If Feds End Soybean Tax, Missouri Bill Would Hike Tax by Same Amount

If the federal government’s .25% assessment on each bushel of soybeans is halted, a bill in the Missouri legislature would capture that amount and add it to the state’s current collection of .25%, giving additional millions to the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.

“If the federal goes away and this (bill) were to go into effect, we would continue to collect at a rate of one-half of 1% like we are now,” Rep. Curtis Gregory, R-Marshall, told the House Agriculture Policy Committee on Tuesday during testimony on HB2387. “If the bill doesn’t go into effect and the federal is done away with, we’d revert back…to one-half a penny per bushel…That would not bring in the amount of funds necessary to fund the checkoff mission.”

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Iowa Governor Requests DHS Staff Salary Increases, ‘Status Quo’ on Medicaid Funding

For the first time in at least 15 years, an Iowa governor has not recommended funding changes for Medicaid.

The announcement was made by Legislative Service Agency Analyst Jess Benson as he presented Gov. Kim Reynolds’ fiscal year 2023 Department of Health and Human Services budget recommendations Tuesday.

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Teacher Shortages Nationwide Causing Public Education Crisis

Schools throughout the country are experiencing teacher shortages due to several factors. In some states, legislatures have responded by lowering substitute teaching standards. In others, schools are calling on parents to fill the gap or are simply closing schools because they don’t have enough staff.

School choice advocates say it’s time to start funding students instead of government-run public school systems.

Nationwide, according to Burbio.com’s school closure tracker, 7,164 schools were “actively disrupted (not offering in-person learning) on one or more days during the week beginning January 10th.” Accompanying the tracker is a map, which shows which schools nationwide are closed or are providing no in-person instruction by day and week. The site, an industry leader in aggregating school, government, library and community information, tracks school closures and mask policies.

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Majority of Democrats Say the Unvaccinated Should Be Confined to Home: Poll

One-third of Americans say they haven’t gotten the COVID-19 shots, majority of Democrats say they should be confined at all times, and or fined.

A majority of Democrats say they’d support the unvaxxed being confined to their homes at all times, with 45% saying they should be confined to designated facilities and 55% support for fines.

Roughly one-third of Americans surveyed in a recent poll say they haven’t received the COVID-19 shots and the majority of them said they don’t plan on getting them. The unvaccinated would be targeted by a majority of Democrats in another poll who say they favor a government policy that would require them to “remain confined to their homes at all times, except for emergencies.”

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Missouri Attorney General Sues Nine More School Districts over Mask Requirements

young girl getting face mask put on her face

Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Monday filed lawsuits against nine public school districts with mask requirements.

Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring U.S. Republican Senator Roy Blunt, filed suit against 36 school districts on Friday. Today’s districts being sued include the Kirkwood School District and the Special School District of St. Louis, both serving where Schmitt resides in Glendale, Mo.

“As we’ve made clear from the beginning, the power to make health decisions for their children should be in the hands of parents, not bureaucrats,” Schmitt said in a statement. “Today I’m filing nine more lawsuits against school districts that are illegally enforcing mask mandates on schoolchildren. Masking children all day in school is ineffective and these endless pandemic restrictions lead to lasting, negative psychological impacts on children and teens. This is a fight worth fighting, and I’m not going to back down.”

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

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

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

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

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16 Republican AGs Seek Federal Pressure on China, Mexico over Fentanyl Crisis

Antony Blinken

Sixteen Republican state attorneys general are calling on Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to take action against China and Mexico for their role in creating a fentanyl crisis in the U.S.

“China’s complete unwillingness to police the production and distribution of fentanyl precursors and Mexico’s subsequent failure to control illegal manufacturing of fentanyl using those precursors,” the attorneys general argue, poses a daily threat to Americans.

West Virginia and Arizona are leading the effort. Joining them are the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. They say they’ve witnessed an “extraordinary tide of senseless death from fentanyl” in their states.

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Supreme Court to Hear Case of Washington High School Football Coach Fired for Praying

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear oral arguments later this year in the case of a high school football coach in Washington state who was fired for praying after games.

The case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School Board, involves Joe Kennedy who coached the football team at Bremerton High School from 2008 to 2015.

The issue began after Kennedy was hired when he would take a knee on the field after games to engage in personal prayer.

