Biden: Enough COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Available for All American Adults by End of May

Enough COVID-19 doses will be available by the end of May that every American adult who wants one can receive it, President Joe Biden said Tuesday, though it might take more time to administer all of the doses.

The news came the same day that drugmaker Merck announced it would help Johnson & Johnson produce millions of doses of its recently approved vaccine.

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Report: Nursing Homes See Sharp Drop in COVID Cases Since Vaccines Started

Nursing homes in the U.S. are seeing the lowest number of new COVID cases since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began tracking the data in May 2020,according to a new report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

The health care groups, which represent 14,000 nursing homes and long term care facilities in the U.S. that provide care to about five million people annually, say ythe study shows that the COVID-19 vaccines are working.

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Alexandria Collective Bargaining Proposal Would Not Allow Employees to Challenge Vote Determination

The City of Alexandria in Virginia is considering an ordinance to provide collective rights to workers, but the current proposal would not allow employees or the city government to challenge the determination of certain votes.

As it is currently written, the proposal would allow a labor relations administrator to determine the results of a majority vote in the following areas: a petition for certification without an election, certification by representation election and decertification. No person, whether it be employees or the government, would have the right to challenge this determination.

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National Association Optimistic on Sales Growth for 2021

Retail sales in the U.S. could rise between 6.5% and 8.2% to more than $4.3 trillion this year as more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and the economy reopens, according to the National Retail Federation.

NRF president Matthew Shay said the economy is expected to see its fastest growth in over two decades.

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Virginia Budget Agreement Includes Five Percent Teacher Pay Raise, Tax Relief for Businesses

A Virginia budget compromise will include a 5% pay raise for teachers and tax relief for businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic after several weeks of debate among lawmakers.

The budget legislation still needs to pass both chambers of the General Assembly, which is expected. Then, the bills will head to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk at which time he can choose to sign the legislation or propose changes to it and send it back to the legislature.

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Georgia Senate Approves Election Reform Package, Including Absentee Ballot Signature-Match Overhaul

The Georgia Senate approved four measures Tuesday that make changes to the election process as a response to November’s presidential election.

Georgia gained national attention after a close presidential election prompted three recounts and lawsuits and threats from former President Donald Trump’s campaign and supporters. Several questions and allegations arose from Georgia’s absentee-ballot process.

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‘Comprehensive’ Methane Rule in Sight Under Biden Administration, Experts Say

Environmental experts said Thursday momentum behind the new presidential administration brings the promise of a comprehensive methane rule in sight – a move that would have a significant impact on Pennsylvania, one of the top natural gas-producing states.

Dan Grossman, senior director of advocacy for the Environmental Defense Fund, said controlling methane emissions from the oil and gas sector remains an important component of lowering greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which contribute to one quarter of the climate effects witnessed across the globe over the last decade, he said.

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Bill to Ban Guns Near Polling Places Heads to Virginia Gov. Northam’s Desk

Legislation that would prohibit most people from possessing guns near a polling place passed the Virginia Senate on Thursday and is heading to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature.

If signed into law, House Bill 2081, sponsored by Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria, would prohibit knowingly possessing firearms within 40 feet of the locations beginning one hour before polls are open and an hour after they close. Violation would be a Class 1 misdemeanor if convicted, which is punishable by up to 12 months in jail, a fine up to $2,500 or both.

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Gun Control Bills Quick to Pop up in Congress

Democratic congresswomen from New York and Texas each introduced several pieces of legislation that they say are aimed at curbing gun violence.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents New York’s 12th Congressional District, introduced a package of five bills, three of which she also tried to get passed two years ago, shortly before the third anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where 17 people were killed and another 17 injured by a former student.

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Economic Toll of Multiple Winter Storms Could Result in Billions of Dollars in Property, Agricultural Damage

The area currently covered by winter storm warnings over the continental U.S. is larger than the land area of Alaska.

Multiple winter storms are bringing snow, ice and dangerously cold temperatures as more than 100 million Americans are under a winter weather advisory, according to the National Weather Service.

