Overregulation Can Limit Reach, Effectiveness of U.S. Charities

Overregulation of charitable organizations can make it more difficult to get care to residents where they need it most, according to a new study from Philanthropy Roundtable, a Washington D.C.-based organization dedicated to protecting philanthropic freedom. 

The group’s analysis classified state regulations of charities into five categories: start-up regulations, annual reporting requirements, rules for paid solicitors, audit mandates and oversight regulations. Pacific Research Institute economist Wayne Winegarden wrote the report, The 50 State Index of Charity Regulations, for Philanthropy Roundtable.

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Wyoming Bill Would Allocate Resources to Fund Border Wall

Republican lawmakers in Wyoming are advancing legislation that would appropriate more than $5 million toward border security efforts in Texas, Arizona and Florida.

SF0166, “Border wall and sanctuary city transport,” was filed by Republican state Sen. Larry Hicks, with Sens. Dave Kinskey, John Kolb and Cheri Steinmetz cosponsoring. Republican state Reps. John Bear, Donald Burkhart, Mark Jennings, and Ember Oakley filed the House companion bill.

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Tennessee Valley Authority Announces $3 Billion in Fourth-Quarter Revenue as Investigation into Blackouts Continues

The Tennessee Valley Authority announced Tuesday it made $3 billion in operating revenue in the final three months of 2022.

The revenue came as TVA faced what it called the first temporary blackouts in the energy company’s 90-year history in late December, something the company apologized for and has vowed that it is fully investigating.

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Policy Hearings Fill Pennsylvania’s Legislative Void

The gaping hole in the General Assembly’s session calendar notwithstanding, lawmakers continue delving into policy meetings this week as an outlet for their restlessness.

After a House Republican Policy Committee’s hearing on Monday about school funding concerns, lawmakers invoked their frustration with stalled legislative action and their colleagues across the aisle.

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Republican U.S. Senators File Bill to End China’s Permanent Normal Trade Status

Several Republican senators filed a bill on Friday to end China’s Permanent Normal Trade Status (PNTR), citing concerns over American job losses and human rights abuses overseas. The China Trade Relations Act, which would strip China of its PNTR, was filed by U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Ted Budd, R-N.C., and J.D. Vance, R-Ohio.

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Pennsylvania Takes Steps to Ease Volunteer Firefighter Crisis

by Lauren Jessop   As Pennsylvania’s volunteer firefighters dwindle, lawmakers hope to reverse the trend. States nationwide struggle to recruit and retain volunteers, while simultaneously investing time and money into training required to keep up with stringent regulations. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, volunteers account for 96.8% of firefighters in…

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SPN Poll: Parents Support School Choice

More than six out of every 10 voters with children under 18 would be receptive to the prospect of their child attending a school outside of their locally zoned public district, a new State Policy Network poll finds. Overall, the SPN State Voices opinion poll of roughly 2,000 registered voters conducted in partnership with Morning Consult through online interviews found that 62% of respondents said they would interested in such an option, some 30% of them very much so.

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Auditor: 12 Pennsylvania School Districts Hid $400 Million to Pass Tax Increases

A dozen school districts in Pennsylvania exploited a legal loophole to raise millions of dollars in new taxes on the public without putting it to a referendum.

In the process, they’ve hidden hundreds of millions of dollars in reserve funds that could cover school costs without raising taxes. 

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25 States Sue Biden Administration over Federal ESG Policy

Twenty-five attorneys general and several other plaintiffs have sued the Biden administration asking the court to halt a federal ESG policy that could negatively impact the retirement savings of 152 million Americans. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court Northern District Amarillo Division naming Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh and the U.S. Department of Labor as defendants.

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Agriculture Economists See Several Concerns for Farmers in 2023

Farmers aren’t likely to enjoy a calm year this year, according to agricultural economists from Purdue University. After a year of dealing with historic inflation rates, farmers must now be prepared for an economic downturn that could spark a recession. However, there’s even more uncertainty across the horizon, said Roman Keeney, an associate professor of economics at Purdue’s College of Agriculture.

