Texas Governor Signs Law Preventing Social Media Companies from Banning People for Their Views

Gov. Greg Abbott signs law

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law Thursday preventing social media companies from banning users for their political views.

The law, known as HB 20, prohibits social media platforms from banning or suspending users, and removing or suppressing their content, based on political viewpoint. The bill was introduced by state Sen. Bryan Hughes partly in an effort to combat perceived censorship of conservatives by Facebook, Twitter, Google-owned YouTube, and other major tech companies.

“Social media websites have become our modern-day public square,” Abbott said in a statement. “They are a place for healthy public debate where information should be able to flow freely — but there is a dangerous movement by social media companies to silence conservative viewpoints and ideas.”

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Judge Okays Preliminary Injunction for Western Michigan University Athletes

Western Michigan University football practice

Federal District Court Judge Paul L. Maloney granted 16 Western Michigan University (WMU) athletes’ request to continue participating in intercollegiate athletic competition without being injected with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Initially, four soccer stars sued in August over WMU’s vaccine mandate for athletes, which required athletic participants take the COVID-19 vaccine by Aug. 31 or forfeit their spot on the team. WMU has denied all the athletes a religious liberty accommodation.

No similar vaccine requirement exists for any other students at WMU and other universities. The lawsuit says Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are granting religious accommodations to their athletes.

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Human Rights Campaign Fires Alphonso David for Advising Cuomo on #METOO Allegations

Alphonso David

The nation’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group has fired its president for advising Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the #METOO allegations against the governor.

The two Human Rights Campaign (HRC) boards terminated Alphonso David “for cause” Monday evening, The New York Times reported. David called his termination unjust in a Monday evening statement and accused the HRC board of lying to him about its investigation.

“As a black, gay man who has spent his whole life fighting for civil and human rights, they cannot shut me up,” he said. “Expect a legal challenge.”

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Commentary: Jacob Chansley Pleads Guilty to Obstruction, Remains in Jail

Jacob Chansley, arguably the most iconic figure of the January 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol, today pleaded guilty to one count of obstruction of an official proceeding.

Chansley, 33, turned himself in to law enforcement and was arrested on January 9. A grand jury indicted Chansley two days later on six nonviolent counts including obstruction, civil disorder, and “parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building.” The remaining counts will be dropped.

Judge Royce Lamberth accepted Chansely’s plea agreement with Joe Biden’s Justice Department, which continues to arrest and charge Americans for even minor involvement in the Capitol protest. Nearly 200 defendants face the obstruction charge, a felony added to mostly misdemeanor cases. (I explained the charge here in March.)

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Transgender Person Who Allegedly Exposed Himself at L.A. Spa Charged with Indecent Exposure

Close up of Wi Spa sign on building

The transgender individual who exposed himself in front of women and children at a California luxury spa earlier this year, has been charged with indecent exposure, the New York Post reported Thursday. Darren Agee Merager, 52, is a registered sex offender with two prior convictions of indecent exposure, according to the Post’s law-enforcement sources. Merager is also facing “six felony counts of indecent exposure over a separate locker room incident in December 2018,” according to the Post.

As American Greatness previously reported, several women complained last June, when the biological male allegedly exposed his penis at the Wi Spa in Los Angeles.

Viral video footage of the incident showed a woman angrily confronting a staff member of the spa about a naked man who had apparently exposed himself in an area reserved for females.

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Virginia Universities Start Kicking Out Unvaccinated Students

Some Virginia universities have started kicking out students who refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and other institutions may start following suit.

Virginia Tech disenrolled 134 students this week who did not receive the vaccine. Before that, the University of Virginia disenrolled 288 students, and William & Mary withdrew 42 students for the same reason. All three universities require students be vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they receive a medical or religious exemption.

“Of the approximately 37,000 students enrolled at Virginia Tech, 134 students were not in compliance with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, meaning that they did not submit vaccination documentation or receive a medical or religious exemption,” a statement on Virginia Tech’s website read. “These students have been disenrolled. The university does not know whether any of these students were not planning to return for reasons unrelated to the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.”

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Man Sentenced to Six Years in Prison for Whitmer Kidnapping Plot

A man upset over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 policies plead guilty to one count of a kidnapping conspiracy and accepted a plea deal to serve six years and three months in prison.

