Newt Gingrich Commentary: COVID-19 Totalitarianism on the March

sign that says "NO FORCED VACCINE"

It is hard to know which is more frightening: the Australian radicalism about COVID-19, the Austrian effort to coerce its citizens, or the attitudes of American Democrats who regard extreme sanctions as reasonable behavior toward the supposedly bad people who don’t get vaccinated or wear masks.

Let’s consider each one.

In Australia, the government felt so threatened by the best tennis player in the world that it intervened decisively to block him from entering the country and competing in the Australian Open.

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Republicans Take Different Tact to Privatize Pennsylvania Liquor Sales

man standing next to wine bottles, wearing a mask

Lawmakers are set to discuss legislation next week to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania through a constitutional amendment.

State Rep. Natalie Mihalek, R-Allegheny, introduced House Bill 2272 on Friday to privatize Pennsylvania’s state run liquor stores through a constitutional amendment that cannot be vetoed.

The General Assembly passed legislation in 2016 to privatize the sale of wine and spirits, but the legislation was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf. Pennsylvania is one of only two states with a government monopoly on liquor sales, and the only state in the nation to shut down sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mihalek wrote in a legislative memo accompanying the bill.

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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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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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Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s Reinstated Prevailing Wage Rules Rewards Union Donors, Critics Say

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.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement this week that she is reinstating the state’s prevailing wage rules is drawing accusations that the move is nothing more than a sop to the governor’s extensive list of donors affiliated with organized labor.

“Governor Whitmer is putting campaign donors before Michigan’s hardworking taxpayers,” Eric Ventimiglia, executive director for Michigan Rising Action, said in a statement that included an extensive list of skilled trades unions that have contributed to the governor’s campaign war chest. “Hundreds of thousands of Michiganders worked to place this initiative in front of the legislature, and her unilateral decision to break the law is another example of Whitmer pandering to her highest donors.”

Among the donors listed by MRA are the Painters & Allied Trades Political Action Committee; Michigan Council of Carpenters PAC; Michigan State AFL-CIO; and several pipefitters unions.

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Pennsylvania Senate Democrats File Suit, Allege GOP ‘Overreaching’ in Election Subpoena

Anthony Williams and Jay Costa

Pennsylvania Senate Democrats filed a legal challenge in Commonwealth Court against what they call an “overreaching” subpoena of election records containing personal information for nearly 7 million voters.

The lawsuit filed late Friday alleges Republican members of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee – including Chairman Cris Dush, R-Wellsboro and President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte – broke the law when they issued a subpoena against the Department of State seeking the name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number and partial social security number of each and every resident that voted by mail or in person during the last two elections.

In a joint statement, the Democratic members of the committee – including Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Pittsburgh; Minority Chairman Tony Williams, D-Philadelphia; Sen. Vince Hughes, D-Philadelphia; and Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Lower Makefield – said the consequences of the subpoena “are dire” and leave the personal information of residents in the hands of an “undisclosed third party vendor with no prescribed limits or protection.”

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UK’s Parliament Holds Biden in Contempt as France and Britain Forced to Rescue Citizens Trapped in Kabul

The Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and the desperate situation in Kabul has angered U.S. allies, leaving them scrambling to evacuate their citizens and the Afghans who supported them during the 20 year war.

The United Kingdom’s Parliament on Wednesday held Joe Biden in contempt for Afghan debacle, with one veteran MP saying the U.S. abandoned its Afghan allies and disregarded their sacrifices.

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Federal Infrastructure Bill Could Pump $7.8 Billion into Michigan Roads, Bridges, Internet

aerial shot of Michigan highways

Michigan could be on the receiving end of $7.8 billion in federal dollars if the U.S. Senate’s $1 trillion infrastructure spending bill becomes law.

The estimated total is derived from $7.3 billion for Michigan highways and an additional $563 million to fix an estimated 1,200 bridges currently deemed in disrepair.

The monies earmarked from the bill would be in addition to the $3.5 billion in bonds issued by the Michigan Department of Transportation to fix the state’s roads and bridges, which is in addition to the $1.8 billion increase in the state’s transportation spending since 2012.

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Commentary: America’s Revolutionary Beginnings

Boston Tea Party

Warren climbed the wide steps from Marlborough Street to the door of the Province House, the old mansion with its Tudor-style chimney stacks and ornate gables built a century ago by a wealthy Boston merchant. But for generations now it had been the residence of the royal governors of Massachusetts. For a moment he studied the large royal seal affixed over the door, a reminder of the awesome empire that the governor represented, then looked above it to the eight-sided cupola crowning the mansion, noting the weathervane at the very top shifting in the breeze.

