What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/19
NJ: Trump campaign suing governor over New Jersey's mail-in voting
President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is suing Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in federal court alleging New Jersey's largely all-mail election plan for November is an unconstitutional "recipe for disaster."
TX: Texas governor wants to block local police defunding
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and top Texas leaders announced they will push for legislation that would freeze property tax revenues for cities that cut police budgets, saying it "effectively will prevent cities from being able to reduce" police funding. The Austin City Council recently moved to cut police funding by one-third and reinvest money in social services.
US: Washington, Pennsylvania lead lawsuits over postal changes
The attorneys general of Washington and Pennsylvania announced that they are leading numerous states in two lawsuits to block service changes at the U.S. Postal Service, even as the postmaster general reversed himself and said he’d halt some of the changes following a national outcry.
CA: California governor declares state of emergency amid over in response to more than 30 blazes
Dozens of wildfires continue to burn across California after erupting in the past few days amid a record-breaking heat wave, gusty winds and intense thunderstorms.
WI: University of Wisconsin wants to cover tuition for lower-income state students
The University of Wisconsin System wants nearly $100 million in the next state budget to cushion COVID-19's financial blow and cover tuition for Wisconsin students whose families earn less than $60,000. It also wants the ability to borrow up to $1 billion over the next school year.
LA: Louisiana governor calls election plan 'woefully inadequate,' won't sign it
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards said he won’t support an emergency election plan, setting up a donnybrook with Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and other Republicans that could end up with the federal courts deciding how Louisiana voters will cast ballots in the Nov. 3 presidential election.
IN: Indiana governor orders body cams for state police
Indiana Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would hire a cabinet-level equality director to examine each state agency and will order reforms at the Indiana State Police, including use-of-force training and requiring body cameras by spring 2021.
OR: Oregon extends mask requirements to offices
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, issued new guidance requiring employees to wear face coverings or face shields in private or public office spaces. New state guidance released last week also required increased use of masks at child care facilities.
NM: New Mexico plans vaccine distribution
It’s too early to say when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available, but New Mexico officials are making plans about who should get it first. Health care workers, educators, nursing home residents and emergency responders could be among those required to be inoculated.
UT: Utah teachers say they haven’t received promised sanitizer or PPE
The concerns about a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in schools come from across Utah and as many classrooms are slated to reopen for in-person instruction this week or next. And the state acknowledges that some supplies won’t arrive by then.
WV: West Virginia AG sues Walmart, CVS over opioid pill flood
West Virginia’s attorney general sued Walmart and drugstore chain CVS, saying they failed to monitor and report suspicious orders of prescription painkillers to their retail pharmacies in a state ravaged by the opioid epidemic.
NY: New York files insurance fraud charges against drugmakers for opioid claims
New York’s top insurance regulator has filed charges against Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Allergan PLC and their subsidiaries, claiming they violated state law when they marketed opioid products as safe and medically appropriate for treating a “broad spectrum” of pain.
GA: White House says Georgia now leads nation in rate of new virus cases
Georgia reported the highest rate of new cases of the coronavirus in the country in the seven days ending on Friday, President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force said in its latest report, urging the state again to take stronger action to mitigate spread of COVID-19.
SC: South Carolina city cracks down on student house parties, but no curfew
The Columbia, South Carolina, city council has decided not to reinstate its curfew aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus — but it is introducing an ordinance to crack down on large house parties and private gatherings as thousands of students return.
NY: Welcome to college in New York. Now quarantine.
New York state’s ever-changing travel advisory means more and more families are scrambling to find last-minute accommodations for students. There are now 33 states under New York’s mandatory quarantine, but the list changes each week.
VT: Vermont outlines plans to beef up child care capacity as schools set to reopen
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, plans to spend about $12 million in federal relief funds to dramatically expand child care capacity for school-aged children, including establishing regional child care hubs for students on remote learning days.
NJ: Closure of movie theaters in New Jersey not a violation of rights, judge rules
A federal judge has upheld Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order that closed movie theaters in New Jersey, finding that the state is not infringing on theaters’ First Amendment rights in its response to the pandemic.
CT: Connecticut was unprepared when COVID-19 struck nursing homes, study finds
The state Department of Public Health was unprepared to handle the wave of infection and death that descended upon nursing homes when the coronavirus struck Connecticut in March, according a new outside consultant’s study that found understaffing in key areas and archaic reporting systems.
VA: Virginia governor cuts spending priorities to fill $2.7B shortfall
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, promised the General Assembly that he remains committed to "the progressive budget" it passed this year, but said the pandemic paralyzed the state's economy and drained tax revenues needed to pay for the priorities of the Democratic-controlled legislature.
HI: Hawaii plans furloughs for public workers
Hawaii Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, plans to impose furloughs for members of “most bargaining units” starting in November and borrow $750 million to help the state navigate the budget crisis triggered by the pandemic.
MT: Montana says fire fund full; state has $620M in reserves
As the mid-August heat climbs and several wildfires burn around Montana, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock announced that Montana's fire fund is as full as it can be under state law.
ND: North Dakota state revenues appear hopeful; new forecasts coming
North Dakota oil and gas tax revenue has fallen behind a 2019 forecast, but state officials are hopeful about a rebound and overall revenues tracking ahead, with new forecasts coming next month.
KS: In rural Kansas, census response rates are ‘very concerning’
In Kansas, 10 rural counties still have self-response rates under 50%, more than four months after Census Day on April 1. An additional 18 counties are under 57%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.