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CBO: $15 Minimum Wage Would Lead to 1.4 Million Lost Jobs, Impacting Young, Less Educated the Most

Unemployment line

A $15 minimum wage would result in 1.4 million jobs lost and disproportionately hurt younger workers and those with less education, a new Congressional Budget Office report says.

President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and other Democrats have proposed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025, more than double the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

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Commentary: States Taxing PPP Loans to Cover for Bad Decisions is Bad Business

The biggest gap in understanding how business truly works exists between two distinct groups of people: Those who have made a payroll and those who haven’t. 

Anyone who has run a business – small or large – would only be glad to tell you that it is equal parts fulfilling and terrifying. 

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National Mental Health Crisis Emerges Among Youth During Pandemic Lockdowns: Reports

Children and young adults are experiencing increased mental health issues, and suicide also is on the rise within the age group at least in part because of ongoing state shutdowns, according to several reports.

Within months of governors and local authorities shuttering schools, children were increasingly brought to emergency room doctors and specialists, according to a by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Democrat-Sponsored PRO Act Would Invalidate Right-to-Work Laws in 27 States

U.S. House and Senate Democrats have reintroduced the PRO ACT, a sweeping pro-union bill that would wipe out right-to-work labor laws in 27 states.

Democrats argue the PRO Act will create safer workplaces and increase employee benefits by expanding union organizing. Those opposed to it argue it will force small businesses to close, cost an untold number of jobs and worsen the economy, and “impose a laundry list of other union boss power grabs.”

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Bills for In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants Passes Virginia House, Senate

The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates passed their own versions of legislation that would guarantee in-state tuition for illegal immigrants residing in the state this week.

Under both bills, a person would be allowed to receive in-state tuition for public colleges and universities as long as the person meets all other necessary criteria, regardless of whether the person is residing in the country legally. The House version of the bill will be sent to the Senate and the Senate version to the House.

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New Federal Rule: No More Surprise Hospital Bills and More Options for Consumers

Hospitals have begun publishing their actual costs of services, including discounted cash and negotiated rates as a result of a rule change implemented by former President Donald Trump. The rule was challenged by the American Hospital Association and others, who lost in federal district court.

An appeal to the court ruling has not yet been filed. While the association says it is calling on the new administration to adjust the rule, hospitals in the meantime must publish prices for the majority of the services and medications they provide.

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With New Administration, Record Number of People Bought Guns in January

Concerns about President Joe Biden’s potential restrictions on firearm purchases sent sales soaring in January, industry insiders said. More than 4.3 million people purchased guns in the first month of 2021, the highest number on record.

The 4.3 million purchases represent legal applications through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS); it excludes illegally purchased firearms.

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California Gas Prices Reach High of $3.27 a Gallon, 66 Cents More Than National Average

California gasoline prices reached the highest they’ve been since March 9, 2020, hitting $3.27 a gallon, according to a new gasoline benchmark published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

California gas prices are roughly 66 cents more than average price paid by consumers nationwide.

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National Park Service Requiring All Employees, Visitors to Wear Masks, in Line with Biden’s Federal Mask Mandate

The National Park Service (NPS) has implemented the federal mask mandate for all employees and visitors of national parks and facilities on Tuesday, the agency announced.

The NPS, which manages 423 properties across the country, is now in line with President Joe Biden’s executive order mandating masks on federal properties that he signed on Jan. 20, his first day in office. 

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Sen. Rand Paul, 24 Senators Introduce REIN Act to Curtail Federal Spending

Rand Paul

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, introduced a bill that would require any new regulation proposed by an executive branch department or agency to be approved by Congress if it is projected to cost $100 million or more to implement.

The bill, “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2021” (REIN), with 24 Republican cosponsors, was introduced after President Joe Biden on his first day in office signed an executive order to repeal deregulation efforts implemented by the previous administration.

