Small Business Owners Lament Inflation

Overwhelmed businessman

As inflation continues to rise this year, small businesses are feeling the pain.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses released a survey of small business owners Tuesday that found the nation’s job creators cite inflation as their top concern more than any other issue.

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Lawmakers to Grill Biden’s Energy Secretary Over Energy Costs, Regulations

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm

Lawmakers will grill President Joe Biden’s Energy Secretary at a newly announced oversight hearing scheduled for Thursday.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm is expected to face lawmakers for questions amid elevated gas prices, a depleted strategic petroleum reserve, and ongoing criticism of Biden’s energy policies.

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California Considers Rules That Could Push Gas Prices up an Additional $1.11/Gallon by 2026

Gas Station

California gas prices could rise by at least $1.11 per gallon by 2026 if the California Air Resources Board adopts amendments to its low carbon fuel standard program, CARB says. The LCFS amendments proposed at the end of 2023 would phase-out credits for turning manure into renewable natural gas, ending that business, and add jet fuel to LCFS purview, increasing flying costs for every flight that starts or ends in California even if the fuel was purchased elsewhere. Because so much of America’s imports come in through California, the LCFS amendments would raise the costs of goods for every American. 

LCFS uses a system of credits and deficits to reward or punish producers that make fuel better or worse than the rising “clean” standard.” Current LCFS guidelines call for a 20% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030 compared to 2010, while the proposed amendments call for a 90% reduction by 2045, including significant step-downs starting in 2025 that would result in major fuel cost increases starting that year. 

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Lack of Operational Control at Northern Border Poses National Security Threats

US Border Patrol

The northern border largely has been unmanned and understaffed for decades as federal reports issue conflicting conclusions about how much, or how little, operational control exists.

Some officials have suggested the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has just 1% operational control over the northern border after a 2019 General Accounting Office audit of U.S. Customs and Border northern border operations. But a December 2022 DHS report claimed, “The Border Patrol is better staffed today than at any time in its 87-year history,” noting no surveillance of extensive parts of the northern border existed prior to 9/11.

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Poll: Three in Four Fear Artificial Intelligence Abuse in Presidential Election

Election results on a mobile phone screen

More than 3 in 4 Americans fear abuses of artificial intelligence will affect the 2024 presidential election, and many are not confident they can detect faked photos, videos or audio.

AI & Politics ’24, led by Lee Rainie and Jason Husser at Elon University, found 78 percent believe it is likely artificial intelligence will be abused to impact the outcome between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. There are 39 percent who believe artificial intelligence will hurt the election process, and just 5 percent believe it will help.

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State Gives More Loans to East Palestine Businesses

East Palestine

State money continues to flow into East Palestine, Ohio, to support businesses struggling from a train derailment and toxic chemical release more than 15 months ago.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced three more businesses will receive loans through the East Palestine Emergency Support Program, bringing the total to 23 sharing more than $3.8 million.

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Report: Equity Rich Mortgaged Homes See Third Straight Quarterly Decline

Home

The number of mortgaged homes that are equity rich have declined for three consecutive quarters, and the portion of mortgaged homes considered “seriously underwater” increased, according to a new report by ATTOM, a leading curator of land, property and real estate data.

ATTOM’s first-quarter 2024 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report found that 45.8% of mortgaged residential properties in the United States “were considered equity-rich in the first quarter, meaning that the combined estimated amount of loan balances secured by those properties was no more than half of their estimated market values.”

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Washington State County Approves Unincorporated Minimum Wage Hike, Ties National High

Cashier working

The King County Council has approved an ordinance that will increase the minimum wage in unincorporated parts of King County.

The legislation increases minimum wage to a high of $20.29, which ties the cities of Tukwila and Renton for the highest minimum wage in the nation.

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China’s Growing Threat to U.S. National Security in the Crosshairs of Congress

Illegal Immigrants

While the Chinese Communist Party’s possibly imminent invasion of Taiwan could spark a war in the region, experts and lawmakers in Congress on Thursday expressed that the Taiwan issue is just one part of a broader Chinese strategy countering the U.S.

U.S.House lawmakers raised the alarm about the Chinese communist government’s threat to the U.S. via cyber security and the border crisis at two separate hearings Thursday.

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CDC Estimates Decline in U.S. Overdose Deaths in 2023, Totals Remain ‘Staggering’

Woman with pills

Provisional estimates show drug overdose deaths declined about 3.1% nationwide, but multiple states reported increases of more than 20%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s provisional estimated overdose deaths in 2023 declined about 3.1% to 107,543. That’s down from 111,029 in 2022. Two out of every three deaths involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, a cheap and potent opioid smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

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Ohio AG Pushes Feds to Restore Victim Assistance Money

Dave Yost

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is pushing the U.S. Justice Department to restore a nearly 80% cut in victim assistance funds since 2018.

