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  • COVID-19 bill can’t include $15 minimum wage hike, Senate referee says

    WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The Democratic-controlled Senate cannot include President Joe Biden’s proposed $15 per hour minimum wage in a $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill the party aims to pass without Republican votes, the body’s parliamentarian ruled.

    Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, found the minimum wage hike must be dropped from the COVID-19 bill, Democratic Senate aides Thursday told the Associated Press. Democrats are on track to push a sprawling COVID-19 relief measure through the House on Friday.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the ruling “disappointing” and said the minimum wage provision will remain in the bill the House will vote on Friday.

    “House Democrats believe that the minimum wage hike is necessary,” Pelosi said in a statement. “Therefore, this provision will remain in the American Rescue Plan on the Floor tomorrow. Democrats in the House are determined to pursue every possible path in the Fight For 15.”

    Progressives seeking to maximize Democratic control of the White House and Congress have wanted party leaders to push aggressively on the issue. The proposal would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 over five years, well over the $7.25 in effect since 2009.

    Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have voiced opposition to including the $15 minimum wage in the relief bill and other moderates have expressed concerns too, making it uncertain that Democrats could rally the support they’d need to prevail, even if MacDonough had ruled otherwise.

    That suggests Democrats could well lack the strength they need for it to survive. Democrats control the 50-50 Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote and can’t lose any of their senators to prevail. Republicans solidly oppose the hike to $15.

    The minimum wage has stood at $7.25 since 2009.

    While Biden supports the increase to $15, initially proposing its inclusion in the American Rescue Plan, a statement from the White House tamped down speculation over a rarely used option to ignore the parliamentarian’s view and keep the provision in the bill with the Democrats’ 51 votes. The statement noted Biden’s disappointment in the outcome but said he “respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.”

    While the parliamentarian’s ruling means the Senate version of the bill won’t include a provision for a federal minimum wage increase, Congress could pursue a federal minimum wage hike in free-standing legislation or attach it to legislation expected later this year that is to be aimed at a massive infrastructure program.

    Even still, they’d face the challenge of garnering 60 Senate votes, a hurdle that has prevented Democratic attempts to boost the minimum wage for over a decade.


  • State legislature recap: Bills on license plate scanners, dogs at restaurants, historic renovation tax credit pass their respective chambers

    MONTGOMERY – Both chambers of the Alabama State Legislature met on Thursday for the ninth day of its 2021 regular session.

    The Senate met for around 90 minutes in the morning and moved quickly through a limited calendar, much of which was left over after a filibuster prematurely ended the chamber’s Tuesday business.

    Most notably, the upper chamber passed a bill regulating the use of license plate scanners by law enforcement, as well as legislation updating the standards required of local school board members.

    The House spent much of the day in session, dealing with sunset bills in the morning before passing legislation extending a popular tax credit and a bill allowing dogs to be brought to the outdoor portions of restaurants.

    Alabama Senate

    Sponsored by Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), SB2 would more closely regulate the use of license plate recognition systems by law enforcement agencies.

    It would require that agencies keep confidential all data gathered from the scanners and destroy it after five years. Among other holdings, law enforcement agencies would have to adopt and publicize their policy governing use of the data gathered.

    Another impactful bill passed by the upper chamber on Thursday was SB170 from Senator Vivian Figures (D-Mobile). The legislation would establish a new set of standards, training and discipline for local school board members.

    The bill would have the State Board of Education adopt a model code of conduct for school board members. Local boards would be allowed to implement their own codes of conduct, but they would have to include at minimum the standards provided by the state.

    Members not following the code of conduct would be subject to censure, sanction and removal from their position.

    A similar measure, HB338 sponsored by Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield), was considered in the lower chamber on Tuesday. It did not receive a vote after the sponsor asked for it to be carried over following a lengthy debate.

    Both SB2 and SB170 were passed unanimously.

    The Senate’s full activity from Thursday is accessible here.

    Alabama House

    After slogging through numerous sunset bills, the first major legislation passed by the House on Tuesday was HB220 from Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville).

    The legislation would shift the authority to build and renovate on the grounds of certain educational institutions from the Department of Finance’s Division of Construction Management to the institutions themself. More simply, educational institutions with their own governing boards would have more authority to build or renovate on their respective grounds.

    HB 220 passed with a vote of 96-1.

    House members also passed an extension of the popular Alabama Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. Sponsored by Rep. Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), HB281 would extend the tax credit through 2027 if the bill is enacted. It also passed 96-1.

    In one of the chamber’s more genial efforts, a bill to allow pet dogs to accompany their owners at the outdoor dining sections of restaurants passed the House on Thursday.

    HB235 from Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Gulf Shores) allows the owner of any restaurant to set the establishment’s policy on dogs, but it does overrule some county and city level statutes that prevented any non-service animal from joining their owner for a meal.

    Only restaurants whose outdoor space is accessible without walking through the indoor dining area are eligible to allow pets under the proposed law.

    A full record of the House’s activity on Thursday is available here.

    Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.


  • US carries out airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia facilities in Syria

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) —  President Joe Biden on Thursday directed U.S. military airstrikes in eastern Syria against facilities belonging to what the Pentagon said were Iran-backed militia, in a calibrated response to recent rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq.

    The strikes, which were first reported by Reuters, appeared to be limited in scope, potentially lowering the risk of escalation.

    Biden’s decision to strike only in Syria and not in Iraq, at least for now, also gives the Iraqi government some breathing room as it carries out its own investigation of a Feb. 15 attack that wounded Americans.

    “At President (Joe) Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted airstrikes against infrastructure utilized by Iranian-backed militant groups in eastern Syria,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.

    “President Biden will act to protect American and Coalition personnel. At the same time, we have acted in a deliberate manner that aims to de-escalate the overall situation in both eastern Syria and Iraq,” Kirby said.

    He added that the strikes destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups, including Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada (KSS).

    A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the decision to carry out these strikes was meant to send a signal that while the United States wanted to punish the militias, it did not want the situation to spiral into a bigger conflict.

    It was not immediately clear what damage was caused and if there were any casualties from the U.S. strike.

    Retaliatory U.S. military strikes have occurred a number of times in the past few years.

    The rocket attacks against U.S. positions in Iraq were carried out as Washington and Tehran are looking for a way to return to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

    In the Feb. 15 attack, rockets hit the U.S. military base housed at Erbil International Airport in the Kurdish-run region killing one non-American contractor and injuring a number of American contractors and a U.S. service member. Another salvo struck a base hosting U.S. forces north of Baghdad days later hurting at least one contractor.


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