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New Hampshire Legislators Poised to Pass Right-to-Work Law

New Hampshire may soon become the first state in the Northeast to enact a right-to-work law.


The state senate has already passed right-to-work legislation and the state house is gearing up to vote on the bill soon. This law would end the requirement that New Hampshire workers either join a union or pay a fee to a union as a condition of employment.


Supporters of right-to-work legislation say that no one should be forced to join a union or pay a fee to a union in order to work. They contend that unions should attract workers and their money voluntarily, not through the state forcing workers to fund labor organizations. Those opposed to these laws contend that since unions bargain on behalf of every worker at a business, no worker should be able to “free ride” on the benefits provided by unions.


The effort to pass right-to-work is one that has been attempted before in New Hampshire. In 2017, newly-elected Gov. Chris Sununu pushed for this type of law. The bill failed to gain a majority in the state house, however, with some moderate Republicans voting against it. This year, however, there are more conservatives in the legislature, leading to the bill's increased chance of success.


Currently 28 states have this type of law. 


Do you support right-to-work laws?

W. Virginia Makes Public Employee Strikes Illegal

In the past few years, West Virginia teachers and school personnel have engaged in work stoppages to protest state budget actions. A new law codifies that strikes by government workers like these are illegal.


Under Senate Bill 11, striking by state and local government employees is now illegal. A 1990 decision by the state supreme court had already ruled that state employees could not strike without legal authorization, but this bill now enacts that ban into law and establishes penalties and procedures for dealing with strikes and work stoppages.


If government employees participate in a strike or a work stoppage, that will now be grounds for dismissal in West Virginia. School employees cannot use personal days to engage in such activities 


Starting in 2018, teachers and school employees have engaged in work stoppages to protest what they saw as unfair wage increases. Supporters of such actions contend that they are the best way to gain the attention of the public to push for needed raises and reforms. Opponents, however, argue that teachers should focus on educating students and not use their work time to engage in political action.


West Virginia was long seen as a union stronghold, which co-existed with its long mining history. However, in recent years there has been a switch away from policies favored by unions. In 2016, West Virginia became a right-to-work state. The work stoppages led by teachers have also engendered a policy backlash, as Senate Bill 11 illustrates.


Do you think that states should ban strikes and work stoppages by teachers and other government employees?

House Votes to End Right-to-Work Laws

The House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation this week that would change a variety of federal laws, including one that allows states to pass right-to-work laws.


By a vote of 225-206, the House passed HR 842 on Tuesday. Here is how VoteSpotter describes the legislation:


To amend several longstanding federal labor and employment laws, with the effect among others of repealing the authority of states to enact "right to work" laws. These laws prohibit requiring employees in a workplace that at some time was organized by a union from having to pay fees or dues to the union as a condition of employment. The bill would also expand restrictions on whether workers can be classified as independent contractors (Uber drivers the most common example); ban employers from permanently replacing striking workers; and permit "secondary strikes," where workers in one industry go on strike to support strikes against a different industry; and more.


This legislation encompasses many of the policy priorities that unions have sought for decades. Ending right-to-work laws has long been something that unions have desired. Authorized by a 1947 federal statute, there are now 27 states that have such laws. In the past decade, some states that have traditionally been strongholds of union activity, such as Michigan and West Virginia, have adopted such laws.


There has also been recent activity in the states about how to classify independent contractors. With apps such as Uber and Lyft making it easier for individuals to work in the "gig economy," unions have expressed concerns that employers are abusing the independent contractor designation in order to avoid paying benefits. California adopted a law that restricts how independent contractors can be classified, but voters modified parts of the law dealing with some workers in the 2020 election.


Supporters of this legislation argue that workers deserve more protection in today's economy and strengthening federal labor laws will help stop them from being exploited. They contend that executives and shareholders are reaping most of the benefits from economic growth so changing the system to share the wealth with workers is fair. Opponents, however, contend that placing new restrictions on business owners will hurt the economy and workers who depend on these businesses for jobs. They contend that this law will drive businesses overseas.


The support for the legislation was largely along partisan lines. Only 5 Republicans voted for it and 1 Democrat opposed it. The Senate is unlikely to favor this bill in its current form.