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Government Report: Unemployment Fraud May Top $60 Billion During Pandemic

A U.S. government report released Monday estimates that there could have been more than $60 billion in unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic. The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office says that figure is an estimate spread over the entire unemployment system and should be “interpreted with caution.”

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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Revive Bill to Rein in Regulatory Spending

Republicans lawmakers will again tackle regulatory reform and the separation of powers in the new legislative session. Previous efforts made some progress, but failed to become law. The latest attempt is proposed Senate Bill 188 that would require legislative approval of “economically significant regulations.”

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Pennsylvania Auditor Digs up $20,000 Pension Underpayment After Miscalculations

The latest batch of audits for municipal pension plans show a few localities received too much in state aid — and one error led to a $20,000 underpayment.

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Eighteen State AGs Voicing Support for New York Gun-Industry Liability Law

A coalition of 18 state attorneys general, all Democrats, on Wednesday submitted an amicus brief in support of New York’s firearms industry accountability law.

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Border Patrol Agents Report More than 300,000 Apprehensions, Gotaways in December Alone

At least 225,797 people were apprehended entering the U.S. illegally nationwide in December, according to official U.S. Customs and Border Protection data released late Friday.

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Existing Home Sales Slid 17.8 Percent Last Year

Sales of existing homes fell 17.8% in 2022, marking the weakest sales performance since 2014 as interest rates climbed. Interest rates rose quickly last year, a factor that weighed on the residential real estate market. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.15% as of Jan. 19, down from 6.33% last week, but up from 3.56% a year ago, according to Freddie Mac.

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‘Fuel Poverty’ Stresses Pennsylvania’s Hospitals

Pennsylvania’s hospital administrators say rising energy costs driving worldwide “fuel poverty” threaten the stability of the entire U.S. health care system.

“Folks can’t pay to heat their homes,” Chuck DiBello, vice president of facilities and real estate for the Allegheny Health Network, told the Senate Majority Policy Committee. “They get sick and they come to the hospital – sometimes just to get warm.”

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Pennsylvania Drops College Degree Mandate for State Jobs

In his first executive action since becoming governor, Josh Shapiro abolished college degree requirements for state job listings in hopes of expanding economic opportunity.

The executive order signed Wednesday instructs the state to prioritize skills and experience over credentials for 65,000 positions, according to a press release.

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New Senate Bill Proposes Ban on Vaccine Mandates in Pennsylvania

An impending proposal in the Pennsylvania Senate takes aim at vaccine mandates.

“The fight for medical freedom continues into the new legislative session,” said prime sponsor Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Chambersburg, in a Jan. 4 press release.

Mastriano first introduced the measure, called the Medical Freedom Act, in December 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both versions of the legislation would shield residents from adverse employment actions or discrimination for refusing vaccination while working for state agencies or political entities.

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Report: Children Under 14 Dying from Fentanyl Poisoning at Faster Rate than Any Other Age Group

Children under age 14 are dying from fentanyl poisoning at a faster rate than any other age group in the U.S., according to a new analysis from Families Against Fentanyl.

In the past two years, synthetic opioid (fentanyl) deaths among children surged.

Fentanyl-related deaths among infants (children under age one) quadrupled from 2019 to 2021; more than tripled among children between the ages of 1 and 4 and nearly quadrupled among children between the ages of 5 and 14.

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New Bill Would Ban Feds from Working with Big Tech to Censor Americans

Leading Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives filed new legislation that would ban federal employees from working with big tech companies to censor Americans.

The bill comes as ongoing reports show that federal law enforcement and the White House have regularly communicated with social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, pressuring the companies to remove posts and accounts for a range of issues, including questioning the COVID-19 vaccine.