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Ohio Public Schools, Colleges Cannot Require COVID-19 Vaccine

Young girl wearing a mask and reading a book in school

Ohio public schools, colleges and universities cannot require COVID-19 vaccines after Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill that originally was introduced to help military families.

The Ohio Senate amended House Bill 244, which passed in late June along party lines, to prohibit public schools from requiring any vaccine not fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and from discriminating against unvaccinated individuals. The FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines on an emergency basis.

The bill also allows military families moving into Ohio to enroll their children in school virtually or through advanced enrollments before they move into the state.

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Gov. Abbott: Democratic Legislators to Be Arrested upon Return to Texas

Photo caption from Twitter says " Conversation Dan Patrick @DanPatrick Smiling House Dems fly off to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite, breaking House quorum, abandoning their constituents, while the Senate still works. It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do."

More than 60 House Democrats who fled Austin Monday to prevent a vote on election reforms will be arrested when they return to Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

“Once they step back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested and brought to the Texas capital and we will be conducting business,” Abbott said.

The 67 Democratic lawmakers flew on chartered flights to Washington D.C. in protest of proposed legislation seeking to reduce the chances of fraud in future elections. The legislation is one of a number of measures being considered during a July special session called by Abbott.

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Board of State Canvassers Certifies Unlock Michigan Petition

Inside Michigan Supreme Court

After two orders from the Michigan Supreme Court, the State Board of Canvassers unanimously certified the Unlock Michigan petition aiming to revoke Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers.

The petition heads to the GOP-led Legislature where its expected to be quickly approved, spokeswoman of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, Abby Walls, said. 

“Seeing as opponents have finally run out of absurd challenges, we will take it up as soon as Secretary [Jocelyn] Benson sends.” 

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Republicans Push Back Against ‘Politicization’ of IRS

President Joe Biden has pushed for beefing up IRS audits of corporations to raise revenue for his new spending proposals, but Republicans are raising the alarm about the potential consequences of the plan.

Biden unveiled his “Made in America Tax Plan” earlier this year as a strategy to help fund his trillions of dollars in proposed new federal spending that includes several tax hikes. Despite this, a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. House and Senate have agreed to a basic framework for Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan, but one element has been the theme of the negotiations among Republicans: no new taxes.

The GOP pushback against raising taxes, though, puts more pressure on the Biden administration to find ways to fund his agenda. Aside from Biden’s controversial tax hike proposals, the president also has proposed adding $80 billion in funding to the IRS so it can increase audits of corporations.

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Voter I.D. Constitutional Amendment Proposed in Pennsylvania

People in line, waiting to vote

A pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers said Friday that state residents themselves should decide the stringency of the state’s voter identification law.

The push comes after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said he’d never support strengthening existing voter I.D. law – one of the top priorities for Republicans in their election reform proposal unveiled Thursday. 

Sen. Judy Ward, R-Hollidaysburg, and Rep. Jeff Wheeland, R-Williamsport, both support their party’s proposal to require identification each and every time a resident casts a ballot in-person. Current law stipulates identification only for first time voters in a precinct. 

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Bill Would Make Ohio State School Board Completely Elected

Rep. Miller speaks with Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) before House session

Two members of the Ohio House want the state’s board of education to be more connected to the public by reducing the number of members and eliminating nonelected members.

Eight of the current 19 members receive appointments from the governor, but House Bill 298 eliminates each of those positions when current terms expire, reducing the board to its 1995 level of 11 members.

“The State Board of Education is an important body and the members of its Board should be accountable to the voters,” Rep. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, said. “Right now, 42% of the members of the State Board of Education are not elected and, therefore, not accountable to anyone. To have almost half the board unelected and unaccountable does not reflect the transparency and responsiveness that Ohioans need and deserve.”

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Critics of Biden’s Proposed Oil-and-Gas Industry Taxes Fueled by Gas Shortages

Gas shortage "out of service" stickers

Gas shortages on the East Coast have helped rally Congressional opposition to the portions of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan that would force oil and gas companies to pay more in taxes.

House Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., calling on Democrats to oppose Biden’s plan to “eliminate tax preferences for fossil fuels.”

The letter, signed by 55 Republicans, came after a cyber attack of Colonial Pipeline shut down a major pipeline on the East Coast and led to fear-driven gasoline shortages. The attack also raised questions about the nation’s energy infrastructure and vulnerability to attack.