Speaking to nearly 1,000 victims’ advocates at AG’s annual Two Days in May conference, Yost said the continued cuts have made him mad.

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Trump Holds Lead over Biden Heading Toward November

Donald Trump and Joe Biden in front of the White House (composite image)

With less than half a year until the 2024 presidential election, former President Donald Trump holds a sizable lead over incumbent President Joe Biden in several swing states.

While the overall national polling varies and shows a tighter race, Trump holds significant leads in several swing states.

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New York Court Strikes Down Order Banning Transgender Athletes

A judge has struck down a New York county’s ban on transgender athletes from participating in female sports, saying the county executive exceeded his authority by issuing the directive.

The ruling by state Supreme Court Judge Francis Ricigliano overturns an executive order signed by Nassau County Chief Executive Bruce Blakeman in February that requires any sports team seeking to use a county facility to provide information on “the biological sex at birth of the team members/participants.”

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Terrorist Watch List Apprehensions at Northern Border Continue to Break Records

Illegal Immigrants Northern Border

The number of known or suspected terrorists (KSTs) apprehended at the northern border in the first six months of fiscal 2024 continue to outpace those apprehended at the southwest border.

There have been 143 KSTs apprehended at the northern border through the first six months of this fiscal year compared to 92 at the southwest border, according to the most recent CBP data.

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Telehealth, Rural Physician Bills Clear Committee

Telehealth

Legislation to make permanent the extension of telehealth services for federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics has passed the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill of U.S. Rep. Dr. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., and the Rural Physician Workforce Preservation Act he authored are also under consideration by the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

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LaRose Joins Investigation into Ohio’s Teacher Retirement System

Frank LaRose

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is joining the investigation of the State Teachers Retirement System.

Shortly after Attorney General Dave Yost launched a wide-sweeping investigation into the $90 billion fund for 500,000 current and former teachers, LaRose said his Public Integrity Unit is stepping up its look into potential campaign finance violations.

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Report Finds Farmers Growing More Concerned About Economy

Work Farmer

U.S. farmers’ confidence in the economy cratered in April, according to the latest monthly report from Purdue University.

The Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer for last month, which was released Tuesday, fell 15 points from March. At 99, the current score is the lowest the barometer has dropped since it reached 97 in June 2022.

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The 2024 Sunset of the Trump Tax Cuts Becoming Election Year Issue as Inflation, Cost of Living Climbs

Donald Trump

The sweeping Trump-era tax cuts in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 are set to expire next year, setting up the tax debate as a potentially key political issue this election year.

While illegal immigration and inflation top Americans’ list of concerns, both parties are increasingly talking about the Trump-era tax cuts, which President Joe Biden has said he will allow to expire next year.

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Toll-Free Brent Spence Bridge Project Connecting Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky Allowed to Move Forward

Brent Spence Bridge project

Ohio and Kentucky announced Friday they received federal approval to move the $3.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project forward without tolls.

The environmental approval means the massive project connecting Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky moves ahead the project that transforms an 8-mile stretch of I-71/75 and includes a new companion bridge immediately to the west of the existing bridge.

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Combined Social Security Trust Fund Projected to Deplete Reserves by 2035

Social Security

Two reports released Monday show that the U.S. combined Social Security trust fund is projected to deplete its reserves by 2035.

The Trustees for Social Security and Medicare released annual reports on Monday. The Trustees projected the Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund will exhaust its reserves in 2036. The Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund was projected to be insolvent by 2033.

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Elevated Gas Prices Poised to Rise More This Summer

Pumping Gas

Gas prices have been elevated in recent months heading into summer, when prices are expected to rise even more.

According to AAA, the average national price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $3.65 per gallon, up from $3.59 a month ago. The prices have fluctuated in recent days and are lower than the all-time high of $5.02 in the summer of 2022. However, prices overall have risen significantly this year and are on pace to rise more in the summer months.

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Northern Border Apprehensions Continue to Break Records

ICE Arrest

Despite being stretched thin and understaffed, Border Patrol agents at the northern border continue to apprehend a record number of illegal border crossers.

In the busiest northern border sector of Swanton, Border Patrol agents made history by apprehending the greatest number of illegal border crossers in sector history of 1,109 in March, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. While the numbers are significantly lower than those apprehended at the southwest border, they are out of the ordinary for the northern border and its busiest sector. By comparison, agents apprehended 37 illegal border crossers in March 2021.

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Vance Wants to Cut Aid from Schools That Don’t Remove Camps

JD Vance

U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance wants to withhold federal money from colleges and universities across the nation that refuse to remove disruptive encampments from the campuses.

