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Employers in Maine will be prohibited from asking prospective job candidates about their previous criminal histories under a new law signed by Gov. Janet Mills.

The new law, which was approved by the Legislature in the final days of its session, will ban companies from screening people with criminal backgrounds before those applicants have an opportunity to go through the preliminary hiring process.

Under the new rules, which take effect in October, employers must delay questions about a criminal history until after they’ve made a conditional offer of employment.

After that, they can ask about criminal convictions, but not about previous arrests or charges.

There are also exemptions in the new law for situations where a previous felony conviction prohibits a prospective employee from being considered for the opening.

Employers that violate the new rules, which will be enforced by the Maine Department of Labor, could face penalties of up to $500 for each violation.

Supporters of the changes say they will illuminate barriers to employment for many workers and help companies hire more people.

“Mainers’ past mistakes should not continue to damage their chances of employment and economic prosperity for the rest of their lives,” James Myall, a policy director at the Maine Center for Economic Policy, said in recent testimony on the bill. “These inquiries create new barriers to opportunity for Mainers who have served their time and are trying to re-enter society in one of the most central ways: by getting a job and earning an income.”

Mydall cited state data showing more than one in six Mainers – 139,000 people between 18 and 64 years old – have been arrested at least once in their life.

“Because Maine does not have an organized process for sealing or expunging criminal histories, records of these arrests follow Mainers for their entire lives,” he said.

Labor unions also backed the proposal, saying it will help more qualified job candidates get hired. Adam Goode, political director for the AFL-CIO of Maine, told lawmakers in recent testimony on the bill that asking prospective employees about previous criminal convictions is “a barrier to working people, is bad for business and prevents people from working.”

“Qualifications of job applicants should be considered first, without an immediate conviction inquiry that serves to discourage people from apply to jobs and functions as a screen that artificially weeds out qualified workers,” Goode said.

Several business groups, including the Maine chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, opposed the changes, arguing that it would hamstring smaller employers from properly vetting prospective workers.

At least 14 states and Washington, DC, have approved “ban the box” policies, according to the National Employment Law Project.

In 2019, Congress passed the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act, banning “the box” on job applications for positions with federal agencies and private employers that contract with the federal government.

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Mask Mandate

Texas Supreme Court halts San Antonio’s mask mandate

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The governor and attorney general requested the court reverse an appeals court ruling that upheld a lower court’s decision to allow a mask mandate issued by San Antonio ISD, the city, and Bexar County to stay in effect.

Paxton’s office filed for a stay of the lower and appeals courts rulings, arguing that irreparable harm was being caused by the growing list of local mandates in defiance of the governor’s order banning mask mandates, “as it is enabling numerous municipalities to issue different responses to the disaster.”

Paxton also said, “the Governor lacks an adequate remedy by appeal. Every moment the temporary injunction remains in effect, localities will continue to flout GA-38.”

In response to the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling, Paxton said it “has sided with the law, and the decision to enforce mask mandates lies with the governor’s legislatively-granted authority. Mask mandates across our state are illegal, and judges must abide by the law. Further non-compliance will result in more lawsuits.”

In a slightly more than one-page statement, the Texas Supreme Court granted the state’s emergency motion for temporary relief, and stayed the ruling of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Judicial District, dated August 19, 2021, “pending further order of this Court.”

It ruled, “As we previously held in staying the trial court’s temporary restraining order in the underlying case, the court of appeals’ order alters the status quo preceding this controversy, and its effect is therefore stayed pending that court’s decision on the merits of the appeal.”

Referring to a 2004 case, the court said, “This case, and others like it, are not about whether people should wear masks or whether the government should make them do it. Rather, these cases ask courts to determine which government officials have the legal authority to decide what the government’s position on such questions will be. The status quo, for many months, has been gubernatorial oversight of such decisions at both the state and local levels. That status quo should remain in place while the court of appeals, and potentially this Court, examine the parties’ merits arguments to determine whether plaintiffs have demonstrated a probable right to the relief sought.”

In response, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said, “While I am personally disappointed in the order handed down today by the Texas Supreme Court, I will continue to do all that I can to fight for the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Bexar County. We are continuing to work with the City of San Antonio to determine the next steps in light of the order issued today.”

While several San Antonio area school districts have enacted mask requirements or have not yet reversed their policy of doing so, North East Independent School District said roughly 10 days ago that “face coverings for NEISD students and staff is optional.”

However, the district “strongly encourages everyone to wear a mask inside all district facilities in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” it says.

