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As the country continues to climb back from more than a year of an economic downward spiral during the COVID-19 pandemic, cities in states with Republican-led governors that imposed fewer restrictions are experiencing a faster and more robust comeback.

study by WalletHub ranked the top 180 cities in the country to determine where economic recovery is occurring.

The financial analytics firm used four key metrics to find out where workers have been the least and most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. They looked at the change in each city’s unemployment rate for May, which is the last month available, then compared that to May 2019, January 2020 and May 2020.

The differences between the top and bottom 10 primarily come down to policy decisions.

The top 10 cities are all in states led by Republican governors, where lockdown restrictions during the pandemic were less extreme and not as lengthy. The bottom 10 cities are in states led by Democratic governors where lockdowns tended to be severe and lengthy, with the exception of one.

The top 10 cities with the best post-pandemic unemployment rates are:

Manchester, N.H. — 1.6%

Nashua, N.H. — 1.7%

Burlington, Vt. — 1.3%

South Burlington, Vt. — 1.2%

Lincoln, Neb. — 2.2%

Huntsville, Ala. — 2.4%

Omaha, Neb. — 2.8%

Salt Lake City, Utah — 2.7%

Sioux Falls, South Dakota — 2.7%

Billings, Mont. — 3%

While the two Vermont towns had lower unemployment rates in May compared to the two New Hampshire cities, Manchester and Nashua scored better when all of the metrics were taken into account.

Comparing May 2019 to May of this year, for example, Manchester’s unemployment rate is 41.5% lower and nearly 50% lower compared to January of 2020.

South Burlington, meanwhile, while having the lowest unemployment in the country for May, saw its rate drop nearly 22% compared to May 2019 and 35% compared to January 2020.

The bottom 10 cities with the worst unemployment rates post-pandemic are:

Hialeah, Florida — 8%

New Orleans, La. — 11%

Long Beach, Calif. — 10.6%

Glendale, Calif. — 10.4%

Newark, N.J. — 11.6%

New York City, N.Y. — 9.8%

Los Angeles, Calif. — 10.1%

San Bernardino, Calif. — 9.6%

Chicago, Ill. — 9.3%

North Las Vegas, Nev. — 9.9%

Despite not having the highest unemployment rate in May, Hialeah ranked last due to the metrics. Its May unemployment is nearly 200% higher than May of 2019 and is 336% higher compared to January of 2020.

Some 26 states, also mostly led by Republican governors, have said they would opt out of the federal government’s $300 weekly unemployment benefit ahead of the Sept. 6 deadline, saying the additional money on top of state aid has been a disincentive for people to find work.

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Maine law prohibits employers from inquiring about criminal history of job applicants

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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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Larry Elder added to CA recall ballot after judge rules he was improperly disqualified

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Conservative radio host Larry Elder has been added to the gubernatorial recall ballot after a judge ruled Wednesday that he had been improperly disqualified over a paperwork error.

Harmeet Dhillon wrote “Judge orders California to include Larry Elder on the ballot in California recall election. Says tax returns were never required in the first place for a recall as opposed to a primary election.”

JUDGE ORDERS CALIFORNIA TO INCLUDE LARRY ELDER ON THE BALLOT IN CALIFORNIA RECALL ELECTION. SAYS TAX RETURNS WERE NEVER REQUIRED IN THE FIRST PLACE FOR A RECALL AS OPPOSED TO A PRIMARY ELECTION.

— HARMEET K. DHILLON (@PNJABAN) JULY 21, 2021

Elder declared “we won” and released a new video.

WE WON!!!HTTPS://T.CO/MNVU6ROKTD#RECALLGAVINNEWSOM#WEVEGOTASTATETOSAVE PIC.TWITTER.COM/WCDZ1WJ4WX

— LARRY ELDER (@LARRYELDER) JULY 21, 2021

Elder also tweeted after the ruling “This isn’t just a victory for me, but a victory for the people of California and not just those who favor the recall and support me, but all voters, including many who will come to know me. I am thankful for a fair judge.”

A new Inside California Politics / Emerson College poll poll shows Elder in the lead of candidates to replace Newsom.

