What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/11
MA: Massachusetts governor readies police certification bill
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and Democratic House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo are separately readying legislation to sharpen the accountability of the state’s police departments, including by creating a system to certify officers for the first time in Massachusetts history.
NM: New Mexico online predators take advantage of home schooling
Following the state's decision to have children practice distance learning, the New Mexico Attorney General's Office saw an uptick in reports about internet crimes against children. Tips on those crimes are up to 300 a month, compared with 75 or fewer before the pandemic.
CT, US: Connecticut leads states in lawsuit against generic drug companies
Alleging “a massive fraud on the American people,” 46 states and the District of Columbia, led by Connecticut’s attorney general, are suing generic drug companies for price fixing.
VT: Vermont House gives OK to expand mail-in voting
The Vermont House gave preliminary approval to give Secretary of State Jim Condos, a Democrat, the unilateral authority to expand mail-in voting for the November general election because of the coronavirus epidemic.
SC: South Carolina COVID-19 cases soar
Despite rising COVID-19 infection numbers and the state epidemiologist saying she’s more concerned than ever about the rate the virus is spreading, Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, says he has no plans to close businesses again or force South Carolinians to wear masks.
IA: Governor lifts 50% capacity limits at Iowa businesses
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that she’s lifting capacity limits at Iowa businesses, starting Friday. Businesses have been limited to 50% operating capacity in Iowa as a measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
IA: Iowa State Fair canceled for the first time since World War II
The Iowa State Fair will not be held in 2020 because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The Iowa State Fair was the last big Midwestern fair to decide whether to open for 2020.
VT: Vermont plans to reopen K-12 classrooms in the fall
Vermont’s K-12 schools will open for in-person instruction this fall, state officials announced. Students and staff will undergo a health questionnaire and temperature checks every day, and the state will prepare alternatives for remote learning if schools need to close.
NE: Nebraska prisons to test inmates for COVID-19; another corrections worker tests positive
The prison system will offer coronavirus testing to all inmates, the director of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services said in a statement.
RI: Rhode Island General Assembly to return next week with precautions
After a three-month recess, Rhode Island House and Senate leaders anticipate a series of votes this week followed by floor sessions next week to vote on a short list of bills, including a massive deficit-avoidance plan for this year. They will use desks surrounded on three sides by plexiglass.
NY: New York eases nursing home testing requirements
Under an executive order signed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York nursing home employees must be tested for COVID-19 once a week, relaxing a previous requirement that they should be tested twice weekly.
MD: Maryland to allow indoor dining, gyms, casinos and more
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan pushed Maryland further into reopening, laying out a timeline for indoor restaurants and outdoor amusements, gyms, casinos and malls to resume operations with restrictions over the next couple of weeks.
WV: Teacher defeats West Virginia Senate President in primary
West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael fell in stunning defeat to small-town elementary school teacher Amy Nichole Grady in the state’s primary following back-to-back years of strikes in which teachers packed into the state Capitol and made the powerful Republican their chief target.
CO: Half a million Coloradans expected to join Medicaid
More than 500,000 Coloradans are expected to join government health insurance plans, namely Medicaid, by the end of the year as they lose coverage typically offered by their employers because of the pandemic. The projection by state officials is unprecedented.
CO: Colorado Democrats push legislation to protect workers who raise health concerns
Colorado Democrats are pushing ahead with legislation that aims to protect employees from discrimination and retaliation by their bosses if they raise health concerns. It would also protect workers’ rights during a public health emergency.
AZ: Arizona hospitals near capacity
Arizona hospitals that are expected to be able to treat new cases of coronavirus without going into crisis mode were above 80% capacity, a milestone that should trigger an automatic stop to elective surgeries at affected hospitals.
UT: Utah police department revises policies on chokeholds, tear gas
In Utah, the Salt Lake City Police Department’s new policies prohibit officers from chokeholds and firing tear gas into crowds. The new policy also includes guidance for using beanbag shotguns.
NV: Nevada governor releases plan to address budget shortfall
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, released a plan to fill an $812 million shortfall caused by plummeting tax revenue. The plan includes reductions in state agency operating expenses and reversals of one-shot appropriations from the 2019 legislative session that had yet to be spent.
CA: California lawmakers look at extending COVID-19 relief
A group of California lawmakers unveiled a new bill that would ban landlords from evicting tenants for failure to pay rent during the coronavirus public health emergency, aimed to extend expiring protections Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom handed down three months ago.
