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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 9/17

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 9/17

NJ: Deal reached on New Jersey ‘millionaires tax’ to address crisis

nytimes.com

Democratic New Jersey Gov. Philip Murphy said the tax would help make up shortfalls caused by the pandemic, but Republicans warned it would lead to an exodus of wealthy residents.

IN: Nearly half of coronavirus cases in Indiana are children, young adults

indystar.com 

Indiana’s health commissioner said nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 cases this month have occurred in children and young adults, largely attributable to outbreaks on the state’s college campuses. But high school students make up about 19% of all school-aged cases, she added. 

OR: Worst air pollution on the planet is latest blow for Oregon health care workers

oregonlive.com

After seven dangerous and frightening months dealing with the highly infectious coronavirus, Oregon hospitals and health care workers are now facing a different hazard — the thick layer of choking smoke blanketing the state.

VT: Vermont governor vetoes climate bill, override vote scheduled for Thursday

vpr.org

Republican Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed a bill designed to add teeth to Vermont’s efforts to cut greenhouse gases by allowing the public to sue the state if the mandated targets are missed. Scott’s veto sets up another showdown with the Democrat-controlled legislature.

IA: Iowa governor’s criteria for closing schools found nowhere else in U.S.

desmoinesregister.com

When Republican Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said the main criteria in deciding district waivers that allow a school district to conduct all instruction remotely would be absenteeism of at least 10% and a county 14-day test positivity rate of 15%, she set Iowa apart from every other state in the country, a review of states’ return-to-learn practices found.

WA: Contact tracing falling short in Washington

seattletimes.com

The Washington state Department of Health hasn’t been meeting its contact-tracing goals. Investigators have reached 49% of people who have tested positive, and 70% of people who have been in contact with an infected person. But the agency's goals are to reach 90% of diagnosed people within one day and 80% of contacts within two days.

HI: Key Hawaii lab hitting delays in coronavirus tests

civilbeat.org

A University of Hawaii lab that was envisioned to ramp up Honolulu’s ability to conduct widespread COVID-19 testing has been struggling to get off the ground. The lab, funded with $3.9 million in CARES Act money, was supposed to provide nearly 100,000 tests, but has not conducted a single test months after it was slated to become operational.

VA: Virginia Senate panel kills bill to require paid leave for quarantined employees

richmond.com

Much to the delight of business groups and dismay of employee advocates, a Virginia Senate committee killed legislation to require employers to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave for workers who have to quarantine because of exposure or infection by COVID-19.

NY: New York City set to open its own virus testing lab

nytimes.com

Rather than depend on the big laboratory companies — which have been inundated with demand from across the country as the virus continues to spread, leading to backlogs — the new facility will prioritize New York City residents, meaning turnaround times within 24-48 hours, officials said.

SC: All South Carolina voters can vote absentee in November under new law

thestate.com

All South Carolina voters — no matter what age, disability status or work conflict — can cast an absentee ballot for the November general election, but deadlines to return absentee applications have changed after Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed the COVID-19 absentee expansion bill into law.

NM: New Mexico plans to fight nursing home abuse

santafenewmexican.com

A new multiagency effort is aimed at preventing poor or abusive treatment of adults at New Mexico's nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, particularly amid the challenges presented by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Agencies will work to ensure complaints of abuse are handled quickly.

MT: Scant evidence of voter fraud in Montana, expert says

billingsgazette.com

Over the course of a decade and more than 7 million ballots cast in Montana, an elections expert found just one instance of illegal voting, he told a judge.

CT: Connecticut teachers unions ask for statewide policy on handling COVID-19 cases in schools

courant.com 

As schools continue to report COVID-19 cases among staff and students, with some closing and others remaining open, a coalition of Connecticut’s teacher and paraprofessional unions asked the state to mandate how such situations should be handled at the local level. 

DC: District of Columbia sports betting app off to a rough start

washingtonpost.com 

The legalization of sports betting in the District of Columbia has yet to deliver the windfall to the city treasury that officials promised, hobbled by the coronavirus, legal challenges that slowed the launch of the industry and flaws in the city-owned betting app. 

AL: 16th Street Baptist bombing victim seeks apology, compensation from Alabama

al.com

Lawyers representing a victim of the Ku Klux Klan’s bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham have written a letter to Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey asking for an official apology from the state and possibly compensation.

WY: Wyoming sets new single-day record for coronavirus cases

trib.com

The total number of coronavirus cases in Wyoming grew by 128 on Wednesday — a new single-day high. The state's 10-day average in total cases, now 53.4 per day, also reached a new high.

LA: Louisiana should allow more mail-in ballots for Nov. 3 election, federal judge rules

theadvocate.com

Louisiana should allow more access to absentee mail ballots for the Nov. 3 presidential elections, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled in a 44-page decision.

ND: Governor defends supporting North Dakota seat belt law, refraining from mask mandate

bismarcktribune.com

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum supports a seat belt law to help mitigate traffic deaths, but he won't issue a mask mandate amid North Dakota's growing coronavirus cases.

