Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/29

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/29

MS: Mississippi legislature votes to scrap Confederate emblem on flag  

mississippitoday.org

The legislature in Mississippi, the last state with the Confederate battle emblem on its flag, voted by a wide margin to change the state’s flag after 126 years. The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who has pledged to sign it, saying the argument over the flag had become as divisive as the flag itself.

DC: District of Columbia statehood approved by U.S. House for first time in history

washingtonpost.com

For the first time since the establishment of the District of Columbia 230 years ago, the U.S. House voted to declare the city the nation’s 51st state, a legislative milestone that supporters say begins to right historical wrongs. The vote fell mostly along party lines.

MN: Minnesota gun violence soars amid crises of health, public trust, officer reluctance

startribune.com

Minnesota officials blame the grim trend on the coronavirus pandemic, shattered public trust following the killing of George Floyd and the reluctance of some Minneapolis officers to take initiative amid intense scrutiny. But the violent surge is also becoming a political litmus test for the Minneapolis City Council, a majority of which continues to call for defunding the police.

OK: Oklahoma to begin issuing Real IDs

oklahoman.com

Oklahoma will begin issuing Real ID driver’s licenses, making it one of the last states to seek compliance with federal legislation passed in 2005. Oklahoma got a late start to Real ID because in 2007 the Oklahoma legislature passed and former Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, signed into law a bill specifically forbidding the state from complying.

NY: New York state employees charged for parking while working from home

timesunion.com

New York continues to collect parking permit fees from thousands of workers who have been working from home since the pandemic began. New York collects roughly $7 million annually from about 13,000 state employees for parking, with the payments ranging from $15 to $30 garnished biweekly from workers' paychecks.

CA: California governor orders bars closed in seven counties

latimes.com

Citing the rapid pace of coronavirus spread in some parts of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, ordered seven counties including Los Angeles to close any bars and nightspots that are open and recommended eight other counties act on their own to close those businesses.

CO: Colorado bill tightening vaccine exemptions is signed into law

denverpost.com

The new Colorado law, which adds a step for parents who want to exempt their children from vaccines for nonmedical reasons, received final legislative approval in the last days of the session. It’s aimed at increasing Colorado’s lowest-in-the-nation child vaccination rates.

NJ: New Jersey schools reopening in fall with students back in classrooms

northjersey.com

Students will return to classrooms across New Jersey in the fall, but they should social distance and wear masks in tight spaces, according to guidance released by the state department of education. The state will require some in-person instruction in every district, but did not set a specific number of hours or days.

VT: Vermont governor eases travel restrictions to boost summer tourism

vpr.org

Nearly 20 million residents from 14 states will soon be eligible to travel to Vermont without a quarantine requirement as Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, looks to provide a boost to a hospitality industry that continues to reel from the effects of COVID-19.

MD: Maryland governor proposes cutting state spending by $1.45B

baltimoresun.com

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, proposed $1.45 billion in budget cuts across state government, including eliminating employee raises, cutting vacant positions and slashing funding for programs ranging from school security to prosecuting violent crime in Baltimore.

SC: South Carolina governor says enforcing mask rule is ‘impossible’

thestate.com

Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, said enforcing a statewide rule requiring South Carolinians to wear a mask would be “impossible” as the state’s public health agency reported the state had logged nearly 1,300 new COVID-19 cases. But he said there is “no problem” with city leaders in Columbia and Charleston adopting their own rules.

AR: Arkansas governor declines to require masks

ky3.com

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said he would encourage but not require wearing face masks in public. His comments came as Arkansas has seen an uptick in the number of reported coronavirus cases. 

NC: North Carolina governor signs bill giving bonuses to teachers

journalnow.com

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has signed into law a bill that provides $350 one-time bonuses to teachers and instructional support personnel. The legislation also urges the governor to use COVID-19 relief money to provide $600 more in bonuses to teachers, as well as $600 to custodians and cafeteria workers. Cooper and the Republican legislators who drew up the bill disagree on whether the relief money can be used that way.

