What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/6
IA: Iowa governor restores felon voting rights
Thousands of Iowans with felony convictions who have served their sentences can now participate in November’s presidential election after Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed an executive order restoring their voting rights. Iowa was the last state in the nation that still banned all people with felony convictions from voting.
NV: Trump campaign sues Nevada over bill expanding mail-in voting
President Donald Trump’s campaign has sued Nevada over a contentious bill recently approved in the ongoing special session that expands mail-in voting for the 2020 general election, saying it would make voter fraud “inevitable.” Election experts widely disagree.
MS: Mississippi schools don’t have to report COVID-19 cases or outbreaks to the public, governor says
The state isn’t requiring Mississippi schools to inform the public when teachers and students test positive for COVID-19, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said. State health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said it is inevitable that some people will arrive at school infected with the virus.
WA: It’s unsafe for most of Washington students to return to school buildings this fall, state says
It’s unsafe for a vast majority of Washington’s 1.1 million students to return to classrooms for in-person learning this fall, according to recommendations Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee and the state’s top health and education officials announced.
AK: Alaska issues new travel rules for nonresident visitors
Nonresident travelers to Alaska will need a negative or pending COVID-19 test result upon arrival or they must pay for an airport test when they land, according to a new state travel policy.
MI: Michigan declares racism a health crisis
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared racism a public health crisis, ordering implicit bias training for all Michigan state employees. She also created a state advisory council to focus on issues affecting Black people in the state.
NM: New Mexico court upholds COVID-19 fines
The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration is empowered to impose hefty fines when businesses violate New Mexico’s public health orders. The court left undecided whether companies are entitled to compensation from the state if they are forced to close.
LA: Louisiana mask mandate, virus rules challenged in court
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration argued that Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate and bar restrictions have helped to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, hoping to persuade a state district judge to uphold the regulations in a lawsuit.
VA: Virginia rolls out new app to alert people to coronavirus contacts
Virginia officials launched a smartphone app that uses Bluetooth technology to alert people when they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Use of the app is voluntary.
NC: North Carolina governor extends Phase 2 restrictions into September
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, announced that Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan will be extended until at least Sept. 11, keeping coronavirus restrictions in place through the Labor Day weekend and the reopening of schools.
NE: Nebraska governor defends his stance that mask mandates are counterproductive
Under a flurry of questions from reporters, Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts defended his position that mandates to wear masks to fend off COVID-19 — like one being considered in Omaha and one in place in Lincoln — are counterproductive in Nebraska.
SC: South Carolina educators warn COVID-19 could increase teacher shortage
The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to worsen a statewide South Carolina teacher shortage, an education official said.
OK: Oklahoma governor's grants to private school students could reach wealthy families
Federal aid funds Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt said would support low-income Oklahoma private school students could become available to families earning more than $100,000 a year. Stitt had said the funds would support homeless children and students living in poverty.
NH: New Hampshire state university system approves fall campus reopening plans
The Board of Trustees of the University System of New Hampshire approved reopening plans that include on-campus and in-person instruction for students. The university system also is offering online options for students who do not want to return to campus.
IN: Indiana health official says schools can reopen safely
The state’s top health official said Indiana schools can reopen safely, even as the state sees cases within several of the schools that have resumed in-person classes in the last week.
UT: Utah opens rental aid program to those receiving jobless benefits
Utah renters who receive unemployment benefits can receive up to $2,000 a month to pay for rent and utilities. The program helps renters whose income has been lowered by the COVID-19 pandemic and have a household income at or below the median income in their area.
CA: California sues Uber, Lyft again for employees’ back pay, benefits
The California state labor commissioner added two new lawsuits to the growing stack of state filings against Uber and Lyft, alleging that their drivers have long been mislabeled as independent contractors and denied fair wages and benefits by the ride-hailing companies.
FL: Florida to begin first remote jury trial
Florida’s 4th Judicial District, which includes Jacksonville, will begin its first trial entirely done by Zoom, with a legally binding verdict. The Florida Supreme Court selected five circuits in the state to take part in a pilot remote jury trial program.
GA: Georgia governor signs ‘police protections’ measure into law
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a proposal into law that fellow Republicans pushed to grant police new protections despite stiff opposition from critics who said it creates a messy tangle of legal problems.
DC: District of Columbia residents to vote on decriminalization of ‘magic mushrooms’
The District of Columbia Board of Elections said an initiative to decriminalize psychedelic plants, including “magic mushrooms,” will appear on November’s ballot after supporters gathered more than 25,000 signatures amid the pandemic.