Pennsylvania Union Contract Pits Steel Workers Against Union Officials

 A controversial union contract at a steelworks plant has pitted workers against their union representatives. Though workers twice rejected a contract, union officials ratified it with management. Now, workers who want to decertify the union are barred from doing so for three years.

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Pennsylvania Faces High Housing Prices Unless ‘Record-Level Building’ Happens

Pennsylvania’s struggle to build more housing, be it affordable or market-rate, will continue unless dramatic change happens within city, county, and state governments.

Such was the takeaway from a House Urban Affairs Committee hearing focused on northeastern Pennsylvania on 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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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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Changes Needed to Make a Pennsylvania Hydrogen Hub Work

As Pennsylvania lawmakers aim to lure billions of federal dollars for a hydrogen hub to the commonwealth, the General Assembly would need to reform the legal and permitting process to make it happen.

The intricacies of such action were center stage at a Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee hearing on Monday.

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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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Pennsylvania’s Approach to Sealing Criminal Convictions Could Go National

Criminal justice reform that started in Pennsylvania to clear previous convictions may become the standard in federal law.

Two criminal justice reform bills, the Clean Slate Act and the Fresh Start Act, would “enable people with federal arrest and conviction records to petition to clear those records and support increased access to automatic record sealing for eligible offenses at the federal and state levels,” as described in a news release from the Clean Slate Initiative, a pro-reform group.

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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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Pennsylvania Gets $25 Million to Build out Electric Vehicle Charging

Pennsylvania will expand its electric vehicle charging infrastructure after it received $25 million in federal funds to do so.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced the $25.4 million came from November’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, legislation also known as the bipartisan infrastructure law.

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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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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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Pennsylvania Expands Election Funds and Audits

As Pennsylvania gears up for a November election less than eight weeks away, county boards of elections are getting more funds and the Department of State will require more audits to ensure public confidence in results.

Changes that could speed up the voting process and counting of ballots, however, do not appear to be on the table for this year.

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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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Trio of Election Integrity Measures Advance in Pennsylvania

A trio of bills are working their way through the Legislature to enhance the security of election ballots and remove deceased residents from the voter rolls. 

The House State Government Committee met on Monday to vote on House Bill 34, House Bill 143, and House Bill 2484, advancing all three of them past first consideration. The bills will need to get through three considerations before a final vote can be held.

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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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Number of Americans Citing ‘Hardship’ from Inflation Rises

The majority of Americans say inflation is causing them financial hardship, according to a new poll.

While the Biden administration heralded a pause in the rise of inflation for the month of July, a new Gallup poll indicates that Americans are feeling the pain more now than at the beginning of this year.

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Pennsylvania Turnpike: More Debt than the State, with Toll Increases Likely

The auditor general noted “growing financial issues” with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the news is not good for drivers who pay tolls.

“Today, the Pennsylvania Turnpike has more debt than the entire state government of Pennsylvania, and the only way to pay it is to raise tolls,” Auditor General Timothy DeFoor said in a press release. “This is an unsustainable situation which highlights the need for innovative ideas and different solutions to rectify an issue that is decades in the making.”

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Pennsylvania Counties Take the Lead in Spending Opioid Settlement Dollars

Pennsylvania is set to spend $1 billion from the National Opioid Settlement – and the focus is on the county level.

Pennsylvania’s share of the $26 billion settlement will be divvied up so that 70% goes to counties, 15% is appropriated by the General Assembly, and 15% goes to counties involved in the opioid litigation, subdivisions, district attorneys, and special districts.

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Lack of Affordable Housing Remains a Problem in Pennsylvania

Housing shortages and rising rents are a national problem, and the process for building more housing, especially affordable housing, is only one of many barriers.

In Pennsylvania, rents have increased mainly in the southeast and central parts of the state. As The Center Square previously reported, a report from pro-housing group Up for Growth estimated Pennsylvania has underproduced 98,000 units of housing. Statewide, rents increased by 14% from 2020 to 2021.

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Independent Voters Say Biden’s Attacks on ‘MAGA Republicans’ Went Too Far

President Joe Biden has turned up the rhetoric against Trump supporters and what he calls the “ultra MAGA” wing of the Republican party, but new polling shows most Americans fear his comments are too divisive.

Biden’s rhetoric, and the concern that he has gone too far, ratcheted up when the president gave a primetime speech last week blasting the “ MAGA Republicans” as a “threat to Democracy” and “an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.”

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Gas Prices Continue Decline, Still Much Higher than Last Year

Gas prices have continued a steady decline in recent weeks, coming down from record-high gas prices this summer, but the Congressional Budget Office says natural gas prices may see an increase from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act.

According to AAA, the current national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is $3.78, down from $4.08 a month ago and down significantly from earlier this summer when prices surpassed $5 per gallon. Prices have dropped about a nickel in the past week.