Do you think that the federal government should prevent states from passing right-to-work laws? 

Parliamentarian Deals Blow to Hopes of $15 Minimum Wage


Democrats were hoping to use the coronavirus relief bill to enact a $15-per-hour minimum wage. Yesterday, the Senate parliamentarian issued an opinion that erects a major roadblock to their efforts. 


Members of Congress are using the budget process to advance another coronavirus relief bill. The budget process allows legislation to move through Congress through reconciliation, which is exempt from the Senate filibuster. Essentially it is a way to pass legislation with only a majority vote. This legislation must concern federal spending, however. 


Supporters of an increased federal minimum wage have argued that this policy proposal is indeed related to federal spending and budgetary matters. That has been greeted by skepticism even from some members of the Democratic Party, however. The Senate parliamentarian also disagreed. She ruled that reconciliation could not be used to advance the minimum wage in that body.


House Speaker Pelosi said that she would still include a minimum wage increase in the House's version of COVID relief. When that reaches the Senate, however, the rules will require that it be removed. 


This does not end the fight for a higher minimum wage. Some Republicans, such as Senators Josh Hawley and Mitt Romney, support increasing it, although not to $15. Even though a minimum wage bill cannot be advanced via reconciliation, it can be considered under normal Senate rules. For it to pass, however, supporters would need to garner 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

Do you think that the minimum wage should be increased? If so, should it be increased to $15 or a lower amount?

Cities Mandating Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers

With the coronavirus pandemic lasting almost a year, cities are beginning to mandate that grocery stores offer their workers temporary bonuses. The elected officials supporting these mandates argue that grocery store workers deserve pay for serving through the pandemic, but they have led to some grocery stores closing their doors.


Cities including Los Angeles, Seattle, and Long Beach have passed laws requiring that grocery stores pay their workers temporary bonuses. The Long Beach law, for instance, requires stores whose business is 70% devoted to food and employ more than 300 employees nationally to pay their employees in that city an extra $4 per hour. These government-mandated raises would last for 120 days.


With grocery store employees putting in long hours and facing customers who may have coronavirus, the supporters of these mandates argue that it is only fair for them to get a raise. They also say that grocery chains have seen a big increase in business, so they should pass a cut of their profits to workers. Opponents counter that grocery stores have spent significant money on coronavirus-related safety procedures. They also note that these stores' margins are very thin, so a government-mandated wage increase will lead to some stores closing down.


Some grocery chains have indeed announced that they would close stores or reduce hours in areas that impose a bonus pay mandate. They are also suing to overturn these requirements.


Do you think that cities should require that grocery stores raise their workers' pay?

Ohio Legislators Seek to Remove Business Penalties for Violating Coronavirus Orders

Some Ohio legislators are not happy that businesses are being fined for violating coronavirus orders. They are pushing legislation that would eliminate these penalties.


Under a bill being sponsored by Republican Rep. Derek Merrin, businesses that were fined for violating the governor's coronavirus orders would have those fines removed. It would also expunge any record of such violations. This comes as part of a group of bills aimed at rolling back or restricting the governor's powers to issue emergency orders.


Rep. Merrin argues that the Ohio legislature has passed expungement legislation for other crimes in recent years, so there's a precedent for this move. He says that some businesses have been fined thousands of dollars and they should see that money returned to them. Opponents of the legislation contend that it would undercut vital public health measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.


Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has faced opposition from some of his fellow Republicans in Columbus for his coronavirus-related actions. Members of the GOP-dominated legislature have introduced multiple bills that would restrain his authority to issue emergency orders or roll back the orders he has already put in place. 


Do you think that businesses that violated coronavirus orders should have their fines eliminated?

Biden Bars New Fossil Fuel Leasing on Federal Land

There will be no new leasing of federal land for coal, oil, and natural gas -- at least for now. This week President Joe Biden will sign a moratorium on such leasing that will be in place for much of his term in office.


