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Idea that could limit college religious freedom attacked by attorneys general | Ohio

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www.thecentersquare.com – By J.D. Davidson | – 2023-03-28 11:09:00

(The Center Square) – Republican attorneys general from around the country want the Biden administration to continue to protect college ' First Amendment and student religious rights.

Twenty attorneys general signed on to a letter written by Ohio Dave Yost spurred by what he called the Biden administration's threat to end an existing rule that requires public universities to comply with the First Amendment or lose grant .

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“Day after day, we see school administrators across the country targeting student religious groups as unworthy of existence,” Yost said. “Our county was founded on an entirely different principle – that Americans can practice their religion without fear of reprisal.”

The rule, established in 2020 to implement a Supreme Court precedent, prohibits public universities from denying religious student groups “any right, benefit or privilege that is otherwise afforded to other student at the public institution” because of a group's “beliefs, practices, policies, speech, membership standards or leadership standards, which are informed by sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The Biden administration has said it thinks the existing policy is too confusing and burdensome.

The coalition believes student religious organizations are being singled out.

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“The religious practice of student groups and individuals is under immense fire at universities,” the letter reads. “Religious students have greatly enriched campus communities, through , service, temperance, and commitment to learning. They are owed the right to freely exercise their religion, however out of fashion with an increasingly anti-religious bureaucratic regime that might be.”

The letter also says removing the rule would conflict with Supreme Court rulings and allows the government to attack religious groups.

“The department is blessing the targeting of religious groups. That is wrong,” the letter reads.

The coalition includes the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, , Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, , Utah, Virginia and Virginia.

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The Center Square

Op-Ed: When will Mississippi expand school choice programs? | Opinion

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Douglas Carswell | Mississippi Center for Public Policy – 2024-06-24 16:27:00

Mississippi is almost surrounded by states that have expanded school choice. Why don't we?

Last Gov. Jeff Landry of signed into law the LA GATOR Scholarship program. Starting in 2025, Louisiana families can state funds to pay for educational expenses to meet their child's individual needs.

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Alabama passed similar legislation a few months ago. Arkansas did something similar in 2023.

In Mississippi, nothing. Why?

Mississippi does not lack a conservative majority. Conservatives have been in charge of the Mississippi House, Senate and Governor's mansion since 2012.

Conservatives in Alabama and Arkansas have had control for about the same length of time as in our state. Somehow, they seem to have done something with it.

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Louisiana conservatives have achieved more school choice in 12 months than Mississippi conservatives have in 12 years. Landry only won back the governor's mansion last year and he signed school choice into law last week.

A major part of the problem is that many Mississippi refuse to see the need for reform. They want to believe that education standards are improving and that there's not much need to change. 

Here's why they are wrong:

  • One in four school in our state are chronically absent. That's 108,310 children in 2022-23, up dramatically from 70,275 in 2016-17. If Mississippi education is as good as they say it is, why are so many kids not showing up?
  • Eight out of 10 eighth grade kids in Mississippi were not proficient in math in 2022.
  • Almost seven in 10 fourth grade kids in Mississippi were not proficient in reading in 2022.

How many Mississippi politicians would be willing to send their kids to a school with those standards?

Almost four in 10 fourth graders in 2022 did not even reach the basic reading standard. Let's quit pretending things are fine when our current system is unable to teach 10 year olds the basics of reading.

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Reform is difficult. If you are a conservative, overhauling anything involving the public sector means stirring up a hornet's nest of opposition. It's easier to buddy up to the absurdly misnamed Parents' Campaign and defend the status quo. I get all that.

Here's why Mississippi conservatives absolutely have to use the majority they have to achieve school choice.

Over the past 30 years, we have seen the ideological takeover of much of America by the far left. If you had told me at the time of the Iraq war or even when Obama was in the White House that American would be protesting in of Hamas in 2024, I would not have believed you. it happens frequently.

A generation ago, corporate America did not demand to know your preferred pronouns. Today you can hardly apply for a job at a big firm without doing so.

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Where do you think this ideological extremism came from? It has been made possible by the influence of critical theory ideologues on our education system.

Of course, not every school is a hotbed of woke intersectional ideology. But the only way to stop the advance of woke ideology in America is to give parents back control over their children's education.

The lesson of the past 30 years is that unless conservative America has a plan to take back control of the education system, the left will win. It is not enough to for office as a conservative because you happen to hunt or have the right bumper stickers on your truck.

 Conservatives in office who do nothing to advance school choice are assisting, however unwittingly, the radical left in their capture of this country.

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We cannot afford another decade of wasted opportunities to achieve school choice.

Douglas Carswell is the President & of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy.

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The Center Square

Seafood industry groups unite to oppose bill that would limit bottom trawls | Alaska

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Steve Wilson | – 2024-06-20 12:34:00

(The Center Square) – A bill introduced last month in the U.S. House of Representatives that could place limits on trawling by fishermen and shrimpers is drawing the fire of seafood industry groups from Alaska to Florida. 

House Resolution 8507, the Bottom Trawl Clarity Act, would require the nation's eight regional Fisheries Management councils, some of which allow fishing trawls to scrape the bottom, to define the terms “substantial” versus “limited” contact of the bottom.

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The measure would also require the designation of bottom trawl zones and limit the number of areas where bottom trawling is . This form of trawling utilizes weighted nets equipped with rollers to harvest shrimp, flounder, whiting, red hake, dogfish and some species of crab. 

The bill is authored by U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, who said in a summary of the legislation that “limiting the areas where bottom trawling is allowed will enhance marine health, diversity, and resilience, strengthening the ocean ecosystem that Alaska fishermen depend on.”

