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  • House approves bill to send rebates of $210 to Alabama taxpayers


    The Alabama House of Representatives has passed a bill to provide a one-time rebate to people who filed a state income tax last year.

    The bill would provide a rebate of $210 to individual taxpayers and $420 to married couples filing jointly. It’s a revised version of Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposal for a $400 rebate for individuals and $800 for couples.

    The rebates would be paid from a $2.8 billion surplus in the education budget. The surplus is available because revenues to the Education Trust Fund exceeded spending during the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. The rebates would use $546 million of the surplus.

    The bill, HB175, is sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, chair of the House education budget committee. Garrett said Alabama residents who filed a tax return for 2021 before Oct. 17, 2022 would receive the rebate, a total of 1.9 million taxpayers.

    Rep. A.J. McCampbell, D-Livingston, said some retirees and others who do not file a state income tax return are among those who need the rebate the most. On the other hand, many who do not need the rebate will receive it, McCampbell said.

    “It’s not going to change my life,” McCampbell said. “But for that person that may be living from day-to-day on nothing but a Social Security retirement, that $210 or $420 will make a big difference.”

    Garrett acknowledged that some of the most needy will not receive the rebate.

    “I certainly understand your point,” Garrett said. “A rebate by definition is a return of something that somebody has paid.”

    House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, said he would have preferred eligibility for the rebate to be based on a means test to better target those who most need the money.

    The House adopted an amendment by Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Montgomery, that will delay the rebate payment to Nov. 30. Before that change, the bill said the payment would be made within 90 days of the bill becoming law. Ingram said the later date would allow the state to earn interest on the money and would mean that taxpayers will receive it during the holiday spending season. Ingram said that would make it more likely they would spend the money in their own community or in the state.

    The bill passed by a vote of 101-0. The bill moves to the Senate, which had a bill for a smaller rebate, $105 for individuals and $210 for couples.

    House approves bill to send rebates of $210 to Alabama taxpayers - al.com

  • Supreme Court Further Erodes EPA’s Power

    WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over wetlands in a decision with broad ramifications for the environment, agriculture, energy and mining.

    Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Thursday opinion that the Clean Water Act covers only wetlands with a “continuous surface connection” to navigable waters, overturning a 2006 precedent recognizing federal protection for wetlands with a “significant nexus” to such bodies. The new interpretation, Alito wrote, “accords with how Congress has employed the term ‘waters’ elsewhere in the Clean Water Act.”

    The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case comes less than a year after it curbed the EPA’s authority to limit emissions from coal plants. In that blockbuster case, West Virginia v. EPA, the court said the EPA had overstepped when it devised the Obama-era regulatory scheme known as the Clean Power Plan.

    Joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, Alito praised the Clean Water Act as a “great success” since its 1972 enactment that restored polluted lakes and rivers across the nation. “Today, many formerly fetid bodies of water are safe for the use and enjoyment of the people of this country,” Alito wrote.

    He characterized the decision as resolving a “nagging question” over the act’s outer boundaries, which the vague language Congress used to define its scope—it protects the “waters of the U.S.”—left unclear.

    “Does the term encompass any backyard that is soggy enough for some minimum period of time?” he wrote. “How about ditches, swimming pools, and puddles?”

    The court, he wrote, had now provided an answer that would spare property owners the sometimes great expense and even potential criminal liability for misjudging whether their projects were covered by the Clean Water Act.

    In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh criticized Alito’s narrow reading of the act, saying it would undermine federal protection of the Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River.

    “[T]he Court’s new and overly narrow test may leave long-regulated and long-accepted-to-be-regulable wetlands suddenly beyond the scope of the agencies’ regulatory authority, with negative consequences for water of the United States,” Kavanaugh wrote, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

    Kagan, joined by Sotomayor and Jackson, went further in a separate opinion. The majority, she wrote, put “a thumb on the scale for property owners—no matter that the Act (i.e., the one Congress enacted) is all about stopping property owners from polluting.”

    The Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented property owners Michael and Chantell Sackett in their yearslong dispute over a lot near Idaho’s Priest Lake, said the court had struck a blow for property owners.

    The “ruling returns the scope of the Clean Water Act to its original and proper limits,” said Damien Schiff, an attorney with the organization who argued the case. “Courts now have a clear measuring stick for fairness and consistency by federal regulators.”

