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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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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Virginia Extends Expanded Childcare Subsidies for the Rest of the Year

Additional childcare subsidies provided during the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended until the end of 2021, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday.

The state program, which provides financial assistance for childcare services, temporarily loosened the eligibility requirements through July 31, 2021. Northam directed the Virginia Department of Education to continue covering copayments through December 31, using federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“Access to high-quality child care is not only critical to the health and safety of Virginia’s children, but it is also important for advancing a strong, equitable recovery,” Northam said in a statement. “Extending these resources through the end of 2021 will help close the affordability gap for parents and providers, allowing thousands of Virginians to return to work, support their families, and grow our economy.”

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Virginia Board Might Change, End Confusing COVID-19 Regulations Tuesday

A Virginia board will meet Tuesday to consider changing or ending business regulations it introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic, some of which have been confusing business owners.

Earlier this year, the Department of Labor and Industry established permanent regulations on businesses, which could only end or be changed through another meeting by the department’s Safety Health Codes Board. When the board adopted the regulations, it also added a provision that required it to meet within two weeks after the state of emergency for COVID-19 ended. The last day of the emergency declaration was June 30.

The rules were initially in line with Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders, but after the governor rescinded some of the requirements, the two standards seemed to contradict on certain issues. The governor requires some employees to wear masks if they are not fully vaccinated. The DOLI regulations require those employees to wear masks and make no mention of vaccinations, but later guidance stated vaccinated individuals were not required to wear masks.

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New Virginia Law Fines People $25 for Releasing Balloons

toy balloons

A Virginia law that went into effect Thursday makes releasing balloons illegal.

Individuals who are 16 years old and older who release balloons in the state will now be fined $25, according to a summary of the law. In the case where someone below the age of 16 releases a balloon “at the instruction of an adult,” the adult will be fined.

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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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Virginia Emergency Ending Could Affect Masks, Remaining COVID-19 Regulations

Young boy getting vaccination

Gov. Ralph Northam intends to let the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency expire June 30, which could affect mask wearing throughout the commonwealth and the remaining restrictions on businesses.

Virginia law normally prohibits a person from covering one’s face with the intent of concealing one’s identity in public spaces, which was put on hold during the state of emergency. According to the Virginia code, a person can only wear a mask in certain situations, which include a legitimate medical reason when advised by a physician or during a health-related state of emergency when the governor expressly waives this section of law.

With the governor ending the state of emergency, it’s unclear whether wearing a mask in public could be grounds for prosecution absent a doctor’s note. The governor has said a person would not be prosecuted for wearing a mask and that he has been in contact with police groups that told him police would not arrest anyone for wearing a mask. The provision that states a person would only be guilty when intending to conceal his or her identity with the mask could be difficult to prove when a person is simply following guidelines from the governor’s office and the Center for Disease Control.

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Some Virginia Colleges Will Continue to Prohibit Marijuana on Campus to Protect Federal Funds

Virginia Commonwealth University

Some Virginia universities intend to prohibit marijuana on campus grounds after it becomes legal for recreational use for adults age 21 and older in the state.

Although the commonwealth will allow legal possession beginning in two weeks, the plant still is illegal at the federal level and a schedule I drug under the controlled substance act. If a university allows marijuana on campus, some universities worry it could threaten their federal funding.

A spokesperson from James Madison University told The Center Square the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices will continue to address incidents of marijuana on campus because use and possession are illegal under federal law.

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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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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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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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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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Jury Finds Derek Chauvin Guilty on All Counts in the Death of George Floyd

Derek Chauvin

Less than a year after the death of George Floyd in police custody, a jury found former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.

Anger from the tragic death in police custody  on May 25, 2020, was fueled by a bystander filming part of the arrest, showing Floyd pinned under Chauvin’s knee for 9 minutes and 45 seconds, while he pleaded “I can’t breathe.” Floyd was declared dead later that day.

The video caused protests worldwide and pushed discussion of police accountability and proper levels of force for minor crimes, as Floyd was arrested for allegedly attempting to spend a fake $20 bill.

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Warner, Kaine Introduce Red-Flag, Other Federal Gun Control Changes to Mirror Virginia Law

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner introduced federal gun control legislation Thursday to mirror some of the laws that recently passed their home state of Virginia.

