Poll: Support for School Choice Increases After COVID Shutdowns

Classroom full of kids, that are being read a book

After states shut down schools and forced families into virtual learning, parents and families found new ways to provide K-12 education to their children. While doing so, support for school choice options soared, a new poll from Real Clear Opinion Research found.

Among those surveyed, 71% said they support school choice, which is defined as giving parents the option to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school that best serves their needs. Across all racial and ethnic demographics, an overwhelming majority expressed support for school choice: Blacks (66%), Hispanic (68%), and Asian (66 percent).

These results “were the highest level of support ever recorded from major AFC national polling with a sample size above 800 voters,” the survey states.

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Michigan Lawmaker Aims to Ban ‘Vaccine Passports’

Phone with a QR code on it

One Republican aims to ban “vaccine passports” in a package expected to be introduced Wednesday.

The governors of Florida, Texas, Utah, and Idaho have passed legislation or executive orders prohibiting the use of vaccine passports, while a Minnesota bill aims to do the same.

Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, announced a plan to prohibit a possible vaccine passport plan that would provide proof whether someone is vaccinated for COVID-19.

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Pandemic Resurgence in Michigan Prompts Whitmer to Ask for Two-Week Shutdown of Indoor Dining, School Sports, in-Person Learning

Closed storefront

 A surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan has prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to promote a two-week, voluntary lockdown of indoor dining, suspension of school sports and a full return to remote education.

Although she noted more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, the governor added the pandemic continued to wreak havoc in the state.

For example, Michigan hospitals reported 3,508 COVID-19 patients on Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released data on Thursday that revealed the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 492.1 cases per 100,000 people, the highest positivity case rate in the nation.

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Bill Aims to Offer Other Math-Based Options Instead of Algebra II for Michigan High Schoolers

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D–Flint, and state Rep. Julie M. Rogers, D–Kalamazoo, are sponsoring bills aimed to allow high schoolers earn their diploma without Algebra II.

Senate Bill 318 and House Bill 4595 were introduced Wednesday with bipartisan support.

Currently, Michigan students must complete Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, and a math elective to graduate. Bill proponents argue these math requirements are often excessive for students who don’t plan to enter a field requiring advanced math and will instead need to understand interest, student loan payments, and how to complete taxes.

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Poll: Majority of Michigan Voters Favor Ballot Proposal to Restrict Governor’s Emergency Powers

Gov. Whitmer

A poll released Tuesday by Michigan Rising Action (MRA), a Lansing-based organization dedicated to advancing conservative principles, asserts Michigan strongly supports a ballot proposal to limit the use of gubernatorial emergency powers.

MRA commissioned the poll from Marketing Resource Group, which conducted research between March 15-18, and skews +4 Democrat.

A majority of the 610 likely voters polled within each age group supported restricting the governor’s unilateral use of emergency powers.

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Abbott: Biden Administration Is Presiding over ‘Abuse of Children’

Gov. Greg Abbott held a short press conference Wednesday night outside of the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio to discuss allegations about the abuse of migrant minors occurring at a federally run detention center.

Two separate state agencies received reports of child abuse and neglect occurring at the Freeman Coliseum, problems Abbott says “are a byproduct of [President Joe] Biden’s open border policies and lack of planning and fallout from those disastrous policies.”

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Feds Deny Michigan’s Request to Waive Statewide Student Testing

The U.S. Department of Education (USED) denied Michigan’s request to waive the federal requirement to administer state summative assessments.

In late January, the Michigan Department of Education cited the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason not to test Michigan’s 1.5 million students. MDE requested waivers to federal requirements for state summative tests,and waivers of associated high-stakes accountability requirements. The accountability waivers were approved on March 26.

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Ten Percent of Migrant Minors Held in San Diego Convention Center Test Positive for COVID-19

San Diego Convention Center

Of the more than 700 unaccompanied migrant minors who were transported to the San Diego Convention Center from Texas, roughly 10% have tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple news reports citing health officials.

The Department of Health and Human Services reported on March 30 that 70 of these minors tested positive; none required hospitalization.

