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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/4

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/4

AK: Alaskans over 65 are next for vaccines, a break from federal guidance

alaskapublic.org

Alaska is breaking from federal guidance by focusing its next round of COVID-19 vaccines on adults age 65 and over. And the state is asking essential workers, teachers, prisoners and others in high-risk settings to wait until those older Alaskans can be vaccinated first.

TX: Texas court blocks capital's COVID-19 curfew

statesman.com

With their latest bid to contain the pandemic blocked by Texas' state government, Austin’s Democratic leaders are assessing their next steps with a depleted arsenal of options and a rising number of infections. The all-GOP Texas Supreme Court blocked the orders hours before the curfew was to begin for a second of three nights.

SD: Federal judge slams South Dakota governor, state court’s response to pandemic

rapidcityjournal.com

A South Dakota federal judge harshly criticized Republican Gov. Kristi Noem and the state court system’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in an order that also strongly condemned a state judge and prosecutor for violating a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.

NV: Lawsuit challenges Nevada’s alleged inability to keep noncitizens off voter rolls

thenevadaindependent.com

Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State and fellow Republican Barbara Cegavske on behalf of several plaintiffs, including a former Republican legislator, over an alleged inability to keep noncitizens off the state’s list of registered voters.

KS: Kansas lawmaker restarts effort to free military-surplus Humvees for civilian use

kansas.com

A Kansas state legislator is pushing to allow ex-military vehicles to be licensed for use on the state’s roads, which could give a boost to a company in Butler County that buys surplus Humvees and upgrades them for civilian use.

NJ: New Jersey begins vaccinating for COVID-19 in prisons as it continues first-phase rollout

northjersey.com

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has quietly started vaccinating inmates and staff at New Jersey's correctional facilities.

PA: Restaurants resume indoor dining as Pennsylvania lifts restrictions

inquirer.com

Restaurants in most of the state will be allowed to resume indoor dining, and gyms throughout Pennsylvania can reopen, according to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, who said that the restrictions reinstated Dec. 12 had successfully flattened the COVID-19 curve.

WY: Officials to lift bar, restaurant restrictions in Wyoming

trib.com

GOP Gov. Mark Gordon will soon lift public health orders that required Wyoming bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. Gordon attributed the change to a lower number of state residents being hospitalized with COVID-19.

MN: Minnesota moves to more saliva testing for COVID-19

startribune.com

Starting this month, the Minnesota Department of Health is eliminating nasal-swab testing at its 20 "barrier-free" COVID-19 testing sites and moving to collecting only saliva samples.

MO: Top Missouri officials were slow to react to coronavirus outbreaks among veterans in nursing homes

stltoday.com

An investigative report on Missouri veterans nursing homes quoted a Department of Social Services official saying members of the state’s “Fusion Cell” virus hub were “well aware of positives and deaths as early as mid-August well into the beginning of September.” Her statement appears to contradict those made by other top state officials coordinating Missouri’s response to the coronavirus.

NH: Planned bill could bring major offshore wind development to New Hampshire

nhpr.org

State senators are working on a bill that would have New Hampshire spur the development of major offshore wind projects and other renewable energy in the region.

AR: Arkansas sets 6th daily COVID-19 hospitalization record in a week

arkansasonline.com

The number of people hospitalized in Arkansas with COVID-19 hit 1,234, another record high, as the state's tally of hospitalized patients increased by 18, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

OH: COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Ohio slowed by holidays, unpredictable shipments

dispatch.com

As Republican Gov. Mike DeWine applies pressure to get COVID-19 vaccines administered faster throughout Ohio, those charged with inoculating people against the virus say a combination of factors has contributed to a slow rollout.

CT: Connecticut communities see spike in car thefts, vehicle break-ins in 2020 

newbritainherald.com

Central Connecticut communities saw a drastic spike in car thefts and vehicle break-ins in 2020—a problem that has plagued most of the state.

UT: Emails show power struggle in early Utah coronavirus response

sltrib.com

The powerful state budget managers who controlled key parts of Utah’s initial coronavirus response were skeptical about the value of medical expertise in handling the crisis and made repeated attempts to resist or subvert health officials, according to records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.

