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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Florida’s DeSantis Announces Sweeping Reforms That Include ‘Teacher Bill of Rights’

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a news conference in Jacksonville on Monday to propose sweeping changes to education, including a Teacher’s Bill of Rights which will empower educators to be leaders in their classrooms.

In the proposed legislation, teachers will have their paychecks protected, while $1 billion will go towards teacher pay increases. School board members will have a maximum term of eight years, instead of twelve.

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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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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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Audit of Florida Veterans’ Nursing Homes Finds Staffing and Procurement Issues

The State Florida Auditor General released this week the results of an audit into the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, which analyzed the department’s nursing home staffing, time and attendance records and followed up a 2019 audit.

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Florida Legislative Committee Wants Accountability from Audited Entities

Florida State Capitol

The Joint Legislative Auditing Committee met in Tallahassee Thursday to discuss issues that have been found in some school districts, municipalities and private entities that have repeatedly not been addressed and also discussed ways to ensure more compliance.

According to Auditor General Sherrill Norman, who was in attendance during the most recent committee meeting, she and her staff were asked to produce “a list of things that would help address the barriers we had in completing our work.”

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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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Audit Finds Florida City Has Fixed 23 Out of 31 Problem Areas from 2020 Report

A follow-up audit for the city of Palm Bay by the State of Florida Auditor General found the city of Palm Bay has corrected all but eight of the 31 issues found in the 2020 report.

Palm Bay city Manager Suzanna Sherman responded to the Auditor General and detailed the findings that needed to be addressed, but had not yet been fully corrected.

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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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Florida Cracks Down on Companies That Hire Illegal Foreign Nationals, Won’t Comply with E-Verify Laws

The state of Florida is cracking down on companies that aren’t complying with E-verify laws in an attempt to ensure they aren’t hiring people who are in the country illegally, including the American National Red Cross.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity sent letters to six companies putting them on notice that if they don’t reply by Monday, January 16, their business licenses will be suspended and they won’t be able to operate in Florida.

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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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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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Biden Touts Falling Food Prices When They Are Actually Rising

President Joe Biden touted falling food prices Thursday, but the latest federal data shows the price of food is actually on the rise and has been for more than a year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released new inflation data Thursday that showed the overall consumer price index dropped 0.1%, driven in part by a decrease in energy prices.

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Report Shows Florida’s Pension System Facing Headwinds

The Florida Retirement System has shrunk over the last year and some analysts are saying that it will not survive on its current course, with new legislation likely not to have much of an impact.

According to the Department of Management Service’s annual comprehensive financial report, the Florida Retirement System has had a net income loss of $21,773,027 in the 2022 fiscal year, after beginning the year at $202,082,182,546 and ending the year at $180,226,404,807.

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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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Florida AG Urges Biden to Demand Action from Mexico Counterpart to Combat Fentanyl Crisis

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody called on President Joe Biden on Friday to “confront Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador” and “demand action” to stop the flow of illicit fentanyl being brought into the U.S. from Mexico by the Sinaloa Cartel and its gang affiliates.

The presidents are scheduled to meet in Mexico City on Monday.

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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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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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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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More than 500 People Apprehended off Key West Since New Year’s Eve

More than 500 foreign nationals were apprehended after attempting to illegally enter Florida on the first two days of the year, an unpreceded number, officials say. They arrived by boat mostly off the coast of the Florida Keys, prompting multiple agencies to issue warnings to Floridians and a national park was forced to close to the public.

The record number of apprehensions in first two days of the year was after the Miami Border Patrol Sector reported a more than a 500% increase in apprehensions in fiscal year 2022.

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Interim Meetings This Week in Preparation for Florida’s 2023 Legislative Session

Florida Senate and House committees are having interim meetings this week to kick off the new legislative session for 2023, and several new committees will be meeting for the first time – and chaired by freshman Republicans.

