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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Arizona’s Democratic Attorney General Defends Maintaining Database Tracking International Money Transfers

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes’ is defending her administration’s decision to keep in place a money transfer surveillance program that paves the way for a growing number of law enforcement agencies across the country to keep tabs on the dealings of potentially illegal activity. With the database originally set up nearly a decade ago under the stewardship of a Republican attorney general, the so-called Transaction Record Analysis Center (TRAC) act was billed as a voluntary agreement with Western Union aimed at combating drug trafficking that has now expanded to touch more than 600 law enforcement agencies.

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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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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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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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Hobbs, Mayes Temporarily Halt Death Penalty in Arizona

Gov. Katie Hobbs issued an executive order on Friday to review the death penalty process in Arizona, while a stay from Attorney General Kris Mayes halts it for the time.

Hobbs will be selecting an “independent review commissioner” to investigate “all components” of the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, & Reentry’s “execution process for lethal injections and the gas chamber,” the order states.

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Arizona Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Abolish the State Income Tax

Although Arizona’s state income tax recently dropped to one of the lowest in the nation, a rookie lawmaker disagrees with the concept of having an income tax at all.  Rep. Austin Smith, a West Valley Republican, filed House Bill 2395. He said taxpayers have struggled to make ends meet due to the current economic environment. 

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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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Audit: Arizona Public School District Endangered Students, Couldn’t Pay Teachers

A western Arizona public school district was found by state auditors to have put children on dangerous buses, run illegitimate nonprofits for decades, and misappropriated funds to the point where teachers’ pay couldn’t be fulfilled.

According to the results of an investigation by the auditor general, Hyder Elementary School District #16 in Southwest Arizona failed basic protocols in four areas, “putting public monies, sensitive computerized data, and student safety at risk.” 

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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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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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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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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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Arizona U.S. Senator Sinema and Texas’ Cornyn to Lead Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers on Border Tour

Arizona’s newly-independent U.S. senator and a senior Texas Republican plan to bring several of their colleagues to the southern border for a firsthand look at what she calls “Washington’s failure.” 

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, announced Friday they’re hosting six other senators in El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona, to “see the many challenges at the Southwest Border, meet with the brave men and women tasked with securing the border, and hear from local law enforcement, community leaders, and non-profits” responsible for asylum seekers out of federal custody.

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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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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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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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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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Arizona Among 11 States Cutting Individual Income Taxes in 2023

Eleven states will reduce their individual income tax rates on Jan. 1.

Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, and North Carolina will cut the individual income tax rate on New Year’s Day, according to the Tax Foundation. Over the past two years, more than 20 states have cut individual income tax rates.

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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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Washington State Senators File Constitutional Amendment to Double-Down on Abortion Rights

Two Washington state senators have proposed a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the rights to obtain an abortion and to use contraception in the state, both of which are already codified in state law. 

The proposed amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 8202, was filed Dec. 21 by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Des Moines, and Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee according to a joint statement from the lawmakers.

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U.S. House Committee Releases Trump’s Tax Returns

The House Ways and Means Committee that is controlled by Democrats released six years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns on Friday.

The New York Post reported the returns cover the years 2015 to 2020. The Trumps reported positive income of $24.3 million in 2018 and $4.4 million in 2019 and had negative income in four of the six years in which tax returns were released.

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Hobbs’ Pick for Top Doctor Hints at Shift from Ducey’s Management of COVID Pandemic

Gov.-Elect Katie Hobbs’ selection of Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen to lead the Arizona Department of Health Services marks another likely point in policy changes in contrast to outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey’s administration. 

Cullen promoted strict coronavirus measures in the county, which includes Tucson, when it came to precautions like masking, and she has become a high-profile voice in the Arizona medical community.

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Nearly 816,000 Apprehended, Gotaways Reported in Arizona in Fiscal 2022

At least 815,786 people were apprehended or evaded law enforcement after illegally entering Arizona in fiscal 2022, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by The Center Square from a Border Patrol agent.

This is out of a record 3.3 million illegal entries reported by Border Patrol for all nine southwest border sectors in the fiscal year.

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Minnesota, Wisconsin, Connecticut Rank in the Top 10 Most Prosperous States as Michigan and Iowa Lag

Minnesota and Wisconsin placed in the top 10 of a recent nationwide prosperity index while Iowa and Michigan trailed behind, at 12th and 29th, respectively. 

Wisconsin placed third and Minnesota placed eighth in the American Dream Prosperity Index that the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream produced with Legatum Institute. The index measures prosperity through three domains: Inclusive Societies, Open Economies and Empowered People. The domains contain 11 pillars of prosperity that are built on 49 actionable policy areas and more than 200 indicators.