The policies include expanding background checks, limiting handgun purchases and enacting red flag laws at a national level. The senators are calling the legislation the Virginia Plan to Reduce Gun Violence Act.

“Virginia knows all too well the heartbreaking consequences of gun violence,” Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement. “We’ve seen it in the tragedies of Virginia Tech and Virginia Beach and the countless drive-by shootings, domestic violence, and suicides by firearm across the country. We’re proud of the Commonwealth for leading the way to advance gun reform; now it’s time for Congress to save lives.”

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Report: Three-Fourths of All 2019 Property Insurance Suits in U.S. Were Filed in Florida

In 2019, Florida homeowners accounted for 8.16 percent of the nation’s property insurance claims, but more than 76 percent of property insurance lawsuits lodged against insurers.

Pointing to this “disparity,” Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier in a five-page April 2 letter to House Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, outlined four proposals to reduce property insurance litigation.

Insurers cite rampant litigation, ballooning reinsurance costs, “loss creep” from 2017-18 hurricanes and coastal flooding as a “perform storm” of coalescing factors leading to double-digit property insurance rate hikes that Florida businesses and 6.2 million homeowners are seeing or will see when renewing policies.

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U.S. Supreme Court Overturns California’s Restrictions on In-Home Religious Activities

Group of people singing at a worship service

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Friday that California’s COVID-19 restrictions on in-home religious gatherings, limiting worship to families from a maximum of three households, could not continue.

In the 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reversed a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling allowing California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s limits on people exercising their First Amendment rights to freely practice religion at home.

In its written order, the court noted that it was the fifth time it has “rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise.”

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State Redistricting Deadlines in 2021, 2022, and 2023

U.S. Census 2020

The U.S. Census Bureau announced in February that it would deliver the detailed datasets needed for redistricting to the states by Sep. 30, 2021, after the original April 1, 2021, deadline. Some states’ own redistricting deadlines predate the Census Bureau’s projected data delivery date, prompting states to consider postponements or alternative data sources.

State redistricting deadlines generally take one of three forms:

Constitutional deadlines are set out explicitly in state constitutions. Altering these deadlines typically requires either a constitutional amendment or a court order.
Statutory deadlines are set by state legislatures. They are subject to change at the legislature’s discretion.
Redistricting deadlines can also be inferred from candidate filing deadlines. For example, if a state sets its filing deadline for congressional candidates for Feb. 1, 2022, it can be inferred that the congressional maps must be fixed by that point.

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Gov. Northam Seeks Greater COVID-19 Executive Authority in Proposed Budget Amendments

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam proposed 18 amendments to the budget legislation passed by the General Assembly, which includes giving the executive branch more authority to address issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I also propose three language amendments to ensure our ability to continue responding to needs related to the COVID pandemic by giving agencies the flexibility to respond and the authority to address the opportunities presented by the federal funding such as the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), until we can address the matter fully at a special session,” Northam said in a letter to the House of Delegates.

One amendment to the budget would grant the director of the Department of Planning and Budget the authority to direct the additional Medicaid revenue from the recent federal stimulus plan to current services. Another would grant the superintendent of public instruction the authority to issue temporary flexibility or waivers for deadlines and requirements that cannot be met because of the COVID-19 state of emergency and school closures.

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

John Vecchione

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lawsuit Claims Northam’s COVID-19 Restrictions Discriminate Against Certain Businesses

A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Roanoke claims COVID-19 restrictions imposed by Gov. Ralph Northam discriminate against certain businesses while allowing others to operate more freely.

Northam recently eased the COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor gatherings for amusement and entertainment venues. However, the governor failed to include wedding venues and other businesses in the recent change.

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

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

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

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

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Ducey Removes Arizona’s COVID-19 Restrictions on Businesses

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has rescinded the business restrictions he put in place last year to stem the spread of COVID-19. 

Ducey’s latest executive order, which he signed Friday, removes the capacity limits on businesses he had put in place July 9, effective immediately. 

“We’ve learned a lot over the past year,” Ducey said. “Our businesses have done an excellent job at responding to this pandemic in a safe and responsible way. We will always admire the sacrifice they and their employees have made and their vigilance to protect against the virus.”

Ducey said Arizona, unlike many other states, never shut down.

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