Fulfilling a campaign promise, Biden's order would place a halt on new leases for fossil fuel development on lands controlled by the federal government. This would include new offshore drilling leasing, too. Existing leases would remain intact. The federal government owns considerable property, especially in western states, and much of that is open for mining and energy development. Offshore oil and natural gas exploration is also permitted in some federally-controlled areas of the Gulf of Mexico and around Alaska.


The president and environmentalists consider such leases as giveaways to large corporations. They also say that this leasing helps perpetuate the use of energy sources that pollute the environment. Supporters of the leases argue that it is better to develop U.S. resources than rely on foreign nations for America's energy needs. They also point out that energy production on federal lands supports good-paying jobs in areas that have few other economic options.


This executive order is part of a larger Biden agenda that envisions the U.S. moving from the use of fossil fuels to the use of renewable forms of energy. Much of this plan must be enacted by Congress, but the president can take some steps via executive order. This order is not a permanent end to federal fossil fuel leases, which would require a change in U.S. law, but a temporary moratorium. A new president could reverse this action.


Do you support banning oil, natural gas, and coal leases on federal land?

Biden Mandates $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

Joe Biden supports a nationwide $15-per-hour minimum wage, something that must go through Congress to be enacted. This week, however, he took direct action to implement that minimum wage on a smaller scale by signing an order requiring federal contractors to pay that wage.


Under the Biden order, federal contractors must pay at least $15-per-hour. The order also has provisions that amplify collective bargaining rights and require these employers to offer emergency paid leave. 


According to President Biden, this order as well as others he signed this week are ways to help workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic. He has also unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus plan, but this must go through Congress. Executive orders do not, but they also have a much more limited reach.


The president’s actions have garnered criticism from those who say they are placing more burdens on businesses that have been hit hard by the economic crisis. They contend that the president’s economic plans will hurt economic growth and ultimately lead to more job loss.


The movement on minimum wage is part of a broader push to raise the federal minimum wage to $15-per-hour. This has long been a goal of progressive activists. 


Do you think that federal contractors should be mandated to pay a minimum wage of $15?

Strikers Call for $15 Minimum Wage

Fast food workers in 15 states are staging a strike demanding a $15 minimum wage and unionization, part of the “Fight for $15” movement.


Some activists and workers have long been pushing for a $15 minimum wage at the federal level. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25. Twenty-nine states have higher minimum wages than the federal mandate, and 27 states, cities, or counties have minimum wages of at least $15 per hour.


The striking workers are calling on Congress and the president to increase the federal minimum wage. This is something that incoming president Joe Biden supports. With a Democratic-controlled Congress, this idea could become law this year.


Those pushing for a higher minimum wage say that every worker deserves to be paid a living wage. They contend that increasing the minimum wage will increase worker productivity and ensure more fairness in society. Those opposed to it counter that the government mandating that every worker must be paid $15 per hour will hurt workers with few skills and those entering the job market. They also argue that businesses are already struggling with the coronavirus pandemic and many cannot afford to see such a large increase in salaries.


If enacted, a $15 minimum wage would likely be phased in over a period of years.

Do you support a federal $15 minimum wage?

Judge Strikes Down L.A. Dining Ban

The Los Angeles Public Health Department’s desire to shut down outdoor dining has run into legal trouble. This week a state judge says the agency erred in issuing the ban.


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said that the department did not have the authority to issue such a ban. He went on to say that the ban “is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic.” The health department had shut down outdoor dining two weeks ago in response to rising coronavirus cases. An association of restaurant owners sued.


While the county said that such a ban was necessary to combat the coronavirus, Judge Chalfant disagreed. His ruling finds that the county did not rely on science in imposing the ban. The restaurant association leading the lawsuit noted that only a small percentage of coronavirus cases are linked to restaurants and that the federal government ranks outdoor dining as a less-risky activity.


The judge’s decision also pointed out that this ban would have severe consequences on restaurants. He noted that many of these restaurants would likely go bankrupt under such a ban. He said the county should have weighed not only the potential health benefits of a ban but also the economic consequences of it.


While this case invalidates the L.A. County ban on outdoor dining, the state of California has its own outdoor dining ban. 


Do you agree with banning outdoor dining as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus?