The Ohio Republican said pro-Palestinian protesters that have emerged on campuses over the past several weeks hate America and called the encampments a national embarrassment.

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Government Sets Rules for Spy Agencies Buying Commercial Data on Americans

People on phones

The government has put together new rules to guide how U.S. spy agencies buy and use mounds of highly personal information from smartphone apps, automobiles and other connected devices.

The new framework policy, from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, does not require agencies to get a warrant before buying or searching commercially available information, or CAI.

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Ohio Schools Likely to Have to Develop Cellphone Policies

Kids on phones in class

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine will have to settle for school districts establishing respective cellphone policies rather than the state limiting use for students during the school day.

In his State of the State address last month, DeWine called on lawmakers to establish statewide cellphone restrictions. Instead, the legislature passed a bill that would require districts to come up with policies.

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Republican Lawmaker Wants to Raise Ohio Minimum Wage

Louis Blessing III

If a push to increase Ohio’s minimum wage fails to make the November ballot, there’s a backup plan in the state Senate.

That plan, though, moves increases more slowly and eventually keeps the tipped wage at half of the non-tipped wage. If the proposed constitutional amendment reaches the ballot and is passed, the tipped- and non-tipped wage would eventually become equal.

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Senate Bill Would Ban Student Loan Forgiveness for Protestors Convicted of a Crime

Republican U.S. senators introduced a bill that would ban student loan forgiveness for protestors convicted of a crime while protesting on U.S. college campuses.

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Many Popular Ohio Jobs Qualify for Government Assistance

Food Workers

Nearly half of the most popular jobs in Ohio pay the average worker so little employees qualify for government assistance to feed a family of three, a new report based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

The findings in the Still working for too little in Ohio report from Policy Matters Ohio also showed that those four occupations employ 476,000 or 8.7% of all workers in the state.

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House Republicans Seek Transparency on Number of Foreign Nationals in U.S. Illegally

Alejandro Mayorkas With Immigrants

A group of 17 Congressional Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is calling on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to provide information on “the total number of illegal aliens currently residing within the United States.”

In a letter to Mayorkas, whom they voted to impeach in February, the Republican lawmakers argue, “The American people deserve an exact accounting of the number of illegal aliens residing in the country, especially if the federal government’s policies have caused that number to surge since the previous estimate.”

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Ohio Property Tax Levy Issue Could See House Vote This Week

Suburban home

The Ohio House could take up a bill this week that would force clear language on ballots for potential property tax increases and stop school districts from using individuals to challenge tax assessments.

House Bill 344 could be on the House agenda when it meets Wednesday after it passed the chamber’s Ways and Means Committee on a Republican-majority 10-6 party-line vote.

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Independents Have Little Trust, but Pick Trump Over Biden on Economy

Donald Trump

Newly released polling data spells bad news for President Joe Biden this election year.

Gallup released new polling data that showed independent voters trust former President Donald Trump more than Biden when it comes to the economy. About 34 percent of independents say they trust Biden to do the right thing for the economy, compared to 45 percent who trust Trump.

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Reports: 2023 Was a Record Year for Natural Gas Consumption

Natural Gas Plant

2023 was a record year for domestic natural gas consumption, and its supply wouldn’t have been possible without record U.S. production, led by Texas, according to several reports.

Texas produced the equivalent of one-third of the natural gas consumed last year, with Texas producers breaking multiple records last year, The Center Square reported.

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Biden Administration Defends Treatment of Veterans Despite IG Report

Dept of Veteran Affair Secretary Denis McDonough

The U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs pledged to protect veterans and address any problems identified by federal watchdogs after an Inspector General report raised concerns about the physicians employed by the VA.

Press Secretary Terrence Hayes responded to an inquiry from The Center Square about recent IG reports. The reports in question said that the healthcare wing of the VA was paying doctors to care for veterans even after those doctors had been disqualified for safety reasons.

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Americans Less Confident About Economy, Poll Shows

Stressed Workers

Americans are less confident about the economy, according to a new survey.

Gallup’s recently released economic confidence rating dropped from March to April as inflation remains elevated. Just after the polling was conducted from April 1-22, the federal government released underperforming Gross Domestic Product data.

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Houses Passes Bill to Protect Domestic Oil Production, Protect Iñupiat Community

Alaska North Slope

The U.S. House passed another a bill to advance domestic energy production, this time in response to cries for help from an indigenous community living in the Alaska North Slope.

The bill’s cosponsor, a Democrat from Alaska, did not vote for her own bill. It passed with the support of five Democrats, including two from Texas who are strong supporters of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry.

