New Deal 2.0
Apr 7, 2021

LEAD STORY

President Joe Biden unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs package that would make the most significant domestic U.S. investments in generations.  This comes on the heels of an assessment by the American Society of Civil Engineers that gave the U.S. a “C-“ for its infrastructure and stated the U.S. needed a massive jump in government spending to address crumbling roads, bridges, and other programs.  We’ll breakdown some of the highlights.

 

TRANSPORTATION

The plan sets aside $621 billion to fix America’s roadways, railways, and bridges, including 10,000 of the worst bridges and 20,000 miles of roads.  Also included? Transit systems, including railways, airports, ports, and waterways.  It would spend a significant portion on electric vehicles by creating a network of electric vehicle stations, using electric vehicles in bus fleets, and offering tax incentives and rebates for electric cars.

 

PLUMBING

The plan calls to replace 100% of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines.  The White House estimated that some 6 million to 10 million American households still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines.  The investment will also reduce lead exposure in 400,000 schools and child care facilities.  Also on tap – modernizing wastewater and storm water systems as well as funding to clean PFAS – a so-called “forever chemical” – from drinking water.

 

SCHOOLS

Over a $100 billion would be allocated to modernize public schools.  This includes upgrading and building new public schools.  This includes improved ventilation, cutting-edge school buildings with technology and labs, and school kitchens.  Community colleges would see grants to address physical and technological infrastructure needs and identifying strategies to address access to community colleges in education deserts. 

 

HEALTHCARE

The plan would spend significantly on boosting the infrastructure for caring for the elderly and people with disabilities.  It would create new jobs by expanding access to home- or community-based care for the elderly and people with disabilities.  It would also offer caregiving workers a pay increase, stronger benefits, and an opportunity to organize and collectively bargain.

 

$2.25 TRILLION

Yup, that’s a big number and Biden is looking at corporations to fund this plan.  The proposal calls for raising the corporate tax rate to 28%.  This rate was cut from 35% to the current 21% in 2017 as part of the previous administration’s tax cuts.  The plan also calls for boosting the global minimum tax for multinational corporations from 10.5% (new in 2017) to 21%.  There’s still a lot of negotiating that will happen on what’s included and how it will get funded.  We’ll keep you in the loop.

 

Schools

WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY?

A U.S. Supreme Court case that could have huge implications to K-12 schools and that tests the boundaries of school discipline and the rights of students to free speech will be heard at the end of April.  In the case, a high school student athlete was suspended from cheerleading for a year for speech posted to friends on social media that broke the school’s code of conduct.  For the first time, the Supreme Court will decide whether the rules that apply to students when they are in school also apply to their speech when they are outside of school. 

 

BALANCING PROTECTIONS

In a 1969 decision, the court ruled that students don’t surrender their First Amendment rights at school, but schools could restrict student speech when it’s materially disruptive or invades the rights of others.  A federal judge ruled in 2016 that a school didn’t violate a student’s First Amendment rights when it suspended the student for speech posted on social media.  The court found that “school administrators must balance students’ First Amendment rights with their duty to protect and foster a safe learning environment” and “need clear guidance” from the Supreme Court as to “whether and when they can regulate off-campus speech.”  The Supreme Court will rule on the above case by the end of June.

 

Making Our Way Around the Country

CORONAVIRUS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is no longer recommending daily disinfection for schools, homes, and workplaces that are not hospitals or health-care facilities to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  The CDC updated its guidance this week stating that disinfecting chemicals needed to be used only within 24 hours after a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.  CDC Chief Dr. Rochelle Walenskysaid stated that the evidence has shown that the risk is low to become infected with the virus through touching contaminated surfaces and objects.  In most situations when there’s no known coronavirus exposure, a regular daily cleaning (soap and water) will suffice. 

 

PENNSYLVANIA

The Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman approved a workers’ compensation loss cost reduction of 3.02%.  Loss-costs are a component in determining workers’ compensation rates paid by Pennsylvania businesses, and this reduction should lead to lower premiums for many businesses.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Insurance Department took steps to ensure that workers’ compensation rates reflected the impact of the health emergency, especially in light of the emphasis on teleworking and stay-at-home orders.  The department approved rules that excluded workers who were not actually working from the companies’ premium determination, reducing premiums for those business.

 

ONE SHINING MOMENT

Oh what an amazing NCAA basketball tournament!  Congrats to Stanford, winning the women’s tournament for the first time in nearly 30 years, and to Baylor, who are the men’s champions.  Gonzaga’s fantastic, final four buzzer beater can be seen in this year’s One Shining Moment.  Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.

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