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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/26

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/26

WI: Wisconsin governor declares state of emergency in wake of unrest after police shooting

madison.com

Following two straight days of unrest over the police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has issued a state of emergency declaration and directed more National Guard troops to the city in preparation for more protests.

NY: New York attorney general sues Trump and U.S. Postal Service

timesunion.com

New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, the U.S. Postal Service and the postmaster general for what she claims is their unlawful plan to slow down the mail to repress mail-in votes in November to help Republicans win elections. Other plaintiffs include state attorneys general from New Jersey and Hawaii as well as the cities of San Francisco and New York City.

LA: Hurricane Laura earns Rita comparisons as thousands in Louisiana told to evacuate

theadvocate.com

As Hurricane Laura entered the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, Louisiana officials raised comparisons to Hurricane Rita and warned that a wide swath of south Louisiana should be prepared for hurricane and tropical storm conditions, including several feet of storm surge in coastal areas, dangerous wind gusts and flooding.

CA: Sacramento, California, may pay COVID-19 infected workers $1,000 to stay home

sacbee.com

Dealing with lower-income and hourly workers hit by the coronavirus, Sacramento County, California, health officials say they are hoping to put together an experimental plan to pay some infected people $1,000 to get them to stay home from work for two weeks to avoid infecting others. The money would represent roughly two weeks of pay at about $12.50 an hour.

IA: Iowa will make $100M in federal coronavirus aid available to farmers

desmoinesregister.com

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said that Iowa will make $100 million in federal aid available to farmers to help offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and derecho. The derecho, packing hurricane-force winds, swept through 57 central and east-central Iowa counties Aug. 10, damaging an estimated 14 million acres of crops.

MT: Montana high court sides with solar developers in lawsuit

apnews.com

The Montana Supreme Court in a 4-3 opinion upheld a lower court ruling from last year that said members of the Montana Public Service Commission knew their actions would hinder solar development when they suspended a federal law requiring companies to buy power from alternative energy sources.

NE: 11 Nebraska state senators make long-shot bid for special session on racial justice, pandemic

omaha.com

The 11 Nebraska lawmakers want a special session to pass legislation that increases civilian oversight of law enforcement agencies, ensures better workplace protections against COVID-19, provides adequate compensation to the unemployed and increases protection against eviction from homes. To force a special session in Nebraska’s one-house legislature, the senators will need the support of 33 of their 49 colleagues.

MN: Minnesota governor announces plan for new COVID-19 saliva testing lab

kare11.com

Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, announced that Minnesota has partnered with the nation's largest distributor of saliva testing for COVID-19 to create a new lab in the state. Officials are finalizing the $14.66 million contract with Vault Health and RUCDR Infinite Biologics.

WI: Conservative group files lawsuit that would strike down Wisconsin's mask mandate

wpr.org

A conservative advocacy group has filed a lawsuit challenging Gov. Tony Evers’ latest emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing the Democratic governor overstepped his executive powers by issuing two separate coronavirus-related states of emergency in Wisconsin. If successful, the lawsuit would overturn Evers’ statewide mask mandate.

PA: Governor wants Pennsylvania to legalize marijuana, provide more COVID-19 relief this fall

spotlightpa.org

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf wants Pennsylvania lawmakers to legalize recreational cannabis this fall, spend $1 billion in federal funds to expand access to child care and provide more COVID-19 relief to small businesses and others affected by the pandemic. The governor also called on the Republican-controlled legislature to pass a limit on campaign donations.

ME: What’s at stake as ranked-choice voting heads back to the Maine ballot

bangordailynews.com

The late ruling by a Superior Court judge to restore just enough signatures to get a question challenging the voting method’s use in presidential elections on Maine’s Nov. 3 ballot was a victory for state Republicans who used hundreds of thousands in national party money to back the effort. Notably, this means ranked-choice voting won’t be used in 2020.