    President Biden saw it differently.

    “Today’s decision upends the legal framework that has protected America’s waters for decades,” he said. “It also defies the science that confirms the critical role of wetlands in safeguarding our nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes from chemicals and pollutants that harm the health and wellbeing of children, families, and communities.”

    Biden said the administration will “carefully review this decision and use every legal authority we have to protect our Nation’s waters for the people and communities that depend on them.”

    Environmental groups decried Thursday’s decision. “Almost 90 million acres of formerly protected wetlands now face an existential threat from polluters and developers,” said Sam Sankar, vice president of programs at Earthjustice.

    “What the court has done is rewrite the law in an extraordinarily aggressive way, going beyond even what the Trump administration would have done,” Sankar said. “When Justice Kavanaugh—no fan of regulation—is saying you’ve gone too far, that is a really compelling point.”

    The Clean Water Act prohibits the “discharge of pollutants,” including rocks and sand, into “navigable waters.”

    The EPA has interpreted its jurisdiction broadly to include some wetlands that aren’t directly connected to a body of water, an interpretation it says is necessary to protect against water pollution and consistent with Congress’s intent in passing the landmark environmental-protection law.

    There has been fierce debate about what areas fall within the statute’s jurisdiction ever since its enactment.

    Property owners hoping to build on or dredge wetlands are often required to seek permits from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, which helps enforce the Clean Water Act.

    The Sackett family property lies across a road about 300 feet from Idaho’s Priest Lake. Despite this buffer, EPA scientists and the Army Corps of Engineers determined the lot was a wetland covered by the Clean Water Act, citing a “shallow subsurface flow” linking it to the lake. That required the Sacketts to obtain federal permits before developing the property.

    Trade groups representing oil companies and mining firms had filed briefs urging the court to reach the outcome it did. The EPA’s broad approach to wetlands had created regulatory uncertainty, these groups said.

    Farmers’ advocates applauded the high court’s decision, saying it would make it easier for them to do their job with less interference from federal agencies.

    “It means farmers will be able to farm, whether it’s to plow up a field and plant food crops or create drainage for their property that lets them farm more efficiently,” said Rep. John Duarte (R., Calif.), who grows wine grapes, some nuts and trees in California and has been involved in disputes over water regulations on his land.

    Supreme Court Further Erodes EPA’s Power - WSJ

  • Hunter Biden IRS whistleblower reveals self: 'Couldn't silence my conscience anymore'

    The whistleblower in the Hunter Biden Internal Revenue Service investigation has revealed himself.

    Speaking to CBS News, the whistleblower revealed himself as supervisory special agent Gary Shapley in the IRS's criminal investigations department. He is a 14-year veteran of the agency and is currently overseeing a 12-man team that specializes in international tax and financial crimes.

    He told the outlet that he began documenting his concerns about the Hunter Biden investigation in June 2020, five months after being assigned to the "sensitive" investigation.

    "There were multiple steps that were slow-walked — were just completely not done — at the direction of the Department of Justice," Shapley said. "When I took control of this particular investigation, I immediately saw deviations from the normal process. It was way outside the norm of what I've experienced in the past."

    "Each and every time, it seemed to always benefit the subject," he added. "It just got to that point where that switch was turned on. And I just couldn't silence my conscience anymore."

    "For a couple years, we'd been noticing these deviations in the investigative process. And I just couldn't, you know, fathom that DOJ might be acting unethically on this," Shapley continued.

    The whistleblower became the subject of national attention when one of his lawyers, Mark Lytle, wrote to Congress requesting legal protections. He is due to testify in a closed session of the House Ways and Means Committee.

    Though he was documenting irregularities since June 2020, Shapley said he only decided to blow the whistle in October 2022 after a "charged meeting" with the Department of Justice resulted in his team being transferred off of the case.

    "It was my red-line meeting," he told CBS News.

    Shapley said that he hasn't accepted any money to come forward and that his coming forward isn't motivated by partisan concerns. Though he is a registered Republican, he said that his decision to come forward has nothing to do with politics.

    "I'm not involved with any of that stuff," he said. "It's not what I want to do. I'm just simply not a political person. This is a job, and my oath of office is to treat everybody fairly that we investigate."

    The Washington Examiner reached out to the IRS for comment.


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