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Supreme Court Bars Registration of BS-IV Vehicles Till Further Orders, Expresses Displeasure Over Sale of Large Number of Vehicles During Lockdown

On Friday, the Supreme Court barred the registration of BS-IV vehicles till further orders and expressed displeasure on the sale of a large number of vehicles in March during the lockdown.

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Supreme Court

New Delhi, July 31: On Friday, the barred the registration of till further orders and expressed displeasure on the sale of a large number of vehicles in March during the . According to an ANI update, the apex court said an unusual number of BS-IV vehicles were sold during the lockdown. The matter will be heard on August 13 next.

According to reports, vehicle owners who purchased BS-IV vehicles after the COVID-19 lockdown and those who bought vehicles in December last year, but could not get their vehicles registered, are now left in the lurch. Even those buyers who obtained a temporary registration before the country went into lockdown, but did not supply the vehicle chassis number to FADA by April 3 will also be affected. No Registration of BS-IV Vehicles Sold After March 31, Says Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Bars Registration of BS-IV vehicles Till Further Orders: 

Supreme Court bars registration of BS-IV vehicles till further orders and expresses displeasure on the sale of large number of vehicles in March during lockdown; says an unusual number of BS-IV vehicles were sold during the lockdown. Matter to be heard on August 13. pic.twitter.com/y6WlvboPDq

— ANI (@ANI) July 31, 2020

Bharat Stage (BS) emission norms are standards instituted by the government to regulate the output of air pollutants from motor vehicles. The BS-IV norms came into force across the country in April 2017. The apex court ordered that  can’t be sold or registered in India from April 1, 2020.

(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Jul 31, 2020 12:11 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).

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Green Brick Partners Closes 3.25% $125 Million Senior Unsecured Notes Offering

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PLANO, Texas, March 04, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Green Brick Partners, Inc. (NASDAQ: GRBK) (the “Company”), a national homebuilding and land development firm, announced today that the Company has issued $125 million of senior unsecured notes due in 2028 at a fixed rate of 3.25% per annum in a club deal structured by Prudential Private Capital as a Section 4(a)(2) private placement transaction.

This is the third issuance of senior notes by the Company, following the issuance of $75.0 and $37.5 million of senior unsecured notes to Prudential Private Capital over the past two years. Green Brick Partners expects to use the proceeds to repay borrowings under its existing revolving credit facilities, pay fees and expenses incurred in connection with the transaction, and for general corporate purposes.

The institutional investors who purchased the notes were represented by Prudential Private Capital, Barings LLC, Hartford Investment Management Company, Securian Asset Management, Inc., and Voya Investment Management Co. LLC. Prudential Private Capital structured the club deal.

“We are very pleased to be working with Prudential Private Capital once again and are delighted to be developing long-term relationships with other exceptional institutional partners as part of this club deal,” said Richard Costello, Chief Financial Officer of Green Brick Partners. “Our established track record of risk-adjusted growth, positions in some of the best homebuilding markets in the country, and outstanding returns among our peers has enabled us to price 7-year notes at a fixed rate of 3.25%, comparable to long-term rates paid by lower-leveraged large-cap builders.”

“Following this offering, we believe our capital structure will position us remarkably well to deliver on our growth objectives and provide Green Brick and our Team Builders with another source of efficient long-term capital,” said Jim Brickman, CEO and Co-Founder of Green Brick Partners. “We continue to strive to deliver the best risk-adjusted returns in the industry, and believe this transaction represents another positive step in doing so, by laddering debt maturities and locking-in long-term borrowings at attractive rates.”

The senior unsecured notes have not been, and will not be, registered under the U.S. Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Act”) or any state securities laws and may not be offered or sold in the United States absent registration or an applicable exemption from the registration requirements of the Act and applicable state securities laws.

The Company will release its financial results for the fourth quarter and year ended December 31, 2020, after the market closes on Monday, March 8, 2021. Jim Brickman, Green Brick’s CEO, will host an earnings conference call to discuss its results at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. For details on how to access the earnings call, please visit our website, www.greenbrickpartners.com/news.

For additional details on the Company’s club deal, please refer the Company’s Current Report on Form 8-K that was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 3, 2021.