NY: New York governor adjusts quarantine order for ‘nonessential travel’

timesunion.com

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, issued an order that will close a loophole making employers responsible for paying the salaries of workers who are in mandatory 14-day quarantine even if they left the state for nonessential purposes, including taking a vacation.

FL: Florida governor's future hangs on virus response

orlandosentinel.com

Amid outcries over Florida’s beleaguered unemployment system and COVID-19, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis could always point to one thing: his state’s relatively low infection numbers. Now the governor is fighting the perception that Florida is a state heading in the wrong direction.

NM: New Mexico disabled lack service in crisis

abqjournal.com

Thousands of New Mexicans with developmental disabilities have been getting few if any services ranging from speech therapy to respite care during the COVID-19 lockdown. But providers are getting paid 80% of their normal Medicaid fees anyway as an incentive to retain staff.

GA: Georgia hate-crimes law highlights less partisan session

ajc.com

There was still partisan acrimony in the last days of a bizarre legislative session in Georgia shaped by the coronavirus pandemic and protests demanding racial justice and equality. But, strangely for an election-year, much of the most polarizing legislation was sidelined and a long-stalled hate-crimes bill passed.

AL: 18% of Alabamians under mandatory mask orders, more cities could soon follow

al.com

Alabama elected officials and health professionals are redoubling their efforts to encourage, or require, people to wear cloth face masks in public as the number of new coronavirus cases per day has gone up sharply over the past seven days and hospitals begin to fill with COVID-19 patients.

ME: Meat prices rise in Maine as grocers seek to stabilize supply chains

pressherald.com

COVID-19 outbreaks at meat-processing plants have cut into supply, but supermarket chains in Maine are coming up with solutions to boost inventory and reduce prices on a variety of goods.

WA: Washington governor pauses reopening plan

seattletimes.com

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, and state Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced that, because of “significant rebounds in COVID-19 activity,” Washington is putting a pause on approving counties hoping to move to Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan. Before the pause, eight counties were eligible to make the move.

OR: Oregon hits third consecutive day of more than 200 cases

oregonlive.com

For the third day in a row, Oregon reported more than 200 new cases of the coronavirus. The number of new cases in the past seven days, 1,406, account for 17% of all of Oregon’s coronavirus cases.  

ID: Idaho shuts down coronavirus hotline

idahostatesman.com

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare abruptly shut down the statewide coronavirus hotline, as state officials increasingly shift responsibility for managing the pandemic to local jurisdictions. Now, the state is directing Idahoans with questions about the coronavirus, safely reopening businesses and other topics to local health district call centers used to fielding 10-15 calls a day.

 

HI: Hawaii increases funding for homeless sweeps

civilbeat.org

As thousands of Hawaii residents teeter on the financial brink, the state is increasing funding to clear homeless people off state lands. Democratic Gov. David Ige’s administration asked lawmakers for $5 million for homeless sweeps — also known as the Stored Property and Trash/Debris Removal Program.  

NH: Black Lives Matter holds ‘day of action’ at New Hampshire State House

nhpr.org

Activists from local Black Lives Matter chapters and other social justice groups from across the state gathered outside the New Hampshire State House, calling for an end to systemic racism, white supremacy and police brutality.

AL: As Alabamians sleep on pavement for benefits, state unemployment fund runs low

montgomeryadvertiser.com

A line of unemployed or underemployed Alabamians has formed in Montgomery parking lots for weeks, with thousands of people huddling through the night in hopes of receiving their version of a Golden Ticket. For many, it’s a last-ditch effort to receive unemployment benefits. 

GA: Protests continue as Georgia posts record number of new COVID-19 cases

ajc.com

The state of Georgia reported nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 cases, a new record since the start of the pandemic that comes only a day after the state set its previous high.