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Bill Would Alert Immigration When Non-Citizen Tries to Buy Guns

Gun Store

Nearly 15 million people living in or entering the country illegally are on an FBI list prohibiting purchase of firearms.

However, the National Instant Criminal Background Check system isn’t required to let immigration authorities know if one of those 14.8 million is an applicant and in America. Legislation is proposed to change it.

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Ohio Grants Nearly $90 Million to Focus on Women and Minority-Owned Tech Businesses

Woman Business

Ohio is handing out $86 million in federal taxpayer money to private investment funds to be passed on to early-stage tech companies that are women- or minority-owned or in underserved areas by venture capital.

The money comes from the federally-funded State Small Business Credit Initiative Venture Capital program, and Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik says the money helps level the playing field.

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DEA Warns over Growing Prevalence of Xylazine in Illicit Fentanyl Supply

Bags of confiscated fentanyl

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has issued another warning about the growing prevalence of a veterinary sedative in illicit fentanyl supply. 

For years, dealers have been mixing xylazine, a non-opioid tranquilizer approved for animal use, with fentanyl and other drugs to increase potency and profits. 

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Congressional Probe Opened on ‘Mealy-Mouthed, Spineless College Leaders’

US Rep Virginia Foxx

For “mealy-mouthed, spineless college leaders,” actions will have consequences, the North Carolina congresswoman leading a key U.S. House of Representatives committee said Tuesday amid ongoing college campus disruptions.

The war between Israel and Hamas has led to significant demonstrations or encampments on at least four dozen campuses nationwide, a national observer of such activity reports. U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., with support of House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said the Committee on Education and the Workforce she chairs has opened a congressional probe and on May 23 will hear from presidents of Yale and Michigan and the chancellor of UCLA.

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Ohio Senate Gets Bill to Increase Penalties for Drug, Human Trafficking

Cindy Abrams

Stronger fentanyl-related drug trafficking penalties and a requirement to teach high school students the dangers of fentanyl now wait on the Ohio Senate to move closer to becoming law.

House Bill 322, which passed the House with an 80-13 vote but has yet to be introduced in the Senate, is a direct response to both drug and human trafficking, according to sponsor Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison.

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Congress’ Inaction on Debt ‘Irresponsible’ Says Former Comptroller

David Walker

The former U.S. Comptroller General said Congress’ failure to address the federal debt burden was “irresponsible.”

David Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States and a member of the Main Street Economics Advisory Board, said recent economic data should prompt lawmakers to take action before the debt problem gets worse. 

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Elevated Inflation, Poor GDP Growth Raise Concerns

Grocery store prices

Federal data released Friday showed that inflation remains elevated. The figures came out on the heels of other data showing the U.S. Gross Domestic Product underperformed in the first quarter of this year.

Both the inflation and GDP data points raised concerns among economists and renewed criticism of President Joe Biden among Republicans.

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More than 1.7 Million Illegal Entries in First Six Months of Fiscal 2024

Illegal Immigration

More than 1.7 million foreign nationals have illegally entered the U.S. in the first six months of fiscal 2024, the greatest number for this time period in U.S. history.

The 1,733,496 who illegally entered in the first six months of the fiscal year outnumber the 1,547,866 who illegally entered in the first six months of fiscal 2023 by more than 185,000.

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Wildlife Groups Threaten Feds with Lawsuit over Wolf Protections

Gray Wolfs

by Chris Woodward   A coalition of animal welfare and wildlife advocacy groups plans to file a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over gray wolf protections, pointing to the killing of a wolf in Wyoming as an example of why the species needs more protection. In 2021,…

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California Border Fentanyl Seizures Double as Texas Strengthens Border

California seized over one million fentanyl pills just last week, more than was seized in all of February, highlighting how much smuggling of drugs and illegal immigrants has shifted to California since Texas strengthened its border.

In September, California Governor Gavin Newsom increased the California National Guard’s San Diego border region presence from 40 to 60 soldiers for narcotics operations.

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Economist Uses Big Mac Price Index to Analyze Inflation, Impact of Food Costs

Big Mac Burger

In addition to measuring foreign exchange rates, an economist is using the price of a hamburger to examine inflation.

The Economist magazine developed the Big Mac index in 1986 as an informal way to determine the “purchasing power parity” of different countries and currencies. B. Ravikumar, senior vice president and deputy director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, recently used the Big Mac index to analyze the U.S. consumer price index, which is widely used as the authoritative inflation measurement.

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Business Group Plans to Sue After FTC Bans Noncompete Contracts

Contract Talks

The Federal Trade Commission issued a final rule Tuesday to ban noncompete contracts that prevent employees from joining rival companies in a move that immediately drew a legal challenge.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark said the measure was illegal and would hurt businesses and workers.

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