Columbus Schools Will Require Masks When Ohio Students Return

Woman sitting alone with a mask on.

Ohio’s largest school district will require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks inside buildings and on buses this fall, but an Ohio lawmaker has introduced a bill that prohibits schools from requiring masks.

The Columbus City Schools Board of Education said in a news release it relied on recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with talks with Columbus Public Health, to reach the decision.

“Safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall is a priority, and masks provide and extra layer of protection in reducing transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” Superintendent Talisa Dixon said Wednesday in a news release. “Throughout this pandemic, we have relied on the guidance of our public health officials. We feel that this was the best decision for our district and community.”

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Ohio Communities Gain Control of Wind, Solar Projects

Three wind turbines

Local communities in Ohio got a little more power regarding renewable energy projects after Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law that addresses wind and solar projects.

DeWine made Senate Bill 52 law and gave power to county boards on whether to allow or prevent certification of wind and solar projects. The legislation also establishes decommissioning requirements for certain wind and solar facilities.

“One of the most important things we can do as state legislators is to listen to the input of our fellow constituents,” Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, said Monday after DeWine signed the bill. “I can confidently tell you that Ohioans within Seneca County vehemently spoke out against a wind project being built within their communities – Senate Bill 52 being signed into law solidifies their right to local control over these types of projects.”

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Gov. Abbott: Democratic Legislators to Be Arrested upon Return to Texas

Photo caption from Twitter says " Conversation Dan Patrick @DanPatrick Smiling House Dems fly off to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite, breaking House quorum, abandoning their constituents, while the Senate still works. It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do."

More than 60 House Democrats who fled Austin Monday to prevent a vote on election reforms will be arrested when they return to Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said.

“Once they step back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested and brought to the Texas capital and we will be conducting business,” Abbott said.

The 67 Democratic lawmakers flew on chartered flights to Washington D.C. in protest of proposed legislation seeking to reduce the chances of fraud in future elections. The legislation is one of a number of measures being considered during a July special session called by Abbott.

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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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FDA Asks for Internal Review of Approval Process for Alzheimer’s Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking for an internal review of its own approval process that gave a greenlight to a drug to treat Alzhiemer’s, a move that could shed more light on the controversial chain of decision-making that led to the drug’s being okayed for use.

The FDA last month approved drug company BioGen’s product Aduhelm, the first medicine greenlit in the U.S. to slow the cognitive decline of those living with Alzhiemer’s.

Yet that decision was shrouded in controversy: The approval went against the advice of an outside panel of FDA experts and even led to the resignation of several of those experts in protest.

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Ohio Orders FirstEnergy to Return $27.5M to Customers

View of Columbus, Ohio, cityscape

FirstEnergy customers in Ohio will see nearly $30 million in refunds on their electric bills after the Public Utility of Commission of Ohio ordered the money returned.

The PUCO ordered implementation of the recently passed and signed House Bill 128, which was one of the many bills introduced this year in the Ohio General Assembly aimed at tackling the House Bill 6 scandal that led to the indictment and eventual removal from office of former House Speaker Larry Householder.

The bill, which became effective June 30, dealt with “decoupling,” which Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has referred to as designed to allow FirstEnergy to overcharge customers.

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American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Sues the State House of Representatives Over for Redistricting

Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio wants a court to force Republican lawmakers to turn over records related to redistricting it says it asked for five months ago and never received.

The group has filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Ohio, seeking the records as the state closes in on the release of U.S. Census Bureau data and a constitutional mandate to redraw congressional and state representative district boundaries.

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, and Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, have not responded to open records request made in February, the lawsuit said. The ACLU said the records will help it monitor the redistricting process.

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Republicans Push Back Against ‘Politicization’ of IRS

President Joe Biden has pushed for beefing up IRS audits of corporations to raise revenue for his new spending proposals, but Republicans are raising the alarm about the potential consequences of the plan.

Biden unveiled his “Made in America Tax Plan” earlier this year as a strategy to help fund his trillions of dollars in proposed new federal spending that includes several tax hikes. Despite this, a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. House and Senate have agreed to a basic framework for Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan, but one element has been the theme of the negotiations among Republicans: no new taxes.

The GOP pushback against raising taxes, though, puts more pressure on the Biden administration to find ways to fund his agenda. Aside from Biden’s controversial tax hike proposals, the president also has proposed adding $80 billion in funding to the IRS so it can increase audits of corporations.

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Maryland Announces over 500,000 New Potentially Fraudulent Unemployment Claims Since May

Larry Hogan

Maryland officials say they suspect over 508,000 new, potentially fraudulent unemployment claims have been filed since May.

