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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/14

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/14

WI: Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down governor’s stay-at-home order

jsonline.com

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' order shutting down daily life to limit the spread of coronavirus — marking the first time a court has knocked down a statewide order of its kind.

CO: Virus may trigger Colorado tax cut

coloradosun.com

Colorado lawmakers could be asked to cut residential property taxes by nearly 18% in 2021 to comply with a tax-limiting constitutional provision. The cut would have cascading effects at nearly every level of government in the state, gashing the budgets of property-tax reliant fire districts, counties and schools.

TX: Texas asks state courts to stop expanded mail-in voting

texastribune.org

Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, wants the highest Texas civil court to tell five Democratic counties to follow his interpretation that fear of contracting the coronavirus isn't a legally valid reason for voters to request absentee ballots. Several lawsuits over the issue are pending.

OH: Divided Ohio Supreme Court upholds school takeover law

dispatch.com

In a 5-2 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court found lawmakers did not violate the state Constitution when they added a 67-page amendment allowing the takeover of poor-performing schools to a 10-page bill that they passed the same day.

VT: Vermont testing everyone who wants it

mychamplainvalley.com

Vermont is now offering free testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 to anyone who wants one, even people without symptoms.

KY: Kentucky planning for 12.5% budget cuts

kentucky.com

Deep budget cuts are coming across Kentucky’s government, but Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s office did not specify which services or programs would be affected.

SD: Tribes negotiate with South Dakota on coronavirus checkpoints

argusleader.com

Some tribal leaders said they’ll consider Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem's request to remove checkpoints from state and federal roads. Noem threatened legal action against two tribes over the checkpoints.

NC: Reopening tensions simmer in North Carolina

newsobserver.com

The tension between people who want North Carolina to reduce restrictions and state officials who focus on safety took several new shapes. A county sheriff said he would not enforce Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s restrictions on church services, and a lawmaker called on Cooper to allow barbershops and hair salons to reopen.

SC: South Carolina governor concerned about lack of mask-wearing, social distancing

thestate.com

Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, said he is concerned over the lack of masks and social distancing in public, echoing a South Carolina epidemiologist. “People need to be careful,” said McMaster, who extended his emergency order another 15 days.

MN: Older Minnesota voters sue to change absentee voting rules

startribune.com

Voters sued Minnesota over absentee voting rules, part of a broader movement to change absentee rules across at least five states. The lawsuit argues that older voters who are self-quarantining won’t be able to get the required witness signatures on their mail-in ballots.

PA: Pennsylvania revocation of business exemptions raises ire

spotlightpa.org

Pennsylvania has revoked many waivers granted earlier to businesses, allowing them to operate despite a statewide shutdown. Many owners are angry and surprised, saying there was no explanation for the changes.

VT: Vermont governor: Mask mandate possible after more retailer input

vtdigger.org

With both evidence and public pressure increasing for more masking to prevent COVID-19 infection, Republican Gov. Phil Scott said he would consider mandating masks after getting more guidance from Vermont retailers.

GA: Georgia coronavirus rates higher in black communities

ajc.com

Coronavirus cases are higher in Georgia counties where more African Americans live, even after stripping out factors like poverty, health insurance and population density, according to a Morehouse School of Medicine study.

MS: Mississippi ending evictions suspension

sunherald.com

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, announced he is lifting a suspension on evictions June 1. The suspension had been in place since Reeves’ shelter-in-place order went into effect April 3 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

DC: District of Columbia mayor extends widespread shutdown

washingtonpost.com

Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser extended the District of Columbia stay-at-home order, mass gathering ban and closure of nonessential businesses through June 8, saying infections have not declined enough to start reopening the capital.

CT: Connecticut to pay consulting firm $2M to aid reopening efforts

courant.com

Connecticut officials have hired consultants to coordinate its phased reopening, Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s office said. The contract calls for the firm to provide “data-driven analytical support.”

OK: Oklahoma Senate quickly overrides veto of $7.7B appropriations bill

tulsaworld.com

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt vetoed the state's $7.7 billion general appropriations bill, saying it should have reduced spending further given the economic downturn, and senators in short order voted for an override.

NJ: New Jersey to reopen stores for curbside pickup, allow construction

nj.com

New Jersey will allow nonessential businesses to reopen for curbside pickup and nonessential construction to resume starting Monday morning, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy announced, easing the near-lockdown orders he instituted almost eight weeks ago. 

NJ: New Jersey tax collections sank $3.5B in April

nj.com

New Jersey tax collections tumbled 60% in April as consumer spending fell, hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs, and taxpayers put off filing and paying their corporate and individual income taxes.

MO: Missouri Republicans plan to overturn redistricting process

stltoday.com

The Republican-led Missouri House voted to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in a bid to overturn a redistricting process voters approved two years ago. The ballot question was a top priority for Republicans, who said voters were confused when they signed off on the “Clean Missouri” initiative.

NE: Workers test positive for coronavirus at Nebraska pork plant

omaha.com

Increased testing at the Tyson Foods pork plant in Madison, Nebraska, which shut down last week to deep clean, revealed 212 workers had COVID-19. 