About Green Brick Partners, Inc.
Green Brick Partners, Inc. (NASDAQ: GRBK) is a diversified homebuilding and land development company. Green Brick owns four homebuilders in Dallas, Texas (CB JENI Homes, Normandy Homes, Southgate Homes, and Trophy Signature Homes), as well as a controlling interest in homebuilders in Atlanta, Georgia (The Providence Group), Port St. Lucie, Florida (GHO Homes), and Dallas, Texas (Centre Living Homes). Green Brick also owns a noncontrolling interest in Challenger Homes in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and retains interests in related financial services platforms, including Green Brick Title, Green Brick Mortgage, and BHome Mortgage. The Company is engaged in all aspects of the homebuilding process, including land acquisition and development, entitlements, design, construction, marketing, and sales for its residential neighborhoods and master planned communities.

About Prudential Private Capital
For more than 75 years, Prudential Private Capital has been partnering with a wide range of corporations, sponsors, and institutions to provide valuable insights, guidance, and customized capital solutions that enable them achieve their growth and funding goals. In an industry where capital can seem like a commodity and relationships often fleeting and transactional, we are known for building enduring local partnerships based on a steady and patient commitment to our partners’ long-term capital needs. With regional teams in 14 offices around the world, we manage a portfolio of $100 billion (as of 12/31/20). For more information, visit www.prudentialprivatecapital.com.

Forward-Looking and Cautionary Statements:
This press release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, as amended. All statements other than statements of historical or current fact included in this press release are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements include statements concerning the impact of our capital structure on future growth. Forward-looking statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which involve factors or circumstances that are beyond Green Brick’s control, including, without limitation, risks and uncertainties related to market conditions and other industry factors. Actual results could differ materially from those stated or implied in forward-looking statements due to a number of factors, including but not limited to, risks detailed in the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in Green Brick’s Annual Report Annual Report on Form 10-K and its Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the period ended September 30, 2020 filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The forward-looking statements included in this press release should not be unduly relied upon, represent Green Brick’s views only as of the date of this press release and do not represent Green Brick’s views as of any subsequent date. Green Brick undertakes no intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, changes in Green Brick’s expectations or otherwise, except as required by law.

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making the case to Biden’s Hill team that an e-verify provision should be part of the bill, just as it was in the bipartisan immigration bill in 2013 that fell

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Top House Democrats have promised to put key immigration bills on the floor this month — but President Joe Biden’s sweeping overhaul won’t be one of them.

The issue of what to do with Biden’s comprehensive immigration plan has bedeviled Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team, particularly after a disappointing whip count came back this week showing they don’t yet have the votes to pass the bill on the floor, according to people familiar with the talks.
With the Republican Party broadly embracing election disinformation, voter suppression and minority rule, it falls to Democrats to bear the standard of democracy. Doing so will require them to finish off an anti-democratic tradition of a quasi-democratic body, the Senate filibuster.
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The House on Wednesday considered Democrats’ signature response to the party opposite’s authoritarian drift in the form of HR1, an omnibus of election, redistricting and campaign finance reforms. Its fate and perhaps that of American democracy depend on the Democrats’ willingness to use the majority they narrowly won in the Senate, where their 50 seats represent 41.5 million more Americans than the equivalent Republican caucus.

Democratic San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who chairs the House caucus with jurisdiction over the bill, noted the thwarted popular will for addressing climate change and raising the minimum wage in a news conference before the House vote. “Nothing else happens unless the people’s voices are heard,” she said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, clutching a miniature American flag on the steps of the Capitol, agreed. “This reminds me of what it must have felt like at Valley Forge,” the San Francisco Democrat said. “Everything is at stake.”

It’s not much of an exaggeration. Pelosi and her fellow representatives stood at the scene of the violent insurrection that delayed Congress’ certification of President Biden’s election just two months ago, while further security threats canceled a House session scheduled for Thursday. Though the mob that stormed the capital on Jan. 6 literally called for Mike Pence’s neck, the former vice president typified the party’s stance by embracing the false claims of election fraud that fueled the violence in an op-ed published Wednesday, joining former President Donald Trump in attacking HR1.

Republican-run state legislatures, meanwhile, already have begun moving bills to limit ballot access and suppress participation. The party can also be counted on to oust several members of the House’s slim Democratic majority in two years not by persuading voters but through nakedly partisan gerrymandering, which already gives Republicans an advantage over their vote share of as many as 22 seats, or twice the current Democratic advantage, according to an Associated Press analysis. A restoration of Republican control of Congress could in turn mean that the next attempt to overturn certification of a legitimate presidential election succeeds.