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Student Loan Forgiveness in Pennsylvania Favors the Wealthy

As Pennsylvania higher education institutions face a shortage of students, their former students will disproportionately benefit from student loan forgiveness.

A research brief from the Independent Fiscal Office estimates that almost 2 million Pennsylvania borrowers hold $69 billion student loan debt, and $21 billion would be forgiven. Another $1.8 billion would be forgiven through the expansion of the income-driven repayment program. 

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Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Expansion Could Include Sealing Low-Level Felony Records

Advocates say a bipartisan effort to seal criminal records for low-level felonies would give more people second chances and boost the Pennsylvania economy.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss House Bill 1826, which would expand the Clean Slate Act by automatically sealing some low-level felonies.

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Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Expansion Could Include Sealing Low-Level Felony Records

Advocates say a bipartisan effort to seal criminal records for low-level felonies would give more people second chances and boost the Pennsylvania economy.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Wednesday to discuss House Bill 1826, which would expand the Clean Slate Act by automatically sealing some low-level felonies.

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Kentucky Life Expectancy Falls Sharply

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the overall health of Kentucky and the rest of the nation. Now, researchers can point out how the coronavirus has affected the population.

According to the University of Louisville’s Kentucky State Data Center, the life expectancy at birth for a Kentuckian has dropped by 3.4 years from 2019 to 2021.

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Student Enrollments Down, Administrator Hires Up in Pennsylvania

A new report questions the narrative of a “teacher shortage” in Pennsylvania, pointing out significant declines in student enrollments even as public school employment has risen.

“Since 2000, Pennsylvania public school enrollment has dropped 6.6% (120,000 fewer students); but public schools have added 20,000 more employees (8.7% growth), including nearly 40% growth among administrators,” the Commonwealth Foundation noted in its Back to School Education Trends report.

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Union Deletes Document After Report Shows Taxpayer-Funded Collusion with Biden Administration

A national labor union representing over 100,000 federal employees pulled a document off its website after a report showed the Biden administration was using taxpayer dollars to help public unions grow their members, and as a result, their budgets.

The Center Square reported the story, which cited a news release on the National Federation of Federal Employees’ website where the labor group explicitly thanked the Biden administration for helping it recruit more federal workers.

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More Americans Expect Civil War than Not in Next 10 Years, Poll Finds

Political tensions have ramped up year after year, and now nearly half the country thinks a civil war could happen in the U.S. in the next decade.

Newly released polling data from YouGov and The Economist show that “two in five Americans believe a civil war is at least somewhat likely in the next decade.”

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Budget Group: Student Loan Payment Deferments Cost Taxpayers $155 Billion, Benefits Doctors, Dentists More than Most

Estimates vary widely on how much President Joe Biden’s $10,000-20,000 per borrower cancellation of student loans will cost taxpayers, but a new analysis estimates the significant cost of a less-covered aspect of Biden’s plan.

When Biden announced the debt cancellation, he also announced an extension of student loan repayments “one final time” through Dec. 31 of this year. In March of 2020, then-President Donald Trump first suspended the repayments citing COVID-19. Since then, the suspension has been extended several times. Interest does not accrue while the payments are suspended.

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Border Chief in Sworn Testimony: Southern Border ‘Is Currently in a Crisis’

As part of ongoing litigation against the Biden administration, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody continues to uncover what she calls “damning evidence” about the consequences stemming from Biden administration policies changing federal immigration laws.

Moody’s chief deputy on July 28 deposed U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, who testified under oath that the Biden administration purposely reduced U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention capacity and changed the removal process of people illegally in the U.S.

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Judge Issues Permanent Injunction on Biden Ban on New Oil and Gas Leasing on Federal Lands, Waters

A federal judge sided with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and 12 other plaintiff states in a Louisiana-led lawsuit, issuing a permanent injunction against the Biden administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands and water.

U.S. District Court Judge Terry Doughty issued the permanent injunction, declaring that the president exceeded his authority when halting oil and gas leasing and drilling permits.

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Nearly 100 Republicans Urge Pelosi to Hold President Biden Accountable for Student Loan Plan

Nearly 100 Republican members of Congress have called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to hold accountable President Joe Biden for what they say is his “illegal $300 billion student loan giveaway.”

Initially, the cost estimate was $300 billion. However, since then, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) projects that “cancelling up to $20,000 for some borrowers will cost taxpayers between $440 billion and $600 billion over the next ten years, with a central estimate of roughly $500 billion.”

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Pennsylvania Program Sends Out 10,000 Anti-Overdose Medications

Pennsylvania has some of the highest rates of drug overdoses in the nation, and a program to distribute anti-overdose medication has hit a new milestone.

The Wolf administration announced that its mail-based naloxone program has filled 10,000 requests for naloxone, which helps reverse overdoses.

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