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Virginia Small Businesses Request Tax Relief, Lower Regulations

With Virginia’s 2022 legislative session underway, a small business association is asking lawmakers to consider tax relief, lower regulation and other policies to help the commonwealth’s business community.

The National Federation of Independent Business announced its Small Business Recovery Plan, which includes four legislation principles they hope lawmakers consider during the session. The NFIB plan includes lower taxes, repealing some regulations, financial assistance and unemployment insurance reform, which the group believes will help businesses that are still struggling from their pandemic-era losses, a labor shortage and skyrocketing inflation rates.

“Virginia’s small businesses have had a rough couple of years, starting with the pandemic and continuing with the labor shortage and disruptions to the supply chain,” NFIB State Director Julia Hammond said in a statement. “Our ‘Small Business Recovery Plan’ is a set of legislative principles that outlines the issues of greatest concern to Virginia’s small businesses. Legislators should keep these principles in mind while crafting bills during this year’s session of the General Assembly.”

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Missouri AG Sues 36 School Districts with Mask Requirements, But Not His Own District

Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt completed on Friday a promise made earlier this week by filing lawsuits against 36 public school districts for requiring masks.

“Mask mandates in schools are illegal, they simply don’t work, and they contribute to alarming and negative psychological impacts on our children,” Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, said in a statement announcing the lawsuits. “My Office has been on the frontlines of the fight to end the forced masking of children all day in school, and today we took concrete legal action toward that end. Parents and families, not bureaucrats, should have the power to decide what’s best for their children. With this litigation, we’re seeking to return that power back to parents and families, where it belongs.”

Earlier this week, leaders of two Missouri public school district collaboratives told The Center Square that attorneys for many school boards believe two Missouri statutes require districts to create and enforce policies to ensure the health and safety of students. Schmitt stated a November Cole County Circuit Court ruling, now being appealed by St. Louis and Jackson Counties at the Missouri Court of Appeals, prevents school districts from enforcing any public health orders. Schmitt set up an email box through his office in December and received 11,000 messages and photographs from people witnessing mask requirements in public schools.

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Republicans Push for Greater Access to COVID Therapeutics

Republicans are pushing for greater access to monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 after the federal government took over the distribution of such drugs last year. 

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, filed Senate Bill 3440 to prohibit the federal government from limiting state access to monoclonal antibody treatments.

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States Across the Country Could See Marijuana on the Ballot in 2022

Ballotpedia is tracking 20 citizen-initiated measures in nine states related to marijuana that could appear before voters in 2022. As of 2022, recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C., and medical marijuana is legal in 36 states and D.C.

In Ohio, sponsors of an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana submitted an additional 29,918 signatures on January 13, after the secretary of state verified their initial petition contained 119,825 valid signatures–13,062 less than the number required. If enough of the additional signatures are found to be valid, the initiative will go before the state legislature. If the state legislature does not enact it outright, sponsors will have to collect a second round of 132,887 signatures to place it on the 2022 ballot. In 2015, Ohio voters defeated Issue 3 with a margin of 63.65% to 36.35%.

In Arkansas, voters could decide on two marijuana initiatives. One initiative would decriminalize marijuana, give limited immunity to cannabis businesses, and create regulations on the cannabis industry. The other would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older regardless of residency. Both campaigns have until July 8, 2022, to collect 89,151 valid signatures.

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Judge Denies Missouri AG Request to Stop St. Louis County Mask Requirement

Eric Schmitt

A Circuit Court Judge on Wednesday denied Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s request for a temporary restraining order to stop a mask requirement approved by the St. Louis County Council on Jan. 5.

Democrat Rita Heard Days, chair of the Council, didn’t know what to expect from the court.

“At this particular point, I’m not surprised about anything,” Days told The Center Square after an event in Hazelwood on Thursday. “This thing has taken a life of its own. People are trying to cope with all of this. We just hope we can get over this and move on.”

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MidAmerican Energy Files $3.9B Renewable Energy Project with Iowa Utilities Board

Field of wind turbines

MidAmerican Energy announced Wednesday it filed plans with the Iowa Utilities Board to build a $3.9 billion renewable energy project in Iowa.

Wind PRIME would add 2,042 megawatts of wind generation and 50 megawatts of solar generation, a news release from the Des Moines-headquartered company claims.