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Report: Majority of U.S. Cities Unprepared for Financial Fallout from Statewide Shutdowns

The majority of U.S. cities were ill-prepared for any financial crisis last year, let alone the one brought about by their respective state shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report published by the nonprofit Truth in Accounting (TIA) concludes.

The annual assessment surveys the fiscal health of the 75 largest municipalities in the U.S. based on fiscal year 2019 data. TIA reviewed audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports filed by city halls across the country and concluded that even the fiscally healthiest cities are projected to lose millions of dollars in revenue as a result of state shutdowns on top of their previously existing poor fiscal health.

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Labor Experts: Biden’s Unusual Firing of NLRB General Counsel Possibly ‘Unlawful’

Just minutes after taking office on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden’s Office of Presidential Personnel demanded that Senate-confirmed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel Peter Robb resign. Robb refused, citing the unprecedented nature of the demand, and was fired.

His deputy, Alice Stock, also was asked to resign, refuses, and was fired the next day.

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Cuomo Administration Pushes Back Against Accusations It Withheld Data on COVID-19 Nursing Home Deaths

Hours after New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a scathing report over how the state reported deaths at nursing homes due to COVID-19, state Heath Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker went on the offensive.

Zucker claimed the attorney general’s report affirmed the total number of deaths overall and that the state has repeatedly said its policy is to count deaths by where they occurred.

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Six Attorneys General Warn Biden Administration of Lawsuits over Executive Orders

Six attorneys general sent a letter to President Joe Biden warning him that many of the executive orders he issued in his first week in office will be challenged on constitutional grounds.

Any actions he takes that might exceed statutory authority, are inconsistent with constitutional law or risk civil liberties could result in legal action brought by states, attorneys general from West Virginia, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana and Texas warned in the letter.

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Northam Extends Virginia’s COVID-19 Restrictions

Virginia’s public gathering limits, daily curfews, face mask requirements and other COVID-19 restrictions will stay in place until the end of February, drawing concern from some members of the business community.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday he issued Executive Order 72, which extends and slightly modifies the state restrictions. Under the new restrictions, face masks will be required in not only indoor settings but also in any outdoor setting when a person cannot remain 6 feet away from other people.

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U.S. Senate Escapes Gridlock After Two Democrats Promise to Protect Filibuster

After receiving commitments from two Democratic colleagues that they wouldn’t abolish the filibuster, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’ll hand over the chamber’s legislative gavels to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. 

The U.S. Senate is actually split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, but Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.

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Bill to Recognize Some Out-of-State Cccupational Therapist Licenses Asses Virginia Senate

Legislation that would allow the state to recognize additional out-of-state occupational therapist licenses unanimously passed the Virginia Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1189, sponsored by Sen. Ghazala Hashmi, D-Richmond, would enter Virginia into the Occupational Therapy Interjurisdictional Licensure Compact. All states in the compact would recognize licenses granted by other states in the compact after 10 states enter the agreement. The bill has a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2022.

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Biden Plans to Reverse Abortion Policies of Previous Administration

Just days after former President Donald Trump declared Jan. 22 as National Sanctity of Human Life Day, newly sworn-in President Joe Biden disregarded the designation and pledged to codify Roe v. Wade into federal law to prevent any changes that might occur if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

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Bill to Legalize Marijuana Clears First Hurdle in Virginia Senate

Legislation that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Virginia jumped another hurdle Friday when lawmakers advanced the bill through the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.

Senate Bill 1406, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, would legalize the recreational sale and use of marijuana for adults age 21 or older in the commonwealth. It narrowly advanced through the committee on an 8-7 vote with support from every Democrat and opposition from every Republican.

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Texas Governor, Attorney General to Sue Biden over Immigration

Texas plans to sue the Biden administration over several executive orders recently issued, and immigration policy is front and center.

“A new crop of Texas-led lawsuits awaits Joe Biden’s White House,” Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted. “Texas will take action whenever the federal government encroaches on state’s rights, or interferes with constitutional rights, or private property rights or the right to earn a living.”