Ty Garbin, 25, is the only known member of the Michigan militia group “Wolverine Watchmen” to plead guilty to the alleged plot.

Federal prosecutors suggested he serve a nine-year sentence, citing his cooperation with authorities and plans to testify against other alleged kidnappers.

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Fifth Circuit Upholds Texas Abortion Ban

Woman holding an infant in her arms

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2017 Texas law outlawing a second trimester abortion procedure called D&E (dilation and evacuation), or dismemberment.

In 2017, the Texas legislature passed the Texas Dismemberment Abortion Ban with bipartisan support, making D&Es a felony and banning them from being performed except in the case of an emergency. After the law passed and before it went into effect, Whole Women’s Health, several Planned Parenthood groups, several doctors, and others, sued in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

The district court ruled in their favor, blocking the law from going into effect. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office appealed, and a three-judge panel on the Fifth Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling last October.

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Officer Who Shot Ashli Babbitt Will Not Face Any Disciplinary Action, Conduct Was ‘Lawful’ U.S. Capitol Police Announce

The U.S. Capitol Police said Monday that it would not take any action against the officer who shot and killed rioter Ashli Babbitt on Jan 6.

“USCP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) determined the officer’s conduct was lawful and within Department policy, which says an officer may use deadly force only when the officer reasonably believes that action is in the defense of human life, including the officer’s own life, or in the defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury,” the department said in a statement. The officer’s identity was not disclosed due to safety concerns.

“This officer and the officer’s family have been the subject of numerous credible and specific threats for actions that were taken as part of the job of all our officers: defending the Congress, Members, staff and the democratic process,” the department said.

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U.S. Files New Complaint Against Facebook over Monopoly Concerns

The U.S. government amended its antitrust complaint against Facebook on Thursday, bolstering allegations that the tech company illegally maintained a monopoly.

The amended complaint follows the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) dismissed December 2020 complaint which failed to adequately prove the tech giant’s monopoly in the “Personal Social Networking Services” market.

The FTC alleges that Facebook illegally acquired competitors WhatsApp and Instagram in order to stifle competition, maintaining monopoly power by preventing competitors from operating on Facebook software.

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Watchdogs Sound Alarm as Ilhan Omar Continues to Evade Financial Disclosure of Reportedly Lucrative Book Deal

Ilhan Omar

Multiple watchdog groups said Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar may have violated federal law for failing to mention any income received from her critically-acclaimed 2020 memoir in her latest financial disclosure report filed on Friday.

Omar reportedly signed a deal worth up to $250,000 for her memoir, “This Is What America Looks Like,” in January 2019, around the same time she was sworn into Congress. Omar’s communications director said the House Ethics committee approved the book deal, but the Democratic lawmaker’s financial disclosures covering the calendar years 2018 and 2019 contain no mention of the book or any advance income received upon signing a deal.

The book was published in May 2020 to rave reviews by the press and Omar’s Democratic colleagues. The Atlantic dubbed it one of the best political books of the year, and numerous high profile Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, praised on the book.

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Texas Supreme Court Rules That Democrats in Legislature Can Be Arrested to Compel Attendance

Texas Justice Jimmy Blacklock

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the Texas Constitution authorizes the state’s House of Representatives to arrest members who flee in order to break the quorum required to vote.

The opinion states that “just as” Texas’ Constitution enables “‘quorum-breaking’ by a minority faction of the legislature, it likewise authorizes ‘quorum-forcing’ by the remaining members,” including by “arrest.”

“The legal question before this Court concerns only whether the Texas Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to physically compel the attendance of absent members. We conclude that it does, and we therefore direct the district court to withdraw the TRO,” wrote Justice Jimmy Blacklock on behalf of the state’s Supreme Court.

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Federal Court Sides with Biden’s Eviction Moratorium, for Now

Eviction Notice

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled Friday against a challenge to President Joe Biden’s latest eviction moratorium.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich denied a request from the Alabama and Georgia association of Realtors to overturn an eviction moratorium from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 60-day order bans landlords from evicting tenants, even if they do not pay rent, citing concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

“About half of all housing providers are mom-and-pop operators, and without rental income, they cannot pay their own bills or maintain their properties,” National Association of Realtors President Charlie Oppler said. “NAR has always advocated the best solution for all parties was rental assistance paid directly to housing providers to cover the rent and utilities of any vulnerable tenants during the pandemic. No housing provider wants to evict a tenant and considers it only as a last resort.”