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Pipeline Hack Revives Call for Florida to Create Its Own Stash of Gas

Gary Farmer

The ransomware attack that paralyzed the Colonial Pipeline for nearly a week, causing gas shortages throughout the Southeast, including Florida’s Panhandle, may revive one senator’s multi-year effort to convince the Sunshine State to establish its own petroleum stockpile.

Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, has filed bills since 2018 seeking to create a Florida Strategic Fuel Reserve Task Force to study creating a fuel stash similar in concept, if not in size, to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Farmer Thursday called on Republican statehouse leaders to add his 2021 proposal, Senate Bill 1454, to the agenda when the Legislature convenes Monday for a special session to vet a proposed 30-year gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

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House Democrats Prepared to Offer Ohio Redistricting Proposal

Rep. Hicks-Hudson speaks on the House floor in support of House Bill 1

Ohio House Democrats plan to offer their own solutions to potential redistricting issues caused by late census data, and it centers around following the state constitution and providing more public access to the process.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced last month redistricting data will not be available until September, creating a constitutional issue for Ohio. The state must meet certain requirements by the end of September.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has sued the U.S. Census Bureau to release information sooner, and Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, floated a constitutional amendment change last month.

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Michigan House Oversight Committee Considers Legislation to Ban Vaccine Passports

Mask on passport Vaccination card on blue background

The Michigan House Oversight Committee convened Thursday to discuss a bill that aims to ban vaccination passports, sparking heated debate on the topic.

The committee specifically focused its discussion on House Bill 4667. Introduced by bill sponsor Rep. Sue Allor, R-Wolverine, the bill would prohibit “a governmental entity from producing, issuing or providing an incentive for a COVID-19 vaccination passport.”

However, the meeting also prompted testimony from a variety of guests who defended their personal decisions to not receive any of the three available COVID-19 vaccines. Most cited the Federal Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of the vaccines does not equate to the agency’s explicit approval.

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Proposed Tennessee Constitutional Amendment on Slavery Wording to Go Before Voters

Tennessee Senate Chamber

The Tennessee House has approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the state constitution’s wording to allow for prisoners to work without it being considered slavery.

The proposed amendment passed, 81-2, on Tuesday and will be on the statewide ballot in November 2022.

Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis, said the bill language came directly from the Tennessee Department of Corrections and was intended to eliminate any confusion about whether work from prisoners, who are paid, could fall under the slavery ban.

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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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Hawley Cites ‘Culture War’ in Proposal for Monthly Payments to Families with Children

Josh Hawley

Rising Republican star U.S. Rep. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is sponsoring a new measure that would give unprecedented tax cuts to parents with children, and now he is saying his bill is on the front line of the nation’s “culture war.”

The plan in question would give a fully refundable tax credit of $12,000 for married parents and $6,000 for single parents who have children under the age of 13.

“Starting a family and raising children should not be a privilege only reserved for the wealthy,” Hawley said. “Millions of working people want to start a family and would like to care for their children at home, but current policies do not respect these preferences. American families should be supported, no matter how they choose to care for their kids.”

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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 Propose New Gun Control Legislation

Mike DeWine

Ohio Democrats continue to criticize the state’s new stand your ground law and unveiled a package of gun control legislation Monday that goes further than a proposal from Gov. Mike DeWine that has seen no movement in nearly two years.

Monday’s call comes 20 months since a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, and less than a week after another one in Indianapolis. It also comes nearly two weeks after a law that removes the duty to retreat from Ohioans to defend themselves with deadly force went into effect.

“Ohioans have spoken loudly and clearly that we need to do something to end gun violence. Democrats are listening to you, the people of Ohio who overwhelmingly support commonsense solutions to keep our kids and communities safe,” House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said Monday at a news conference. “In the 20 months since Dayton, shootings have gone up, not down. We need reform now to ensure the promise of safety and security for all Ohioans.”

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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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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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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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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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Legal Sports Betting Clears First Hurdle in Georgia General Assembly

Legislation legalizing sports betting in Georgia has cleared the Georgia Senate and will be considered in the House.

Senate Resolution 135 would amend Georgia’s Constitution to legalize sports betting as a game played through the state lottery, which already is a legal form of gambling in the state.

The resolution cleared the Senate, 41-10, last week. If SR 135 passes the House, Georgians would vote on the constitutional amendment in the 2022 general election. Sports betting would then be legal by January 2023.

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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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Few Signs of Breakthrough as U.K.’s Prime Minister May Set to Unveil ‘Brexit Plan B’

Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May was set to unveil her new plan to break Britain’s Brexit deadlock on Monday — one expected to look a lot like the old plan that was decisively rejected by Parliament last week. May was scheduled to brief the House of Commons on how she intends…

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