The San Diego Convention Center is currently holding 723 girls between the ages of 13 and 17 – all of whom were transferred from federal shelters in Texas.

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Minnesota Breweries Take Expansions to Other States Because of Outdated Alcohol Laws

Twenty miles means a world of difference for Minnesota breweries that have grown as much as state law allows.

Minnesota’s alcohol laws are pushing breweries to expand in other states, Brad Glynn, Lift Bridge Brewing cofounder and vice president of marketing told The Center Square in a phone interview.

In May, Lift Bridge Brewing Co plans to expand to a New Richmond, Wisconsin location.

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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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Great Lakes Governors Call on Biden to Support Critical Water Infrastructure

Four Great Lakes governors on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to prioritize federal investments in water infrastructure.

In a letter sent to Biden, the governors lauded the American Rescue Plan Act’s $360 billion in direct aid to state and local governments that can be spent on water and sewer infrastructure.

“As your administration continues to develop and pursue its policy agenda, we respectfully encourage you to continue your emphasis on modernizing America’s water infrastructure,” readsthe letter.

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Survey: Michiganders Support Metric-Driven Plan to Ease COVID-19 Restrictions on Restaurants

Justin Winslow

A restaurant survey indicates 74% of respondents supported a required metric-driven plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

On Tuesday, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) released a statewide survey indicating public support to resume indoor dining and travel.

The survey also indicated wide support for hospitality workers receiving prioritized vaccination as well as for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to produce a metric-driven plan to retain control over COVID-19 restrictions.

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Landlords Struggle Under Extended CDC Eviction Ban, Class-Action Lawsuit Argues

John Vecchione

Landlords are struggling after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended a national ban on certain evictions apparently to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC extended the moratorium, first enacted in Sept. 2020, through June 30.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights group, filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa on behalf of Asa Mossman of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and other housing providers. 

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Michigan Think Tank Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Union Agency Fee Case

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation submitted a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday for Rizzo-Rupon v. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The Midland-based foundation seeks to extend First Amendment protections to employees who have been unionized under the Railway Labor Act, which covers railway and airline employees.

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861 Criminals, 92 Sex Offenders Encountered at Texas Border in Past Few Days, Agent Says

More than 850 criminals have been encountered at the U.S. border with Mexico this year, including 92 sex offenders and 63 gang members, a U.S. Border Patrol agent tweeted this weekend.

Included among “the copious amounts of groups being encountered” at the Rio Grande Valley, Hastings said, are “a Salvadoran man with a prior conviction for murder” along with 862 criminals, Chief Patrol Agent Brian Hastings tweeted.

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Owosso Barber Karl Manke Fined $9,000 for Defying Whitmer’s Michigan Lockdown Orders

Owosso barber Karl Manke was handed fines amounting to $9,000 after defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders in spring 2020.

Manke garnered national headlines when he refused to close his barbershop during a barrage of executive orders issued by the governor that forced the closing of businesses Whitmer deemed nonessential throughout the state. On May 18, 2020, two days prior to the Operation Haircut protests, Manke’s barber license was suspended by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

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Census Bureau: Home-Schooling More Than Doubled in 2020, Higher in Some Regions

Student working on school work at home.

Faced with ongoing state lockdowns and changing school restrictions last year, frustrated parents increasingly pulled their children out of public schools nationwide and found other educational options for their children, one of which was home-schooling.

According to a new U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey, a substantial increase in the number of parents who chose to home-school occurred in 2020 compared to 2019. The survey is the first data source to offer both a national and state-level look at the impact of COVID-19 on homeschooling rates, the report states.

Using a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. households, the survey found that home-schooling was notably higher than national benchmarks. It was conducted in phases to assess parental choices over different periods of the school year.

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Commerce Department Report: Red States Leading U.S. Economic Growth

Inside a business with several customers.

Red states are leading economic growth in the U.S., a new report by the U. S. Commerce Department shows, with South Dakota, Texas and Utah reporting the highest growth.

The report is based on 2020 fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data and February 2021 unemployment rates.

Real GDP increased in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2020. Real GDP for the U.S. as a whole increased at an annual rate of 4.3%. The percent change in real GDP in the fourth quarter ranged from 9.9% in South Dakota to 1.2% in the District of Columbia.