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HR1 would stem this anti-democratic movement by setting national standards for ballot access, easing voter registration nationwide, requiring early voting and prohibiting excessive barriers to voting by mail. It would also impose more transparency on large political donations and create a matching system for small donations to congressional campaigns. And it would mandate California-style independent redistricting commissions to prevent partisan gerrymandering.

While these measures would empower voters regardless of their politics, they are unlikely to draw much support from a party increasingly dedicated to voter suppression and amenable to overturning elections. That has turned attention to what remains of the filibuster, which effectively requires 60 votes to pass most legislation and would therefore doom HR1 in the Senate. Undoing that tradition would require the assent of the more conservative-leaning Democrats such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and California’s Dianne Feinstein, who have defended the filibuster. It’s time for these and other Democrats to live up to their label and defend democracy instead.

So now Democrats are moving ahead with an alternative plan: Move the Biden bill through committee while the full House votes on more targeted immigration legislation that already enjoys broad caucus support.

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), confirmed the path forward, calling the Biden proposal both “important and serious.”

“We need to engage in some consultation with key members and stakeholders, but I see no reason why we wouldn’t mark it up when we reconvene in April,” Nadler said in a statement to POLITICO.

Biden’s proposal is a top priority for progressives and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who say it’s critical to take action in the early months of his term. But Democratic leaders were never going to bring up a bill on the floor that would fail — putting them on a tightrope as they try to keep all factions of their diverse caucus on board for a realistic approach to one of Washington’s thorniest issues. Further complicating matters, the White House has taken more of a hands-off approach to the bill’s future in the House, several lawmakers and aides said.

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“We need to have a discussion. It was put together by a few people. I don’t know what the role of the administration has been,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), a border-state Democrat who belongs to the centrist Blue Dog Coalition. “But I have a sense that it’s just not quite ready yet.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, acknowledged that “it’s difficult because of the schedule,” but vowed that “at the same time, we’re pushing very hard” to lend momentum to Biden’s sweeping proposal.

“It’s like we have three pedals, and we’re pushing every one of them with just as much strength,” she said, referring to a pair of other, more targeted immigration bills that will hit the floor in two weeks.

Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) huddled on Tuesday evening to discuss the whip count and strategize on what to do next. That meeting was interrupted as the nominee to lead Biden’s budget office yanked her name from consideration, and multiple Democrats said Wednesday that immigration issues remained unresolved.

Proponents of the Biden bill, meanwhile, are still furiously working the phones to get their colleagues on board. That group, led by California Reps. Linda Sánchez, Judy Chu and Zoe Lofgren, has also lined up meetings with influential groups across the caucus, including the Blue Dogs on Tuesday and progressives on Thursday. Sánchez and Lofgren, along with other top Democrats, also spoke to the New Democrat Coalition late last month.

President Joe Biden signs an executive order in the State Dining Room of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris watches.
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One of the White House’s leading officials on immigration, Tyler Moran, will also hold a staff briefing on the bill on Friday.

It’s unclear if or when Biden’s bill will come to the floor after moving through the Judiciary Committee in April. But several Democrats have been privately pushing leadership to make a decision one way or the other, privately expressing frustration that top Democrats were still projecting the possibility of the massive bill coming to the floor in March.

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In recent days, Democratic leaders have publicly sounded a note of skepticism, while acknowledging the final push behind the scenes.

“If ready, we will also consider comprehensive immigration reform,” Hoyer told reporters this week as he ticked off the upcoming floor schedule. “But I stress, if ready. There’s a lot of discussion going on about that.”

Democrats were already planning to take up some of their most popular immigration proposals in the coming weeks — one to protect the undocumented population known as Dreamers and another to reform the system for farmworkers. Both have bipartisan support, including strong backing from the CHC and CPC, and could soon see floor votes in the Senate.

But some members of the CHC say those bills aren’t enough because they don’t go nearly as far as Biden’s plan.

“I want to make sure the broader bill gets as much support as possible, and that we send it over as quickly as possible, and that we get this done,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who helped shape Biden’s proposal and has been actively lobbying her colleagues on the bill.

