Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/11

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/11

State Action on Coronavirus

NJ: New Jersey waives testing fees for about 2M residents

nj.com

Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced the state will waive fees for testing and testing-related services for the coronavirus for about 2 million residents. They include state workers and teachers, people on the state’s health exchange, as well as children up to 19 who are in the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program and uninsured people who are eligible for charity care.

NC: North Carolina declares state of emergency, but ACC basketball tournament will go on

newsobserver.com

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency as leaders continue to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. But state officials are not asking the ACC Tournament or other big upcoming events to be canceled. Instead, they want event organizers to adopt “lenient” refund policies for sick people, to prevent the disease from spreading.

HI: Testing in Hawaii comes under fire

staradvertiser.com

Clinical Labs of Hawaii were to begin testing for the coronavirus, while other private labs are racing to come online. Doctors have been frustrated at the lack of widespread testing in the community and say the Health Department has denied testing for some patients who physicians suspect might have the disease.

NY: New York governor orders 'containment area' in New York City suburb

timesunion.com

New York National Guard troops were deployed to New Rochelle, New York, as Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the creation of a “containment area” within a 1 mile radius of that community’s coronavirus cluster. The Westchester County city has 108 of the state's 173 confirmed cases of the illness.

MO: Missouri AG files suit against Jim Bakker Show, says stop selling 'cure'

news-leader.com

A spokesman for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office said it was filing suit against “The Jim Bakker Show.” Chris Nuelle said in an email that the goal of the suit was “to stop (Bakker) from selling that Coronavirus ‘cure,’” a product known as "silver solution" that was priced at $80 or more on the evangelist’s show.

WA: Washington governor limits visitors at nursing homes

seattletimes.com

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, declared new restrictions on people visiting long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. The restrictions will limit long-term care residents to one visitor per day, excluding end-of-life situations.

GA: Schools in one Georgia county to stay closed another day

ajc.com

Students and teachers in Fulton County, Georgia, will remain out of the classroom after a teacher tested positive for the virus. The time without students and staff in the classroom is supposed to give officials enough time to clean the schools and contact those who possibly interacted with the teacher, whose name has not been disclosed.

LA: Louisiana cases increase as officials cancel major events

nola.com

Major conventions scheduled to take place in Louisiana were called off, a recent journalism conference attendee was found to have tested positive for coronavirus and doctors were hoping that the introduction of commercially made testing kits will make it easier to have patients screened.

CO: Colorado governor wants emergency rule on paid leave

denverpost.com

Democratic Gov. Jared Polis directed the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to conduct emergency rulemaking to cover paid sick leave for some hourly workers, he said at a news conference where he declared a state of emergency. The paid leave could last between 24 hours to four days as employees await their test results.

NV: Nevada mayor: Media coverage ‘destroying us’

lasvegassun.com

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told tourism officials at a meeting in the Nevada city that the media’s coverage of the coronavirus is “absolutely destroying us.” A number of scheduled Las Vegas conventions have recently been canceled, postponed or changed to online-only events.

CA: California state universities ban non-essential travel; sports go on

sacbee.com

All California state universities have instituted a travel ban effective immediately, according to a memo posted by Steve Relyea, the chief financial officer for the system. The directive bans non-essential domestic travel. But for now, Sacramento State athletics programs have been deemed essential, according to baseball coach Reggie Christiansen.

IA: Iowa moving from prevention to mitigation, governor says

thegazette.com

Eighteen Iowans returning home from the Grand Princess cruise liner are not showing signs of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, state public health officials said today, but they are being asked to self-isolate. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds described the state public health response as “moving from prevention to mitigation.” The state declared a state of emergency this week.

MN: Minnesota governor approves $21M more for response

startribune.com

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, signed legislation earmarking an additional $21 million for the state’s coronavirus response, as state and federal lawmakers grappled with how to contain the virus and provide economic relief for employers and workers in the weeks and months ahead.

WI: Top Wisconsin lawmaker: Budget committee can deal with emergency

jsonline.com

The leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly said all lawmakers won't need to return to Madison to help fight the spread of coronavirus because the legislature's budget committee can deal with the issue if needed.

VT: Vermont Statehouse leaders forming response plan as lawmakers return to work

vtdigger.org

Vermont Statehouse leaders and staff are putting together contingency plans for coronavirus, even as they acknowledge that the variables are almost infinite.

MT: Montana health insurers waive fees for testing

apnews.com

Four major health insurance companies operating in Montana are voluntarily waiving their customers’ copayments and deductibles for coronavirus testing, state Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale announced.