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Illegal immigration, Drug Seizures Spike in July

New federal reporting shows illegal immigration has continued to grow worse as the Biden administration increasingly takes heat for the crisis at the southern border.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released new immigration data that shows border agents encountered 212,672 undocumented migrants attempting to enter the country illegally in July, the highest number in more than two decades.

“The situation at the border is one of the toughest challenges we face,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “It is complicated, changing, and involves vulnerable people at a time of a global pandemic.”

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Senate Democrats Publicly Release $3.5 Trillion Filibuster-Proof Budget Reconciliation Resolution

Senate Democrats have publicly released their $3.5 trillion, filibuster-proof budget reconciliation resolution.

The draft of the legislation released on Monday includes new spending programs that the White House has labeled “human infrastructure,” such as universal pre-K, childcare support and tuition free community college.

The spending total is estimated over a 10-year period. Using budget reconciliation allows the Democrats to pass the measure without votes from Republicans in the 50-50 Senate. Democrats used the same process in March to pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus package called the American Rescue Plan Act.

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Rieth-Riley Workers Win Settlements Against Union for Illegal Strike Retaliation

Rieth-Riley Construction paving a parking lot

Michigan Rieth-Riley Construction Company employees Rob Nevins and Jesse London won settlements against the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324 union.

The settlements order IUOE union bosses not to discriminate against London and Nevins for leaving the union and pay $364 to London for owed health insurance premium.

The settlements stem from charges of retaliation the workers filed during the strike IUOE union bosses ordered in mid-2019. London and Nevins ended their union memberships and chose to keep working.

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Ex-Cuomo Aide Boylan to Sue New York Governor for Allegedly Retaliating Against Her after Coming Forward

Andrew Cuomo and Lindsey Boylan

Ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan plans to sue the Democratic governor for allegedly retaliating against her for publicly accusing him of sexual harassment.

Boylan said last year in a series of tweets that she had been sexual harassed by the governor for years, allegations that led to other woman coming forward with similar stories and a state probe into the matter.

“Our plan is to sue the governor and his and his coconspirators,” Boylan’s attorney, Jill Basinger, said Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show.

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Lawyer for Ashli Babbitt’s Family Says Fatal Shot at Client Was ‘Ambush,’ with No Command to Halt

Ashli Babbitt Memorial

An attorney for the family of Ashli Babbett, a protester killed in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, says the police officer who fatally shot Babbitt failed to warn her before firing and in fact ambushed her.

The attorney, Terry Roberts, made the allegation in an interview with RealClearInvestigations, and in opposition to the attorney of the alleged officer who shot Babbitt, saying his client issued a clear and loud command.

“It’s not debatable,” Roberts said. “There was no warning. … I would call what he did an ambush.”

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Gov. Whitmer Signs Driver’s License Extensions for Michiganders into Law

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed three bills dealing with the consequences of a 15-months backlog at the Secretary of State’s office extending the validation of state driver’s licenses and ID cards.

“The pandemic was tough on all of us, and these bills put Michigan drivers first by giving Michiganders the flexibility they need to renew their drivers license and IDs,” Whitmer said in a statement. “It is crucial that we continue to offer services at our Secretary of State that fit the needs of all residents as we move forward.”

The three bills add 120 days of validity for the documents expired between March 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.

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Biden to Push for Amnesty in Reconciliation Package

Joe Biden and his administration sitting in the Oval Office at the White House

In a meeting at the White House with Democratic lawmakers, Joe Biden reaffirmed his support for the radical notion of including mass amnesty for illegal aliens in the proposed reconciliation bill, according to CNN.

Biden met with 11 lawmakers – five senators and six members of the House – on Thursday to discuss a possible amnesty deal following the latest blow to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was an executive order signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 to provide blanket amnesty to illegal aliens who came into the country as minors.