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“My fear, always, is that we will get morsels and, as a Congress, continue to kick the can down the road,” she said.

As Democrats move quickly toward a piecemeal immigration strategy, some corners of their caucus have begun to seek changes to the Biden plan. Some moderates, for instance, are pushing to include a provision requiring employers to confirm workers’ legal status — known as e-verify. Progressives, meanwhile, want some tweaks to ensure the bill doesn’t disqualify people from citizenship because of minor infractions on their criminal record.

It’s not clear yet which changes might be made to the bill. The Biden administration has repeatedly expressed a willingness to consider more tailored immigration measures that Democrats can get to the president’s desk. A White House official said the administration was in “regular touch” with lawmakers on immigration reform and would continue to hold briefings on Biden’s immigration priorities as Congress considers proposals.

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), a swing-district Democrat, has been making the case to Biden’s Hill team that an e-verify provision should be part of the bill, just as it was in the bipartisan immigration bill in 2013 that fell just short of passage.

“Yes, I support what’s in the bill. I think we would be in a stronger position to get it enacted if we eventually ended up where, I think, the middle ground is,” Malinowski said. “I think for both solid political, practical reasons and moral reasons, those two things should go together.”

The biggest fear for many progressives, however, is what could happen to the bill to win over the party’s centrists, either in the House or when the bill crosses over to the Senate.

“We don’t want this bill to be watered down before it gets to the floor, which is sometimes what happens with immigration bills,” Jayapal said.

Immigration advocates have argued that failing to act on the issue could come back to haunt them politically, leaving Democrats vulnerable among their base in 2022.

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During a session at the House Democratic Caucus’s virtual retreat on Wednesday, advocates shared new polling conducted for the immigrant rights groups FWD.us and America’s Voice, which showed that 63 percent of voters would be “upset” if protections for undocumented immigrants didn’t pass. The online survey of 1,200 voters who participated in the 2020 election was conducted Feb. 20-26.

A clean Dream Act proposal received the highest support nationally with 72 percent of voters supporting it compared to 71 percent support for a bill providing citizenship to undocumented farmworkers and 66 percent support for citizenship for undocumented essential workers. The latter is a proposal that has been pushed by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) alongside Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).

“Voters will be upset over inaction, especially the voters Democrats need to show up in the midterm elections,” stated the polling memo shared with House Democrats and obtained by POLITICO. “Republicans will not receive all or even most of the blame should the efforts to pass citizenship bills fail.




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We don’t want this bill to be watered down before it gets to the floor, which is sometimes what happens with immigration bills,” Jayapal said

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Top House Democrats have promised to put key immigration bills on the floor this month — but President Joe Biden’s sweeping overhaul won’t be one of them.

The issue of what to do with Biden’s comprehensive immigration plan has bedeviled Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team, particularly after a disappointing whip count came back this week showing they don’t yet have the votes to pass the bill on the floor, according to people familiar with the talks.

So now Democrats are moving ahead with an alternative plan: Move the Biden bill through committee while the full House votes on more targeted immigration legislation that already enjoys broad caucus support.

The chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), confirmed the path forward, calling the Biden proposal both “important and serious.”

“We need to engage in some consultation with key members and stakeholders, but I see no reason why we wouldn’t mark it up when we reconvene in April,” Nadler said in a statement to POLITICO.

Biden’s proposal is a top priority for progressives and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who say it’s critical to take action in the early months of his term. But Democratic leaders were never going to bring up a bill on the floor that would fail — putting them on a tightrope as they try to keep all factions of their diverse caucus on board for a realistic approach to one of Washington’s thorniest issues. Further complicating matters, the White House has taken more of a hands-off approach to the bill’s future in the House, several lawmakers and aides said.

Biden may get a stimulus check win. What about the rest of his agenda?
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“We need to have a discussion. It was put together by a few people. I don’t know what the role of the administration has been,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), a border-state Democrat who belongs to the centrist Blue Dog Coalition. “But I have a sense that it’s just not quite ready yet.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, acknowledged that “it’s difficult because of the schedule,” but vowed that “at the same time, we’re pushing very hard” to lend momentum to Biden’s sweeping proposal.

“It’s like we have three pedals, and we’re pushing every one of them with just as much strength,” she said, referring to a pair of other, more targeted immigration bills that will hit the floor in two weeks.

Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) huddled on Tuesday evening to discuss the whip count and strategize on what to do next. That meeting was interrupted as the nominee to lead Biden’s budget office yanked her name from consideration, and multiple Democrats said Wednesday that immigration issues remained unresolved.

Proponents of the Biden bill, meanwhile, are still furiously working the phones to get their colleagues on board. That group, led by California Reps. Linda Sánchez, Judy Chu and Zoe Lofgren, has also lined up meetings with influential groups across the caucus, including the Blue Dogs on Tuesday and progressives on Thursday. Sánchez and Lofgren, along with other top Democrats, also spoke to the New Democrat Coalition late last month.

President Joe Biden signs an executive order in the State Dining Room of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris watches.
IMMIGRATION

Biden promised a ‘fair and humane’ immigration overhaul. What he inherited is a mess.
BY SABRINA RODRIGUEZ

One of the White House’s leading officials on immigration, Tyler Moran, will also hold a staff briefing on the bill on Friday.

It’s unclear if or when Biden’s bill will come to the floor after moving through the Judiciary Committee in April. But several Democrats have been privately pushing leadership to make a decision one way or the other, privately expressing frustration that top Democrats were still projecting the possibility of the massive bill coming to the floor in March.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s four medical advisers were not all on board with his move to end the state’s coronavirus restrictions — or even included in the decision.

“I don’t think this is the right time,” said advisor Mark McClellan, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, adding he was not consulted before the decision.

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“Texas has been making some real progress but it’s too soon for full reopening and to stop masking around others,” McClellan said in an email.

From the start of the pandemic, Abbott said he would rely on data and doctors to guide state policy. But conflicting opinions from his medical advisers about one of the biggest shifts in state pandemic policy raise questions about how the choice — which has been widely panned by public health experts — was made.

State health commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt on Wednesday didn’t explicitly answer whether he endorsed the plan ahead of time to end the mask mandate and let businesses fully reopen on March 10. Pressed by state lawmakers, Hellerstedt said he “did not have a personal conversation” with Abbott before the decision, but that his agency is in regular contact with the governor’s staff.

A third advisor, Dr. Parker Hudson of Dell Medical School in Austin, has said he was “not involved in this decision.”

And a fourth said he agreed with the decision, explaining it was initiated by Abbott and rested on the governor’s general comfort level with the pace of vaccinations, other medical improvements, and the notion that Texans know to wear masks and will continue to even without a mandate — an idea refuted by public health research.

“He brought it to us, he talked to us about it, he talked through it,” said Dr. John Zerwas, a vice chancellor with the University of Texas System. “And he said, ‘okay, this is when I feel like it’d be a good time to do it’.”

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The nation’s top infectious disease experts and President Joe Biden criticized Abbott’s decision to end restrictions next Wednesday, saying it’s premature and warning the move could lead to a new surge in the outbreak that has already killed more than 43,000 Texans.

Former U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Tom Frieden said the reversal of the mask mandate was particularly dangerous and could lead to a decline in their use.

“A mask mandate is about you not inadvertently killing someone,” said Frieden, who served during the Obama administration. “There is no argument for not having a mask mandate.”

When asked Wednesday about defying some medical advisers, Abbott said he spoke with Zerwas and Hellerstedt.

“They both agree that because of all the metrics and numbers… now is a very safe time to open,” Abbott said Wednesday during a television interview on KFDX-TV in Wichita Falls. “Texans know how to keep themselves safe and they don’t need government mandates to tell them anymore.”

Abbott’s decision
In making his announcement Tuesday, Abbott offered no one specific reason for the timing of the roll backs; rather he focused in general on increased access to vaccinations, and a recent decline in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19.

Abbott intended to unveil his plan even earlier, on Feb. 22, but was forced to postpone when the winter storm delayed vaccine shipments to Texas, he told a radio host Tuesday.

“All of our decision-making processes hinged to the distribution of those vaccines,” Abbott, a Republican in his second term as governor, said in the interview on KYFO.

Texas is one of several states to lift mask requirements within the last few weeks.

Discussions about the rollback had been ongoing over the last week and a half, said Zerwas, who is a former Republican state representative and an anesthesiologist.