AZ: Arizona governor rejects call for online learning

apnews.com

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has rejected calls by Arizona’s top education official for Ducey to order public schools to use only online instruction for the next two weeks unless they have waivers from health officials. A spokesman for the governor said Ducey wouldn’t issue the order because how schools open is a local decision.

WI: Coronavirus, elections, budget top Wisconsin legislative agenda

apnews.com

Pandemic response measures and changing election procedures will take center stage when the Wisconsin legislature opens its 2021-22 session, eclipsing even state budget deliberations that typically consume the first six months of every session.

CO: Colorado counties fight for programs aimed at keeping mentally ill people out of jail

denverpost.com

This summer Colorado legislators eliminated two of the four pilot mental health diversion programs in the state. But in Boulder, Larimer and Jackson counties, officials have scrounged up enough money to keep their programs running.

NY: New York governor says he won’t cut to the front of the vaccine line

buffalonews.com

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will not get the COVID-19 vaccine until it "is available for my group in Black, Hispanic and poor communities around the state." Although the Democratic governor is 63, which is lower than the age of 65 required to be vaccinated in the first group, he is classified as an essential worker.

MD: Maryland Republican governor decries GOP efforts to undermine presidential election results

baltimoresun.com

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan condemned an attempt by Republican senators to overturn the results of November’s presidential election by voting not to certify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden. So far, nearly a dozen GOP senators have backed the effort, which is likely to turn what is normally a formality into an event filled with partisan rancor.

ME: Maine farmers lose hope and money chasing hemp crop

pressherald.com

Hemp was supposed to be the next big thing for Maine farmers, an easy-to-grow cash crop capable of fetching as much as $250,000 an acre when sold for CBD. But after three years of rapid expansion, Maine’s emerging hemp industry has all but collapsed before it even had a chance to mature.

VT: COVID-19 expected to dominate Vermont legislative session

vtdigger.org

When the Vermont legislature reconvenes Jan. 6, its agenda will be similar to where it left off just four months ago— addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. The new Democratic leaders and Republican Gov. Phil Scott will have to contend with a massive budget gap caused by the pandemic.

VA: Virginia lawmakers name finalists for redistricting commission

richmond.com

Virginia legislative leaders have selected 62 finalists for the eight citizen spots on Virginia’s new redistricting commission, with Democrats’ picks coming from mostly population centers and GOP choices chiefly from rural areas. A panel of five retired Virginia judges will select the eight citizen members of the commission by Jan. 15.

SC: South Carolina health officials ask for patience on slow vaccine rollout

thestate.com

South Carolina’s public health agency pleaded for patience as COVID-19 vaccines continue a methodical rollout across the state. State Department of Health and Environmental Control interim public health director Dr. Brannon Traxler also said during a news conference that she expects vaccine utilization rates to speed up in coming weeks.

WA: Washington legislature faces thorny transportation problems

seattletimes.com

Washington state’s clogged transportation network caught a break in 2020, when COVID-19 slashed driving by 15% and erased 60% of transit ridership, giving public officials a year to punt on solutions. Now that a new year has arrived, state legislators will feel new urgency to tackle gridlock, underfunded roads and bridges and the question of whether to pass a massive mobility plan.

OR: Oregon is No. 41 in the nation for its slow vaccine rollout

oregonlive.com

Oregon’s vaccine deployment lags behind 40 other states. Oregon has given 48,725 vaccine shots, even though it has received 190,500 doses.

ID: CARES Act funding helped Idaho schools weather a storm

idahoednews.org

With their share of $173 million in federal emergency relief money, Idaho schools prioritized investing in online learning, education technology and financial bonuses for teachers.

HI: Hawaii's vaccine rollout will be slow to start

civilbeat.org

Hawaii health officials estimate 25,000 people rolled up a sleeve to receive the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in 2020. Overall, the state has given about a third of its vaccine doses—mainly to health care workers and the staff and residents of long-term care homes.

MS: Mississippi sees post-holiday surge in cases

sunherald.com

Throughout Mississippi, cases rose by 13,363 in the week after Christmas, compared to 11,654 the week after Thanksgiving. Mississippi coronavirus hospitalizations climbed steadily from 134 in October to 1,282 in late December.

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