MidAmerican estimates the project will create more than 1,100 full-time jobs during construction and another 125 ongoing full-time positions for operations and maintenance, along with $24 million in local property tax payments on wind turbines and solar facilities and $21 million in annual landowner easement payments. The company plans to complete construction by the end of 2024, if it receives IUB approval.

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Border Patrol Crews Flying Aircraft from Texas, Florida Seized 4.7 Tons of Cocaine in Two Months

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Air and Marine Operations crews operating P-3 aircraft from Texas and Florida participated in multi-agency counter narcotics operations that led to the seizure of 4.7 tons (9,475 pounds) of cocaine worth $179.2 million in a two-month timeframe, according to CBP.

Air and Marine Operations (AMO) agents operating along U.S. borders, coastlines and territorial waters are especially trained to combat maritime smuggling. They’re tasked with interdicting unlawful people and cargo approaching U.S. borders and investigating criminal networks, providing domain awareness in air and maritime environments and responding to a range of contingencies.

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FBI Raids Home and Office of Texas Democrat Rep. Cuellar, a Vocal Critic of Biden

The Laredo, Texas, home and campaign office of Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a vocal critic of the president, was raided by the FBI on Wednesday.

More than a dozen federal agents were seen entering and leaving Cuellar’s Laredo residence removing bags, bins and at least one computer, The Monitor of McAllen first reported. Local news reports also show agents at his campaign office.

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Nine Months into Operation Lone Star, Texas DPS Reports Record Interdiction Numbers

Since March 2021, when Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star (OLS), Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) state troopers have been working around the clock to help defend the southern border. Nine months later, its chief reports a record for state interdiction efforts.

Since OLS began, state troopers have arrested more than 10,000 illegal immigrants, including smugglers and drug traffickers, Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw said Wednesday at a Texas Public Policy Foundation event in Austin. They’ve seized over 5 tons of methamphetamine, over $17 million in cash, and enough fentanyl to kill over 260 million people.

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Border Crisis 2022: Federal Agents Arrest More Than 30 Fugitives Wanted on Sex Crimes, Murder, Other Charges

In the first few weeks of 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents in the El Paso Sector of New Mexico and West Texas arrested at least 34 known fugitives wanted on charges such as aggravated sexual assault of a child, second degree murder, sexual exploitation of a minor, kidnapping of a minor, and indecency with a child and lewd acts upon a child.

“Homeland security is our primary mission and every time a CBP officer identifies and arrests someone who is being sought by law enforcement, that makes our communities a little safer,” Hector Mancha, El Paso Director of Field Operations, said in a statement. “The vast majority of travelers CBP officers encounter pose no risk, but it is important that we identity and stop those who do.”

Agents arrested both men and women, U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, and illegal immigrants. They were wanted by law enforcement officials in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, and California. Once the suspects were processed by border agents, they were turned over to federal and or state authorities to face prosecution, according to CBP.

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Voters Favor Congressional Republicans on Range of Key Issues Heading into Midterms: Poll

Voters have swung in favor of Congressional Republicans’ handling of key issues by a significant margin as the midterm elections draw closer, newly released polling shows.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday reports that surveyed voters prefer Republicans work on the economy, jobs, immigration and national security. These figures, the latest in several polls showing poor numbers for Democrats, come alongside more than two dozen Congressional Democrats opting not to run for reelection.

The poll found voters prefer Republicans’ handling of the economy to Democrats 47% to 34%, Republicans’ work on jobs 45% to 35%, immigration 45% to 37% and national security 49% to 32%.

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Starbucks Drops Vaccination Requirement for Employees

Seattle-based Starbucks announced this week that is dropping its policy requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The coffee giant’s move comes in response to last week’s United State Supreme Court ruling to block the Biden Administration from requiring businesses in the private sector to put vaccine mandates in place.

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Tax Foundation: Taxation Plays Direct, Indirect Role in 2021 Population Shift

U-Haul truck

As more Americans move to lower-taxed Republican-led states, a new report by the Tax Foundation indicates that taxation levels play a direct and indirect role as factors contributing to migration patterns.