Masks came up as a point of discussion.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivers a speech at a Lubbock restaurant, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Coming up on the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, Abbott announced reopening the State of Texas to all businesses. He also wants to end the statewide mask mandate. (video via KXAS Dallas)
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Abbott “pushed on it and said ‘Do you really think that a state mandate for masking is the thing that is really driving people to comply’,” Zerwas recalled. “And I said personally, ‘No, I don’t and the people that I’m around on a regular basis don’t even mention that.’”

Zerwas said that Abbott’s statewide order for face coverings last year helped get the message across, and now, citizens of Texas are doing it because they are familiar with the benefits.

Abbott concluded, Zerwas said, that “the heavy hand of the state doesn’t need to be doing this.”

Asked what evidence Abbott’s administration had for that, Zerwas didn’t cite any specific examples.

“I can only speak for myself,” Zerwas said. “I think I’m your regular person out there that is as much tuned into this pandemic as anybody else.”

Freiden, however, said the data shows the opposite. Mask mandates are effective, as are mandates for other safety measures. For example, states have not repealed seatbelt laws because people know the benefits of wearing one, he said.

“Every piece of data we have from public health strongly indicates that ending a mask mandate prematurely will decrease mask use,” Frieden said. “I think that’s a political decision that will result in the loss of lives.”

Enforcement left to businesses
Abbott’s new order leaves it up to businesses to make the public health decision on whether their employees and customers must wear masks.

Some businesses are now only “urging” customers to do so. Others are maintaining a mandate, although without a statewide policy, enforcing it may be more difficult.

“The advantage of a consistent expectation from the state was that it set that expectation for everyone,” said Dr. James McDeavitt, senior vice president and dean of clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine. “We will certainly see people peel off that now.”

As for the timing of the decision, Zerwas said there was no medical threshold or trigger the state had been working toward.

“It’s always been a conversation in progress,” he said. “And where could all of us, when we talk about this, get comfortable with where we were going, what we were accomplishing.”

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Late Wednesday, Abbott told KXAS-TV (NBC5) in Dallas that the timing of the rollback was tied to vaccination rates among Texas seniors. People aged 65 and older make up a majority of COVID-19 deaths in Texas and in the nation.

“We wanted to achieve this 50% mark in vaccinations for seniors,” Abbott said. “Once we got the extra doses this past week, and once we saw the vaccination rates among seniors increase, we knew that we would be able to have more than half of seniors vaccinated by the time we opened back up.”

Frieden said many public health experts advocate rolling back restrictions when new daily cases drop to about 1 per 100,000 population. Texas is currently above 25, he said.

Just this week, federal public health experts cautioned states to keep their guard up against the virus. While the pace of vaccinations is expected to pick up over the coming weeks, only about 2.2 million Texans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in a state of 29 million. Others are likely to have some natural immunity if they’ve been infected, but many Texans still have none.

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Zerwas said he didn’t specifically recall whether Abbott discussed waiting a few weeks, or months, longer to make the change. But Zerwas recalled mulling over the issue himself.

He remembers asking himself “what are you going to get if you wait, what are you going to get in 30 days?”

“I said ‘yeah, you’re going to put a million more vaccines into people’s arms in a week’,” he said. “That’s a good thing. And in two more weeks after that, you’ll put a couple million more in there.’”

In the end, Zerwas said, the decision was Abbott’s.

“You could make an argument to do it later,” Zerwas said. “But I don’t know that it’s a good argument.”

Masking message
Hellerstedt, who leads the Texas Department of State Health Services that oversees that state’s pandemic response and vaccination efforts, did not appear alongside Abbott at the Tuesday announcement, which was held at a crowded restaurant in Lubbock.

On Wednesday, Hellerstedt stressed the importance of still wearing masks, and said Abbott also believes wearing masks is valuable. Asked by The Dallas Morning News whether Hellerstedt supported Abbott’s decision to repeal the restrictions at this time, a spokesman for the department did not answer directly.

“Dr. Hellerstedt agrees with what the governor said yesterday that COVID-19 is still with us, and people should continue to take public health precautions to slow its spread as more and more people are vaccinated,” Chris Van Deusen said in a statement.

Zerwas said he told Abbott that if he was going to rescind the mask mandate, he needed to emphasize that it was still a good idea.

Although Abbott’s executive order urges Texans to wear masks, the governor didn’t stress it when he announced the changes Tuesday. And Abbott’s social media posts Tuesday emphasized the rolling back of the mandate, not the need to keep wearing them.

