Connecticut Gov. Lamont: Economic Summit with Israel Strengthens Business Ties

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont

Six Israeli countries pitched business ideas business leaders from Connecticut in a recent economic mission trip, Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The governor, having returned from the four-day economic summit to the nation situated along the Mediterranean Sea, said discussions focused on building and strengthening relationships with members of the country’s innovative business sector.

Meetings were held with venture capitalists, incubators, accelerators, and thought leaders during the four-day trip, Lamont said.

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Ohio Lawmakers Want Canada on Religious Freedom Watch List

Two Ohio lawmakers want the federal government to place Canada on a watchlist for violations of religious freedoms throughout the country.

State Reps. Reggie Stoltzfus, R-Paris Township, and Tim Ginter, R-Columbiana County, said the Canadian government has not allowed citizens to hold religious services and jailed pastors for disobeying the government.

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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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Iowa Senators Consider Increasing Governor’s Role on District Court Judge Selection

Iowa senators advanced a bill Monday that would change the makeup and leadership of district judicial nominating commissions.

Iowa’s 14 judicial election subdistricts each has a nominating commission that screens applicants and selects two nominees for district court judicial vacancies. The governor chooses one of the two to appoint for a district court vacancy.

Currently, the judge of the longest service in the district is the chair of the nominating commission, according to Iowa state statute. If there are two longest-serving judges, the elder is the chair. The commissions have 11 members: five elected by lawyers; five nonlawyers appointed by the governor; and the chair. Each commissioner, apart from the chair, serves a six-year term.

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Awaiting Supreme Court Decision, Iowa OSHA Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Businesses

man in yellow hardhat and work jacket

Iowans are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees. In the meantime, they’re moving ahead with actions of their own.

Iowa Department of Education Communications Director Heather Doe told The Center Square in an emailed statement that since Iowa is a state-plan state, the Iowa Division of Labor typically enforces workplace safety in Iowa instead of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The state is required to notify OSHA whether it will adopt a given Emergency Temporary Standard or provide notice it will not adopt it because its standards are as effective as the new federal standard. Iowa needed to respond to the standard by Jan. 7.

Iowa Labor Commissioner Rod Roberts did so, saying that the Hawkeye State will not adopt or enforce the mandate.

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Vaccine Mandate Critics Urge Highest Court to Defend Individual Freedom

Supreme Court reflecting on the pool at the National Mall

President Joe Biden’s series of controversial federal vaccine mandates faced their first day before the U.S. Supreme Court Friday, and critics are urging the justices to side with personal freedoms over what they call executive branch overreach.

National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, the first of two cases heard by the court Friday, considers a vaccine mandate on private employers with 100 or more employees. The second case, Biden v. Missouri, challenges Biden’s mandate on health care workers.

“Today was one of the most important moments in our nation’s history,” Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts, which has joined the legal challenges to Biden’s mandate push, said. “The Biden administration, and many on the far left, believe that the federal government has the right and the authority to dictate personal and private medical decisions to the American people, and coerce their employers into collecting protected health care data on their employees. This overreach is a fundamental violation of the American spirit of freedom and personal responsibility and represents the left’s assault not just on common sense, but our constitutional rights.”

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At Least Nine Republican Senators Demand Answers from DHS on Afghan Refugee Vetting

Ron Johnson, Josh Hawley and Rick Scott

At least nine Republican U.S. senators are continuing to pressure the Department of Homeland Security for answers over its vetting process of Afghan evacuees entering the U.S.

Three Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members sent a letter last week to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and to Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting information about Afghan evacuees. This week, six additional senators sent a letter to DHS asking for an overdue report they were supposed to have received Nov. 30.

Their letters followed news reports that the State Department didn’t have reliable data on everyone who evacuated Afghanistan and what types of visas they qualified for, and after a convicted rapist on an evacuation flight reached Washington-Dulles Airport. The letters also were sent after assaults and arrests were reported at military bases in New Mexico and Wisconsin where evacuees were being housed, and after several of the senators expressed concerns at a senate committee hearing in September.

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Report: Pennsylvania Taxpayers Spend Tens of Millions on Government Lobbying

People shaking hands

A Pennsylvania government watchdog group is highlighting how the incestuous relationship between local government entities and lobbyists is costing taxpayers millions of dollars. The Commonwealth Foundation also is supporting legislation designed to put an end to the practice.

The Commonwealth Foundation issued a report Monday that reveals Pennsylvania taxpayers paid at least $42 million in lobbying expenses between 2007 and 2020 to advocate for more government spending, though the actual cost is likely substantially more.

The foundation sent public information requests to 1,518 government entities to collect data on taxpayer-funded lobbying, which involves boroughs, cities, counties, school districts and state agencies that hire lobbyists or pay dues to associations to lobby other areas of government.