LARRY ELDER LEADS RACE TO REPLACE NEWSOM IN RECALL ELECTION, NEW POLL REVEALSHTTPS://T.CO/EG4WW0W0EU#RECALLGAVINNEWSOM #WEVEGOTASTATETOSAVE

— LARRY ELDER (@LARRYELDER) JULY 22, 2021

CALIFORNIA JUDGE RULES THAT THE ELECTION LAW ELDER ALLEGEDLY VIOLATED DID NOT EVEN APPLY TO A RECALL ELECTION AND EVEN IF IT DID, ELDER “SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLIED.” I WILL BE ON THE BALLOT.

TOTAL VICTORY!!HTTPS://T.CO/F5WBWARETM#RECALLGAVINNEWSOM #WEVEGOTASTATETOSAVE

— LARRY ELDER (@LARRYELDER) JULY 21, 2021

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Pennsylvania punishes county that allowed audit of vote counting machines

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The Pennsylvania Department of State decertified Fulton County’s voting machines on Wednesday after officials there participated in a third-party audit.

The voluntary probe came at the request of Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) who’s currently spearheading a larger effort to audit machines in Tioga, York and Philadelphia counties amid his ongoing campaign to ferret out fraudulent activity during the past two elections.

At least two of the counties confirmed they wouldn’t comply with Mastriano’s request because they can’t afford to replace their machines if the state decertifies them for participating, too.

Acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid said Wednesday she has “no other choice” after Fulton County officials confirmed that Wake Technology Services Inc. accessed its Dominion voting machines earlier this year, violating the state’s chain of custody provisions and other “strict limitations” designed to prevent tampering.

Degraffenreid said Wake TSI lacks any knowledge or expertise in election technology and was still given access to “key components” of the machine, including the county’s election database, its results files and Windows system logs. The company also preserved hard drive images onto USB devices.

“These actions were taken in a manner that was not transparent or bipartisan,” she claimed. “As a result of the access granted to Wake TSI, Fulton County’s certified system has been compromised and neither Fulton County; the vendor, Dominion Voting Systems; nor the Department of State can verify that the impacted components of Fulton County’s leased voting system are safe to use in future elections.”

Wake TSI served on the audit team involved in Arizona’s recount of more than 2.3 million ballots in Maricopa County. Mastriano and two other Republican lawmakers visited the Phoenix site last month before meeting with Arizona legislators to discuss the team’s findings.

Wake TSI reportedly left the audit team after its contract ended on May 14, according to a report from the Fulton County News.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Stuart Ulsh said during a Feb. 9 public meeting that he didn’t know who paid for the audit, but that the board agreed to do it to prove the county “didn’t do anything wrong,” according to a report from the Arizona Mirror.

The Center Square reached out to the commissioners for comment on Wednesday, but did not receive an immediate response.

Mastriano said in a news release last week that Degraffenreid lacked the authority to decertify counties’ machines. He said the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, of which he is chairman, “will press forward in the pursuit of a forensic investigation.”

“What we are seeing is a convergence of scare tactics from Wolf Administration and the Attorney General to intimidate county officials and obstruct a forensic investigation,” he said.

“Governor Wolf and AG Shapiro are standing in the way of the constitutional authority of the General Assembly,” he added. “For people who once lectured the state about transparency and accountability, we all ask, what do they have to hide?”

Democrats insist they have nothing to hide and view the audit as just the latest in a string of stunts from Mastriano to curry favor with former President Donald Trump and earn his endorsement in a potential gubernatorial run next year.

“Continuing to indulge Donald Trump’s #BigLie could lead to more activity like what we saw on January 6th,” Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Pittsburgh) said on Twitter. “It betrays trust in our electoral system without cause and can reduce participation in that important process.”

Biden won Pennsylvania by about 81,000 votes in November. The Trump campaign fired off a series of lawsuits alleging mail-in voter fraud that were later dismissed for lack of evidence. Several Republican lawmakers supported the effort, Mastriano chief among them.

Soon after, Mastriano faced national scrutiny for chartering buses to the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington D.C. He was photographed near Capitol Hill, but said he left before rioters stormed the building.

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