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Arizona’s Population Growth Leads the West in Latest Census Estimate

More than 94,000 people are calling Arizona home than they did amid the waning months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The U.S. Census released its annual state population estimates Thursday morning. The measure dips into state births, deaths, immigrants from outside the country and those moving into one state from another. The data is from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

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Kari Lake Loses Lawsuit to Hobbs, Maricopa County in Election Challenge

The Maricopa County Superior Court reaffirmed Democrat Gov.-Elect Katie Hobbs’s gubernatorial election win in a Saturday ruling in Republican Kari Lake’s election lawsuit.

The ruling said that “the court DOES NOT find clear and convincing evidence” that “misconduct” altered the election results.

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Record Number of Apprehensions, Gotaways in Fiscal 2022 Surpass 3.3 Million

A record number of illegal foreign nationals were apprehended or recorded evading capture by Border Patrol agents in fiscal year 2022, surpassing 3 million, according to data obtained by The Center Square.

In October, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 2.7 million encounters and apprehensions of foreign nationals illegally entering the U.S., which included data from Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations and excluded known and reported gotaways.

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Ducey to Remove Arizona Border Wall Shortly Before Federal Replacement Is to Begin

The federal government will likely start filling in gaps of the border wall in the Yuma sector shortly after Arizona takes down its storage container barriers. 

In agreeing to remove the state-erected barrier as part of a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, federal government officials again confirmed to Gov. Doug Ducey’s office that they are moving forward with a plan to replace it.

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Oklahoma Bill Proposes Forcing Drunk Drivers Who Kill Parents to Pay Child Support

Oklahoma could become the latest state to saddle a drunk driver who kills a child’s parents with the financial responsibility for the orphaned youth.

Rep Jim Olsen, R-Roland, says that House Bill 1003 could create a harsher reality for those who chose to get behind the wheel while intoxicated and cause the death of a parent in a DUI-related crash in the Sooner State.

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Arizona Could Soon Look to the Mexican Coast for Answers on Water Problems

Arizona officials have taken some of the first steps to bring seawater from the Mexican coast to the faucets of Phoenix, even if lawmakers want a more deliberative process.

Arizona’s Joint Legislative Water Committee held a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority’s push to create a desalination plant amid the state’s water crisis.

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State of Emergency in El Paso as Border Patrol Reports Record Illegal Entries

Blanketed babies in car seats on the sidewalk. People laying in blankets and sleeping bags on the ground. Hundreds pouring into downtown El Paso at a time. In November alone, more than 53,500 illegal foreign nationals were apprehended, and an additional 24,000 who evaded capture by law enforcement  in the Customs and Border Patrol sector that includes El Paso.

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Court Demands Southwest Airlines Reinstate Flight Attendant Fired over Religious Beliefs

A federal judge has awarded a former Southwest Airlines flight attendant the maximum amount in damages allowed under federal law and issued an injunction against the airline and its union from discriminating against flight attendants because of their religious beliefs.

Judge Brantley Starr, ruling for the U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas, last week ordered Southwest to pay Carter back pay and other forms of relief that the jury awarded when she won her lawsuit in July.

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Florida AG Moody Calls on Biden to Restore Top Drug Post to Address National Fentanyl Crisis

Ashley Moody

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on Monday called on President Joe Biden to reverse an Obama-era decision to make the Director for the Office of the National Drug Control Policy a cabinet-level position again.

Moody sent a letter to the president asking him to take action immediately before the public health authority Title 42 ends this week, “which will fuel a massive border surge and allow even more deadly fentanyl to flood into the country,” she said.

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States Sue to Keep Biden from Ending Title 42 Immigration Rule

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, in concert with 18 other states, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the Biden administration from ending Title 42 enforcement at the southern border. 

Brnovich and Louisiana AG Jeff Landry “filed an emergency stay application” on Monday in a late attempt to keep the COVID-19 public health order in place. Title 42 allows for the quick removal of some foreign nationals who cross the southern border over pandemic-related health concerns.

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Illegal Entries into Vermont Surge in November

Foreign nationals illegally entering the U.S. are increasingly entering through Vermont at an unprecedented rate.

In October, the Swanton Sector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes all of Vermont, saw a 676% increase in apprehensions of illegal foreign nationals compared to last year, according to Border Patrol data. Agents apprehended 334 people from 19 countries in October, and the “upward trend continues,” Swanton Sector Chief Border Patrol Agent Robert Garcia said.

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Baker to Transition from Massachusetts Governor to NCAA President

Outgoing Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has already found a landing spot for his post-political career.

The second-term Republican governor has been named as the next president of the National Collegiate Athletics Association, the organization said. Baker, who played basketball at Harvard University, will take the reins in March from Dr. Mark Emmert. Emmert will serve as a consultant to the organization through June.

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