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Greg Abbott restricts use of ‘vaccine passports’ via executive order



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On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order restricting the use of COVID-19 “vaccine passports,” as many Republicans rally against the concept, which allows individuals to provide proof of having received a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Everyday, Texans are returning to normal life as more people get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. But, as I’ve said all along, these vaccines are always voluntary and never forced,” Abbott said in a video statement on Tuesday.

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“Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives,” the governor added. “That is why I have issued an executive order that prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas. We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health—and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.”

The executive order prohibits state agencies, political subdivisions, and organizations who receive taxpayer money from creating “vaccine passports” or mandating individuals to present evidence of COVID-19 vaccination in order to receive goods and services.

Another Republican governor, Ron DeSantis of Florida, last week signed an executive order banning the use of vaccine passports. He went a step further than Abbott and also prevented businesses from requiring customers to provide proof of having received a COVID-19 vaccine.

RELATED: DeSantis signs executive order prohibiting vaccine passports

Many Republicans have expressed data, privacy, and civil liberties concerns with the adoption of vaccine passports. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that the measure will allow the reopening of the U.S. economy to speed up, as well as international travel.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and President Joe Biden’s top COVID-19 adviser, in a Monday interview with the Politico Dispatch podcast that he doubts “the federal government will be the main mover of a vaccine passport concept.”

RELATED: Fauci: Federal government won’t mandate vaccine passports

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @DouglasPBraff.

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NY Lawmakers want to tax tech giants to get $500M to fund unemployment benefits for illegal migrants



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New York lawmakers are debating over a proposed Democratic initiative that would pave the way for a multibillion-dollar fund designed to provide unemployment benefits for illegal immigrants. Spearheaded by state Senator Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat, the proposal has ignited passionate discussions within the Senate Finance Committee, where it currently awaits further deliberation.

The Center Square reports the proposal would utilize a $500 million trust fund earmarked specifically to offer jobless benefits for individuals who find themselves ineligible for traditional unemployment payments and other public assistance programs. To finance this ambitious endeavor, proponents of the plan are advocating for the imposition of a novel tax targeting tech behemoths like Google and Amazon. This tax, aimed at digital advertising revenue, is projected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars to sustain the fund.

Ramos has alluded to her belief that migrants are a fundamental contribution to the state’s economy. Despite their authorization to work, payment of taxes, and active involvement in the labor force, undocumented immigrants face a glaring disparity—they are excluded from accessing vital safety nets like unemployment benefits if they lose their jobs.

In a social media post, Ramos cited the expiration of federal unemployment insurance for freelancers and the depletion of the Excluded Workers Fund. She argues vehemently for a safety net aligned with the evolving dynamics of the labor market, one that extends support to all workers, regardless of their immigration status.

The proposed fund, aptly named the Unemployment Bridge Program, outlines comprehensive eligibility criteria encompassing a spectrum of marginalized workers—from undocumented migrants to freelancers and individuals recently released from incarceration or immigrant detention. By establishing clear guidelines and procedures, the program endeavors to streamline the application process, ensuring equitable access to unemployment benefits for those in need.

The initiative comes in the wake of prolonged deliberations regarding jobless benefits for undocumented immigrants and nontraditional workers in New York. Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state previously allocated $2.1 billion to the Excluded Workers Fund, offering a lifeline to those excluded from conventional unemployment benefits.

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 underscores a commitment to supporting asylum seekers, with significant allocations directed towards housing and legal assistance. The proposal has met with opposition from Republicans, who argue for prioritizing legal residents and taxpayers in the allocation of state resources. Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt contends that limited resources should be reserved exclusively for those who have contributed to the state’s tax base.

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