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“Save Chick-fil-A” Bill Passes Texas House

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  • Republicans proposed a measure dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill after San Antonio refused to let a Chick-fil-A open in the city’s airport because of its support of anti-LGBT groups.
  • The bill says that the government cannot take adverse action against a person or company based on their religious beliefs.
  • It passed through Texas’ Senate last week and passed in the House on Monday.
  • Democrats fear that the move will allow for discrimination against the LGBTQ community.

What Started the Bill?

The Texas House passed a piece of legislation on Monday dubbed the “Save Chick-fil-A” bill.

The bill was created after the San Antonio City Council voted to block a Chick-fil-A from opening in the city’s airport. City Councilman Roberto Treviño released a statement saying that San Antonio does “not have room in our public facilities for a business with a legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

The anti-LGBTQ behavior he referred to includes Chick-fil-A’s reputation for donating to groups with anti-LGBTQ agendas. According to ThinkProgress, the company gave $1.8 million to a variety of charities known to promote anti-LBGTQ messaging in 2017. One of the charities, The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, received $1.6 million dollars, and bars employees from participating in “homosexual acts.”

What Does the Bill Say?

Texas Republicans disagreed with San Antonio’s vote. Attorney General Ken Paxton opened an investigation into whether or not this violated the first amendment, while members of State Congress started drafting a controversial piece of legislation.

Their bill says that the government cannot take any “adverse action” against a person or company based on their “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

Getting the bill to this point was not easy for Texas politicians. A version drafted by the House was killed by Democrats earlier in the month. The state’s Senate then pushed its own version though, which passed on Thursday with a vote of 19-12.

According to NBC News, the vote was held without prior notification, meaning that the public did not have the opportunity to provide their take on the bill before the vote took place.

On Monday, the bill then passed in the House with a vote of 79-62, with only one Republican voting against it. The House ended up making some changes to the legislation before giving it their okay. Their amendment removed a section that gave the state’s attorney general the right to bring forward lawsuits against cities to “enforce compliance.”

Democrats Fear LGBTQ Discrimination

Democrats fear that this bill will allow for discrimination against the LGBTQ community in the state. Texas’ LGBTQ Caucus fought against the bill, which was debated for two hours on the house floor on Monday.

During the debate, a member of the caucus, Rep. Erin Zwiener, said that the bill would be an attack on LGBTQ Texans.

“Members, this bill is here, being debated on the floor today, to make LGBTQ Texans feel less than, to make us feel attacked by our government,” she said.

Rep. Julie Johnson, an out lesbian and one of the founders of the LGBTQ caucus also spoke out against the bill. Johnson told NBC News it was a “concerted effort to violate the constitutional protections that we’ve had for centuries with the separation of church and state.”

However, Republicans maintain that the bill is about protecting religious freedoms and companies like Chick-fil-A. Rep. Matt Krause, who sponsored the bill, said that it does not discriminate.

“Look at the language in this bill,” he said. “There is nothing discriminatory in the language. … There is nothing discriminatory in the intent.”

What Comes Next

The House is expected to toss the bill back to the Senate on Tuesday for final approval of the changes. Once the Senate approves the House’s changes, it gets sent over to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

Abbott has already indicated his support for the bill. On Monday he tweeted he would let us know if he would sign the bill after eating dinner, along with a photo of a Chick-fil-A cup on his desk.

However, even if he passes it, some think it will see blocks in court.

“I have no doubt that if passed, SB 1978 will be fought in the courts at every level and at great expense to the taxpayers.” Rep. Johnson said. “To vote yes today is to put your signature on that invoice.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Texas Tribune) (San Antonio Express)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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