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Caterers, Venue Owners, and Funeral Home Owners: Small Business People Struggle Under COVID-19 Restrictions

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Eighty-three days into 2021, Grand Rapids-based Above and Beyond Catering owner Kim Smith said she hasn’t recorded a dollar of revenue in 2021 thanks to COVID-19 restrictions enacted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Catering isn’t alone.

Wedding and funeral owners are pushing back on COVID-19 restrictions killing their business for the last year.

Smith has been in business for 45 years, she told the House Oversight Committee Thursday. Although she’s “done everything to keep afloat” since the state forced her business closed in March of 2020, her revenue is down 93.6%.

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Ohio House Sends Message to Michigan Governor to Keep Pipeline Open

The Ohio House has sent a message to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, urging her to abandon her plan to force a company to close a pipeline that could threaten Ohio energy supplies and jobs.

Whitmer, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger filed a lawsuit Nov. 13 in Ingham County Court demanding Enbridge Inc. cease Line 5 operations by May. The easement has been in place since 1953.

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California Senators Call on Biden to Ban the Sale of Gasoline-Powered Cars in the U.S.

California’s two U.S. Senators, both Democrats, are calling on President Joe Biden to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars in the United States.

Sens. Diane Feinstein and Alex Padilla sent a letter to Biden urging him to “follow California’s lead and set a date by which all new cars and passenger trucks sold be zero-emission vehicles.”

Last September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who now faces a potential recall election, signed an executive order banning the sale of gasoline-powered cars in California by requiring all new cars and trucks being sold in the state to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Currently, electric vehicles account for less than 3 percent of all vehicle sales in the U.S.

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Michigan Business Groups Oppose Some House Health Care Reform Bills

A health care reform package the House passed Wednesday is creating a rift between the state’s business groups and the GOP.

Michigan business leaders formed a new Michigan Affordable Healthcare Coalition that aims to reduce health care costs without raising costs on small businesses.

In a Thursday afternoon press conference, business leaders voiced opposition to House bills 4346 and 4354, claiming they would raise health insurance premiums that are already a heavy burden for many businesses.

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84 Percent of Texas Facilities Holding Unaccompanied Migrant Children Have Seen Positive COVID-19 Tests

Border surge

Thirty-seven of 44 shelters, or 87 percent, currently housing unaccompanied migrant minors in Texas reported positive COVID-19 test results between March 5 and 23, according to data collected by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Cases are identified by shelter facilities and foster care providers, which are then reported to officials at the agency.

“The Biden Administration has been an abject failure when it comes to ensuring the safety of unaccompanied minors who cross our border,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said. “The conditions unaccompanied minors face in these federally run facilities is unacceptable and inhumane. From a lack of safe drinking water in one location to a COVID-19 outbreak in another, the Biden Administration has no excuse for subjecting these children to these kinds of conditions.

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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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Biden Sets New Vaccine Target, Faces Questions on Border Crisis, Senate Filibuster

biden-press-conference_840x480

President Joe Biden on Thursday set a new target of 200 million Americans being vaccinated by the end of April while also facing questions about the southern U.S. border crisis, the potential to end filibusters in the U.S. Senate and other issues.

At the first news conference of his presidency, held later into his first term than recent presidents, Biden said the U.S. was on target to vaccinate more than 200 million Americans by his 100th day in office.

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Whitmer’s Job Approval Rating Takes Tumble in Latest Polling of Michigan Residents

Results of a new poll indicate a majority of Michigan residents are unhappy with the direction the country is headed, and an increasing number are displeased with the job performance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The Michigan Poll from Lansing-based Marketing Resource Group, released Tuesday, concludes that 52% of respondents believe the country is on the wrong track compared to 36% that said otherwise. Six months ago, the results were 66% wrong track and 25% right direction.

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More Than $4 Billion to Go to Illegal Immigrants Through Biden Stimulus Checks

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that 2.65 million illegal immigrants have Social Security numbers and, because of their income threshold and number of children they have, are eligible to receive federal stimulus checks.