The announcement Monday followed the state saying it has verified over 1.3 million fraudulent claims since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic.

The most common means of filing a fraudulent claim is identity theft, according to CNN.

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New Poll Confirms Widespread Support for School Choice

Student raising hand in class

A majority of voters support school choice, a new poll from Echelon Insights shows.

Among more than 1,100 registered voters surveyed, 65% support school choice compared to 19% who oppose it, while 16% remain unsure.

The findings were consistent across party lines, with 75% of Republicans, 60% of independents, and 61% of Democrats saying they strongly or somewhat support school choice. Most voters in both parties agree parents should control all or some of the tax dollars they pay for education.

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Ohio Republicans at Odds Over Householder Ouster

Larry Householder

The Ohio House’s first bipartisan public move to try to expel indicted former Speaker of the House Larry Householder highlighted the divide among Republicans after Householder’s reelection following federal charges of racketeering, bribery and money laundering.

House Resolution 69 received its first hearing in front of the House Rules and Reference Committee, which is chaired by current House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima. Cupp consistently has said Householder, R-Glendale, should resign.

“Representative Householder is under indictment for selling legislation, and Ohioans cannot fathom how he remains in a position to continue to introduce legislation under those circumstances,” Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, testified Thursday. “Virtually everyone associated with this scandal lost their jobs a long time ago. The only person who has not lost their job is the only person indicted for being the mastermind of the whole scandal.”

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Commentary: Minimum Wage Hikes Led to Lower Worker Compensation, New Research Shows

Opponents of minimum wage laws tend to focus their criticism on one particular adverse consequence: by artificially raising the price of labor, they reduce employment, particularly for the most vulnerable in society.

“Minimum wage laws tragically generate unemployment, especially so among the poorest and least skilled or educated workers,” economist Murray Rothbard wrote in 1978. “Because a minimum wage, of course, does not guarantee any worker’s employment; it only prohibits, by force of law, anyone from being hired at the wage which would pay his employer to hire him.

Though some economists, such as Paul Krugman, reject Rothbard’s claim, a recent study found the overwhelming body of academic research supports the idea that minimum wage laws increase unemployment.

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Report: Vax-A-Million Lottery Not Spurring Vaccinations Growth

Millions of dollars, college scholarships and other cash and prize incentives may not be enough to encourage more people around the country to get the COVID-19 vaccination, at least if numbers in Ohio are any indication.

The Associated Press reported the number of new Ohioans receiving at least the first dose of a vaccine fell by nearly half after the state announced its first $1 million and college scholarship winners. After Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement of the vaccine lottery in early May, the report said vaccination numbers increased by 43% over the previous week.

The report said the number of people receiving the vaccine from May 27 through June 2 dropped about 43%. March and April were the state’s highest months for the number of vaccines, according to The AP.

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Ohio Democrats Walk out on Voting Bill Debate

Close up of mail in ballot

A bill that would eliminate early voting in Ohio the day before an election and stop the mailing of absentee ballots 10 days before Election Day got its first hearing in the Ohio, and it came with controversy.

Democratic lawmakers walked out of the House Government Oversight Committee on Thursday after they say committee Chair Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro, threatened to cut off debate.

“What we saw today was unsettling – Republicans unwilling to engage in civil discourse on their bill that would silence the voices of Ohioans by rolling back the right to vote,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron. “If Republicans are unwilling to hear the people out, Democrats are going to take this issue to the people.”

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Bill Would Make Ohio State School Board Completely Elected

Rep. Miller speaks with Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) before House session

Two members of the Ohio House want the state’s board of education to be more connected to the public by reducing the number of members and eliminating nonelected members.

Eight of the current 19 members receive appointments from the governor, but House Bill 298 eliminates each of those positions when current terms expire, reducing the board to its 1995 level of 11 members.

“The State Board of Education is an important body and the members of its Board should be accountable to the voters,” Rep. Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, said. “Right now, 42% of the members of the State Board of Education are not elected and, therefore, not accountable to anyone. To have almost half the board unelected and unaccountable does not reflect the transparency and responsiveness that Ohioans need and deserve.”

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Ohio Legislature Keeps Pressure on Michigan to Keep Pipeline Open

Ohio state Rep. Brian Baldridge, R-Winchester

Ohio lawmakers continue to pressure Michigan’s governor to keep open a pipeline that affects more than 20,000 Ohio jobs and nearly $14 billion in state economic activity.