NC Governor Imposes 10 p.m. Curfew to Stem Coronavirus Spread

Most North Carolina businesses will be closing at 10 p.m. under a new order imposed by Gov. Roy Cooper.


Under Gov. Cooper's order, only a few businesses will be exempt from the closing order. These include grocery stores, gas stations, and health care facilities. Restaurants can continue serving take-out food after 10 p.m., but cannot allow customers to eat inside. Individuals must stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they meet certain exceptions. 


Coronavirus cases are rising in North Carolina, with many counties being considered as having critical community spread. The governor says that this justifies restricting businesses and public gatherings. He said that as the evening goes on, crowds increase and there is more chance of spreading the coronavirus. Critics push back against this logic, however, saying there is nothing particularly dangerous about late-night dining or drinking as opposed to doing the same activities earlier in the day. They contend that the governor's order will harm businesses that are already struggling.


Coronavirus cases are rising in states around the nation. Other governors are imposing or considering similar measures in an attempt to stop community spread of the virus.


Gov. Cooper said that if these restrictions do not work, he will consider imposing even stricter rules.


Do you think that states should impose curfews to stop the spread of the coronavirus?

Los Angeles Bans Outdoor Dining to Stem Coronavirus Surge

Coronavirus cases are rising in Los Angeles County. The local health department thinks that ending outdoor dining will help stem the tide.


Under this order, restaurants and other establishments that serve food can only offer take out. Both indoor and outdoor dining are prohibited. Outdoor dining has been allowed since May, under the rationale that being outdoors provides less exposure to the coronavirus than being indoors. However, with cases increasing in the county, health officials contend that even outdoor seating is too dangerous.


States, counties, and cities around the nation are taking new steps and re-imposing old bans in order to curb the increase in coronavirus cases. In Los Angeles County, the five-day average of cases has surpassed 4,000, which was the threshold set by the health department for new restrictions.


These measures have proven controversial in many areas. Business owners argue that they are an extreme response that is killing jobs and the economy. They say that business shutdowns are an overreaction that do more harm than good. The officials imposing these restrictions counter that they are essential to keep the virus and the harm it causes at bay.


The Los Angeles order lasts for three weeks, although it can be extended.


Do you think that health officials should prohibit outdoor dining as a way to combat the coronavirus?

Coronavirus-Related Unemployment Benefits Set to Expire

When Congress passed the CARES Act in March, it made self-employed workers and freelance workers eligible for unemployment benefits for the first time. That eligibility will expire on December 26 unless Congress acts during the lame duck session to extend it.


Congress included these workers in the CARES Act when it passed in March. The rationale was that in a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty, workers who had not been previously eligible for benefits should be included. Unlike traditional employees, people who are self-employed or who do freelance work do not pay into the unemployment system. Under the CARES Act, however, they could also receive payments similar to other workers.


This expanded eligibility ends in December, however. 


Congress convened a lame duck session this week to pass legislation to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year and pass a handful of other bills. While coronavirus aid bills were largely bipartisan when Congress passed them in the spring, that cross-party agreement has broken down. Differences between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as differences between Congress and the president, are currently hampering efforts to craft new legislation. 


If congressional leaders can work out their differences, Congress could pass another round of coronavirus aid in late November or early December. However, some Democrats want to wait until Joe Biden takes office, which they think will give them a stronger hand during negotiations.


Do you support extending the eligibility for unemployment benefits to people who are self-employed?

Governors Re-impose Coronavirus-Related Restrictions

Across the nation, coronavirus cases are increasing. This is prompting some governors to re-impose restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. This has made some of their states' residents unhappy.


In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee re-imposed lockdown restrictions that had been lifted months ago. These include limiting how many people can attend funerals, curbing indoor dining, and banning some youth sports activities. In Oregon, indoor gatherings for more than a handful of people are banned. Michigan is prohibiting schools from meeting in person.


These orders come as over 60,000 people are hospitalized from the coronavirus. Some hospitals say they are reaching a critical situation, and may not be able to offer necessary services if cases continue to climb. Governors argue that restricting business activities and requiring masks are the best way to blunt the impact of the coronavirus until a vaccine is developed. 