In a new report, CIS estimates that illegal immigrants could receive an estimated $4.38 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 passed by Democrats along party lines.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said that illegal immigrants would be receiving $1,400 checks through the legislation and introduced an amendment to stop it. Democrats rejected the amendment.

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Gov. Whitmer Announces 21 Road Rebuilding Projects

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced 21 state highway projects for the 2021 construction season.

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) projects are funded through its budget and the $3.5 billion Rebuilding Michigan bonding program.

Whitmer announced the projects on Tuesday. 

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Michigan Business Owner Arrested After Flouting COVID-19 Restrictions, Food License Suspended

by Scott McClallen   The state has arrested a business owner for violating the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, including operating her restaurant nearly two months after the state suspended her food license. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Friday morning that Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, owner of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland,…

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Current Staffer Becomes Eighth Woman to Accuse Cuomo of Inappropriate Behavior

A new accuser has come forward in the ongoing sexual harassment scandal tied to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. On Friday, a current staffer came forward with a series of allegations against the leader facing numerous calls to resign over similar accusations.

Alyssa McGrath told The New York Times that the governor gawked at her body and commented on her appearance. In another instance, she claimed Cuomo “gazed down her shirt.”

She becomes the second current aide to accuse Cuomo of harassing behavior. Last week, the Albany Times Union reported an unnamed individual filed a complaint that the governor grabbed her in the executive mansion last year.

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Whitmer Allows Stadiums at 20 Percent Capacity; Still Mum on Former Health Director’s Resignation

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration issued a new order requiring COVID-19 testing for all 13-19-year-old athletes before each game and practice.

In her first news conference after Whitmer and former state health director Robert Gordon waived their confidentiality clause in Gordon’s $155,506 taxpayer funded separation package, Whitmer still dodged two direct questions.

Whitmer insisted she has “nothing to hide” but gave no new details about the resignation.

“I have said all I am going to say about Director Gordon’s departure,” she said.

Whitmer’s new order will allow outdoor stadiums to open at 20% capacity if the venue follows certain protocols. The order comes less than two weeks ahead of the April 1 Detroit Tigers opening day at Comerica Park.

For Comerica Park, that means it can allow roughly 8,200 fans if it:

Establishes an infection control plan that complies with the the state health department’s Enhanced Outdoor Stadium and Arena Guidance
Posts the mitigation plan publicly
Sends infection control plans to the local health department and MDHHS at least seven days before scheduled events.
Administers a testing program following the Guidance for Athletics
“We truly appreciate the ongoing partnership with the Governor’s office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. We are thrilled to safely welcome back the best fans in baseball to Comerica Park for Opening Day and beyond,” Illitch Holdings Group President of Sports and Entertainment Chris Granger said in a statement. “As the season progresses, we look forward to continued coordination with public health and medical experts, government officials and Major League Baseball to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for all Detroit Tigers fans.”

The loosened restrictions follow as more Michiganders get vaccinated. Michigan has injected over 3 million vaccines, continuing to reach for its goal of vaccinating 70% of Michigander’s ages 16 and older.

“Last week’s numbers are a reality check that COVID-19 is not yet behind us,” Whitmer said in a Friday morning news conference. “We may be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel.”

The push to ramp up vaccinations aims to stem the spread of multiple COVID-19 variants and depress rising COVID-19 case numbers.

About 756 cases of the U.K COVID-19 variant have been reported in Michigan, while seven of the South African variant have been reported.

“You’ll have a summer of fun ahead if we can all get vaccinated,” Whitmer said of small July 4 celebrations.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun warned Michigan is headed in the “wrong direction” in COVID-19 data after four weeks of case increases. The COVID-19 positivity rate has increased to 6.2%, an increase from mid-February but down from the December high of 19.4%.

Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 is now at 4.9%, down from a December high of  19.6%.

Under the new epidemic order, Michiganders ages 13-19 can’t practice or compete in sports unless they participate in a stringent testing program starting April 2.

The order aims to battle 315 reported outbreaks associated with high school sports, officials said.