Taxes often “play an indirect role by contributing to a broadly favorable economic environment. And sometimes, of course, they play little or no role,” Jared Walczak, a vice president at the Tax Foundation, writes in an analysis of 2021 U.S. Census Bureau data and inbound and outbound migration data published by U-Haul and United Van Lines.

“The Census data and these industry studies cannot tell us exactly why each person moved, but there is no denying a very strong correlation between low-tax, low-cost states and population growth,” he wrote. “With many states responding to robust revenues and heightened state competition by cutting taxes, moreover, these trends may only get larger.”

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Gov. Reynolds Announces Funding to Train Teachers, Health Care Workers, Aircraft Techs

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds

Several career-focused educational grants and funding opportunities were announced last week for Iowa institutions.

Gov. Kim Reynolds announced funding initiatives in her 2022 Condition of the State Address, including the first-in-the nation Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship Grant Program.

Through the program, current high school students can earn paraeducator certificates and associates degrees, and paraeducators can earn their bachelor’s degree while learning and working in the classroom. The program starts in the 2022-2023 school year.

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Missouri Legislators Remain Divided over Critical Race Theory Bill

Bob Onder and Nick Schroer

If criticism of two Republican members of the Missouri House of Representatives is any indication, a bill to ban critical race theory (CRT) will face challenges.

More than a thousand people filed digital testimony forms on the bill and the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee’s hearing lasted more than four hours.

State Rep. Nick Schroer, R-O’Fallon and a candidate for the term-limited Senate seat of Bob Onder, R-St. Charles, testified on HB1474 on Tuesday. State Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, joined Schroer as they teamed to combine the banning of critical race theory with Richey’s “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” HB1995.

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Iowa Launches Statewide Business Alliance to End Human Trafficking

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced Thursday the creation of a statewide alliance of businesses to end human trafficking.

The Iowa Businesses Against Trafficking coalition is open to businesses and nonprofits that are promoting both awareness of human trafficking and the Iowa Safe at Home confidentiality program for survivors of human trafficking and other violent crimes, a news release from Pate’s office said. The office is administering the coalition and the Iowa Safe at Home program and inviting all businesses to join the mission, Pate said in the release.

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Report: More than 50,000 Illegal Immigrants Released into U.S. Don’t Show for Court Hearings

U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the McAllen station encounter large group after large group of family units in Los Ebanos, Texas, on Friday June 15. This group well in excess of 100 family units turned themselves into the U.S. Border Patrol, after crossing the border illegally and walking through the town of Los Ebanos.

More than 50,000 illegal immigrants released into the U.S. by Immigration and Customs Enforcement failed to report to their deportation proceedings during a five-month period analyzed last year, according to a report provided by the Department of Homeland Security to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin. The report also states that ICE doesn’t have court information on more than 40,000 individuals it’s supposed to prosecute.

“Between March and August 2021, as a result of the Biden Administration’s failed border policies, over 270,000 illegal aliens have been dispersed into the United States with little chance for removal,” Johnson said in an announcement accompanying the report, which didn’t include data from the other seven months of the year.

Over the same time period, “over 50,000 illegal aliens – more than half of the aliens released into the interior of the United States under a Notice to Report (NTR) – failed to appear to begin deportation proceedings,” the DHS report states.

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United Van Lines: Americans Continue Moving Out of Higher-Tax States

While Americans continued to move out of higher taxed blue states in 2021, migration patterns were different than they were in 2020, a report by United Van Lines indicates.

United Van Lines customers primarily moved for new jobs or to be near family, resulting in their destination states being more varied than they were in 2020 when they primarily moved to western and southern states from northern states, its 45th Annual National Migration Study found.

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Federal Agency to Begin Tracking Religious Exemptions to Biden’s Vaccine Mandate

An obscure agency of the U.S. government, whose stated mission is to reduce recidivism and work with criminal justice partners to enhance public safety, will begin tracking all federal employees who file for religious exemptions to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on federal workers and contractors.

Religious rights group question whether the tracking plan will be used to discriminate against federal employees and contractors of faith.

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New Poll Shows South Dakota Sen. Thune in Deep Trouble with Republican Voters

A new survey of Republican primary voters in South Dakota suggests that Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) reelection chances were severely damaged by his public spat with former President Trump after the 2020 election.