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Nation Health Agency Spends Millions on Equity, LGBT Issues Instead of Researching Cures

Congress’ recent $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill increased the budget for medical research funding at the National Institutes of Health to nearly $50 billion in 2023 alone. A closer look at the agency reveals that NIH is increasingly spending its time, and funds, on equity and LGBT issues as well as “systemic racism and inequities.”

The National Institutes of Health has devoted millions of taxpayer dollars toward these kinds of issues for their research, taxpayer money that did not go to the federal health agency’s primary research goal of finding cures and medical treatments.

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Feds Borrowed $4 Billion Per Day in 2022, Totaling $10K Per Household

Federal debt soared by $1.4 trillion in 2022 as President Joe Biden and Congress approved multiple new spending packages.

The Congressional Budget Office released the final details of federal spending in 2022 showing the federal government had a $1.4 trillion deficit last year, borrowing roughly $82 billion in December alone. 

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Americans Needing Help with Food Feel Negative Impact of $1.7 Trillion Omnibus Bill

Emergency allotments for food benefits were more than $2 billion nationwide from March 2020 to this past December.

Congressional passage and Democratic President Joe Biden’s signing of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill the last week of December signaled the end to those extra benefits. Many states, in the two weeks since, have been steadily announcing changes to their respective Food and Nutrition Services programs. February will be the last of the additional help.

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Pennsylvania Senate Indefinitely Delays Impeachment of Philly DA Krasner

After a state court ruled that Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner’s time in office did not constitute misbehavior, the Pennsylvania Senate has voted for an indefinite delay of his impeachment trial.

State senators voted 28-20 on Monday to delay impeachment indefinitely while readopting the rules of impeachment. 

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Biden’s Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate Loses in Court Again

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost applauded a federal appeals court decision to block the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati agreed late Thursday with a lower court ruling that imposed a preliminary injunction on the proposed mandate that would have also required tens of millions of Americans to wear face masks at work.

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Pennsylvania Home Construction Down 60 Percent from 2004 Peak

Fayette, Lackawanna and Philadelphia counties weren’t factored into parts of the analysis due to missing or incomplete information, the report clarified.

After the 2008 housing crisis, annual housing permits found a new normal that was much lower than what was seen through the 1990s and early 2000s. As construction declined after the housing crash, demand outstripped supply, leading to higher housing costs across the commonwealth.

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Poll: More Americans Oppose Biden’s Immigration Policies than Support Them

More Americans polled in a recent Los Angeles Times/YouGov survey expressed opposition to President Joe Biden’s immigration policies as opposed to supporting them, including catch and release and not detaining and deporting millions of people who’ve illegally entered the U.S. since he’s been in office.

They also expressed support for local and state governments doing more when the federal government fails to do its job.

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DHS Chief Mayorkas Insists Border is Closed as Biden Tours El Paso

Ahead of President Biden’s first trip to the southern border on Sunday in El Paso, Texas, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas again said the U.S. southern border is closed.

His comments came despite thousands of illegal border crossers pouring into the city, filling the airport, sidewalks, homeless shelters. Over the past few days, many were bused out of town and otherwise cleared out ahead of the president’s visit.

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Report: ‘Unclear’ Whether Pennsylvania’s Rural Tax Credit Program Creates Jobs

Lawmakers have approved a variety of tax credits in an effort to boost economic growth in the commonwealth. Evidence of that growth, however, can be hard to find. 

For one program aimed at rural Pennsylvania, a state agency has recommended a pause until more data can show that the tax credits have actually created jobs.

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Washington Lawmaker Introduces Proposal to Pay Prisoners Minimum Wage

A Washington legislator who served time behind bars contends it is time for the state to stop saving millions on the backs of inmates who are paid pennies for work in prison jobs.

“This is an evolution of slavery,” Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, told reporters. She is proposing that inmates be paid minimum wage when they work in the kitchen or produce furniture or other goods.

