The Sunday Read: Pushback On Biden Administration Begins In The States

Elections have consequences.

Don’t believe that? Well, start stretching your brain because the mental hot yoga has commenced and you’re at least one sunrise salutation behind.

After a completely overblown military display that led President Joe Biden through his inauguration on Wednesday, our 46th president went right to work on undoing as much of the past four years as he could with the precision of a jackhammer.

In his first two days in office, Biden issued 17 executive orders, and he hasn’t slowed down just yet. 

In almost every case, the order sought to specifically undo something that had been done during the tenure of his predecessor, 45th President Donald Trump.

In the private sector, businesses pressured – internally or externally – to change direction often succumb to a practice of hiring an opposite in roles of authority and leadership. Subconsciously or consciously, these companies hire people whose talents, attitudes, and personalities are precisely the opposite of the person who previously held the position.

We may have done precisely this as a nation. How do these hires ultimately work out? Not well, because there is so much energy spent reversing course in the water that the tide itself pushes the department or division off of its intended course.

Elections – specifically the actions of those elected – have ramifications.

Don’t believe that? Well, let’s check in again in January 2025.

Maybe take a snap of your current state property tax bill, 401k statement and bank account this morning, print them out and then stuff it all in a filing cabinet that you’ll be able to access four years from now.

Welcome to The Sunday Read.

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As mainstream media outlets mostly fawned over Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, The Center Square reported on how the new administration’s policy decisions would have real-life impacts on jobs and the economy. Biden last week ordered a temporary halt to new leases and permits for oil and gas development on federal land, something critics said would cost thousands of jobs and lead to a renewed reliance on foreign energy providers. Our reporting also noted that a federal lease moratorium would result in a $639.7 billion hit to gross domestic product (GDP) in Wyoming, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Montana, North Dakota, California and Alaska by 2040.

Biden revoked the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline, which led Canadian company TC Energy to halt construction. The pipeline, if finished, would carry approximately 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast. Passing through six U.S. states, the project has faced multiple legal challenges. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he was “deeply concerned” about Biden’s repeal. “Doing so would kill jobs on both sides of the border, weaken the critically important Canada-U.S. relationship, and undermine U.S. national security,” Kenney said.

In Texas, the governor and attorney general announced plans to sue the Biden administration over several executive orders recently issued – and immigration policy is front and center. “A new crop of Texas-led lawsuits awaits Joe Biden’s White House,” Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted. “Texas will take action whenever the federal government encroaches on state’s rights, or interferes with constitutional rights, or private property rights or the right to earn a living.” Texas, along with California, leads the states in the number of times it has sued the federal government. Arguing against federal government overreach and in favor of the Tenth Amendment, Texas’ legal actions have ranged from suing the federal government over the Affordable Care Act, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), the Clean Power Plan, and many other issues. Now immigration is policy is the target.

In Ohio, Biden’s Keystone XL action drew concerns from U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who said it will cost jobs and hurt the economy. On Wednesday, Biden signed an order rescinding the presidential permit that allowed for construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Before the order, TC Energy announced it had suspended work on the 1,700-mile pipeline. Portman, an Ohio Republican, said he wants to work with the new administration and called the order unfortunate.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis does not want more help from the federal government in administering COVID-19 vaccinations. Instead, he just wants more doses sent to Florida. DeSantis called Biden’s plan “a big mistake.” “I saw some of this stuff Biden’s putting out, that he’s going to create these FEMA camps. I can tell you, that’s not necessary in Florida,” DeSantis said. “All we need is more vaccine. Just get us more vaccine.”

In Kentucky, a Republican Party county chapter voted unanimously to censure U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell for comments he made on the Senate floor. McConnell said President Trump “provoked” the group that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 and interrupted the counting of the Electoral College votes to confirm Biden as the new President. It was broadly reported Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, will transmit the article of impeachment to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday. A trial could begin as soon as February 1.  

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Elsewhere in America…

INDIANA

In what may be the first attempt at reforming state-level election laws in the U.S. since the November 2020 election, Indiana legislators introduced a bill calling for the formation of a Commission on Election Integrity that would review the security of all voting machines used in the state and consider whether election laws should be changed to increase confidence in the vote. The commission would be tasked with finding outside experts to assess the security of all voting machines and also look at whether absentee voting laws should be tightened, with fewer reasons for voting absentee allowed and early voting possibly curbed.