Judge Andrew Hanen, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, ruled earlier this month that as the law had been implemented via executive order only after its legislative counterpart, the DREAM Act, failed to pass through Congress, the law was unconstitutional. The order blocks any future illegals from applying for the amnesty, but does not affect current or past applicants.

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Texas Border City Sues Biden Administration over Illegal Immigration

The Texas border city of Laredo has sued the Biden administration, hoping to halt its policy of transferring several hundred people a day into the city who have illegally entered the U.S. through two Texas Border Patrol sectors: Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio.

Assistant City Attorney Alyssa Castillon sued the Department of Homeland Security and its secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, Customs and Border Protection and its senior official, Troy Miller, and Border Patrol chief Rodney S. Scott. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Border Patrol intends to double the number of people it brings from the Rio Grande Valley sector, which has seen the largest surge of illegal border crossings in the past few months. Laredo officials estimate that every day, between three and six buses of detained refugees, immigrants and migrants (RIMs) are already being transported to Laredo from the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio sectors, totaling between 250 and 350 people a day.

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Michigan Gov. Whitmer Signs Driver’s License Extensions into Law

People in chairs at the DMV

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed three bills dealing with the consequences of a 15-months backlog at the Secretary of State’s office extending the validation of state driver’s licenses and ID cards.

“The pandemic was tough on all of us, and these bills put Michigan drivers first by giving Michiganders the flexibility they need to renew their drivers license and IDs,” Whitmer said in a statement. “It is crucial that we continue to offer services at our Secretary of State that fit the needs of all residents as we move forward.”

The three bills add 120 days of validity for the documents expired between March 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.

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Report: 1.9 Million Households Owe $15 Billion in Back Rent as Eviction Moratorium Expires

Aerial view of a suburb

Up to 1.95 million households across America will owe a collective $15 billion in back rent when the eviction moratorium expires Saturday, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia estimates.

That number will reach 2 million by December, according to the report released Friday. In Pennsylvania, about 60,000 renter households will owe $412 million come August. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made one final 30-day extension of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program through July 31. President Joe Biden’s administration said its “hands are tied” by the courts on the matter and any further relief must come from Congress itself. 

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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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Federal Reserve Chair: Inflation to be ‘Elevated for Months’

Jerome Powell

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell tried to calm lawmakers’ fears about rising inflation but also said it would probably remain elevated for months to come.

Testifying before Congress this week, Powell said the Federal Reserve was willing to step in to address the situation, but that inflation should level out next year.

“As always, in assessing the appropriate stance of monetary policy, we will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if we saw signs that the path of inflation or longer-term inflation expectations were moving materially and persistently beyond levels consistent with our goal,” Powell said in his prepared testimony.

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Michigan Senate Approves Petition to Revoke Whitmer’s Pandemic Powers

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

The GOP-led Michigan Senate approved the Unlock Michigan campaign on a 20-15 vote, likely ending the 1945 law employed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to exercise pandemic powers for the past 16 months.

Democrats and Republicans exchanged heated remarks over COVID-19 policy. 

“This petition will hamstring our leaders of both parties — from preventing or slowing the spread of a deadly disease. This is about our ability to react to other pandemics and disasters in the future,” Sen. Rosemary Bayer, D-Beverly Hills, said pre-vote.

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States Join Coalition to Stop California from Setting U.S. Automotive Standards

Ford dealership shop

A coalition of 16 states is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to not reinstate a waiver allowing California to implement its own carbon emissions standards that essentially regulate the automotive industry for the rest of the U.S.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton joined a coalition led by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, which also includes attorneys general from the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia.

Under the Clean Air Act, the Trump administration created national standards for vehicle carbon emissions for model years 2021 through 2026. The policy revoked a waiver previously granted to California in order to treat all states as equal sovereigns subject to one federal rule, the attorneys general explain in their 12-page letter.

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Commentary: An Inside Look at Lockdown Orders from 2020

Person putting hands on glass, inside of home

Life in the United States and in many parts of the world was transformed in mid-March 2020. That was when the great experiment began. It was a test. How much power does government have to rule nearly the whole of life? To what extent can all the power of the state be mobilized to take away rights that people had previously supposed were protected by law? How many restrictions on freedom would people put up with without a revolt?