LA: Coronavirus response reveals clear split between Louisiana Republicans, Democrats over whom to aid

theadvocate.com

In Louisiana, the coronavirus pandemic has caused more confusion and uncertainty than just about anything anyone can remember. But one clear picture has emerged in the State Capitol: lawmakers in the two parties are offering sharply divergent prescriptions to revive the battered and bruised economy.

CT: Contracts show Connecticut will pay private labs more than $60 million over the next year for testing

courant.com

Connecticut will pay six private labs more than $60 million over the next year to do coronavirus testing, according to purchase orders obtained by the Courant. The contracts run until May 2021, providing a hint as to how long state officials expect the coronavirus to be prevalent and testing to be needed to combat it.

OK: Oklahoma State Fair canceled

okcfox.com

The Oklahoma State Fair made the announcement, saying that "due to the evolving COVID-19 health crisis, its impact on community health and well-being, the 2020 Oklahoma State Fair has been canceled."

MO: Missouri protesters clash over statue of St. Louis’ namesake

stltoday.com

Tensions flared over the symbolism behind a statue of St. Louis' namesake in Missouri. Some are calling for the removal of the King Louis IX statue, saying it represents racism and oppression, with others praying that it stands, saying the statue’s religious symbolism is too important for it to come down.

WI: Wisconsin Republicans look to flip 6 seats for veto-proof legislative majority

madison.com

As the November election nears, state Republicans find themselves within six wins of securing a veto-proof majority in the Wisconsin legislature. A supermajority in both chambers would allow Republicans to bypass any veto by Gov. Tony Evers and would hand Republicans the pen — and with it the possibility of another 10-year reign in the Statehouse — for next year’s redrawing of legislative district maps.

PA: Politics, fear keep some COVID-19-positive people in Pennsylvania from disclosing contacts. What’s the solution?

spotlightpa.org

With all but one county in Pennsylvania now in the green phase of reopening, public health experts agree that contact tracing is a crucial element to keeping people safe. But success relies on voluntary cooperation from the public, which has been hard to come by in some parts of the state. That diminishes the effectiveness of what is widely considered a sound public health practice.

VT: Vermont legislature sends body cam mandate, ban on police chokeholds, to governor

vtdigger.org

The Vermont House approved policing legislation that requires all state police to wear body cameras, prohibits officers from using chokeholds and other similar restraint techniques, while also mandating that the legislature pass additional criminal and racial justice measures in August and in the coming years.

WI: Wisconsin Republican-led committee punts on rule to prohibit conversion therapy

madison.com

Wisconsin’s GOP-led legislative rules committee denied a state agency’s request to implement rules prohibiting the use of widely discredited “conversion therapy” by licensed therapists, counselors and social workers to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

AZ: Arizona reports highest number of daily virus cases yet

apnews.com

Arizona health officials reported 3,858 more confirmed coronavirus cases Sunday, the most reported in a single day in the state so far and the seventh time in the past 10 days that daily cases surpassed the 3,000 mark.

UT: Illegal fireworks spark Utah wildfire

sltrib.com

Officials providing updates about the wildfire on Utah’s Traverse Mountain that sparked home evacuations both praised first responders and expressed frustration at the fact the blaze was sparked by illegal fireworks.

CO: Colorado budget woes end plan to clear waiver backlog

denverpost.com

Colorado lawmakers had planned to spend millions clearing the state’s backlog of 3,000 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, waiting to receive waivers for housing and 24/7 care provided through a Medicaid program. But the backlog went untouched in the budget Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed last week.

NV: Public will be barred from attending the Nevada legislature’s upcoming special session

thenevadaindependent.com

Nevada officials have announced that the legislative building will be largely closed to the public during a forthcoming special session. There will be accommodations for limited media access, meetings will be livestreamed, and testimony and public comment will be accepted through videoconference, phone and writing.

UT: Staggering week for COVID-19 in Utah culminates with 472 new cases

sltrib.com

Utah now has 9,000 active coronavirus cases, a new record. The numbers have been particularly grim among Hispanic Utahns.

Three More States Say Yes to Hands-Free Laws for Drivers Face Masks
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