MICHIGAN

For the past 83 years, Peter Tomassoni’s family has run Recreation Lanes and the Antoin Room Banquet and Convention Center in Iron Mountain. Less than one year under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19, however, it could close, through no fault of the family. On Wednesday, the Michigan Independent Bowling & Entertainment Centers Association (IBECA) filed a federal lawsuit in the Western District of Michigan, claiming the state owes five businesses compensation for the takings of their respective businesses for public use without just compensation since March of 2020.

Staring down the barrel of a projected $1.2 billion tax revenue shortfall, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the state legislature to approve $5.6 billion in COVID-19 relief programs. The programs will flood federal stimulus money to education and businesses sectors. In the meantime, the state’s bars and restaurants have remained closed to in-person patrons since mid-November, although the governor has stated the industry may open at 25% capacity up to a limit of 100 customers and must observe a 10 p.m. curfew on Monday, Feb. 1. Data from the industry reports 5% of bars and restaurants have been forced to close permanently because of state-imposed shutdown orders. A total of 27% of the state’s bars and restaurants may be forced to close permanently by the end of February, industry analysts project.

ILLINOIS

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has approved a $2.1 billion budget request, a 4.5 percent increase over the prior year at a time when enrollment is nearly flat and the state faces a multi-billion dollar budget gap. The 2022 fiscal year budget proposal is $2.1 billion dollars and would reflect a 4.5 percent increase for general funds, excluding the State University Retirement System. State Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said he is skeptical about increasing funding during a pandemic. “The situation we find ourselves in with COVID and with so many other pressures on the budget, I don’t foresee anything more than hopefully even a stable year for higher education let alone what potentially could be cuts,” Brady said.

Under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 rules, the state’s 11 regions were under four different classes of mitigations, leading to confusion among lawmakers and local officials. State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates, said restaurants are ready to do it right, but the governor isn’t listening to the industry, or to state lawmakers. “I think if the administration were to listen to those restaurants, there might be a happy medium, somewhere where they can meet and the restaurants can somehow stay afloat,” Crespo said.

WISCONSIN

There is another call for lawmakers in Madison to gut an emergency order and mask requirement from Gov. Tony Evers. Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, on Friday said the governor once again overstepped his authority when he extended his emergency order until mid-March. “The time has come for the Wisconsin Legislature to stand up for civil liberties and put an end to the excessive actions of Governor Evers to control the people of this state with unending Covid-19 emergency declarations,” Nass said in a statement. 

PENNSYLVANIA

The Keystone State’s Independent Fiscal Office is a nonpartisan agency that’s tasked with looking at the state economy and government spending and providing reports and analysis so that lawmakers and citizens can have an accurate, unbiased look at what’s really happening. The IFO’s latest report, providing a five-year forecast that factors in the effects of the pandemic and Gov. Tom Wolf’s economic restrictions, paints a gloomy picture. The agency anticipates that COVID-19 will create a $2 billion structural deficit for state government, and that many of the jobs lost in 2020 will still not have returned by 2026.

NEW YORK

A Democratic New York lawmaker is eager to see mobile sports gambling legalized in the state to establish a new source of revenue for a state government hungry for dollars. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants a much bigger cut of the proceeds and is eying the format used in New Hampshire, which would see the betting run by a single company that would be required to share perhaps as much as half of the take with the state. “This is not a moneymaker for private interests to collect just more tax revenue,” Cuomo said in his budget address Tuesday. “We want the actual revenue from sports betting.”

NEW HAMPSHIRE

The new Republican majority in the Granite State’s Legislature is looking to consider a bill that would trim the state’s taxes on business, which one policy expert described as some of the highest in the country. While New Hampshire famously levies no income tax, its business profits tax comes in at 7.7% and its business enterprise tax at 0.6%. The legislation from new House Speaker Sherman Packard would cut the former to 7.5% and the latter to 0.5% over the course of the next two years.

MAINE

Ranked-choice voting in Maine was a controversial aspect of the November 2020 presidential election, the first time it was used in the state. Democrats argue that it better reflects the will of the voters, while Republicans say it violates the principle of “one person, one vote.” Now, the majority Democrats in the Legislature hope to amend the state’s constitution to allow the use of ranked-choice voting in state races. Maine is the only state to use the voting scheme for all federal races; Massachusetts voters rejected a referendum on using it in November.

