Proposed Federal Legislation Would Establish Independent Oversight over Federal Prisons

Proposed bipartisan federal legislation would establish independent oversight of the nation’s 122 federal prisons and require the Department of Justice’s inspector general to report its findings and recommendations publicly.

The move follows a U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probe that found the DOJ’s tally of how many people died while in custody missed hundreds of deaths over the past couple of years. The investigation found that the problems spanned many years over multiple administrations, and committee staffers said there is widespread blame for the oversight.

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Poll: Americans Say Grocery Prices Will Affect Their Vote in November

High grocery prices are top-of-mind for voters with a little over a month until the midterm elections, according to a new poll. 

Convention of States Action, along with Trafalgar Group, released the poll, which found that 68.3% of surveyed voters say that the “increase in the price of groceries is impacting their motivation to vote in the 2022 election.”

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Eastern Washington Legislators Urge Biden to Lift Vaccine Mandate for Border Travel

Two U.S. Representatives from Eastern Washington have signed onto a letter that urges the Biden Administration to drop all vaccine requirements for people entering the United States from Canada.

Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, say the decision to send the letter follows Canada lifting vaccine mandates for international travelers entering the country despite Biden’s refusal to follow suit.

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‘Parents Bill of Rights’ Introduced in Ohio House

Ohio school districts would not be able to discourage or prohibit parental involvement in decisions about their child’s mental health if the General Assembly passes a recently-introduced Parents Bill of Rights Act.

House Bill 722 would require schools to draft a policy that promotes parental involvement in their child’s education in honor of that policy.

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Researchers Say Better Data Is Needed to Verify Claims, Extent of Teacher Shortages

New research on the demand for teachers highlights the lack of information about teacher shortages at all levels of government.

A working paper from Brown University found that “teacher shortages are still poorly understood, and it remains unclear whether there is a shortfall of teachers on the national scale or if shortages are localized – a key component of the current debate around teacher shortages.”

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‘Parents Bill of Rights’ Introduced in Ohio House

Ohio school districts would not be able to discourage or prohibit parental involvement in decisions about their child’s mental health if the General Assembly passes a recently-introduced Parents Bill of Rights Act.

House Bill 722 would require schools to draft a policy that promotes parental involvement in their child’s education in honor of that policy.

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Three More Counties Want Texas to Declare Invasion at Southern Border; Total at 32

Three more counties are the latest to express support for Texas declaring an invasion at the southern border, bringing the total to 32.

The judge and county commissioners of Ector County, in the Permian Basin, signed a Declaration of Local State of Disaster on Sept. 27 stating the “health, safety, and welfare of Ector County residents are under an imminent threat of disaster from the unprecedented levels of illegal immigration, human trafficking, and drug smuggling coming across the U.S. border from Mexico.”

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Major Government Unions Lose over 200K Members

The top four public labor unions in the U.S. lost hundreds of thousands of members since a 2018 Supreme Court case that ruled government employees could not be forced to pay a union to keep their job, a new report shows that.

The Commonwealth Foundation released the report, which found that the top four public labor unions – AFT, AFSCME, NEA, and SEIU – lost nearly 219,000 members altogether since the Janus v. AFSCME ruling.

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Policy Group Says Intel’s Ohio Tax Breaks Could Be Better Spent

An Ohio nonprofit policy research group criticized state approval of up to $650 million in tax breaks for Intel’s $20 billion project in central Ohio, saying the money could be used for schools or seniors rather than large corporations.

Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based research group, called the Ohio Tax Credit Authority’s approval earlier this week of the incentives a missed opportunity and challenged the state’s openness and accountability.

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21 Attorneys General Want U.S. Supreme Court to Uphold Immigration Law

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is leading a group of 21 attorneys general in an amicus brief regarding federal immigration law.

The attorneys general are asking the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold a federal statute to enforce federal immigration law in United States v. Hansen.  

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Inflation Rose More than Expected in August, Federal Data Shows

Inflation rose more than expected in August, leaving Americans facing even higher prices on a range of everyday purchases, according to newly released federal inflation data.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released the pricing data, which showed the Personal Consumption Expenditure excluding food and energy, a key marker of inflation, rose 0.6%, higher than expected by Dow Jones.

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Poll: 79 Percent of Americans Are Dissatisfied with America’s Direction

Only a fraction of Americans is satisfied “with the way things are going in the U.S.,” according to a new poll.

Gallup released the survey data, which showed that 79% of Americans are dissatisfied with the direction the country is headed, compared to only 21% of Americans who say the opposite.

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Ohio’s Fetal Heartbeat Law Stopped for Another 14 Days

Ohio officials are expected to return to court in Hamilton County for a hearing Oct. 7 after a judge extended a ban on the state’s fetal heartbeat bill for another 14 days.