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Judge Stops Federal COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate in Medicare, Medicaid Facilities in 10 States

Attorney General Eric Schmitt

U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp on Monday ordered a preliminary injunction against the Biden Administration, stopping mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) facilities.

“Because it is evident CMS significantly understates the burden that its mandate would impose on the ability of healthcare facilities to provide proper care, and thus, save lives, the public has an interest in maintaining the ‘status quo’ while the merits of the case are determined,” Schelp wrote in a 32-page memorandum and order in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri.

Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt led a 10-state coalition filing the lawsuit on Nov. 5 to stop the CMS vaccine mandate. On the courthouse steps in St. Louis, Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, stated many will benefit from the ruling.

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Ohio Bill Would End Most Special Elections to Save Taxpayer Money

Thomas Hall

A bill before the Ohio House would end nearly all August special elections in the state in an effort to save taxpayers money and increase election integrity, the bill’s sponsor said.

State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Township, said August special elections draw few voters and cost state and local governments tens of thousands of dollars. He also said eliminating special elections would help increase transparency and election integrity.

“Unless there are unique circumstances, we should have two elections a year in Ohio: a primary election and a general election,” Hall said. “August special elections are costly to taxpayers and fail to engage a meaningful amount of the electorate in the process. They should be eliminated from the elections calendar.”

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Pennsylvania Republicans Blast Wolf Administration’s Role in Private Election Grant Process

Tom Wolf

Legislative Republicans excoriated Gov. Tom Wolf for “playing favorites” after a report concluded his administration helped only Democratic counties secure $21 million in private grants ahead of the 2020 election.

Broad + Liberty reported the Pennsylvania Department of State and various left-wing groups worked together to funnel private grant funding to Democratic-leaning counties without offering the same assistance to Republican-leaning counties. 

“This latest report indicates the administration and the Department of State played favorites when they connected certain counties to large sums of grant funding while ignoring other counties,” Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, said. “Not only did this create unequal access to voters, but it also essentially disenfranchised voters in counties that did not receive equal funding.” 

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Ohioans a Step Away Again from Legal Fireworks

Fireworks in the night sky

The Ohio General Assembly lit the fuse for legal fireworks for a second time this year after Gov. Mike DeWine extinguished the first attempt with a veto.

The House and Senate passed House Bill 172, allowing for Ohioans to shoot consumer-grade fireworks at certain times of the year. DeWine vetoed a similar bill in July, saying it would make the state one of the least-restrictive fireworks states in the country.

The bill, which passed the Senate, 26-5, and the House, 72-23, on Wednesday, now heads to DeWine, who said in July it was in the public interest to veto legislation that would have legally allowed the discharge of fireworks on 25 holidays during the year.

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Ohio Senate Secures Gun-Ownership Rights During Emergencies

Tom Schaffer

The Ohio Senate has solidified gun rights, limited government power in an emergency and clarified knives are included in the right to bear arms.

Senate Bill 185, which passed 23-7, stops the state or local governments from confiscating any lawfully owned gun during a declared emergency. Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, said it protects Ohioans’ right to protect themselves and does not add any new gun rights.

“This legislation will protect the rights of Ohioans to their firearms recognizing their natural right to self-defense, as well as to feed their families during times of declared emergencies,” Schaffer said.

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Indiana Coal Plant Keeps Getting Money from Ohio Energy Customers

Clifty Creek Power Plant

 An Indiana coal plant continues to receive subsidies from Ohio energy ratepayers despite efforts from lawmakers to whittle away at the scandal-ridden House Bill 6 passed more than two years ago.

Ohio state Reps. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, and Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, toured the Clifty Creek Coal Plant, owned by Ohio Valley Electric Coop, this week. Clifty Creek is in Madison, Indiana, an hour from the Ohio border.

Ohio Valley Electric receives $232,000 in ratepayer subsidies per day, Crossman and Weinstein said, part of which goes to Clifty Creek.

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Businesses Push Back Against Biden Plan to Track All Bank Transactions over $600 Through the IRS

Joe Biden outside

A major component of President Joe Biden’s plan to raise revenue to pay for his trillions of dollars in new federal spending is now under fire from trade associations across the country.

The Biden administration has made clear its plan to beef up IRS auditing by expanding the agency’s funding and power. Biden’s latest proposal would require banks to turn over to the Internal Revenue Service bank account information for all accounts holding more than $600.

In a sharp pushback against the proposal, more than 40 trade associations, some of which represent entire industries or economic sectors, signed a letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., raising the alarm about the plan.