Federal law enforcement is on high alert Thursday in the wake of an intelligence bulletin issued earlier this week about a group of violent militia extremists having discussed plans to take control of the US Capitol and remove Democratic lawmakers on or about March 4 — a date when some conspiracy theorists believe former President Donald Trump will be returning to the presidency.

US officials on Wednesday alerted lawmakers to a potential threat, for which security has been enhanced as a precaution. The House changed its schedule in light of warnings from US Capitol Police, moving a vote planned for Thursday to Wednesday night to avoid being in session on March 4. The Senate is still expected to be in session debating the Covid-19 relief bill.
The joint warning from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday underscores a broader effort by federal agencies to avoid repeating the mistakes made ahead of January 6, when officers were overtaken by a violent pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol. Those intelligence sharing and planning failures have been laid bare over the last two months in several hearings and have been a focal point of criticism from lawmakers investigating the violent attack that left several people dead.
The violent extremists also discussed plans to persuade thousands to travel to Washington, DC, to participate in the March 4 plot, according to the joint intelligence bulletin.
One source noted to CNN that it is mostly online talk and not necessarily an indication anyone is coming to Washington to act on it.
Some of the conspiracy theorists believe that the former President will be inaugurated on March 4, according to the joint bulletin. Between 1793 and 1933, inauguration often fell on March 4 or a surrounding date.
US Capitol Police acting chief Yogananda Pittman told Congress earlier Wednesday that her department had “concerning intelligence” regarding the next few days in Congress — but said it wouldn’t be “prudent” of her to share the “law-enforcement sensitive” intelligence in a public hearing or public format.
Pittman assured lawmakers, though, that her department is in an “enhanced” security posture and that the National Guard and Capitol Police have been briefed on what to expect in the coming days.
Increased communication
There has been a concerted effort among federal agencies to communicate the possible threats ahead of March 4 in a way they failed to do before January 6.

The effort to improve preparation extends to communicating with state and local officials. DHS held a call Wednesday with state and local law enforcement officials from around the country to discuss current threats posed by domestic extremists, including concerns about potential violence surrounding March 4 and beyond, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
While specific details from the call remain unclear, both sources said the overarching message from DHS officials is that addressing threats posed by domestic extremists requires increased communication and intelligence sharing across federal and state and local entities, as well as a shift in how law enforcement officials interpret the information they receive.

In a clear sign federal agencies are working to avoid the same communication failures for which they have been roundly criticized since the Capitol attack, DHS officials are stressing that law enforcement should not view intelligence solely through the lens of whether a threat qualifies as “credible and specific,” but use the warnings coming from DHS, FBI and other partner agencies to inform decisions about their security posture, even if the information provided falls short of pointing to an imminent attack or violence, the sources said.

Federal officials are emphasizing the point that gaps in intelligence sharing left law enforcement unprepared for the chaos that unfolded on January 6, even though they were notified of potential violence days before the attack, and that going forward, bulletins issued by DHS and FBI indicate a threat is serious enough to be communicated to relevant entities, even if the intelligence is based primarily on online chatter or other less definitive indicators, the sources said.

DHS acting intelligence chief Melissa Smislova testified Wednesday that DHS is “completely dissatisfied” with the results of the department’s “efforts leading up to January 6th.”
She told lawmakers that the department is re-examining how it distributes information and coordinates with partners. “We thought that it was sufficient and clearly it was not,” she said.
“We will do better,” she added.

Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has called on the department to evaluate its operational posture at the tactical and strategic level, specifically the ability to respond to a potential emerging situation within the Capital region, a US official told CNN.

Election fraud conspiracies

Perceived election fraud and other conspiracy theories associated with the presidential transition may contribute to violence with little or no warning, according to the bulletin, which is part of a series of intelligence products to highlight potential domestic violent extremist threats to the Washington, DC, region.

“Given that the Capitol complex is currently fortified like a military installation, I don’t anticipate any successful attacks against the property,” said Brian Harrell, the former assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at DHS. “However, all threats should be taken seriously and investigations launched against those who would call for violence. We continue to see far-right extremist groups that are fueled by misinformation and conspiracy theories quickly become the most dangerous threat to society.”