TENNESSEE

Republican leadership in the Tennessee Legislature filed a bill during last week’s special session on education that would allow the state to withhold funding from school districts that refuse to provide an in-person learning option for students. The bill would give the Tennessee Education Commissioner authority to withhold all or a part of state funding from school districts if they fail to provide a minimum of 70 days of in-person learning this school year and the full 180 days of in-person learning next school year for all kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The legislation did not advance during the special session, but House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, said he plans to file it again.

VIRGINIA

Democrats in the Virginia Legislature are pushing legislation to make sure federal Paycheck Protection Program loans are not exempt from taxes for Virginia businesses that received them. The loans are exempt at the federal level. Del. Vivian Watts, D-Annandale, said during a committee meeting last week that fully conforming to the federal income tax code would cause a $1 billion budget deficit for the state. The National Federation of Independent Business cautioned that not exempting PPP loans would have a negative effect on the 113 businesses that took out these loans.

NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina experienced the sixth-highest percentage of inbound migration (60%) in 2020, according to the United Van Lines’ National Movers Study. North Carolina ranked 10th for inbound moves related to retirement. The state exempts Social Security benefits from income taxes.

GEORGIA

Georgia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic should be strong and swift, the state’s fiscal economist said Tuesday. Georgia’s economy has been supported by federal aid, a recovering job market and business owners’ improvisation, state economist Jeffrey Dorfman told the House and Senate appropriations committees during a joint meeting Tuesday. “The federal government has passed out a lot of free money, and that has held our sales tax collections up. Withholding on the unemployment benefits has helped hold our income tax collections up,” Dorfman said. “Frankly, I think we need to put a lot of credit where it belongs. Business owners in Georgia, small and large, have done a tremendous job at finding ways to still carry out business and keep their businesses operating during a pandemic.”

LOUISIANA

Louisiana’s two open seats in Congress drew crowded fields of contenders during qualifying, with 28 candidates in total filing to run. Among the highest-profile candidates to qualify was Republican Julia Letlow, who will compete in the 5th Congressional District. She is the widow of Luke Letlow, who won the seat in December but died following a COVID-19 diagnosis days before taking office. Julia Letlow works in marketing and communications at UL-Monroe.

CALIFORNIA

The state that has led population growth nationally for the past 170 years, reported a population loss under Gov. Gavin Newsom – the state’s first since 1850, according to newly published Census Bureau data. Until 2020, California had gained population in every year since 1900.

ARIZONA

In Arizona, a handful of Republicans want to make their state the fifth to keep state resources from assisting in any federal activity they consider contrary to the Second Amendment. State Rep. Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu City, filed the Second Amendment Firearm Freedoms Act on Jan. 14. Like other measures, it would ban the use of local resources from enforcing any federal law or executive rule that could be seen as running afoul the constitutional right to bear arms. The bill also declares any federal measure deemed to run up against the 2nd Amendment to be “null, void and unenforceable in this state,” but federal laws supersede state-enacted measures. Other similar resolutions have been seen as symbolic.

OREGON

Oregon saw 25,500 jobs lost in December, marking the biggest employment dip since last April, the Oregon Employment Department reports. Data from the agency’s most recent report on Wednesday shows the job losses resulted from the state’s unemployment rate rising from 6.0% in November to 6.4% in December. 

WASHINGTON

A bipartisan bill in the Washington Legislature seeking to reopen much of the state is driving a wedge between business owners and frontline health care workers exhausted by the pandemic. Effective Jan. 11, Gov. Jay Inslee moved the state to a phased reopening plan requiring counties to meet four health metrics to progress between phases. Those metrics include two-week declines in new COVID-19 cases and hospital admission rates per 100,000 people in addition to week-long positivity rates of less than 10% and ICU bed capacity of less than 90%.

Chris Krug is publisher of The Center Square. Executive Editor Dan McCaleb, regional editors J.D. Davidson, Derek Draplin, Cole Lauterbach, Delphine Luneau, Brett Rowland, Jason Schaumburg and Bruce Walker contributed to this column.

Chris Krug is president of the Franklin News Foundation, a non-partisan 501(c)3 non-profit news organization, and publisher of The Center Square. Contact Chris at ckrug@franklinnews.org.

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