Rep. Brian Baldridge, R-Winchester, who testified before the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee earlier this week, said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to make poor decisions at a time when energy security remains in question after a cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline that continues to leave the Southeast with gasoline shortages and higher prices.

Baldridge also testified recently before Michigan’s Senate Energy Committee and met with the state’s Senate leadership in response to Ohio Resolution 13, which urges Michigan to keep the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline operating.

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House Democrats Prepared to Offer Ohio Redistricting Proposal

Rep. Hicks-Hudson speaks on the House floor in support of House Bill 1

Ohio House Democrats plan to offer their own solutions to potential redistricting issues caused by late census data, and it centers around following the state constitution and providing more public access to the process.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced last month redistricting data will not be available until September, creating a constitutional issue for Ohio. The state must meet certain requirements by the end of September.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has sued the U.S. Census Bureau to release information sooner, and Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, floated a constitutional amendment change last month.

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Wyoming Becomes Latest State to Ban Vaccine Passports

People walking in airport

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday issued a directive blocking state agencies from using vaccine passports.

The directive requires state agencies, boards and commissions to “provide full access to state spaces and state services, regardless of a constituent’s COVID-19 vaccination status.”

The directive also urges local governments and private businesses to align their policies and practices with the state.

“Vaccine passport programs have the potential to politicize a decision that should not be politicized,” Gordon, a Republican, said in a statement. “They would divide our citizens at a time when unity in fighting the virus is essential, and harm those who are medically unable to receive the vaccine. While I strongly encourage Wyomingites over the age of 16 to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it is a personal choice based upon personal circumstances.”

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Ohio Industry, Business Groups Want Specifics in Biden’s Climate Plan

"There is no planet B" sign

As states, business groups, energy producers and other industry groups show concern over President Joe Biden’s climate plan, Ohio organizations want more specifics and believe cooperation is needed.

Biden has announced a plan that contained few specific measurers but established goals of cutting 2005 emission numbers in half by 2030.

The Ohio Manufacturers Association (OMA) pointed to concerns raised by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which wants more details but also wants a fair plan.

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Hawley Cites ‘Culture War’ in Proposal for Monthly Payments to Families with Children

Josh Hawley

Rising Republican star U.S. Rep. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is sponsoring a new measure that would give unprecedented tax cuts to parents with children, and now he is saying his bill is on the front line of the nation’s “culture war.”

The plan in question would give a fully refundable tax credit of $12,000 for married parents and $6,000 for single parents who have children under the age of 13.

“Starting a family and raising children should not be a privilege only reserved for the wealthy,” Hawley said. “Millions of working people want to start a family and would like to care for their children at home, but current policies do not respect these preferences. American families should be supported, no matter how they choose to care for their kids.”

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Ohio’s Portman, Yost Voice Opposition to Expanding U.S. Supreme Court

Dave Yost

Saying a plan to increase the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court would question the court’s legitimacy, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has called on Congress to ignore any potential legislation that would expand and politicize the court.

Yost joined a growing group of attorneys general from around the country criticizing what they see as an attempt at “court packing” and throwing their support behind the bipartisan Keep Nine amendment currently in the U.S. House.

“The Court’s orders are followed because the Court is seen as legitimate – even when we don’t like a particular decision. Tampering with the Court to drive political outcomes will dismantle that legitimacy,” Yost said Thursday in a news release. “I support the Keep Nine amendment because it will forever take the threat of Court packing off the politicians’ table – Republicans or Democrats – and protect the court from politics.”

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Florida Transgender Sports Ban Advances Despite Potential Backlash

Women playing lacrosse

Florida Republicans are advancing bills banning transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports despite – perhaps, in spite of – potential corporate criticism and likely sanctions by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

“I certainly couldn’t care less,” House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said Wednesday after the House approved the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act in a 77-40 vote after a four-hour debate in which 18 amendments were rejected.

The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, House Bill 1475, filed by Rep. Kaylee Tuck, R-Lake Placid, would enact a blanket ban on transgender athletes competing as women in Florida. Transgender athletes could still compete in men’s sports.

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Ohio Lawmakers Want Easier Access to Ballot Drop Boxes

Two Democratic Ohio lawmakers want state voters to have more access to voter drop boxes throughout the state, and they say Secretary of State Frank LaRose can make voting more convenient for Ohioans.

Bride Rose Sweeney, D-Cleveland, and Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, want the state to require multiple ballot drop boxes per county based on geography and population. They say current law allows multiple boxes, despite LaRose’s decision to restrict them to one per county.

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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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