The decision continues to allow abortions in the state through 20 weeks, pausing a state law that stopped most abortions after the first fetal heartbeat is detected, which is usually around six weeks. The law, signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in April 2019, went into effect when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year.

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Government Agencies Buying Cellphone, Internet Data to Track Americans

In a little noted trend, law enforcement agencies at every level of government are increasingly buying data from private, third-party data brokers on Americans’ phone and internet activities in order to track them, often without a warrant.

While proponents say this practice provides critical help for investigations, critics argue it poses a serious violation of civil liberties that needs to be addressed through legislation.

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Ohio to Spend COVID Funds on Drug Task Forces and Bridge Repairs

Ohio plans to spend more than $2 million worth of federal COVID-19 relief funds on more than two dozen local drug task forces around the state, Gov. Mike DeWine announced.

The money, DeWine said, would be used to disrupt drug trafficking and promote substance use awareness, prevention and recovery.

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Ohio Economists Split on Progressiveness of Electric Vehicle Fees

A group of Ohio economists disagree over moves by the state and the country as a whole toward electric vehicles and whether government investment in electric vehicle infrastructure is cost-effective.

Nearly half of the 19 economists at Ohio colleges and universities surveyed by Scioto Analysis said the state’s current $200 annual fee for registering electric vehicles is progressive, while a little more than half believed spending tax dollars on EV infrastructure is likely to be more cost-effective than providing the same amount in tax credits.

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Group Sues U.S. Department of Education over Biden’s Student Loan Cancellation Plan

A nonprofit legal group filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the U.S. Department of Education to block its move to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt for some borrowers.

“Congress did not authorize the executive branch to unilaterally cancel student debt,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Caleb Kruckenberg said. “It’s flagrantly illegal for the executive branch to create a $500 billion program by press release, and without statutory authority or even the basic notice and comment procedure for new regulations.”

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Republican Leadership Pledges to ‘Repeal’ IRS Auditor Expansion if GOP Wins Majority

President Joe Biden sparked controversy for pushing through Congress increased federal funding for 87,000 new IRS employees to audit Americans, but Republican leadership has pledged to overturn that expansion if they win the majority.

House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., pledged at a Pennsylvania event to “repeal” the IRS expansion.

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Ohio New Business Startups See Uptick

Ohio new business startups broke a downward trend in August, but not enough to return to levels from a year ago.

The state registered 15,815 new business filings in August, slightly higher than July, which represented a six-month low and four consecutive month of declines, Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced.

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Ohio Economists Split on Progressiveness of EV Fees

Electric car being charged

A group of Ohio economists disagree over moves by the state and the country as a whole toward electric vehicles and whether government investment in electric vehicle infrastructure is cost-effective.

Nearly half of the 19 economists at Ohio colleges and universities surveyed by Scioto Analysis said the state’s current $200 annual fee for registering electric vehicles is progressive, while a little more than half believed spending tax dollars on EV infrastructure is likely to be more cost-effective than providing the same amount in tax credits.

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Ohio’s Largest City Plans to Spend $200 Million on Housing, If Voters Approve

Ohio’s largest city wants to spend $200 million on affordable housing if voters approve borrowing a total of $1.5 billion in November.

Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther had previously said the city has a goal of combining $1 billion in public and private funds to meet housing needs in the region, calling housing a regional problem.

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DeWine, Vance Say No to Ohio Debate Commission Debates

Republican candidates for Ohio governor and U.S. Senate each have declined to participate in debates scheduled by the Ohio Debate Commission for next month in Akron.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Senate candidate J.D. Vance turned down the invitation by the ODC for the Oct. 10 and 12 debates with Democratic candidates Nan Whaley and Tim Ryan, respectively, the commission announced Wednesday.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Vaccine Mandates from Biden

Sandy Brick felt her freedom was on the line. The Head Start teacher taught through the pandemic and opposed a federal “jab-or-job” mandate from the president.

Judge Terry A. Doughty, on the bench of a U.S. District Court in Louisiana, on Wednesday agreed. He ruled the federal government cannot require Head Start program teachers, staff and volunteers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, nor can it require adults or students to wear masks. His order “permanently enjoins the vaccine and mask mandate in 24 states,” a release from the Liberty Justice Center says, and impacts 280,000 teachers, staff and volunteers.

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Democrats Block Release of Hunter Biden Financial Documents in Probe

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee voted to block a resolution proposed by Republicans to coax out documents related to the investigation of Hunter Biden’s financial affairs.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the ranking member of the committee, spearheaded the resolution, saying he has tried multiple times to get the relevant Suspicious Activity Reports on the Biden family’s financial dealings from the U.S. Treasury Department but has been unable to obtain the documents.