UT: Utah lawmakers lay groundwork for steep budget cuts

sltrib.com

Economic shock waves from the COVID-19 pandemic could deliver a $1.3 billion hit to revenue in the coming budget year, state analysts report, and Utah lawmakers are preparing sizable spending cuts in anticipation.

AZ: Arizona inmates testing positive for virus double

apnews.com

The number of inmates in Arizona’s prisons who have tested positive for the coronavirus reached 121 Wednesday, twice as many as earlier this week. In addition, 62 corrections employees have tested positive along with 18 employees and four inmates in county jails.

NV: Gig workers sue Nevada for promised U.S. jobless funds

apnews.com

With Nevada the only U.S. state not taking applications for federal relief payments to gig workers, two self-employed single mothers are suing to force the state to begin paying thousands of out-of-work people the more than $600 a week Congress promised.

NY: New York quietly made it difficult for families to sue nursing homes

nytimes.com

As it became clear in late March that New York was facing a catastrophic outbreak, aides to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo quietly inserted a provision into the state budget bill that shields nursing homes from many lawsuits over their failure to protect residents from death or sickness caused by the coronavirus.

NY: Elder care facilities balk at New York testing mandate

timesunion.com

A recent New York state directive requiring twice-a-week testing of employees in nursing homes and adult care facilities has some in the industry wondering how they’ll pay for such a large undertaking and whether it’s possible. The mandate would more than triple the number of daily tests being done statewide, from roughly 25,000 a day to more than 90,000. 

MD: Maryland governor lifts stay-at-home order, allows limited retail to resume

baltimoresun.com

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is replacing the stay-at-home order with an advisory that will not be enforced by the rule of law. It allows manufacturing, retail, haircuts and worship services to resume with limitations.

MD: Nursing home deaths account for more than half of Maryland’s deaths

baltimoresun.com

Nearly 1,000 residents of Maryland nursing homes, assisted living centers and retirement communities have died of the coronavirus, a more than 25% increase over the past week. The facilities account for 59% of the state’s coronavirus deaths.

WA: Washington governor orders hiring freeze, eyes budget cuts

seattletimes.com

Washington state agencies will freeze most hiring, equipment purchases and personal service contracts, Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee announced. State agencies will conduct an exercise to show how they could slash their budgets by 15% for the coming fiscal year.

OR: Oregon's coronavirus hospitalizations have plummeted

oregonlive.com

The number of Oregonians hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infections has been plummeting for the past month, in part because some of those people have died in the hospital. On April 8, 156 people were hospitalized, a figure that dropped to 57 by May 12.

ID: Doctors say Idaho is ready for Phase 2 of reopening

boisestatepublicradio.org

Idaho doctors and health officials say the state is ready for Phase 2 of its reopening plan, set to begin Saturday. Test results, reported symptoms and improved testing and contact tracing are all trending in the right direction.

HI: Closure of Hawaii schools sidelines child abuse reporting system

civilbeat.org

The pandemic has robbed Hawaii’s child protective workers of one of the most reliable reporters of abuse: teachers and other school workers. While reports from teachers and others in schools dropped to zero in April, those from neighbors and “other relatives” have gone up markedly in the past two months.

WY: Wyoming governor urges caution as state eases restrictions

wyomingnews.com

Three updated statewide orders, set to take effect Friday, allow some dine-in services at restaurants and bars in Wyoming. But Republican Gov. Mark Gordon emphasized that social distancing and other public health measures will still be in place.

DE: Delaware waiting for NASCAR to reopen

delawarestatenews.com

With a NASCAR race weekend on tap, officials at Dover International Speedway in Delaware will be watching closely. As the first major sporting event held in the U.S. since everything was shut down by the pandemic, the races are expected to receive a great deal of scrutiny.

MN: Minnesota governor loosens stay-at-home restrictions

startribune.com

Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said that he will allow stores to reopen and let Minnesotans leave the house more, while leaving in place for now restrictions for bars, restaurants, theaters, hair salons and other businesses where people must be in close contact.

FL: Florida welcomes pro sports

orlandosentinel.com

GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis wants all professional sports teams to come to Florida during the coronavirus pandemic, offering a haven for those in other parts of the country under stay-at-home orders. They can practice or play, but they may not be able to host audiences in person.

ME: Maine is the only state that’s not calculating positive test rate daily

pressherald.com

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the proportion of people testing positive for COVID-19 is a key metric used to monitor outbreaks and guide reopening, but it is calculating the rate only once a week.

IA: Iowa governor allows restaurants, other businesses to reopen

desmoinesregister.com

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, announced businesses still closed or subject to coronavirus-related restrictions may reopen Friday, with some limitations.

KS: Republicans extend Kansas governor’s pandemic power

kansas.com

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan to reopen Kansas, which keeps some statewide coronavirus restrictions in place while lifting others, will continue until at least May 26 while Republican legislators try to limit her authority.

CA: 17 California counties may open restaurants

sacbee.com

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced reopening plans by 17 counties as of Thursday morning. A number of businesses including in-restaurant dining and in-store retail sales can resume operations, but with modifications.

NM: New Mexico will allow limited reopen of retail, offices

lcsun-news.com  

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a "slight reopening" of businesses in New Mexico to take effect across most of the state. However, in a shift, all New Mexicans will be required to wear masks in public spaces.

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