The poll, conducted by pollster Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for the political action committee American Potential Fund, found that Thune, who just announced his reelection campaign on Saturday, would probably lose a primary challenge by Gov. Kristi Noem, or Dusty Johnson, a popular South Dakota U.S. representative. The survey also found that former president Donald Trump remains very popular with GOP primary voters (RPV).

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Biden’s Rough Week: Supreme Court Loss, Economic Woes, Pushback from Democrats

President Joe Biden saw a flurry of setbacks on a range of key issues this week, making it one of his toughest since taking office.

Biden addressed those difficulties in a speech Friday after losses in Congress, the Supreme Court, the court of public opinion and with the economy.

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Gov. Lamont: Connecticut Worker’s Compensation Rates Decrease for Eighth Straight Year

For the eighth consecutive year, Connecticut’s worker’s compensation insurance rates are dropping, Gov. Ned Lamont said.

The governor announced in a news release that businesses will see a rate decrease in 2022 as the state’s Insurance Department has approved a filing featuring a 14.1% reduction to pure premium loss costs and an 8.2% reduction in risk rates.

“This further decline in workers’ compensation insurance premiums is good news for businesses, enabling employers to invest more money back into their companies and employees, and providing a boost to our economy,” Lamont said. “It’s even better news for workers, because the decrease reflects the fact that workplaces are getting safer and safer.”

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Dominion Energy Seeks to Halt Virginia Rate Increase, Citing Youngkin Energy Plan

Dominion Energy, which is the largest energy company in Virginia, is asking the state to halt the next scheduled rate increase because Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s energy plan would make the hike unnecessary.

On Jan. 1, Dominion began implementing the state-approved rate increase to recover costs associated with purchasing allowances through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which is a carbon-trading initiative designed to gradually reduce carbon emissions. The initial increase for 2022 cost a residential customer nearly $30 over the year, but those costs would continue to go up if Virginia stays in the compact. According to the State Corporations Commission (SCC), RGGI would cost about $5.9 billion between 2019 and 2043 and would lead to a rate increase between $84 and $144 annually.

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Report: More Than 50,000 Illegal Immigrants Released into U.S. Don’t Show for Court Hearings

More than 50,000 illegal immigrants released into the U.S. by Immigration and Customs Enforcement failed to report to their deportation proceedings during a five-month period analyzed last year, according to a report provided by the Department of Homeland Security to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin. The report also states that ICE doesn’t have court information on more than 40,000 individuals it’s supposed to prosecute.

“Between March and August 2021, as a result of the Biden Administration’s failed border policies, over 270,000 illegal aliens have been dispersed into the United States with little chance for removal,” Johnson said in an announcement accompanying the report, which didn’t include data from the other seven months of the year.

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Commentary: Biden Administration Is Making Lists of Religious Vaccine Objectors

Doctor with mask on holding COVID-19 Vaccine

A tiny administrative agency in the District of Columbia announced a new policy Tuesday that will likely serve as a model for a whole-of-government push to assemble lists of Americans who object on religious grounds to a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia—a federal independent entity that assists officers in the District of Columbia courts in formulating release recommendations and providing supervision and services to defendants awaiting trial—announced a new records system that will store the names and “personal religious information” of all employees who make “religious accommodation requests for religious exception from the federally mandated vaccination requirement.”

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Iowa Gov. Reynolds Proposes Four Percent Flat Tax

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday proposed a tax cuts omnibus in her fourth Condition of the State speech.

“Under these high ceilings, next to this marble, among these columns and portraits, it’s tempting to believe that nothing good happens unless we legislate it, regulate it, or fund it. But in the small towns, around kitchen tables, in the fields and back-offices, Iowans understand that we in this building don’t fund anything. They do,” the Republican governor said. “And right now, they’re paying too much.”

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Missouri Education Department Asks for $2.1 Billion in Federal Pandemic Funds

Out of dozens of lines showing millions of dollars for Missouri’s supplemental budget, one sticks out in House Bill 3014.

There are 25 lines, each representing a department or office in Missouri government, requesting a 5.5% cost of living adjustment for all state employees. Gov. Mike Parson announced the increases and a base pay of $15 per hour in December.

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Energy Commodity Prices Increased by 59 Percent in 2021, Energy Information Agency Reports

The prices of energy, crude and gasoline all increased in 2021 from 2020, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reports. Prices increased because of higher demand and a range of other factors.