Some residents of these states are unhappy with the restrictions. They argue that the coronavirus is not very deadly, so it is an overreaction to impose severe government controls in response. They also contend that these lockdowns do more harm than good, as people are losing their businesses and people are being put out of work.


Not all states are implementing new restrictions. Florida's governor, for instance, recently lifted lockdown orders.


Do you support governors placing restrictions on individual gatherings and business activities in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus?

Biden Advisor Says No National Lockdown Coming

With coronavirus cases increasing, there is heated discussion about what will be done under a Joe Biden presidency to combat the spread. His coronavirus taskforce advisor has ruled out a national lockdown.


Dr. Vivek Murthy said in interviews that there is no strategy to place restrictions on the entire U.S. economy. Instead, Murthy said that such restrictions should be targeted to locations that have a high incidence of the disease. Dr. Murthy is a former U.S. Surgeon General whom Joe Biden has selected to lead his task force on coronavirus issues. Other Biden advisors have said the same thing.


Around the nation, governors are taking various steps to combat the spread of the coronavirus. With numbers increasing in many states, governors are putting in place a variety of restrictions. These include limits on non-family gatherings, business shutdowns, and mask mandates. In-person schooling is being discontinued in some areas, too.


Proponents of coronavirus-related restrictions argue that they are vital to stop the spread of the disease. They contend that without them, many people will die or become sick, overwhelming the health care system. Opponents contend that the restrictions are going overboard and are hurting people and businesses. They argue that this is a prime example of government overreacting to the virus.


There is disagreement on how many restrictions the federal government can put in place to deal with coronavirus spread. The Trump Administration has embraced some policies, such as a national moratorium on some evictions, that have proven controversial and are being challenged in court. Many legal observers note that while states have broad powers to deal with pandemics, the federal government does not. A national lockdown would certainly face lawsuits.


Do you support a national lockdown to deal with the coronavirus?

California Voters Say Gig Drivers Aren’t Employees

California legislators wanted to classify contractors for Lyft and Uber as “employees.” But California voters disagreed, voting in favor of an initiative that allows these workers to continue being classified as independent contractors.” Some see this as a victory for worker freedom, while others contend that it will allow these companies to continue exploiting drivers.


Over 58% of voters approved Proposition 22, which changed California law to allow app-based drivers to be classified as independent contractors. This was in response to the enactment of AB 5 in California. That law put severe restrictions on how companies could use independent contractors, including drivers for Uber and Lyft. Supporters said it was necessary to crack down on unscrupulous companies that were trying to avoid paying workers benefits and higher wages. Opponents countered that it was the government meddling in arrangements that worked well for both employees and contractors.


Uber and Lyft strongly supported Proposition 22, saying that it was necessary for them to continue operating in the sate. Besides removing app-based drivers from AB 5’s restrictions, Proposition 22 also:

  • Required app-based driving services to pay certain minimum amounts to drivers
  • Imposed limits on the number of hours an app-based driver could work in a 24-hour period
  • Mandated health care subsidies for some app-based drivers
  • Required companies provide some forms of insurance for these drivers


AB 5 only affected drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft. Other independent contractors are unaffected. After AB 5 was enacted, businesses began restructuring or ending their relationships with California independent contractors. 


To amend Proposition 22 will take a ⅞ vote in both chambers of California’s legislature.


Do you think that states should impose more restrictions on companies using independent contractors?

Colorado Voters to Decide on Tobacco, Vaping Tax Increase

The price of cigarettes and vaping products could be going up in Colorado.


If voters approve Proposition EE, the state government will increase the tax on tobacco products every year until 2027 and impose a new tax on e-cigarette products. The revenue generated would be dedicated to a variety of state funds dealing with health and education.


Under Proposition EE, the state's cigarette tax would increase from its current 84 cents-per-pack to $2.64 per-pack by 2027. The tax rate on tobacco products such as cigars and chewing tobacco would increase form 40% to 62%. Currently nicotine products such as e-cigarettes and vaping supplies are not taxed. Under Proposition EE, they would begin to be taxed at a rate of 30%, which would rise to 62% by 2027. A variety of state programs would share in revenue from this tax increase, including the preschool fund, the rural schools fund, and the tobacco tax cash fund.


