdrawn,” Weber said.

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Ohio Democrats Attack GOP Plans to Rewrite State Election Laws

Elizabeth Walters

Ohio Democrats blasted a Republican proposal to rewrite the state’s election law to stop off-site ballot boxes, eliminate early-voting options and strengthen Ohio’s voter ID regulations.

The proposal, however, also includes creating an automated voter registration plan and easier access to absentee voter requests.

Reps. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, and Sharon Ray, R-Wadsworth, plan to introduce what they call a comprehensive modernization and reform bill, while Democrats believe it’s more extreme restrictions on the right to vote that continue across the country.

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Ohio Attorney General Continues Court Fight Over American Rescue Plan Taxing Provision

Dave Yost

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says Congress crossed a line and U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen struggles to explain whether states retain authority to set their own tax codes if they accept money from the recently passed American Rescue Plan.

Yost responded Thursday with a motion in support of his lawsuit for a temporary restraining order to stop the federal government’s tax mandate in the ARP. Yost believes the mandate holds states hostage and takes away Ohio’s control of its tax structure and economic policy.

“Congress crosses the line separating permissible encouragement from impermissible,” Yost’s latest motion reads. “Ohio stands to receive $5.5 billion. In the pandemic-caused economic crisis, Ohio cannot realistically turn that down.”

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State Redistricting Deadlines in 2021, 2022, and 2023

U.S. Census 2020

The U.S. Census Bureau announced in February that it would deliver the detailed datasets needed for redistricting to the states by Sep. 30, 2021, after the original April 1, 2021, deadline. Some states’ own redistricting deadlines predate the Census Bureau’s projected data delivery date, prompting states to consider postponements or alternative data sources.

State redistricting deadlines generally take one of three forms:

Constitutional deadlines are set out explicitly in state constitutions. Altering these deadlines typically requires either a constitutional amendment or a court order.
Statutory deadlines are set by state legislatures. They are subject to change at the legislature’s discretion.
Redistricting deadlines can also be inferred from candidate filing deadlines. For example, if a state sets its filing deadline for congressional candidates for Feb. 1, 2022, it can be inferred that the congressional maps must be fixed by that point.

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Surveys: 46 Million People Can’t Afford Health Care, Majority of Hospitals Not Providing Pricing Transparency

Assorted color syringes.

An estimated 46 million people — or 18% of the country — would be unable to pay for health care if they needed it today, a recent poll conducted by Gallup and West Health found.

In another survey by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the majority of hospitals in the U.S. have yet to comply with a transparency ruling implemented this year that would help patients shop around for the most affordable prices.

Gallup’s findings are based on a poll conducted between February 15 and 21 among 3,753 adults with a margin of error of 2%.

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U.S. Senate Confirms Dr. Rachel Levine as Assistant Secretary of Health

Rachel Levine

Dr. Rachel Levine became the highest-ranking transgender official to serve in federal office with her confirmation Wednesday in the U.S. Senate.

Levine joins the Department of Health and Human Services as assistant secretary of health after President Joe Biden nominated her for the post in January.

At the time, Biden described Pennsylvania’s former Secretary of Health as an “historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

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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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Michigan House Unanimously Expands FOIA to Include Governor and Legislature

The Michigan House unanimously passed a flurry of bipartisan bills seeking to reform the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by including the governor and legislature under the new Legislative Open Records Act (LORA).

The House passed the package during “Sunshine Week,” which celebrates government transparency, and after reporters used FOIA to expose Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration gifting $253,000 in secret, taxpayer-funded  severance packages.

The bill package is virtually identical to bills introduced in the 2015-16, 2017-8, and the 2019-20 legislative session other than technical changes and effective dates.

Those packages all failed.

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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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