It was also a test of executive and bureaucratic power: can these dramatic decisions be made by just a handful of people, independent of all our slogans about representative democracy?

We are far from coming to terms with any of these questions. They are hardly being discussed. The one takeaway from the storm that swept through our country and the world in those days is that anything is possible. Unless something dramatic is done, like some firm limits on what governments can do, they will try again, under the pretext of public health or something else. 

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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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Michigan Supreme Court Nixes Secretary of State Benson’s Redistricting Extension Request

The Michigan Supreme Court denied a request from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to grant an extension for redrawing the state’s district map.

Benson and the ICRC filed a Petition for Relief with the Court in April, asking the Court to recognize the ICRC’s constitutionally imposed deadline as “unrealistic.” The petition argued the new timeline would ensure the Bureau of Elections had sufficient time to update the state’s voter registration database with the new district lines. Additionally, they argued, local clerks would be able to create and provide every voter with a correct ballot.

The extension was requested because of the six-month delay of 2020 U.S. Census data due to the coronavirus pandemic, which, it anticipated, would precipitate lawsuits. U.S. Census data is scheduled to become available Oct. 1. The ICRC was seeking to move its deadline from mid-September to Dec. 11, which would push back approval of final district maps to Jan. 25, 2022. The deadline for the filing of candidates for the November 2022 election is April 15.

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State Supreme Court Again Orders ‘Unlock Michigan’ Petition Certified

Unlock Michigan sign

For the second time, the Michigan Supreme Court has ordered the State Board of Canvassers certify the Unlock Michigan petition that will likely revoke Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 1945 emergency powers.

On June 11, the top court ordered the State Board of Canvassers to certify the petition after the board deadlocked 2-2 on multiple motions. But Keep Michigan Safe (KMS) lawyer Mark Brewer filed a motion asking the top court to reconsider the order.

The top court answered, again ordering the petition to be certified.

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Gov. Whitmer Signs Emergency Insulin, Education Bills into Law

Gov. Whitmer signed a flurry of bills Thursday with topics ranging from affordable insulin to changing college scholarship metrics.

“I am committed to bringing Republicans and Democrats together to make real, lasting change for Michigan families,” Whitmer said in a statement. “For people living with diabetes, access to insulin is a matter of life and death. I’m proud to sign Senate Bills 155 and 156 because they ensure access to an emergency insulin supply for people facing an interruption of care, and require insurance to cover that emergency supply. I’m also proud to sign House Bills 4055 and 4056 – students should be able to afford a college education based on their overall scholastic achievement, especially when facing unprecedented obstacles to taking otherwise required tests like the ACT and SAT. ”

Senate Bill (SB) 155 aims to ensure access to emergency insulin supply at an affordable cost by allowing pharmacists to dispense an emergency supply of insulin to individuals with an expired but otherwise valid prescription issued within the last 12 months.

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Supreme Court Hands Union Loss in California Trespass Case

The Supreme Court has ruled that a California regulation allowing union organizers to trespass on private property to recruit agricultural workers violated private property rights.

In Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid released Wednesday, California agriculture businesses Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company challenged a state law allowing labor unions a “right to take access” to an agricultural employer’s private property three hours per day, 120 days per year to recruit new union members. The court held that this constitutes a “per se” taking. They reversed and remanded prior rulings on California’s access regulation with a 6-3 vote, the dissenting votes belonging to the court’s three left-leaning justices. 

In 2015, union organizers entered Cedar Point Nursery at 5 a.m., disrupting work during harvest season with bullhorns to convince the farm employees to join the United Farm Workers (UFW) union. Mike Fahner, the owner of the strawberry farm, did not grant the union workers permission to enter his property, nor was he given notice of their arrival. He was not legally allowed to ask the union organizers to leave his property. 

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U.S. Supreme Court Sides with Student in Free Speech Case

Tennessee Star

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of free speech rights for students outside of the classroom in a decision Wednesday.

The court sided with former Mahanoy Area High School student and cheerleader Brandi Levy in the case, formally known as Mahanoy Area School District v B.L., with a 8-1 decision in her favor. Mahanoy Area High School is located in Pennsylvania.

Levy, upset that she had not made her school’s varsity cheer team, posted on the social media site Snapchat a simple message with explicit language expressing her frustration.