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Missouri Becomes First State in U.S. to No Longer Perform Abortions

Missouri has become the first state in the U.S. where abortions are no longer performed.

A total of 45 abortion facilities closed or halted abortions nationwide in 2020, including in Missouri, which is now the only state without an active abortion facility, according to a survey conducted by Operation Rescue, a pro-life activist organization.

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U.S. Deficit 60.7 Percent Higher Than This Time Last Year

The federal deficit in the first three months of the budget year is 60.7 percent higher than over the same time period as last year, a record-breaking $572.9 billion.

The deficit surged as a result of Congressional spending of $3.5 trillion in 2020 in response to the coronavirus, although critics note that spending on pork barrel programs that had nothing to do with the virus increased and also drove the deficit. At the same time, revenue declined because of ongoing state lockdowns.

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Trump Touts Success of 450 Miles of Border Wall

President Donald Trump on Tuesday hailed the completion of 450 miles of border wall completed long the U.S.-Mexican border and praised the men and women of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

At a news conference held at the Mexico–U.S. border in Reynosa–McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, Trump said the border is more secure than it’s ever been.

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Congress Affirms Biden Electoral College Votes; Trump Agrees to ‘Orderly Transition’

A joint session of Congress, completing its work in the early morning hours of Thursday after lawmakers had been forced to flee their chambers by a violent invasion of the Capitol, affirmed that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.

The proceedings concluded shortly after 3:30 a.m. EST, drawing to a close an chaotic day in the nation’s house of laws that saw one person shot dead inside the building after some rioters breached its security during a massive rally to support President Trump.

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Trump Supporters Storm U.S. Capitol, Halting Ratification of Electoral College Vote by Congress

Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Building Wednesday afternoon, interrupting the congressional session that was meeting to confirm the Electoral College votes.

Hundreds of protesters were shown on television news coverage walking through Statuary Hall without having gone through any security checkpoints. Debate was halted, and lawmakers were ordered to return to their offices and shelter in place. Legislators were told they may need to hide under their chairs and to be quiet and not draw attention to themselves.

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New House Rules to Eliminate Gendered Terms Like ‘Father, Mother, Son, Daughter’

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rules Committee Chairman James P. McGovern announced new rules for the 117th Congress, which will be introduced and voted on after the new Congress convenes.

The rules include “sweeping ethics reforms, increases accountability for the American people, and makes this House of Representatives the most inclusive in history” – including eliminating the words, “father, mother, son, and daughter,” from federal code.

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Almost 100 Million Americans Plan to Make Finances a New Year’s Resolution in 2021

business meeting

About 97 million Americans say they plan to make a New Year’s resolution for 2021 that involves their financial situation, compared to 66 million who said they’ve done so in the past, according to a new survey by WalletHub.

Of those who responded to the survey, more than a third say their top financial resolution will be to save more money. With that in mind, WalletHub came up with suggestions that can help you save more and spend less.

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Treasury Sending Out $600 Stimulus Checks This Week

A second round of stimulus checks, this time in the amount of $600, is being sent out this week, the U.S. Treasury Department said Wednesday.

Referred to as economic impact payments, the $600 check individuals will receive is part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, a bill President Donald Trump signed Sunday.

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Analysis: Federal Tax Overhaul Increased Taxes on Wealthy in Many Blue States

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, harpooned by progressive Democrats as a handout to wealthy corporations, turned out to be more progressive in practice, new data from the federal government revealed. 

The federal tax reform measure supported by President Donald Trump increased taxes on some wealthy property owners in high-tax jurisdictions such as Illinois and New Jersey and decreased tax burdens on the middle class. 

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Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to California Farmers’ Case Against Government-Sanctioned Invasion of Private Property

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case brought by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of Cedar Point Nursery and Fowler Packing Company asking it to invalidate a California regulation requiring union employees to enter private property for roughly 360 hours a year.

The plaintiffs are suing the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (CALRB), its chairman, two board members and executive secretary, arguing a state regulation allowing union organizers to access private property for the purposes of soliciting support violates the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. When doing so, the unions are authorizing “a seizure and taking of possessory interests in private property, including the right to exclude others,” the plaintiffs argue.