VA: Virginia AG: Governor has authority to remove Lee statue
After a Richmond judge pressed pause on Virginia's plans to remove the Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue, Attorney General Mark Herring asserted that Gov. Ralph Northam, both Democrats, has the power to take it down.
NC: North Carolina lawmakers send criminal justice bill to governor
North Carolina lawmakers are dusting off criminal justice proposals that had appeared to be dead. Last year, the Republican-led Senate passed two such bills with unanimous support, but they languished in the House.
AL: New coronavirus cases almost double after Alabama reopening
The average number of new coronavirus cases each day in Alabama has jumped from about 250 during lockdown to almost 500 in recent days. Overall, hospitals in the state can handle the increase.
GA: Georgia public health director wants staff furloughs cut from plan
Georgia’s public health director is asking Senate budget writers to eliminate possible staff furloughs and reduce cuts to county health departments as her agency battles the coronavirus pandemic.
LA: A black Louisiana lawmaker pitched a police study. A white colleague called it racist.
A proposal to study policing in the wake of George Floyd’s death touched off an emotional debate over race and policing at the Louisiana Capitol, with several black lawmakers making impassioned pleas for changes to law enforcement practices.
MS: Governor lifts curfew on restaurants, bars as Mississippi COVID-19 cases rise after Memorial Day
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, is lifting the curfew on restaurants and bars and easing more business restrictions as coronavirus cases and deaths rise across the state.
WA: Washington governor orders new investigation into man killed by police
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has ordered a new, independent investigation into the killing of Manuel Ellis by Tacoma police. Revelations emerged that Pierce County sheriff’s deputies and a Washington State Patrol trooper were at the scene when Ellis was detained and ultimately killed.
OR: Oregon’s blueprints for reopening schools call for clustering students and a whole lot of cleaning
School is going to look very different for Oregon students come fall. The state Department of Education's mandatory and recommended guidelines include social distancing directives, cleaning protocols and instructions to cluster classes into smaller groups to manage potential spread of COVID-19.
ID: Idaho’s coronavirus caseload is climbing — so how does the state see a downward trend?
Idaho’s daily coronavirus caseload has increased by more than 50% through Stages 2 and 3 of GOP Gov. Brad Little’s reopening plan — yet the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare likely will report a downward trend in new cases as Little makes his decision on Stage 4.
FL: Feds to push Florida drilling after elections
The Trump administration is preparing to open the door to oil and gas drilling off Florida’s coast. But it will wait until after the November election to avoid blowback in a swing state whose waters both parties have long considered sacrosanct.
MN: Protester testing could reshape COVID-19 thinking in Minnesota
COVID-19 testing of protesters in Minnesota's Twin Cities could reshape the world’s understanding and response to the pandemic, especially if the result is no increase in cases of the infectious disease.
WI: Judge denies GOP attempt to stop Wisconsin election lawsuit
A federal judge in Wisconsin declined a request by Republicans to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Democrats seeking changes in the law to make it easier to vote in the August state primary and November presidential elections.
PA: Pennsylvania lawmakers approved a resolution ending governor’s coronavirus emergency declaration. Next up: a legal battle
What was once considered a nuclear option detonated in the Pennsylvania legislature this week, as Republican lawmakers — and a handful of Democrats — gave final approval to a resolution terminating Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s coronavirus emergency declaration.
WY: Wyoming relaxes restrictions, allows churches to open fully
Beginning June 15, public health orders in Wyoming will allow indoor gatherings of up to 250 people with restrictions, permit parades with appropriate social distancing and allow K-12 schools, community colleges, the University of Wyoming and other educational institutions to resume in-person learning.
DE: Delaware officials push for sweeping police changes
Delaware’s attorney general and the Legislative Black Caucus called for changes that include inhibiting police officers' ability to use force, requiring body cameras on all officers in the state and giving the public more access to how officers are disciplined for bad behavior.
OH: Ohio facing $2.4B budget shortfall as coronavirus cases tick up
As Ohio struggles to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying bad economic times, new projections of the tax collections underlying the 2020-21 state budget are downright grim.
MO: Missouri officer who appeared to hit man with police SUV is fired
The police chief in a suburban St. Louis county fired the detective who in a video posted online appeared to intentionally strike a man with an unmarked police SUV in Missouri last week.
TN: Tennessee counties 'rocking and rolling' on absentee ballots
A legal battle continues between the state and plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee over whether fear of contracting the coronavirus is a valid reason to vote by mail.
GA: Virus, lack of preparation lead to Georgia county election disaster
For reasons both simple and complicated, bipartisan and polarizing, voters in Fulton County, Georgia, waited hours to cast ballots in a county known for Election Day foibles.