CT: Connecticut governor declares state of emergency

courant.com

Responding to increasing alarm about the spread of the 2019 coronavirus, Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont declared both a public health emergency and a civil preparedness emergency. It gives the state power over quarantine and grants the governor broad powers over state institutions, allowing him to restrict travel, close public schools and buildings and more.

AK: Alaska imposes hiring freeze, bans out-of-state travel for state workers

ktoo.org

Ben Stevens, the chief of staff to Alaska GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said in a memo to state workers that these are cost-saving measures in reaction to lower oil prices. He did not cite coronavirus. Legislative leaders also announced restrictions on out-of-state travel. Senate President Cathy Giessel explained that their decision was based on health precautions.

Other State News

OK: Oklahoma house passes cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees

oklahoman.com

In a rare unanimous vote, the Oklahoma House passed legislation to grant a cost-of-living adjustment this year to most state retirees. The House’s overwhelming support puts pressure on the state Senate, which punted on the issue last year, to approve the pension increases.

AL: Alabama to exhibit artifacts from last U.S. slave ship

apnews.com

The state of Alabama will provide artifacts from the last slave ship to dock in the United States for a special public exhibition later this year, officials said. The Alabama Historical Commission said an exhibit named for the slave ship Clotilda is set to open this fall in Mobile, where the schooner arrived with African captives in 1860.

GA: Georgia House approves extending Medicaid coverage for new mothers

ajc.com

The Georgia House passed a bill that would give new mothers six months of Medicaid coverage after delivering a child. House Bill 1114 would extend medical coverage for low-income women from its current limit of two months. The coverage also would include lactation specialists for women struggling with breastfeeding.

CO: Colorado passes a bill to replace Columbus Day with Cabrini Day

denverpost.com

Colorado’s proposed Cabrini Day — in honor of Frances Xavier Cabrini, an Italian American and the patron saint of immigrants — may be the first paid state holiday recognizing a woman anywhere in this country.

SD: South Dakota House passes bill to allow Spanish-language driver's license tests

argusleader.com

The South Dakota House has OK'd legislation allowing Spanish-language driver's license written tests. House members amended the bill to clearly state that the written test can be taken in Spanish or English, but the driving skills test is in English only. 

SC: South Carolina’s longest-serving African American lawmaker to retire

thestate.com

South Carolina’s longest-serving African American lawmaker, Sen. John Matthews, announced he is retiring from office at the end of his term. Matthews, an Orangeburg Democrat and assistant Senate minority leader, has represented the Senate District 39 seat since 1985.

ID: Idaho House votes to limit whistleblower lawsuits

apnews.com

Whistleblower lawsuits against Idaho would be limited to $370,000 in non-economic damages under legislation that passed the Idaho House. The measure follows a whistleblower lawsuit the Idaho State Police settled in 2019 for $1.29 million.

TX: Texas braces for oil bust

texasmonthly.com

When millions of quarantined people in China stop driving their cars, or businesses across the world cancel their international travel, suddenly there are a lot fewer people out there trying to buy Texas crude. With few exceptions, the producers whose fracking techniques turned the United States into an oil behemoth can't make money when crude sells at only $31 a barrel.

FL: Florida lawmakers seek faster recounts

miamiherald.com

The Florida House passed legislation to allow county elections supervisors to purchase special equipment to conduct both machine and manual recounts. But the prospect that the state could be dependent on a single proprietary software tool has supporters worried that security could be undermined.

IN: Distracted driving bill heads to Indiana governor's desk with one change

indystar.com

A distracted driving bill that has mostly breezed through the Indiana legislative session with strong support will now head to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk. The bill states that an individual may not "hold or use a telecommunications device while operating a motor vehicle," but offers a reprieve to motorists who receive a violation before next summer.

RI: Rhode Island governor signs bill raising minimum wage

providencejournal.com

Democratic Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed into law a $1 hike in the state’s minimum wage that will raise it from $10.50 to $11.50 an hour, effective Oct. 1.

MD: Maryland Senate unanimously passes measure to legalize sports betting

baltimoresun.com

The measure, which now moves to the House, would let Maryland voters decide during the November election whether to allow gambling on a wide variety of games. Betting would be allowed on college and professional sports, but not high school contests.

NH: Lawmaker fights gun ban at New Hampshire House

apnews.com

A Republican lawmaker took his fight against a rule banning firearms inside New Hampshire’s 400-member House to the state Supreme Court, asking it to weigh in on the issue.

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