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Largest Health Care Union to Fight Mandatory Vaccine Requirements for Workers

Doctor giving vaccination to patient

The president of the largest union of health care workers in the U.S. says it will fight companies requiring its members to have mandatory COVID-19 shots as a condition of employment.

The announcement came one day after Houston Methodist announced that 153 employees had been fired or resigned for refusing to get the shots as a condition of employment. Those suing argue requiring employees to receive a vaccine approved only through Emergency Use Authorization violates federal law. After a recent court dismissal, their attorney vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, is weighing the organization’s legal options.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against NCAA on Payment for College Athletes

Paying college athletes has been a hotly debated topic for years, but now the U.S. Supreme Court has released a ruling on the issue.

A group of current and former student athletes brought the lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, arguing that the organization violated antitrust laws when it prevented student athletes from accepting certain education-related benefits.

The case, filed in 2018, challenged the NCAA and the biggest conferences including the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and ACC. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the students Monday, saying the NCAA could not deny those benefits, which could include things like “scholarships for graduate or vocational school, payments for academic tutoring, or paid posteligibility internships.”

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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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Judge Rules Christian Baker Jack Phillips Must Make ‘Gender Transition’ Cake

Jack Phillips

A Colorado baker and self-described cake artist who won a 2018 victory at the Supreme Court faced a related setback this week when a state court ruled in another case that the law requires him to make a cake to celebrate a gender transition. 

Denver District Court Judge A. Bruce Jones ruled against Jack Phillips, the Christian owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, in the case of Scardina v. Masterpiece Cakeshop. 

“The anti-discrimination laws are intended to ensure that members of our society who have historically been treated unfairly, who have been deprived of even the every-day right to access businesses to buy products, are no longer treated as ‘others,’” Jones wrote Tuesday in a 28-page opinion.

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State Board of Elections Must Certify Unlock Michigan Petition, Michigan Supreme Court Rules

Unlock Michigan sign

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday the Board of State Canvassers must certify the Unlock Michigan petition to remove Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 1945 emergency powers. 

In April, the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 three times on votes whether to certify or investigate further Unlock Michigan.

“In the present case, the Board approved the form and content of the petition in July 2020,” the state’s top court wrote. “The Bureau of Elections analyzed the signatures using a random sampling method and estimated that Unlock Michigan submitted at least 460,000 valid signatures when they only needed about 340,000. The Board rejected, by deadlocked vote, a motion to investigate the collection of signatures. The Board thus has a clear legal duty to certify the petition.”

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Feds: Illegal Immigration Continued to Worsen in May

Temporary soft sided facilities are utilized to process noncitizen individuals, noncitizen families and noncitizen unaccompanied children as part of the ongoing response to the current border security and humanitarian effort along the Southwest Border in Donna, Texas, May 4, 2021.

The surge in illegal immigration at the southern border continues to worsen, May numbers show, as the Biden administration takes more criticism for its handling of the issue.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection released new data on the crisis at the southern border, showing the federal law enforcement agency encountered 180,034 people attempting to illegally enter the country last month.

May’s numbers were a 1% increase from the previous month, but illegal immigration since Biden took office has soared.

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High Court Hears Arguments on Tennessee’s School-Choice Program

ORNL Traveling Science Fair at the TN 4th Annual Tennessee STEM Innovation Summit and STEMx Event, Nashville, TN

Tennessee’s highest court heard arguments on a disputed school choice program.

Tennessee’s Education Savings Accounts (ESA) pilot program, approved by the state Legislature in 2019, would provide state-funded scholarships of about $7,100 to low-income students in Nashville and Memphis – home to the state’s two lowest-performing school districts. Students would be able to use the funds to attend nonpublic schools of their choice.

A district court ruled the program unconstitutional when the two counties sued the state to stop the program. The state Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, and the state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

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Michigan State Health Director Backs COVID-19 Nursing Home Death Numbers Despite Undercounting Allegations

The Michigan House Oversight Committee on Thursday heard opposing testimony related to whether Michigan is undercounting COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

For over a year, Republicans have alleged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order to place COVID-19 infected patients into nursing homes with non-infected seniors contributed to an excess number of deaths than otherwise would have happened. In March, more than 50 lawmakers asked the federal government to investigate Whitmer’s policy. The death data from Michigan’s nursing homes could be compared to states with similar senior populations that didn’t pursue similar nursing home policy. 