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Republican Lawmakers Seek Public Input on Proposed Michigan Election Rules Changes

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

Republican state legislators are encouraging Michigan voters to register their opinions on three election procedural rules changes promulgated by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

The Department of State will conduct a public hearing on the proposed rules on Friday, Oct. 1.

The three rule changes include:

Significantly altering the process to allow the disqualification of candidates by city and township clerks for election finance violations;
Creating a state database of voter signatures whereby voters could upload signatures rather than submitting an original ink signature with local election officials;
Relaxing standards of signature verification for absentee ballots, relying on an automatic presumption a voter’s signature is valid.

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Michigan Leaders Announce Budget Deal with Few Details

Gov. Grethcen Whitmer announces that Michigan received a $10 million grant to support the state’s registered apprenticeship expansion efforts and increase employment opportunities for Michiganders.

The GOP-led Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer struck a budget deal to avoid a government shutdown before the next fiscal year.

Budget officials welcomed the deal.

“The last year and a half has been hard on all of our families and communities. Addressing their needs – from jobs to education to government accountability – is at the center of today’s budget deal,” Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas, R-Midland, said in a statement. “By working together our divided Michigan government has shown what can be accomplished when Michigan families are put first. Michigan families are counting on us to invest in them. This budget does that by laying the groundwork for a healthy economy for Michigan’s future. I thank House Appropriations Chair Thomas Albert, Budget Director David Massaron, and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their collaboration.”

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Feds Say California Too Expensive to Welcome Afghan Refugees

Hashoo Foundation (HF) is implementing a project for the Afghan Refugees residing in I-12 Islamabad who were deprived from the basic needs of life. Hashoo Foundation with the support of United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and Gesellshaft Technische Zusamenarbeit (GTZ) has been able to establish two basic health units for males and females, initiate primary education system for the children and equip young people with some marketable skills such as tailoring, embroidery, motor winding and electrician.

by Cole Lauterbach   Afghan refugees looking to resettle in the U.S. are being discouraged from picking California as a destination, despite the state having significant Afghan population centers. In the days after the U.S. announced it would resettle refugees fleeing a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, governors across the country…

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Ohio Redistricting Commission Completes First Meeting

aerial view of the Ohio Statehouse

What the first of meeting of Ohio’s new redistricting commission lacked in substance Friday, it made up for in history.

The first-ever meeting of the commission lasted only a few minutes; enough time for members to take the oath of office and for co-chairs House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, to make short statements.

The history came in the meeting itself after Ohio voters established the Ohio Redistricting Commission in 2018 to redraw congressional and legislative district maps. The commission consists of Gov. Mike DeWine, State Auditor Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, along with appointments from both House and Senate Republicans and Democrats.

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Arizona Attorney General Brnovich Files Amicus Brief to Uphold Georgia ‘Election Integrity Act’

Attorney General Mark Brnovich

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced that he joined a coalition of 16 states in filing an amicus brief urging the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia to uphold the state’s recently-enacted “Election Integrity Act of 2021.”

The attorneys general expressed their support for Georgia’s motion to throw out the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit against the new voting law, which Georgia said was based on “political posturing rather than a serious legal challenge.”

The “Election Integrity Act of 2021,” or Senate Bill 202, passed the legislature along party lines. Gov. Brian Kemp, R-Ga, signed the 98-page omnibus bill on March 25.

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Western Governors to Biden on Wildfires: Feds Need to Play to Win

Joe Biden

Governors in wildfire country had a message for President Joe Biden and Congress on Friday: it’s time for the federal government to step in and manage its forests because their state resources are running on empty.

In 2021, 83 large fires have burned more than 1.7 million acres in 13 states, the National Interagency Fire Center reports. Some 547,000 acres have been lost to fires in Oregon, where the state’s Bootleg Fire has swelled to 413,000 acres and has become the nation’s largest fire. While some 22,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel beat back the flames nationwide, states governments are calling on Biden to help them rewrite the nation’s firefighting playbook.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said as much to Biden on Friday at a virtual news briefing. More specifically, Newsom took aim at the U.S. Forest Service response to the Tamarack Fire south of Lake Tahoe that grew to 625 acres before creeping into Nevada over little more than a three-week span this month. 

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Critics Denounce New CDC Guidance Urging Mask Usage, Vaccine or Not

Guy wearing a mask

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course Tuesday, reversing its previous COVID-19 guidance by urging Americans to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. Critics quickly denounced the reversal, saying it undermines vaccine confidence.

The CDC said all students and teachers should wear masks, even if they are vaccinated, and that all Americans, including those with the vaccine, should wear masks in public places where the virus has a significant presence. The agency cited the delta variant of COVID, which is more transmissible.

The CDC had previously announced in May that vaccinated individuals did not have to wear masks. The White House fended off questions from reporters at the White House press briefing on the reasoning behind that reversal.

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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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