” In a new report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that states (including Washington, D.C.) had spent just 45 percent of the funding they had received through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program, a $350 billion line item within the $2 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which passed in March 2021. Local governments had reported spending just 38 percent of their funds received through the same program.”
“”The new GAO study confirms that the ARPA spending was not needed,” Chris Edwards, chair of fiscal studies at the Cato Institute, tells Reason. “By the fall of 2020, it was clear that the states were in good fiscal shape and not facing Armageddon as many policymakers were claiming. They did not need federal handouts.””
“Before the American Rescue Plan passed, there was widespread skepticism about the proposed bailout, in part because three other pandemic-era spending bills had already sent about $360 billion in aid to states and localities.”
“In a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper published in June 2022, a trio of researchers found that pandemic-era aid distributed to state and local governments had cost taxpayers about $855,000 per job saved. The stimulus spending had only “a modest impact on government employment and has not translated into detectable gains for private businesses or for states’ overall economic recoveries,” concluded University of California, San Diego economists Jeffrey Clemens and Philip Hoxie and American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Stan Veuger, the paper’s three authors.”
“Iowa spent $12.5 million of its $4.5 billion cut of the federal bailout on a new baseball stadium near the Field of Dreams movie set. Because that’s an essential public health issue, of course.”
“Michigan “reported spending $25.6 million on a travel marketing and
promotional campaign,” allegedly to “respond to the impacts of COVID-19 on tourism.” Louisiana, meanwhile, reported spending $115 million to construct roads and bridges.
Tourism is nice and roads are in some ways an essential government function, but the emergency COVID spending was meant to help states address an immediate public health crisis—or to offset the costs of it. It’s not at all clear how highway construction was a victim of the pandemic ”
“Democrats did well.
Gov. Andy Beshear (D) won reelection in deep-red Kentucky. Democrats seemed set to hold onto the Virginia state Senate and take over the Virginia state House, blocking Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s hopes of passing conservative policies (and perhaps his ambitions in national politics). Meanwhile, Ohio voters enshrined the protection of abortion rights in the state constitution and legalized recreational cannabis.
Strangely, all this happened while President Joe Biden has been getting some of his worst polling numbers yet. As in the 2022 midterms, though, national dissatisfaction with Biden did not lead to a red wave sweeping out Democrats across the country or to wins for conservative policy proposals in ballot initiatives.”
“Over the past year and a half, eight Republican-led states quit a nonpartisan program designed to keep voter rolls accurate and up to date.
Top Republican election officials in those states publicly argued the program was mismanaged. The conspiracy theorists who cheered them on falsely insisted it was a front for liberals to take control of elections.
But experts say the program, known as the Electronic Registration Information Center, was among the best nationwide tool states had to catch people trying to vote twice in the same election. Now, those Republican-led states who left — and other states who lost access to their data — are scrambling to police so-called “double voters” ahead of the presidential election in 2024.”
“Since 2013, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana have all passed legislation mandating that teachers be trained in the “science of reading”—methods that typically center around phonics, an approach in which children are taught to read words by decoding the sounds that different letters or groups of letters make. Since these policies’ implementation, reading performance in these states has dramatically improved, even though reading scores there have historically been among the lowest in the nation.”
“Legislatures in three states—Washington, Montana, and Vermont—passed bills legalizing at least duplexes on almost all residential land. That makes six states that have now eliminated single-family-only zoning.
Washington and Montana also passed a long list of complementary reforms, including bills in both states that streamline housing approvals and let homeowners add accessory dwelling units (ADUs) to their properties.
On the other hand, ambitious omnibus bills that tried to squeeze through most of the YIMBY agenda in one fell swoop failed in Colorado, Arizona, and, most dramatically, New York.
The mixed results are the product of a maturing YIMBY movement that’s willing to take more risks and which has a higher threshold for success, says Salim Furth, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.
“The Overton window really moved on what states can do and our standards were higher for what constitutes a win,” he tells Reason. “We’re looking for bills that would obviously, immediately release a lot of construction activity.””