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In Another Effort to Challenge Electoral College Votes, Rep. Gohmert Sues Vice President Mike Pence

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, sued Vice President Mike Pence in an attempt to challenge the results of some states’ Electoral College votes.

Another attempt is being made by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, who says he and “dozens” of House members plan to challenge some of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 when the Joint Session of Congress meets to certify the votes and ratify the president-elect.

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Minimum Wage Hikes Set for 2021 Imperil Businesses Struggling Amid COVID Shutdowns

More than 80 states and local municipalities are slated to see minimum wage hikes in 2021, even as business owners continue to struggle during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Employment Policies Institute, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., that studies how public policy impacts employment growth, released a comprehensive list of the minimum wage increases that will go into effect next year and in subsequent years.

“Minimum wage increases are demonstrated to cause job losses even in times of economic health,” said Michael Saltsman, EPI’s managing director. “These states and local areas are increasing the cost of labor as businesses are dealing with forced closures or a drastic drop in revenue. Employers and employees will pay the price for these misguided good intentions.”

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Virginia Business Community Praises COVID-19 Stimulus, but Seeks State Action for Full Benefits

Virginia business advocates praised the COVID-19 stimulus package passed by Congress but said additional state action is necessary for businesses to receive the full benefits of the legislation.

The $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus provides about $325 billion in aid to small businesses nationally, including $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, $20 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loan grants, $15 billion for live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions and another $12 billion for businesses in low-income and minority communities.

Congress’ bill also addressed a couple of concerns businesses raised regarding the first wave of PPP loans. The bill simplifies the forgiveness applications and makes the loans tax deductible at the federal level. The deductibility applies to loans that already have been received and any loans received in the second wave, which would prevent a hidden tax increase on businesses.

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Virginia Opts Not to Join Climate Initiative, for Now

Virginia was not in the first slate of states to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative, which proponents argue will help fight climate change and opponents assert will increase costs for households.

Under the multistate agreement, a state would agree to establish a cap on diesel and gasoline sales and require wholesales to purchase carbon allowances to go over that limit, which effectively creates a carbon tax. The initiative has received support from many Democrats and opposition from Republicans.

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Analysis Ranks Top U.S. Cities for Christmas

Two cities in North Carolina and two in California are in the top five among the best cities in the country for celebrating Christmas, according to a new study from WalletHub.

Durham, N.C., edged out San Jose, Calif., by less than one point to take the top spot with a cumulative score of 68.16, compared to 67.99. Honolulu, Hawaii, took third with 67.92 points, followed by Oakland, Calif., (67.09) and Raleigh, N.C. (67).

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Eastern States Inching Toward New Regional Climate Pact That Could Cut Carbon Emissions, Raise Gas Prices

A group of Northeast and mid-Atlantic states are inching toward a regional climate pact that’s aimed at reducing emissions and easing traffic congestion, but could ultimately increase prices at the gas pumps.

Modeled on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which has reduced emissions from power plants, the Transportation and Climate Initiative would create a cap-and-invest program to drive down emissions from cars and trucks, which contribute to about 40% of regional greenhouse gas emissions scientists say contribute to a warmer planet.

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Texas Electors Pass Resolution Condemning Supreme Court Ruling as GOP Electors Cast Votes for Trump in Five Swing States

Presidential electors met across the U.S. Monday to cast their vote for president and vice president. In Austin, while Texas electors cast their vote for President Donald Trump, they also approved a resolution to “condemn the lack of action by the United State Supreme Court” for refusing to hear a lawsuit brought against four states by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

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Arizona GOP Appeals Election Overturn Attempt to U.S. Supreme Court

The state chapter of the Republican Party is asking the nation’s highest court to consider its challenge to Arizona’s election results that was summarily rejected by other judges.

In the case, Kelli Ward, Arizona GOP chairwoman and plaintiff, posted a video Friday to Twitter announcing the appeal. 

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