NH: 4 New Hampshire businesses apply to reopen as child care centers

nhpr.org

New Hampshire’s child care licensing unit has received four applications this summer to reopen non-day care spaces as sites for child care and remote learning. This comes as many businesses in the state are struggling to remain open due to the economic stress of the pandemic.

KS: Kansas governor suggests delaying football season to spring

kansas.com

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said “we had a bad week” for COVID-19 infections, and urged Kansans to take extra precautions with the start of the college and school year. She recommended holding off playing high-contact sports like football until the spring, when chances are better that there will be a vaccine for the coronavirus.

DC: District of Columbia mayor orders insurers to cover COVID-19 testing for high-risk residents 

washingtonpost.com 

Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered health insurers licensed in the District of Columbia to begin paying for coronavirus testing for people who face elevated risks. Insurers must cover testing for those who work in high-risk settings, are at a high risk of complications from the virus or have been exposed to a person recently diagnosed with it. 

RI: Rhode Island’s 3 public colleges cut staff and salaries to stay afloat 

providencejournal.com 

Rhode Island’s three public colleges are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls in this pandemic year, leading to reductions in staff, hiring freezes and cuts to the salaries of top administrators. 

VA: Anonymous plaintiff wants Virginia Confederate monuments returned to their pedestals

richmond.com

An anonymous Virginian wants the state’s highest court to order Richmond’s Confederate statues returned to their pedestals, according to a new court filing. The plaintiff petitioned the Supreme Court of Virginia on Aug. 21, challenging Democratic Mayor Levar Stoney’s use of his emergency powers to order removal of the statues last month.

NC: Tired of robocalls? North Carolina State, Bandwidth team up in search of solutions

newsobserver.com

Researchers at the North Carolina school and the communications company have found that ignoring the calls doesn’t reduce them. Many states are urging people to answer their phones to assist with contract tracing during the time of COVID-19. The study found that the number of robocalls appears to be flattening, and that on average a phone number received one every eight days.

SC: South Carolina lawmakers want to pay bonuses to state essential workers

thestate.com

Roughly 15,000 South Carolina state employees were considered essential during the COVID-19 outbreak, and now two state senators from the Midlands want to see them get paid extra for their work. The senators — a Democrat and a Republican — want to give $1,000 one-time bonuses to up to 15,000 state employees.

OK: Oklahoma to adjust COVID-19 alerts after public health experts call original model unhelpful

tulsaworld.com

The Oklahoma State Department of Health said it's working to shift from statewide to regional hospital data to inform its weekly COVID-19 alert system. Coronavirus hospitalizations by county or region would be a more useful tool to evaluate county risks — as the alert system purports to do — rather than relying on statewide numbers that can’t pinpoint local trends.

NJ: $1B in new taxes, $4B in borrowing in New Jersey governor's budget

nj.com

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy wants to borrow $4 billion and raise another $1 billion through tax increases to erase New Jersey’s $5.6 billion budget hole, according to a revised budget proposal he unveiled. He said it reflects a new reality spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, one in which the demands on government are heightened while its resources are shrinking.

FL: Florida hospitalizations spike as testing drops

clickorlando.com

For the 10th straight day, Florida reported fewer than 5,000 new coronavirus cases but saw a spike in both deaths and hospitalizations. Public health officials are keeping a close eye on new case numbers as students begin the school year.

TX: Texas coast evacuates as storm approaches

texastribune.org

From Galveston to the Louisiana border, Texas communities are telling residents to seek shelter away from the coast as Hurricane Laura is projected to intensify. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott added 36 more counties to his state disaster declaration.

NM: COVID-19 cases popping up at New Mexico schools

abqjournal.com

Coronavirus cases have surfaced among employees of dozens of school and education sites in New Mexico this month, even without the return of traditional in-person classes. The state is working to contain any outbreaks before students return to class.

TN: Tennessee absentee ballot applications must spell out 'special vulnerability' exemption, judge rules

tennessean.com

Under an order from a county judge, the Tennessee secretary of state must update absentee ballot application forms to clarify how people with special vulnerability to COVID-19 — and their caretakers — can request mail-in ballots.

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