To date, roughly 70 Texas school districts have implemented mask mandates in violation of Abbott’s order, the Texas Attorney General’s Office reports. Following the court’s ruling Thursday, the state can impose financial penalties on local government officials who defy the governor’s order.

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Joe Biden

BIDEN’S VIETNAM: Helicopters Rescue U.S. Embassy Personnel While Biden Hides

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“The history books are going to remember that it was Joe Biden who surrendered to the Taliban.”- Rep. Guy Reschenthaler

Joe Biden claimed that it couldn’t happen. They were incapable. According to Biden, the Taliban would never pose such a threat to our embassy in Afghanistan that American personnel would have to be lifted off the roof in a rescue effort.

Today Joe’s impossibility was the reality.

Breitbart reports, Helicopters busily rescued personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, just weeks after President Joe Biden promised that there was “no circumstance” in which that spectacle, remembered from Vietnam, would recur.

Breitbart provided this excerpt from a news conference Biden held in July in regards to the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Reporter:
Mr. President, some Vietnamese veterans see echoes of their experience in this withdrawal in Afghanistan. Do you see any parallels between this withdrawal and what happened in Vietnam, with some people feeling —

Biden (interupting): None whatsoever. Zero. What you had is — you had entire brigades breaking through the gates of our embassy — six, if I’m not mistaken.

The Taliban is not the south — the North Vietnamese army. They’re not — they’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the — of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.

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Illinois education board punishes Christian school for mask-optional policy

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Aprivate K-12 school that announced a mask-optional policy for a return to class had been sanctioned by the Illinois State Board of Education. ISBE says schools must require, not recommend, masks in schools.

Amid concerns of COVID-19, Timothy Christian Schools in Elmhurst made the mask-optional announcement this week through a video from Superintendent Matthew Davidson.

“It’s just worth noting that the issue of masks in schools is still categorically a recommendation, not a requirement from the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” Davidson said.

The school is reportedly where the Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, sends his children. His office said the “Speaker’s very young children are off limits” when asked if he plans to transfer his students out of the school.

Davidson outlined in his announcement the district isn’t making a statement but continuing with the policies they and other private schools across the state and country had in place over the summer months. However, Davidson said they might revisit the policy in the future.

ISBE sent a letter to the district rescinding its nonpublic school recognition. That means high school diplomas won’t be recognized, children can compete in organized sports and the school can’t receive Invest In Kids scholarship funds.

“We do not take this action lightly,” State Schools Superintendent Carmen Ayala said in the letter. “The purpose of the universal indoor masking requirement is to ensure that all students can safely attend school in-person this fall.”

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, explained what the public school in his district did this week.

“It’s my understanding the board passed it 5-2 to be recommended but not mandated in the classroom, however on the school bus I believe it is mandated on the school bus,” Halbrook told WMAY.

Video of the Shelbyville meeting Wednesday showed parents vocalizing questions about whether their kids would be suspended for attending class without masks, to which a board member said “recommended is not required.” Parents then applauded.

In Marion, several students were suspended for not wearing masks in the first days of school this week.

A spokesperson for ISBE said the order is for public and nonpublic schools to require “the indoor use of face covering by students, staff, and visitors who are over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering, regardless of vaccination status, consistent with CDC guidance.”

Illinois state lawmakers differ on what their role is in mandating masks for K-12 schools.

State Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, said when there’s an emerging health issue, he’s confident in the governor making decisions for the state.

“With the legislature serving as a check behind him,” Martwick said. “I don’t know what role we’ll play, but I think in this moment, given the surge of delta [COVID-19 variant] and how fast it’s moving up, I think this is a role for the governor’s office to play.”

Welch’s office said they support the governor’s actions.

“The Speaker supports Governor Pritzker’s decision to listen to the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and our most trusted health professionals,” a spokesperson said. “He believes it should apply to all schools because this is about keeping our children safe, especially those who are too young for the vaccine.”

The office of Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, echoed those comments.

“The governor is following the science during a rapidly changing situation,” Harmon said. “With COVID cases again on the rise, our top priority is to provide children with safe, in-person education.”

Halbrook said it seems just a handful of people are deciding how parents of 2 million children should attend schools, not the people’s representatives in the General Assembly.

“It seems like the governor and his director of health, Dr. [Ngozi] Ezike, and the ISBE director seems to be kind of running the show as well as the leaders of the two chambers [the Senate President and Speaker of the House],” Halbrook said.

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