By the end of 2021, commodities on the energy index traded 59% higher than they did on the first trading day last year on the S&P Goldman Sachs Commodity Index (GSCI), the EIA reports.

GSCI is a commodity index that tracks the performance of global commodities markets. It’s a weighted average that’s updated every year. In 2021, the energy index comprised 54% of the GSCI, with the two crude oil benchmarks, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent, accounting for approximately 70% of the energy index. WTI crude oil accounts for the largest share of the overall GSCI of more than 21%.

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Missouri Economic Leaders Give Glimpse of How $2.6 Billion in Federal Pandemic Funds Will be Spent

Maggie Kost

Missouri’s Department of Economic Development (DED) recently previewed how Gov. Mike Parson plans to allocate the state’s $2.6 billion portion of federal pandemic funds.

In late December, Maggie Kost, acting director of the DED, outlined major priorities for Missouri’s portion of the more than $195 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. A total of $350 billion will be delivered to the 50 states and the District of Columbia and local and Tribal governments throughout the nation to support the response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The total amount of ARPA funds, passed in March 2021, is $1.9 trillion.

“We want to give you an idea of what to expect as we get into the legislative and budget session here in January,” Kost said. “As you’re planning and setting priorities locally for communities, we want to make sure you have an idea of what’s to come so you can think about how to leverage state funds as you’re building out your local priorities.”

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California Gov. Newsom’s Health Care Plan Covers Undocumented Immigrants, Low-Income Residents

Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a plan to expand Medi-Cal coverage to many income-eligible residents regardless of immigration status on Monday as part of his 2022-2023 budget proposal. 

The plan, which Newsom hopes to see implemented in January 2024, would expand Medi-Cal eligibility to all income-eligible adults between 26 and 49 years old regardless of immigration status. The proposal would also close a gap in health-care coverage for undocumented immigrants, who the state already covers up to age 26 and after age 50.

The program lies within Newsom’s $286.4 billion budget proposal, announced on Monday, including a surplus of $45.7 billion.

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CDC Director: 75 Percent of COVID Deaths Among Vaccinated Had Four Comorbidities

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky

Ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on vaccine mandates expected as early as this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is under increased scrutiny after recent comments about COVID-19 deaths.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky fell into controversy after a clip of her appearance on Good Morning America Friday went viral.

“I want to ask you about the encouraging headlines we’re talking about this morning, a new study talking about just how well vaccines are working to prevent severe illness,” co-host Cecilia Vega said on Good Morning America. “Given that, is it time to rethink how we’re living with this virus if it is potentially here to stay?”

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

man in yellow hardhat and work jacket

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

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

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

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Iowa Attorney General Sues Sioux City, Seeking Permanent Injunction, Civil Penalties Regarding Wastewater

The state of Iowa on Friday sued the city of Sioux City regarding discharge of wastewater.

In the lawsuit, the state asks the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County to make the city pay up to $5,000 per day of violations of state wastewater treatment regulations (Iowa Code section 455B.186(1), 567 Iowa Admin. Code 64.3(1)) and the city’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. It seeks a permanent injunction preventing Sioux City from further violations of these state laws and the treatment permit requirements.

The state said that for periods between March 15, 2012, and June 8, 2015, Sioux City’s treatment facility would only properly disinfect water discharges on days it collected and submitted samples for E. coli contamination to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the lawsuit said.

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Iowa Capitol Reporters Lose Access to Senate Press Bench

Iowa Senate leaders have decided press will no longer have seating at the press bench at the front of the Senate chamber floor.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, most state legislatures allowed access to the chamber floors, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures April 2019 state-by-state report on media access and credentialing.

“Media access to the people who make laws is a critical component of representative government,” the Iowa Capitol Press Association said in a statement Friday. “Primarily for this reason, the Iowa Capitol Press Association is extremely disappointed in the Iowa Senate’s decision to move reporters out of the press work stations on the chamber floor and into the upstairs gallery.”

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Republicans Hold the Population Edge over Democrats in States with One-Party Majorities in the Gov and State House

crowd of people in a city

At the start of 2022, 36.5% (120 million) of Americans lived in a state with a Democratic trifecta, while 41.8% (137 million) lived in a state with a Republican trifecta. The other 71 million Americans lived in a state with a divided government.