NY: New York City mayor to furlough 495 staff members — including himself

nytimes.com

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was furloughing 495 mayoral staff members, who will have to take an unpaid, weeklong furlough at some point between October 2020 and March 2021. The furlough includes the Democratic mayor, but he intends to work without pay.

MD: Baltimore Orioles to open Camden Yards to Marylanders as voting center

baltimoresun.com

In addition to opening their ballpark as a voting center, the Orioles will encourage voter engagement this fall and advertise key election dates to help Marylanders exercise their right to vote, the team said.

NJ: Four New Jersey nursing home bills signed into law, but other major changes stalled

nj.com

More money will be earmarked for New Jersey nursing homes and their workers, under a legislative package signed into law in response to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that killed so many in the state’s long-term care facilities.

SD: Federal judge awards $440,000 in forced catheterization suit in South Dakota

apnews.com

A federal judge has approved legal settlements totaling $440,000 for people in South Dakota who were subjected to forced catheterizations to check for drug use.

NE: State of Nebraska, university won't take part in Trump tax cut

journalstar.com

Employees of both the state and the University of Nebraska won't participate in President Donald Trump's offer to defer payroll taxes for the remainder of this year.

CA: California’s cash bail system favors the rich. Would replacing it help people of color?

sacbee.com

Californians in November will head to the ballot box to vote on Prop 25, a measure that, if passed, would make the state the first to eliminate cash bail permanently. The new system would give judges greater discretion on setting the terms for pretrial release based on a risk assessment model.

NH: How absentee ballots reshaped New Hampshire’s voting landscape

nhpr.org

A lot of New Hampshire voters still preferred to cast their ballots the old-fashioned way. There’s also a big partisan gap in who’s using absentee ballots this year. At the same time, though, voters of both parties showed a lot more interest in absentee voting than in past elections. 

RI: Rhode Island Republicans want nursing homes to allow residents to have a designated visitor

providencejournal.com 

Rhode Island House Republicans are calling for legislation that would guarantee that residents of nursing or group homes have at least one designated visitor, after visits were halted for months to help stop the coronavirus spread, and some places appear reluctant about reopening their doors. 

ME: Maine legislative free for all gives Democrats 24 uncontested seats

pressherald.com

Nearly 1 in 5 members of the next Maine legislature will be sworn into office after winning election unopposed in November. In all, 34 seats, including two in the Senate, will go to candidates, most of them Democrats, without opponents. All 186 seats in the legislature are up for reelection every two years.

NC: Republicans press Democratic North Carolina governor to get students back for full-time, in-person classes

newsobserver.com

North Carolina Republican leaders, joined by a group of parents, demanded that families be given an option for full-time, in-person instruction at schools. Few, if any, of North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students are getting daily face-to-face classes. The GOP leaders said they intend to pressure Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

TX: Texas court tosses death sentence due to intellectual disability

texastribune.org

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals again ordered an inmate removed from death row and sentenced him to life in prison without parole after he was found to be intellectually disabled.

VT: Judge dismisses GOP challenge to Vermont's mail-in voting plan

sevendaysvt.com

A federal judge has struck down a Republican attempt to block Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos from sending a ballot to every registered Vermont voter later this month, ruling that the plaintiffs did not have the necessary legal standing.

DE: Survey: 48% of Delaware young people can’t name a concentration camp

wdel.com

A month after a bill was signed into law mandating Holocaust education in Delaware schools, a national survey shows an astounding lack of knowledge about the dark period in our history. Delawareans’ responses caused the state to rank 41st when it comes to Holocaust education and knowledge, tying with Alaska, Maryland and New York.

ID: Kanye West will remain on the Idaho ballot

idahostatesman.com

Kanye West will remain on the Idaho November election ballot as a presidential candidate. A judge ruled that the state will not have to issue new ballots, despite questions about West's residency and party affiliation.

MO: Missouri lawmakers abruptly end session without approving several crime bills

columbiamissourian.com

The Missouri special session on crime ended unexpectedly when the House voted to adjourn without taking up three of the session’s five crime bills. Republican House leaders said they are satisfied with the progress they have made.

MO: Missouri to distribute faster COVID-19 tests

columbiamissourian.com

Four new saliva testing machines, developed by Washington University, will arrive at the Missouri State Public Health Laboratory this week. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services also expects to receive approximately 3 million Abbot rapid tests from the federal government.

PA: Top Pennsylvania Republican’s campaign sues journalists over public records costs

spotlightpa.org

The campaign committee of the Pennsylvania Senate’s top Republican is suing a publication of LNP Media Group and two journalists who uncovered questionable spending by the lawmaker and other politicians.

OH: Program to help Ohioans find job amid pandemic

dispatch.com

Ohio is launching a new initiative called “Ohio To Work” to help people who lost jobs due to the virus find a new career.

TN: After years-long climb, Tennessee's graduation rates dip slightly during COVID-19 pandemic

tennessean.com

Tennessee's graduation rates nearly decadelong climb lost ground during the 2019-20 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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