Originally, the interim meetings were set to take place from Dec. 12-16, but were postponed and instead replaced with a special session. Lawmakers took the opportunity during that special session to address the growing issue of property insurance costs in Florida, as well as recovery after Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole ripped through the Sunshine State in September 2022.

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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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Florida Achieved Economic Milestones in 2022

Florida’s economy reached many milestones in 2022, including recording it’s second lowest unemployment rate in state history and reaching record levels of job creation and budget reserves. It also closed 2022 with nearly $22 billion in surplus, the highest in state history, and decreased its debt by $1.3 billion.

“By keeping Florida free and open, we have created a positive economic environment and invested in our state’s workforce and communities,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said of the state’s economic progress. He’s touted Florida leading the U.S. “in net migration and talent attraction” while “other states continue to struggle at the hands of poor leadership; people and businesses are flocking to Florida.”

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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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New Legislation for Florida Landlords Takes Effect January 1, Meant to Keep Tenants Safer

Landlords in Florida will have a new set of rules to abide by come Jan. 1 when new legislation goes into effect.

Senate Bill 898, also known as ‘Miya’s Law’, is named after Miya Marcano, a 19-year-old student who was killed in her apartment complex in Orlando in 2021 by a maintenance worker who had access to a master key. The law was designed by lawmakers to provide more safety measures for tenants by keeping records of who has access to a tenant’s property.

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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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2022 Saw More California Businesses Relocate to Florida

Despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s invitation to Floridians to move to California ahead of the November election, California businesses continue to leave, and increasingly to Florida.

While their top relocation destination is overwhelmingly Texas, several major companies have relocated to Florida since Newsom’s been in office.

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Florida Considers Lowering Abortion Ban from 15 Weeks to 12 Weeks

Changes could be coming to Florida’s abortion laws after the incoming senate president, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, said she would like to see Florida’s abortion ban go from 15 weeks’ gestation to 12 weeks’ gestation.

The state of Florida banned abortion in 1900, but that ban was overturned in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Roe v. Wade case. That ruling itself was overturned by the Supreme Court in June. Anticipating that decision, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to ban abortions from 15 weeks’ gestation, with the law making no exceptions for cases pertaining to rape and incest.

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Florida COVID-19 Committee Members Emphasize Importance of Restoring Public Trust Related to Vaccine

In response to Gov. Ron DeSantis creating a new Public Health Integrity Committee and filing a petition for a statewide grand jury to investigate potential crimes related to the COVID-19 vaccine, seven doctors on the committee expressed their support for the only governor in America taking such a stand.

The members of the new committee include Jay Bhattacharya, MD, PhD, Martin Kuldorff, PhD, Tracy Beth Høeg, MD, PhD, Joseph Fraiman, MD, Christine Stabell Benn, MD, PhD, Bret Weinstein, PhD, and Steven Templeton, PhD.

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Miami Sector Border Patrol Reported a 500 Percent Increase in Apprehensions in Fiscal 2022

Border Patrol agents in the Miami Sector have reported a 500% increase in apprehensions in fiscal year 2022.

From September 1, 2021, to October 31, 2022, agents apprehended 2,350 foreign nationals attempting to illegally enter Florida by sea. The majority were Cubans.

They also interdicted 131 maritime smuggling events, a 330% increase from fiscal 2921, Chief Patrol Agent Walter Slosar said.

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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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Census: Texas Leads U.S. with Largest Population Gains, Florida Leads with Fastest Population Growth

Texas and Florida lead the U.S. in population growth, according to new Census Bureau estimates.

Texas saw the largest population gain in the U.S. Florida had the largest percentage increase and the fastest population growth, according to the data.

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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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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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Florida Finishing 2022 with Record $22 Billion Surplus

The state of Florida is reporting a $21.8 billion surplus in 2022, the highest in state history. The state also decreased its debt by $1.3 billion this year, according to a newly published State Debt Report from the State of Florida Division of Bond Finance.

According to the report, Florida decreased its debt by $1.3 billion, increased its revenues by 17% ($8.5 billion), and maintained its AAA bond rating primarily because of its strong growing economy.

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