Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/6

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/6

PA: Pennsylvania GOP senators refuse to seat Democrat and remove lieutenant governor from presiding

spotlightpa.org

The new session of the Pennsylvania Senate got off to a chaotic start, with Republicans refusing to seat a Democratic senator whose election victory has been certified by state officials. Amid high emotions and partisan finger-pointing, Republicans also took the rare step of removing the Democratic lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, from presiding over the session.

GA: Georgia runoffs boast big turnout and short waits

ajc.com

More than 1.2 million voters turned out for Georgia’s nationally important U.S. Senate runoffs, easily surpassing the total seen on Election Day in the presidential election. Most voters said they were able to cast their ballots with ease, experiencing few long lines. 

CA: New, extreme precautions urged for Southern California residents because COVID-19 is ‘everywhere’

latimes.com

The risk of getting the coronavirus in Los Angeles County, California, has never been greater. About one in every five people getting tested for the virus are positive—a quintupling since Nov. 1—and conditions are expected to worsen in the coming weeks as people who got infected during the winter holidays become sick.

VA: Virginia legislature urged to pass sick leave bill to combat COVID-19

richmond.com

With the 2021 Virginia General Assembly session soon approaching, advocates and some health officials are pushing legislators to back the long-debated expansion of paid sick leave to hourly-wage workers, many of whom are deemed essential and can't afford to stay home without it. Health officials say it would result in a “drastic” reduction in the virus spread.

HI: Hawaii sent out hundreds of ineffective masks amid pandemic chaos

civilbeat.org

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent out hundreds of respirators with exhalation valves—the type of mask that could actually do more harm than good by propelling the virus further. The respirators with valves were acquired by the Hawaii PPE program in a mad dash for supplies, the program’s officials said.

MD: Maryland governor announces steps to speed coronavirus vaccine rollout

baltimoresun.com

Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan issued an executive order requiring all vaccine providers to report data to the state’s website within 24 hours—and said that hospitals that haven’t used 75% of their vaccine allocations may get fewer doses in the future. In addition, Maryland National Guard members will be activated to help county health departments with vaccination administration.

WI: Wisconsin Republicans move ahead with COVID-19 bill that faces likely veto

jsonline.com

Legislation that Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin plan to pass this week is packed with provisions opposed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Republicans and Evers last agreed on how to address the pandemic in April, when they reached an initial bipartisan deal. For most of the nine months since then, the two sides haven't talked. 

AR: Arkansas governor shifts vaccine plan to prioritize first responders

arkansasonline.com

Arkansas GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson moved police, firefighters and other first responders to the front of the COVID-19 vaccine line, breaking with the established, phased administration plan.

ME: Maine lawmakers seek more than a dozen changes to state election laws

pressherald.com

Maine lawmakers are considering voting bills that range from requiring verification of absentee ballot signatures to establishing full online voting.

OK: Many Oklahoma lawmakers spurn masks as legislature prepares for session

oklahoman.com

Roughly one-third of Oklahoma legislators, mostly Republicans, weren’t wearing masks in the House and Senate chambers. House Democrats tried to amend the chamber’s rules to require lawmakers to wear masks, but the House GOP majority overwhelmingly voted to table the proposed amendment and others that sought to impose COVID-19 protocols, such as allowing lawmakers to vote by proxy.

MN: Minnesota struggles with COVID-19 scofflaws

startribune.com

Lawsuits and court orders haven't deterred some Minnesota restaurant owners from remaining open for business.

OR: Oregon officials outline plan to speed up snail's pace of vaccinations

oregonlive.com

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said the biggest unforeseen hurdle in the state's slow vaccine rollout has been complications in scheduling the vaccine for only a select group of people—primarily hospital workers and nursing home residents.

MS: 95% of Mississippi is under a mask mandate

sunherald.com

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ executive orders, mandating masks and social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, apply to nearly the entire state. All but four of the state's 82 counties are under the mask mandate.

UT: Utah lawmakers will try again to end concealed carry permits

sltrib.com

When the 2021 session gets underway, Utah lawmakers will consider whether to significantly expand gun rights and further clamp down on the ability of local governments to put restrictions on firearms.

VT: Vermont has first female, openly gay, Senate president pro tempore

vtdigger.org

Becca Balint knows some people don’t think she is ready to lead the Vermont Senate, and she thinks some of the 29 other state senators are among the doubters. On Jan. 6, Balint will be sworn as the 82nd Senate president pro tempore, the first woman and the first openly gay person ever to hold the position.

NC: North Carolina governor activates National Guard to help with COVID-19 vaccinations

newsobserver.com

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has mobilized the state’s National Guard to help with North Carolina’s vaccine effort, which is experiencing delays and logistical challenges just a few weeks into the distribution.

SC: South Carolina governor calls for splitting up health and environmental agency

thestate.com

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, expressed support for breaking up South Carolina’s health and environmental agency, an expansive department under scrutiny for what critics say has been a failure to take decisive action during the worst disease pandemic in a century.

RI: Most inmates, 100% of staff opt for vaccine at Rhode Island state prisons

providencejournal.com

More than three out of four inmates and all the staffers at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Rhode Island who have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine, have taken it as of Monday, according to state data. 

MA: Massachusetts governor says highly infectious COVID-19 variant is likely already in state

bostonglobe.com

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker asked residents to redouble their efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus based on the assumption that a new, more contagious form of the virus has arrived in the state, threatening a further surge in cases and deaths.

KY: Kentucky Republicans flex muscle to start session, targeting governor, courts, abortion rights

kentucky.com

The 2021 Kentucky General Assembly began with a push to pass 10 priority bills that would limit the powers of Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, restrict abortions and shield businesses from COVID-19 liability.

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