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Gov. Abbott Declares Mexican Drug Cartels Terrorists, Calls on Biden to Do the Same

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday issued an executive order officially designating certain Mexican drug cartels as foreign smuggled into the U.S. to kill Americans at an alarming rate.

In one year’s time, fentanyl killed nearly 20 times more people than those killed in terrorist attacks over decades.

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Inspector General: Denying Religious Exemptions to Service Members Who Refuse COVID-19 Vaccines Violates Federal Law

A Department of Defense Office of Inspector General report has found that officials in the U.S. military who issued widespread denials of religious exemption requests by service members who refused to take the COVID-19 shots violated federal law.

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Report Reveals ‘Shocking Long-Term Gaps in Federal Oversight’ over Prison Deaths

The Department of Justice’s tally of how many people died while in custody missed hundreds of deaths over the past couple of years, a 10-month U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probe revealed.

The problems spanned many years over multiple administrations, and committee staffers said there is widespread blame for the oversight. The investigation found that changes to the methods for collecting the data and a transition of the agency within the Justice Department responsible for carrying out the act’s requirements led to the problems.

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Seven Midwest States Enter Hydrogen Coalition

Seven Midwest states entered a coalition to pursue clean hydrogen development as an alternative to gas and diesel fuel.

The governors of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin signed onto the Midwest Hydrogen Coalition. The coalition will accelerate clean hydrogen development, from production and supply chain to distribution in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and other industries.

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Clinton, Obama Economist Says U.S. ‘Has a Serious Inflation Problem’

Two top economists from Democratic presidential administrations are raising the alarm about inflation this week even as the Biden administration touts its progress on the issue.

Lawrence Summers, who served as Secretary of the Treasury for President Bill Clinton and Director of National Economic Council for President Obama, pointed to the latest consumer price inflation data, saying the U.S. “has a serious inflation problem.”

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Report: Transit Agencies May Turn to Taxpayers for More Money When COVID-19 Funds Dry Up

Transit agencies could turn to taxpayers for more money when federal COVID-19 money runs out.

With federal money dwindling, some mass transit agencies are preparing to seek more tax dollars at a time when fewer people are riding, according to a report from a credit rating agency.

Some workers never plan to return to the office, creating uncertainties for mass transit agencies and the taxpayers who fund them, especially those more dependent on riders for fare revenue. A new report from S&P Global Ratings said transit systems could seek additional tax dollars when federal COVID-19 money runs dry in 2025.

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Biden: Republican Officials Shouldn’t Interfere with His Immigration Policies

President Joe Biden doesn’t want Republican officials interfering with his immigration policies, saying their initiative to send people north from the border is “playing politics” and “un-American.”

Speaking at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gala in Washington, D.C., Thursday night, he said, “Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings using them as props. What they are doing is simply wrong. It’s un-American. It’s reckless.”

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Republican U.S. Reps Urge Defense Department to End Military Vaccine Mandate

A group of 47 members of Congress are urging the Secretary of the Department of Defense to “immediately revoke” the COVID-19 vaccine mandate he issued last August for all service members, civilian personnel, and contractors. They’ve also asked him to re-instate those who’ve already been discharged for noncompliance.

In a Sept. 15 letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, they wrote “to express our grave concern over the effect of the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on the readiness of our Armed Forces, particularly the U.S. Army.

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Ohio Companies Can Get Reimbursed for Apprenticeships

Ohio businesses can get up to $25,000 from the state to cover the costs of apprenticeship training dating back to 2020, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

The money comes from a federal grant the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services received in 2020 to expand apprenticeships, Gov. Mike DeWine announced recently as part of National Workforce Development month.

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Florida and Connecticut Attorneys General Lead Bipartisan Effort to Classify Illicit Fentanyl as Weapon of Mass Destruction

fentanyl pills on the hood of a vehicle

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Connecticut Attorney General William Tong are leading a multistate, bipartisan effort urging President Joe Biden to classify illicit fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction (WMD).

“I first called for President Biden to take swift action in July and call fentanyl what it is – a weapon of mass destruction,” Moody said. “Now, I am leading a bipartisan coalition of 18 attorneys general demanding the president take action now, declare fentanyl a WMD and join us in our fight to prevent the death and destruction caused by this highly-lethal substance from getting even worse.”

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Ohio Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Stopping Picketing at Homes, Private Businesses

Public officials are not immune from picketing connected to a labor dispute at their homes or private workplaces after a divided Ohio Supreme Court struck down a law that prohibited encouraging “targeted picketing.”