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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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Michigan Attorney General Nessel Won’t Investigate Gov. Whitmer’s Nursing Home Policy

Attorney General Dana Nessel rejected Republicans’ request to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policy. 

A Republican state senator said Monday that Attorney General Dana Nessel is expected to announce by the middle of the week whether she will investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.

“I called on the attorney general to carry out an honest investigation into Michigan’s nursing home policies weeks ago,” Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, said in a statement. “I’ve learned from the attorney general’s office that they intend to announce a decision by Wednesday. Attorney General Nessel knows the right thing to do – and that is to get answers for every family who lost a loved one to COVID-19 in a nursing home.”

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Dead Missouri Measure to Cut Loathed Personal Property Taxes Revived

The Missouri Senate Monday night rejected a proposed five-year phase-out of the state’s property tax that could have saved state taxpayers nearly $1.5 billion by 2027.

On Thursday, the measure was resurrected as a proposal to make any increases in the personal property tax rate the same percentage as any real property tax rate hikes approved by counties, among a bevy of other provisions.

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Senate Confirms Deb Haaland of New Mexico as Interior Secretary

Former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, who opposes fracking and oil drilling on federal lands, was confirmed as President Joe Biden’s new Interior secretary Monday in a narrow, 52-40, vote.

Haaland, who will become the first cabinet secretary of Native American descent, was criticized by many Republicans and supporters of the U.S. oil and gas industry as being extreme on climate change.

“America’s energy workers will be disappointed, but this close vote is hardly a ringing endorsement for Deb Haaland and the Biden anti-energy agenda,” Power The Future’s Western States Director Larry Behrens said in a statement. “With 40 Senators voting against her confirmation, it’s clear many across the country don’t trust Deb Haaland to run a critical federal agency.”

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Teamsters Officials Forced out of LA Trucking Company After 80 Percent of Workers Sign Petition to Remove Them

The union for a Los Angeles trucking company, Teamsters Local 986, was forced out after nearly 80% of workers signed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to remove it.

The National Labor Relations Act governs private sector workers, unionization and how workers can remove a union from their workplace. In 27 right-to-work states, union payments are voluntary. In California and other non right-to-work states, union payments are mandatory for all unionized and non-union employees.

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Survey: Majority of Freelance Writers Worry PRO Act Will Harm Their Earning Potential

The PRO Act, which passed the U.S. House Tuesday on a largely partisan vote, could eliminate most forms of independent contracting, gig work and freelancing – potentially impacting as many as 59 million freelance workers who represent 36 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

In 2020, the freelance community accounted for $1.2 trillion in earnings, according to a report published by UpWork.

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

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

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

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

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Michigan Senate Authorizes Second Lawsuit Against Gov. Whitmer

The GOP-dominated Michigan Senate on Thursday approved a lawsuit against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

At issue is a possible attempt by the governor to unilaterally spend nearly a million dollars attached to a bill she vetoed this week.

Senate Resolution 26 reads: “Any attempt by Governor Whitmer to expend moneys that she vetoed without further legislative approval or expend certain funds without the enactment of Senate Bill No. 1 or House Bill No. 4049 would be contrary to both law and Michigan’s constitutional system.”

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Biden to Direct States to Make All U.S. Adults Eligible for COVID Vaccine by May 1

President Joe Biden said Thursday night that he is directing U.S. states to open COVID-19 vaccinations to all American adults by May 1 in an effort to more quickly reopen the country and prop up the staggering U.S. economy.

“To do this we’re going to go from a million shots a day … to 2 million shots a day,” he said.

In most U.S. states currently, only older Americans, front-line workers and those with pre-existing conditions are eligible, though getting scheduled for a first dose has been problematic in many states even for the most at-risk.

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

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

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

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer Administration Gave Former MEDC CEO Jeff Mason a $128,500 Severance Payout

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration paid former CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) Jeff Mason $128,500 –26 weeks of pay – to “retire” last year.

The Detroit News reported Mason’s deal was among eight other employees separated from MEDC, bringing the total cost of payouts to $308,623 over the last four years. Those agreements included non-disparagement clauses limiting ex-employees from diminishing the MEDC’s reputation.

However, agency employees said the deals weren’t funded by taxpayer money.