In the current environment, “You really cannot underestimate the potential that an individual or a small group of individuals will engage in violence because they believe a false narrative that they’re seeing online,” the US official said.
The false narrative of a stolen election is still drawing the attention of domestic extremists, the official said, adding that there are people “in the domestic extremist world who are calling for acts of violence in response to that narrative.”
Although March 4 is a concern to law enforcement, it’s not a “standalone event,” the official said; rather, it’s part of a “continuum of violence” based domestic extremist conspiracy theories.
“It’s a threat that continues to be of concern to law enforcement. And I suspect that we are going to have to be focused on it for months to come,” the official said.
The bulletin also notes that militia extremists “have allegedly threatened an attack against the US Capitol using explosives to kill as many members of Congress as possible during the upcoming State of the Union address, according to (the) US Capitol Police Chief.”
Pittman warned last month that militia groups involved in the January 6 insurrection want to “blow up the Capitol” and “kill as many members as possible” when President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress.
At the time, Pittman said law enforcement remains concerned about threats by known militia groups “with a direct nexus to the State of the Union” address.

In recent days, Democratic leaders have publicly sounded a note of skepticism, while acknowledging the final push behind the scenes.

“If ready, we will also consider comprehensive immigration reform,” Hoyer told reporters this week as he ticked off the upcoming floor schedule. “But I stress, if ready. There’s a lot of discussion going on about that.”

Democrats were already planning to take up some of their most popular immigration proposals in the coming weeks — one to protect the undocumented population known as Dreamers and another to reform the system for farmworkers. Both have bipartisan support, including strong backing from the CHC and CPC, and could soon see floor votes in the Senate.

But some members of the CHC say those bills aren’t enough because they don’t go nearly as far as Biden’s plan.

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“I want to make sure the broader bill gets as much support as possible, and that we send it over as quickly as possible, and that we get this done,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who helped shape Biden’s proposal and has been actively lobbying her colleagues on the bill.

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“My fear, always, is that we will get morsels and, as a Congress, continue to kick the can down the road,” she said.

As Democrats move quickly toward a piecemeal immigration strategy, some corners of their caucus have begun to seek changes to the Biden plan. Some moderates, for instance, are pushing to include a provision requiring employers to confirm workers’ legal status — known as e-verify. Progressives, meanwhile, want some tweaks to ensure the bill doesn’t disqualify people from citizenship because of minor infractions on their criminal record.

It’s not clear yet which changes might be made to the bill. The Biden administration has repeatedly expressed a willingness to consider more tailored immigration measures that Democrats can get to the president’s desk. A White House official said the administration was in “regular touch” with lawmakers on immigration reform and would continue to hold briefings on Biden’s immigration priorities as Congress considers proposals.

Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), a swing-district Democrat, has been making the case to Biden’s Hill team that an e-verify provision should be part of the bill, just as it was in the bipartisan immigration bill in 2013 that fell just short of passage.

“Yes, I support what’s in the bill. I think we would be in a stronger position to get it enacted if we eventually ended up where, I think, the middle ground is,” Malinowski said. “I think for both solid political, practical reasons and moral reasons, those two things should go together.”

The biggest fear for many progressives, however, is what could happen to the bill to win over the party’s centrists, either in the House or when the bill crosses over to the Senate.

“We don’t want this bill to be watered down before it gets to the floor, which is sometimes what happens with immigration bills,” Jayapal said.

Immigration advocates have argued that failing to act on the issue could come back to haunt them politically, leaving Democrats vulnerable among their base in 2022.

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During a session at the House Democratic Caucus’s virtual retreat on Wednesday, advocates shared new polling conducted for the immigrant rights groups FWD.us and America’s Voice, which showed that 63 percent of voters would be “upset” if protections for undocumented immigrants didn’t pass. The online survey of 1,200 voters who participated in the 2020 election was conducted Feb. 20-26.

A clean Dream Act proposal received the highest support nationally with 72 percent of voters supporting it compared to 71 percent support for a bill providing citizenship to undocumented farmworkers and 66 percent support for citizenship for undocumented essential workers. The latter is a proposal that has been pushed by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) alongside Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).

“Voters will be upset over inaction, especially the voters Democrats need to show up in the midterm elections,” stated the polling memo shared with House Democrats and obtained by POLITICO. “Republicans will not receive all or even most of the blame should the efforts to pass citizenship bills fail.”




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