In a letter sent to Peltola by 53 seafood industry groups and companies, they ask her to withdraw her bill, citing harm to the industry. The signees include the National Fisheries Institute, the Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, the Southern Shrimp Alliance, shrimper in Louisiana, South Carolina and , the New England Fishermen's Stewardship Association and the Northeast Seafood Coalition, among others. 

“The introduction of H.R. 8507 shakes the confidence of seafood buyers and consumers in U.S. seafood, thereby casting a long shadow of uncertainty over the future opportunities of fishery-dependent communities and businesses at the worst possible time,” the letter says. “Its top-down mandates would permanently wall off vast sections of ocean territory from important sustainable fisheries, boxing in not only fishermen but also scientists and managers who would be prevented from adapting their management approaches to changing ocean conditions over time.”

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Mike Merrifield is the vice president of the Southeastern Fisheries Association and one of the letter signers. 

“The inflexible approach in Rep. Peltola's anti-mobile gear legislation is especially troubling given it restricts the ability of commercial fisheries to respond to resource shifts due to changing ocean temperatures,” Merrifield said in a statement. “Shrimp are particularly sensitive to ocean temperatures which are driving the resource into different areas and deeper .

“The legislation will prevent industry in the South Atlantic and every other region from being able to adjust fishing efforts to food for our nation.”

Also releasing a statement was Alvin D. Osterback, the of the Aleutians East Borough. He said passage of the legislation would result in his community being substantially harmed by the legislation's requirements since most of their tax revenue from trawl fisheries and could even result in the five- borough not being able to meet bond obligations and fund its education system. 

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Texas leads 19-state coalition challenging green energy transition mandate | National

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Bethany Blankley | contributor – 2024-06-18 09:24:00

(The Center Square) – is leading a 19-state coalition challenging a federal agency requiring states to implement a “green energy” transition.

The states filed a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in response to a rule it passed to advance unprecedented federal control over the U.S. electric grid. Currently, state regulatory bodies determine the most efficient mix of energy sources for their states. FERC's new rule appears to be an unfunded mandate, requiring states to implement “green energy” electricity generation and the costs to transition to it.

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Texas, which maintains its own electric grid, filed the complaint, leading a 19-state coalition. It argues FERC's rule exceeds its authority, is arbitrary and capricious and creates an “unjust, unreasonable, and/or unduly discriminatory rates” that violate the Federal Power Act.

The rule is “not supported by reasoned decision-making or explanation and runs counter to the evidence,” the 48-page brief states. FERC issued the rule “attempting to do indirectly what it cannot do directly: usurp the States' exclusive authority over generation choices by adopting planning rules designed to benefit remote renewable generation and renewable developers, and shift billions or trillions of dollars in transmission costs from those developers onto electric consumers,” the coalition argues.

The coalition includes Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah.

At issue is the FERC's May 13, 2024, Order No. 1920, which states, “there is substantial evidence to support the conclusion that the existing regional transmission planning and cost allocation processes are unjust, unreasonable, and unduly discriminatory or preferential because the Commission's existing transmission planning and cost allocation requirements do not require transmission providers to: (1) perform a sufficiently long-term assessment of transmission needs that identifies Long-Term Transmission Needs; (2) adequately account on a forward looking basis for known determinants of Long-Term Transmission Needs; and (3) consider the broader set of benefits of regional transmission facilities planned to meet those Long-Term Transmission Needs.”

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The order requires states to cover the costs of transitioning regional transmission lines to support “green energy” generation even when doing so doesn't support the state's energy needs and would decrease grid efficiency and reliability, the coalition argues.

In Texas, for example, the regulatory body overseeing the state's grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), has repeatedly pointed out that wind and solar power cannot meet energy demands but natural gas does. As temperatures hovered for months at 120 degrees last year, ERCOT issued voluntary conservation appeals while also publishing data showing that low wind generation could not a sufficient energy supply. Texas is the world's fifth largest generator of wind power and leads the U.S. in generating wind energy.

Recognizing the need for reliable non-intermittent energy sources, the Texas legislature, and the majority of voters, approved a plan to invest $5 billion in constructing mostly natural gas to expand Texas' energy grid reliability. The new program has received an “overwhelming response,” state said. By contrast, zero bids were received in Texas in response to federal offshore auctions for roughly 200,000 acres of wind energy leases in the of Mexico. Despite this, the Biden administration is again attempting to auction a second round of offshore wind leases in the Gulf.

The Texas General Land Office has opposed such efforts, refusing to grant any easement to access state-owned submerged land for transmission lines to shore, arguing it's not in Texas' best interest. GLO Commissioner Dawn Buckingham said, “The Biden Administration appears hellbent on force-feeding Americans failed ‘green' policies” and she will “never allow the federal to endanger the people of Texas and our state's beautiful wildlife with untested, unproven, and ineffective technology when reliable, clean, and safe energy is already available,” referring to Texas-produced natural gas.

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Texas leads the U.S. in natural gas production and Texas and Louisiana lead the U.S. in liquified natural gas exports, The Center Square has reported.

The 19-state coalition argues, “FERC has never been granted the authority to revamp the structure of state energy grids or force states and their to subsidize large-scale transmission lines that don't transport enough energy to justify the cost. This encroachment upon state authority far exceeds FERC's limited purview and damages the ability of states to regulate their electric grids efficiently, all in the name of advancing costly climate goals.”

Texas Ken Paxton said the president's “attempt to seize unprecedented control over energy production and distribution is a recipe for disaster.” The AGs joined together “to stop his unlawful ‘energy transition' scheme that would drive up energy costs and reduce reliability of the resources our nation needs most to flourish.”

They did so after the former Louisiana attorney general and now governor, Jeff Landry, led a gubernatorial coalition to “unleash domestic energy production.”

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“American energy has done more than any other industry to lift more people out of poverty globally than any other industry that I've known of,” Landry said.

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