What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/16
NY: New York governor admits mishandling of nursing home data
New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his administration created a "void" by not providing data on coronavirus nursing home deaths to state lawmakers. The governor declined to explicitly apologize, instead saying he erred by allowing others, including what he described as conspiracy theorists, to fill in the information gap with allegations of a cover-up.
AK: Alaska loses its state emergency declaration for COVID-19
Alaska has become one of two states without a formal COVID-19 public health disaster declaration and the only state without any disaster-related provisions, at least right now. Without the declaration, everything from hospital coronavirus treatment units to space for large vaccination clinics is in limbo. In place since March, it provided legal backing for state health orders, as well as flexibilities to respond to the virus and deliver vaccine to Alaskans.
MD: Maryland governor signs $1.1B COVID-19 relief package
Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has signed a $1.1 billion coronavirus relief package into law, authorizing direct payments to some of the lowest earners in the state, grants for small businesses and a slew of tax credits for business owners and unemployment beneficiaries.
AR: Death-certificate delays in Arkansas are one more pandemic pain
Increased delays in processing death certificates during the pandemic have put another stress on grieving families and more pressure on those who care for the dead in Arkansas. The legal document needed for closure after death has been caught in a backlog of bureaucracy made worse during the pandemic.
IN: COVID-19 liability bill heads to Indiana governor
The Indiana Senate sent to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's desk a bill to give businesses, including nursing homes, civil immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The protections were a top priority for Indiana's business community, Republican legislative leaders and Holcomb, so he's likely to sign the measure.
IL: Stark divide in Illinois vaccinations by race, ethnicity and age, data shows
Confirming fears of inequity in COVID-19 vaccinations, newly released state data shows that Black and Hispanic Illinoisans so far have been vaccinated at half the rate of White residents. And nearly three weeks after the state opened shots to all older adults, a Chicago Tribune analysis shows wide variation in how many have received them.
NV: Nevada gives most school districts permission to bend COVID-19 rules
More than 70% of Nevada school districts have been granted leeway to deviate from state emergency directives issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
WA: Washington state’s COVID-19 vaccine planning fell short
A Seattle Times review of Washington state’s COVID-19 vaccination plans, internal emails and other reports, along with vaccine provider interviews, reveal missteps that confounded one of the largest and most difficult government undertakings in generations. Planning fell short on logistics, sowing disorder and mistrust.
MO: With gun deaths climbing, Missouri lawmakers push to loosen firearm restrictions
While Missouri continues to struggle with one of the highest rates of gun deaths in the country, Republican state lawmakers are advancing a litany of bills aimed at further loosening the state’s gun laws.
KS: Kansas struggles to fix vaccine reporting issues
Kansas is working to fix its troubled system for sending vaccine data to the federal government, saying glitches caused about 100,000 doses that were given to not be registered as being administered.
WI: Wolf hunt approved in Wisconsin as legal fight continues
Wisconsin’s wolf hunt will begin next week with up to 200 animals to be harvested, the state Department of Natural Resources Board determined at a hastily called meeting in reaction to a court order requiring a hunt this month. The unanimous board vote came even as the state was asking an appeals court to stop the hunt.
ND: North Dakota House narrowly defeats bill to shield mugshots
A bill to shield mugshots of people arrested in North Dakota narrowly failed in the state House. The measure died on a 45-49 vote. Three more votes in favor would have sent the legislation to the Senate.
HI: Very little of Hawaii's agricultural land is used for growing food
Nearly half of Hawaii’s lands are designated for agriculture, but only a fraction of the state’s 4.1 million acres are used for farming. Federal data shows that in 2017—when the most recent agricultural census was conducted—only 8% of the state’s agricultural lands were used for growing crops.
SD: South Dakota House given OK to attend remotely due to virus
Members of the South Dakota House of Representatives received the go-ahead to attend floor sessions remotely after an eighth reported positive COVID-19 test among the legislative body in as many days.
CO: Colorado may not get new census data until after redistricting maps are due
The U.S. Census Bureau may not provide the population data states need to redraw congressional and legislative districts until Sept. 30, after a deadline enshrined in the Colorado Constitution by which the new political maps must be drawn. The announcement is a worst-case scenario for Colorado’s new independent redistricting commissions.
CA: California plans to close troubled youth prisons after 80 years
Eighty years after California created separate incarceration facilities to spare teenagers from being locked up alongside adults, the state has pledged to begin the shutdown of its long-troubled and frequently violent youth prisons.
PA: How Pennsylvania failed to deliver millions in COVID-19 rent relief
Pennsylvania’s first effort to help renters was doomed from the start. Housing officials were not consulted on the details and warned of serious problems before it launched, but their pleas for help never resulted in the changes they said were needed.
NH: New Hampshire House hears proposed climate action plan
A bill that would require New Hampshire to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 got a first hearing in a state legislative committee. It earned support from state officials and the public but was met with skepticism from some members of the Republican majority.
NM: New Mexico could offer rebates, tax holidays under pandemic relief plan
A bill quickly advancing in the New Mexico legislature would give $600 rebates to those making $15 per hour or less, as well as a four-month state tax holiday for struggling full-service restaurants.
ID: Idaho state senator tests positive for COVID-19
An Idaho state senator has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a memo sent by the secretary of the Senate. The memo said the unnamed senator was last at the state Capitol on Friday and worked primarily in the Senate chairman’s suite.