Steve Delie, an attorney for the Mackinac Center For Public Policy, sued the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on behalf of reporter Charlie LeDuff, testified before the committee on Thursday. Delie argued the nursing home and long-term care COVID-19 death count in Michigan isn’t accurate, saying MDHHS enacted an accountability check between March 1 and June 30 of 2020, where it located 648 deaths out of a pool of 1,468 vital records deaths that could be traced back to a nursing home facility.

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Gov. Lee’s Signature Makes Tennessee a Second Amendment Sanctuary

Guy shooting hand gun at gun range

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill Wednesday that makes the state a Second Amendment sanctuary.

Senate Bill 1335 prevents any “law, treaty, executive order, rule, or regulation of the United States government” that violates the Tennessee Constitution or the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution from being enforced in the state.

That violation would have to be determined by either the Tennessee or U.S. Supreme Court. The stipulation was added during debate of the bill in the Tennessee House, and the Senate concurred.

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Texas State Border Officials Fear Large Spikes in Overdose Deaths with Drug Traffic Increases

Texas Department of Public Safety SUV

Texas officials said Thursday they’re worried about dramatic spikes in drug overdose deaths in some areas of the state as illegal border crossings and drug trafficking have picked up since President Joe Biden took office.

Gov. Greg Abbott joined Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw and Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn on Thursday in Fort Worthto provide an update on the border crisis.

“We’re heading for a 50 percent increase in overdose deaths in Tarrant County alone,” Waybourn warned, noting that the amount of drugs flooding into Tarrant County has skyrocketed even with DPS intervention.

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Whitmer, Legislature Reach Deal on COVID-19 Restrictions, Collaborate Spending Billions

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

After 14 months of fighting over COVID-19 policy, GOP leaders and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reached an agreement Thursday to negotiate the state budget and stimulus money in return for setting a date to end COVID-19 restrictions.

In return, Whitmer has agreed to withdraw the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (MIOSHA) proposed permanent rules and discuss legislative input on epidemic orders.

“Throughout the pandemic, we saw Michiganders all over the state step up and come together to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” Whitmer said in s statement. “Now, Michigan’s task is to unleash the potential of our people, to drive innovation and investment, and create tens of thousands of jobs and economic prosperity for all. Together, we can stay laser-focused on growing the economy and getting Michiganders back to work. Let’s hit the gas.”

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New Interim Teacher Certification Program Aims to Provide More Teachers of Color in Schools

State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has approved the New Paradigm for Education program to promote alternative teacher certification in the state.

New Paradigm will offer a residency-based alternative route to teacher certification to recruit, train, and retain high-quality educators, particularly teachers of color and male teachers of color.

“We continue to work beyond conventional methods to help address the gaps in the teacher workforce,” State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said in a statement. “There is a substantial teacher shortage in Michigan, which is even more acute for teachers of color.”

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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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Former Michigan Health Director Submits to Subpoena, Testifies to House Oversight Committee over $155,000 Severance Payment

After declining four previous requests to testify, former Michigan Director of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon was finally compelled to testify Thursday before the House Oversight Committee.

Gordon abruptly resigned his position in January, and signed a controversial nondisclosure agreement the following month that included a $155,506 buyout. The Oversight Committee issued Gordon a subpoena earlier this month, forcing him to appear before the committee.

The subpoena was the first issued by the Oversight Committee in 30 years, according to Rep. Patrick Outman, R-Six Lakes.

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Law Professor May Be Fired After Personal Blog Post Criticized Chinese Government

Tom Smith

The University of San Diego is formally reviewing a law professor who made a blog post critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

“If you believe that the coronavirus did not escape from the lab in Wuhan, you have to at least consider that you are an idiot who is swallowing whole a lot of Chinese cock swaddle,” wrote Professor Tom Smith on his blog The Right Coast. He later clarified that the reference was to the Chinese government, not the people in the country.

When he first published the March 10 post, the USD Law School placed him under investigation, citing complaints of bias. Now, the law school has sent his case to administration for a formal review.

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