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Federal Border Wall Replacing Arizona Container Wall Goes Up Next Week

United States Customs and Border Protection announced Friday that construction on a barrier at the Yuma sector of the southern border would start next week.

A press release explained that the federal government would “close gaps” near the Morelos Dam, a primary location for illegal crossings in Arizona.

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Fines Totaling $1.3 Million for the Pennsylvania Oil Industry, Environmental Costs of $1.8 Billion for State Taxpayers

Across Pennsylvania, thousands of violations have been issued in recent years over the “improper abandonment” of oil and gas wells. 

While the Department of Environmental Protection has collected more than $1.3 million in fines, reporting requirements are routinely flouted and improperly abandoned wells present environmental hazards to the public – as well as new burdens on taxpayers, who could be on the hook to pay for environmental remediation.

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Critics Blast Biden After Federal Report Shows Killing Keystone Pipeline Cost Thousands of Jobs

The Biden administration has drawn fire for admitting that killing the Keystone Pipeline cost the U.S. economy thousands of jobs and billions of dollars.

A report from the Department of Energy showed the pipeline would have supported tens of thousands of jobs, though the number is hard to nail down.

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Another Record: Nearly 314,000 Apprehensions, Gotaways at Southern Border in December

December was another record month for Border Patrol agents tasked with apprehending foreign nationals illegally entering the U.S. through the southwest border.

Agents apprehended at least 226,050 people and reported at least 87,631 who evaded capture by law enforcement last month. Combined, they total at least 313,681 – an increase from November’s record breaking number of 306,069.

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Pennsylvania House Elects Democrat as Speaker, Who in Turn Changes to Independent

After delays, motions to adjourn, and much uncertainty, the narrowly divided Pennsylvania House of Representatives chose Democrat Mark Rozzi of Berks County as Speaker of the House. 

Rozzi won 115 votes against Republican Carl Metzger of Somerset County, who received 85 votes. 

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U.S. House Adjourns Without Electing New Speaker

California Republican Kevin McCarthy failed Tuesday to get enough support in the first three votes as his bid for Speaker of the House struggles to cross the finish line.

The U.S. House adjourned with no debate after the third vote and is scheduled to reconvene at noon Wednesday. Until a new speaker is elected, the House cannot conduct other business.

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The Number of Medicaid Recipients Will Soon Top 100 Million U.S Residents: Report

The United States will have 100 million residents on Medicaid in the next 72 days, according to the Foundation for Government Accountability, meaning that nearly one-third of all Americans will be on the program for health care.

Over the past three years, states have been prevented from removing recipients from the program through a federal COVID-19 emergency. Now, the date when states can begin to re-registering recipients when that emergency ends on April 1.

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More than Two-Thirds of Voters Believe America is Heading in the Wrong Direction

More than two-thirds of voters now say the United States is headed in the wrong direction, according to a new poll from the State Policy Network. Voter satisfaction with the country’s direction has continued to plummet since July.

SPN’s State’s Voices opinion poll surveyed nearly 2,000 registered voters and was conducted in partnership with Morning Consult through online interviews.

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Economists: Guaranteed Income Programs Should Replace, Not Supplement, Other Welfare Subsidies

In Hudson, New York, participants in the city’s guaranteed income program that started in 2020 were counseled on how the $500 a month they were set to receive over a 5-year-period would impact other government subsidies for which they are eligible.

“Will participants lose other public benefits that they might currently be receiving?” the program’s website asked on the Frequently Asked Question section. “This question can only be answered on a case-by-case basis. Prior to committing to participating, all recipients will be offered benefits’ counseling to decide if participation is best for their specific situation.”

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Pennsylvania Gets $100 Million for Public Health, Worker Recruitment

As the year comes to a close, Pennsylvania will get almost $100 million to improve its public health infrastructure, from employee hiring to IT upgrades.

The federal funds, coming from the CDC’s Public Health Infrastructure grant program, provides $98 million to 10 county and municipal health departments. 

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