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Biden Signs $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill into Law

President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that includes extended unemployment benefits, direct funding to states and municipalities, and $1,400 checks for most Americans.

“This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country and giving the people of this nation – working people, middle-class folks, people who built the country – a fighting chance, that’s what the essence of it is,” Biden said in the Oval Office before signing the bill.

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U.S. House Passes Controversial $1.9 Trillion Relief Bill, Sending Measure to Biden

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday ratified changes the Senate made to a massive $1.9 trillion relief package that critics say contains hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the 220-211 vote, almost exclusively along party lines, the measure now goes to President Joe Biden, who said he will sign it. One Democrat – U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, who also voted against the initial bill – voted against the measure Wednesday. No Republicans voted for it.

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New York Republicans Seek to Impeach Cuomo as AG’s Office Ramps up Investigation

As New York Attorney General Letitia James on Monday announced the attorneys who will conduct the independent review on the sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Republicans in the state Legislature said they intend to seek the embattled leader’s impeachment.

James appointed Joon H. Kim and Anne L. Clark to look into the sexual harassment allegations. Kim is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Clark focuses on employment law.

James said the state is committed to a thorough review and heralded Kim and Clark as experts. Kim and Clark will be able to issue subpoenas, depose people and review records. They will give James’ office a weekly update throughout the investigatio

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Missouri House Sends Bill Clipping Health Officials’ Emergency Powers to Senate

A bill that would require local governments to approve extensions of public health emergency orders after 15 days is ready for adoption by the Missouri House.

House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Jim Murphy, was perfected Wednesday in a floor debate and awaits only a floor vote to be transferred to the Senate, where a raft of similar bills are matriculating in committees.

HB 75, which has already passed through the House Special Committee on Small Business and Rules – Legislative Oversight committees, would allow local public health officials to order a closure for no more than 15 days.

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Ohio Prosecutors Support Bill to Force Convicted Rioters to Pay for Damages

Last summer, millions of dollars in taxpayer money were spent in response to protests that turned violent throughout Ohio. A bill proposed in the Ohio Senate looks to make sure those responsible will pay for it.

Senate Bill 41, currently being discussed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls for restitution from those who are convicted of property damage during riots, including vandalism. The restitution would pay the expenses of police and emergency crews who have to respond to riots. The bill also allows the government to take possession of any property left behind by those who end up convicted.

State Senator Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, is sponsoring the bill. Lou Tobin, the Executive Director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, offered his support before the committee recently.

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Beyond Pension Debts, Michigan Owes $31 Billion in Public Employee Retirement Benefits

Net liabilities in Michigan for so-called other post-employment benefits (OPEBs), which consist mainly of health care obligations to retired public employees, stood at about $31 billion in fiscal year 2019, according to a new analysis from the Reason Foundation. 

With a population of 9,986,857, the state posted a per-capita OPEB liability of $3,099, which represents the 15th highest value among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the Reason study found. 

In total, these liabilities amount to 6% of the U.S. gross domestic product, the researchers said. These debts are also geographically concentrated, with 15 government jurisdictions representing 50% of the total, the study found. 

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Early Voting in Louisiana Began Saturday with Two Seats in Congress at Stake

Early voting in Louisiana begins Saturday for an election in which two open seats in Congress, another in the Louisiana Legislature and a spot on the state school board are at stake.  

Democrat Cedric Richmond was reelected to represent Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, the state’s only majority-minority district which includes New Orleans and extends into Baton Rouge. Richmond stepped down from Congress, however, shortly after last fall’s election to join President Joe Biden’s administration.

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Texas Democrats Express Alarm About Potential Border Crisis

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, whose district extends from the Rio Grande along the Mexican border to the San Antonio suburbs, is sounding the alarm about a potential border crisis in Texas.

More than 10,000 illegal immigrants have been apprehended at a single border sector in Texas in one week, he says, and the numbers keep growing.

“We are weeks, maybe even days, away from a crisis on the southern border. Inaction is simply not an option,” Cueller said in a news release. “Our country is currently unprepared to handle a surge in migrants in the middle of the pandemic.”

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