“the Maine measure would institute what’s known as “asymmetrical criminalization” or the “Nordic Model” of prostitution laws, a scheme criminalizing people who pay for sex but not totally criminalizing those who sell it. This model has become popular in parts of Europe and among certain strains of U.S. feminists.
But keeping sex work customers criminalized keeps in place many of the harms of total criminalization. The sex industry must still operate underground, which makes it more difficult for sex workers to work safely and independently. Sex workers are still barred from advertising their services. Customers are still reluctant to be screened. And cops still spend time ferreting out and punishing people for consensual sex instead of focusing on sex crimes where someone is actually being victimized.
A recent study of prostitution laws in European countries found full decriminalization or legalization of prostitution linked to lower rape rates, while countries that instituted the Nordic model during the study period saw their rates of sexual violence go up.”
“intersex is actually an umbrella that covers four parts of human biology: chromosomes, those X’s and Y’s that carry genetic information; gonads, the organs that produce eggs or sperm; the mixture of hormones coursing through a person’s veins; and what their genitalia looks like. An intersex person might have differences in one of these areas, or all of them.”
“Not only is gender a spectrum, but actual physical, biological sex is a spectrum … And so it’s impossible to fit these bodies into a single box.”
“Wong says it’s hard to know for sure what the rate of intersex traits are because there are so many differences that could be counted and because some differences go unnoticed without genetic testing — which most Americans never do. But she and Fraser worry that these laws could mandate that kind of test, say for participation in sports.”
“One of the most common types of new laws this year are those that allow handgun owners to carry a concealed gun without a permit. Florida, Nebraska and South Carolina have passed such laws, joining 23 other states that have passed permitless concealed carry since 2010. North Carolina advanced a similar law that was shelved earlier this month, but the state legislature did repeal a law that required a permit to buy a handgun, overriding the Democratic governor’s veto.
Other states have considered expanding the areas in which concealed weapons can be carried. In Mississippi, the state Board of Education implemented a policy last year to comply with a decade-old law that allowed guns in K-12 schools. In West Virginia, guns are now allowed on public college and university campuses, a similar law to one Tennessee considered. The Iowa state House passed a bill allowing legal gun owners to keep a weapon in their car on public grounds and decriminalized the carry of concealed weapons for certain people, like those deemed a danger to themselves or others. The Missouri House advanced a law allowing guns in places of worship and on public transportation.
Many of these gun-rights expansions are also geared toward schools. After the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers, the Republican Party promoted arming teachers as a way to increase school safety, and states have since begun passing laws allowing it. Last year, Ohio passed a law allowing teachers to be armed after 24 hours of training (down from 700 hours); this year, Mississippi passed a bill that would create a program to arm teachers, and Oklahoma has considered one similar to Ohio’s, though its legislative session is almost over. Texas’s legislature is considering a law that would offer a stipend to armed teachers, and Indiana has passed a bill allowing state-funded handgun training for teachers.”
“We don’t know much about the effects most of these specific laws will have, because longstanding roadblocks on gun-related research mean we don’t know a lot about what kinds of gun laws prevent shootings, especially mass shootings. More than 20 years of research has found that increased availability of guns is associated with higher rates of homicide, and a 2014 study in the Journal of Urban Health found that a repeal of Missouri’s permit requirement for handgun purchases contributed to a 25 percent increase in firearm homicide rates in the five years that followed.”
“many states are working to prevent the kind of data collection that would tell us more about the relationship between guns and gun violence. The federal government doesn’t track gun purchases. To fill in the gaps in that data, the gun-safety advocacy community has tried to work with credit-card companies to track gun purchases, according to Holihan. But Arkansas, Florida, Montana and Utah are among the states that have passed new legislation preventing “discrimination” against gun manufacturers in an effort to stop that practice before it starts, and credit-card companies have backed away from it. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has also banned state agencies from working with banks that track gun purchases.”