Backers of this measure contend that Colorado's tobacco tax is below the national average. They argue that it needs to increase in order to discourage smoking and provide revenue for important government programs. Opponents say this tax will hurt Colorado businesses. They also note that imposing the same tax on non-tobacco nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, will discourage people from switching to them from more dangerous tobacco products.


Do you think that tobacco taxes should be increased? Should nicotine products like e-cigarettes be taxed the same as tobacco products?



Trump Administration Pushes for Airline Aid

Coronavirus aid talks are in flux, with House leadership and Trump officials at odds over what legislation should look like. There may be one area where both sides agree, however -- aid for the airline industry. House Democrats tried to advance an airline aid bill last week, while Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin this week has said this is something the Trump Administration supports.


During last week's House of Representatives legislative session, Rep. Peter DeFazio attempted to advance a $28 billion bill that was aimed at preventing layoffs of airline workers. House Republicans objected, however, so the bill could not be fast-tracked through the body. Earlier this week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin spoke with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and said that the president would like to see an airline bill advance.


President Trump has tweeted both that he is cutting off coronavirus aid negotiation with Democrats and that he would sign an aid bill that has a stimulus check for Americans. Many Republicans prefer passing legislation that focuses on certain areas of need, not a larger bill that encompasses many more things. With airlines struggling because of a lack of travelers, many in Congress and the Trump Administration see this as an area of agreement.


In March, Congress included $32 billion in aid to airlines. It was conditioned on these airlines not making layoffs or wage cuts through last month. Airlines and unions are pushing for this aid to be extended in the new legislation or new money to be provided to airlines. They argue that the prospects for increased travel do not look good, and that without aid there will be widespread layoffs in the airline industry.


Some in Congress are sympathetic to this view, noting that this is an issue that was beyond airlines’ control. However, there are also concerns about the overall cost of an aid package. 


Do you think that Congress should pass an airline aid bill?

Florida Voters Will Decide on $15 Minimum Wage

The fight for a $15 minimum wage has come to Florida ballots.


Sunshine State voters will decide the fate of Amendment 2, which would increase Florida's minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2026. Currently the state's minimum wage is $8.46 per hour. If voters approve the amendment, the minimum wage would automatically increase every year until it reached $15 in September 2026.


Backers of this measure argue that Florida workers deserve a living wage. They say that the a higher minimum wage is necessary to ensure that all Florida workers can afford to support a family. Controversially, one of the backers of this ballot measure has compared the current minimum wage to a "slave wage."


Opponents, however, point out that many minimum wage workers are not supporting a family. Instead, they say, these workers are teenagers or others who are entering the job force. Business owners and economists warn that a higher minimum wage will hurt workers looking to obtain entry-level jobs, and will lead to higher unemployment, especially for young people and minorities.


Florida voters last approved a minimum wage increase in 2004, which also tied the state's minimum wage to inflation.


Do you support mandating the minimum wage of $15 per hour?

Maryland Foam Food Container Ban Goes into Effect

It is now illegal for Maryland businesses to serve food or drinks in Styrofoam or other foam containers.


In 2019, legislators passed a law outlawing the use of polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, containers in food service. Retailers are also banned from selling such containers under the legislation. Gov. Larry Hogan did not support the law, but he did not veto it, either. He let the law go into effect without his signature.


Prior to the statewide law going into effect, three of Maryland’s largest counties already banned the use of these containers, as did Baltimore City.


Supporters of the law said that it will cut down a product that could not be recycled and did not easily biodegrade. They also contended that this ban will save space in landfills and reduce litter. Opponents argued that the burden will fall on small businesses. They also said that it would have no real effect on litter or the environment, since only a tiny amount of litter involved Styrofoam. Some business owners are also pointing out that this is an especially bad time to be placing new burdens on restaurants, which have been struggling with a government-mandated shutdown.


The ban was supposed to go into effect in July. However, the state delayed implementation in light of the uptick in takeout foods in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Under this delay, restaurants could still use their stock of foam containers until today. 


Maine and Vermont have similar bans in place, although Maine’s prohibitions do not take effect until 2021.

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