A state government trifecta is a term to describe single-party government, when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. At the start of 2022, there were 38 trifectas—15 Democratic and 23 Republican.

Virginia’s will change from a Democratic trifecta to a state with divided government when legislators and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin (R) are sworn into office on Jan. 12. In the 2021 elections, Republicans won control of the Virginia House of Delegates and the governor’s office, currently held by Democrat Ralph Northam. Democrats still control the Virginia State Senate.

When this happens, 33.9 percent of Americans (112 million) will live in a state with a Democratic trifecta, 41.8 percent (137 million) will live in a state with a Republican trifecta, and 24.3 percent (78 million) will live in a state with divided government.

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Vaccine Mandate Critics Urge Highest Court to Defend Individual Freedom

Supreme Court reflecting on the pool at the National Mall

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

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

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

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Missouri Attorney General Sues St. Louis County After Council Enacts Mask Mandate

The day after the St. Louis County Council voted 4-3 along party lines to enact a mask mandate, Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit to stop it.

Schmitt, a candidate for the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, filed a 17-page petition in St. Louis County Circuit Court on Wednesday. Last week, St. Louis and Jackson Counties filed an appeal with the Missouri Court of Appeals over the November ruling by a Cole County Circuit Court stating all COVID-19 public health orders were null and void.

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Iowa Awards Two-Thirds of Strengthening Communities Grants to YMCA or YWCA Projects

Kids at a table, wearing masks, with teacher who is wearing a mask

Projects in the rural communities of Clinton, Hampton, Keokuk, Lake City, Maquoketa, Red Oak and Stanton will all together receive $250,000 in Strengthening Communities grants, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced Thursday.

The Iowa legislature appropriated funding for the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund for the Strengthening Communities grants. The grants support communities of fewer than 28,000 residents (based on the 2010 Census) that are renovating facilities or undertaking construction projects that promote “youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.” Organizations must present a minimum of 50% of the grant amount they request. The funding must be secured, dedicated to eligible expenses, raised through public and private funding (not including state funding), and be spent between 2022 and 2024.

The funding will support the following projects:

$65,000 for the YWCA in Clinton’s reconfiguration of childcare spaces and youth classrooms to expand capacity and improve efficiency to help increase child care accessibility and provide a safe environment.

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Poll: Majority Supports Blocking Biden’s Private Sector Vaccine Mandate as U.S. Supreme Court Weighs Challenges

The majority of Americans support Congressional efforts to block President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates for large businesses ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court hearing on that very issue, according to a new poll.

Convention of States Action, along with the Trafalgar Group, released the poll, which found that 51.1% of surveyed voters support a bill in Congress to stop Biden’s vaccine mandates for large businesses. The poll reports that 40.6% of voters do not support the bill while 8.3% of voters are unsure.

The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan measure in December to block Biden’s mandate, which requires employers with at least 100 workers to ensure they are vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. Businesses that do not comply face hefty fines. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would enforce the mandate.

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Missouri Secretary of State Ashcroft Urges Governor to Hold Elections for Six Vacant Missouri House Seats

After four resignations, a death and an expulsion, the seats of six members of Missouri’s House of Representatives – all Republicans – are vacant.

About 236,000 Missourians live in the six districts, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, or 4% of the state’s population.

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Reason Foundation Report Recommends Iowa Reduce Regulations in Telehealth Policy

Iowa should make a few public policy changes to improve telehealth services, which have become more common during the COVID-19 pandemic, policy analysts said in a report Reason Foundation released Wednesday.

Cicero Institute and Pioneer Institute Senior Fellow Josh Archambault and Reason Foundation Policy Analyst Vittorio Nastasi co-authored the state-by-state report, “Rating the States on Telehealth Best Practices: A Toolkit for a Pro-Patient and Provider Landscape.”

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Missouri Legislative Session Opens with Different Priorities

During news conferences on Wednesday, Missouri’s Republican legislators stated their priority is approving new Congressional district maps while Democrats acknowledged they’ve gained some influence over the process and pledged to uphold voting rights.

At the state capitol in Jefferson City, none of the Republicans wore masks while meeting with reporters while all of the Democrats wore masks. Leaders of both parties were asked about the affects of the resurgence of COVID-19 infections on the upcoming session.

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