The law made organizing picketing at a private residence and business an unfair labor practice, but in a 4-3 decision the Supreme Court said that violated the First Amendment right of free speech.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Michael P. Donnelly, Melody Stewart and Jennifer Brunner all joined the majority.

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Poll: Voters Say Biden Has Further ‘Divided’ Country

The majority of Americans say President Joe Biden has further divided the country, according to a new poll.

Convention of States Action, along with the Trafalgar Group, released the polling data, which showed that 58.7% of surveyed voters say that “Biden has divided the country during his time as president.”

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Tentative Deal Reached to Avoid National Rail Strike

The freight railroad industry reached a tentative deal with rail worker unions Thursday morning to avoid a national rail strike that threatened to cripple the nation’s already stressed supply chain.

The tentative agreement still must be ratified in a vote of the unions’ workers.

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Two More Texas Counties Declare Invasion at Southern Border, Bringing Total to 29

Two more Texas counties have declared an invasion at the southern border, bringing to 29 the total that have done so so far, with more expected to follow.

The judges and county commissioners of Wharton and Burnet counties this week signed resolutions calling for “additional measures to secure the border, stop the invasion at the border, and protect our communities.”

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Four More Texas Counties Declare Invasion at Southern Border, Bringing Total to 22

The judges and commissioners of four more Texas counties have declared an invasion at the southern border, bringing to 22 the number of counties that have done so.

Jasper, Madison, Throckmorton and Wichita counties are the latest to declare an invasion.

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Appeals Court Hands Air Force Class Action Plaintiffs a Win in Vaccine Mandate Lawsuit

A panel of three Sixth Circuit judges have denied the Air Force’s attempt to overturn class certification granted to all members of the Air Force by a federal district court judge in July. In doing so, they handed another win to roughly 10,000 airmen and women fighting against the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The appeals court judges denied an emergency motion made by the Air Force requesting it stay the class certification and injunction granted in Hunter Doster, et al. v. Hon Frank Kendall, et al., by U.S. District Judge Matthew W. McFarland of the Southern District of Ohio. In July, McFarland granted class status and issued a preliminary injunction preventing retaliation against those in the Air Force who don’t comply with the mandate as the lawsuit continues. His order remains in effect.

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Report: Record 63 Percent of Small Businesses Freeze Hiring

Small businesses are increasingly unwilling to hire because they can’t afford to take on new costs, according to a newly released survey.

The small business network company Alignable released the survey Wednesday. It found that 63% report putting hiring on hold “because they can’t afford to add staff, and 10% of that group is laying off workers.”

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GOP Governors to Biden: Student Loan Plan Will Be Costly for American Taxpayers

President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan will be costly for American taxpayers, a coalition of GOP governors said in a letter sent Monday to the White House.

The letter, signed by 22 GOP governors, tells Biden to “withdraw” the plan, citing cost estimates of up to $600 billion, or $2,000 per American taxpayer.

“As governors, we support making higher education more affordable and accessible for students in our states, but we fundamentally oppose your plan to force American taxpayers to pay off the student loan debt of an elite few,” the coalition wrote.

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Chipmakers Receiving Taxpayer Subsidies Under New Law Can Resume Business in China After 10 Years

Chipmaking companies that receive U.S. taxpayer funding under the $280 billion CHIPS Act of 2022 will be able to do business with foreign countries like China after a 10-year waiting period, according to guidelines released by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday.

The legislation that President Biden signed last month was designed to build a domestic supply chain for computer chips, used for electronic devices and vehicle technology, as a way to reduce reliance on other countries like China and Taiwan.

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Merchant Banking Organization: Gun, Ammunition Purchases by Credit Card Will be Coded

An unloaded handgun sitting on the center console of a vehicle with the magazine clip next to it

The international organization responsible for creating merchant category codes for credit card purchases has given its approval to establish one for transactions made at gun stores.

The International Organization for Standardization’s Registration and Maintenance Management Group met on Wednesday to discuss a request made by Amalgamated Bank to set up such a code.

An ISO spokesperson told The Center Square that RMMG members could not decide whether to approve the application. That elevated the discussion to the ISO leadership that oversees standards for retail financial services.

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Cincinnati Ranked in the Top Five Places to Retire in the United States: Report

One Ohio city ranks in the top five of best places to retire in the nation, and four others rank among the best of the nation’s largest cities, according to a new report from WalletHub, a personal finance website.

Cincinnati ranked third – behind only Charleston, South Carolina and Orlando – in the report that compared the retiree-friendliness of more than 180 cities using 46 metrics, such as cost of living to retired taxpayers to the state’s health infrastructure.

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