What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/17
WI: Wisconsin Assembly approves $500M tax cut
The Wisconsin Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a half-billion dollar tax cut for businesses that received federal pandemic relief loans to keep employees on the payroll, a move that stands to benefit at least a handful of legislators whose businesses accepted the money.
TX: Texas lawmakers call for outage inquiry
Texas’ top elected officials called for legislation and investigations into the operation of the state’s power grid after a massive winter storm caused millions to lose power for long spans.
NH: New Hampshire Democratic lawmakers sue over GOP plan for in-person, indoor legislative session
Democrats in the New Hampshire House want a federal judge to force the Republican House speaker to allow legislators with serious health conditions to attend next week’s session remotely.
SC: South Carolina abortion ban awaits final vote in state House
A Republican-backed bill that would likely ban almost all abortions in South Carolina is headed for a crucial vote today, having already passed its toughest hurdle last month. If the House approves the bill without changes, it will go to the desk of Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who has promised to sign it into law as soon as he gets it.
ID: Idaho House passes bill to shift more emergency powers to legislature
After a rushed vote by Idaho Republican leaders, a bill to shift more emergency powers from the governor to the legislature will move to the Senate. The bill passed the House with a 49-20 vote, more than the two-thirds the House would need to withstand a veto by Gov. Brad Little, a Republican.
VA: Virginia legislature looks to give consumers more control over their data
Virginia lawmakers are trying to give consumers more power over their data through the Consumer Data Protection Act, which would give Virginians certain rights over the data that large companies and data brokers collect.
MN: Minnesota schools fast-track plans for permanent online learning options
A rising number of Minnesota school districts are planning to make full-time online school a permanent option for thousands of students. Some school leaders are pushing hard to launch their own online schools as soon as this fall.
HI: Hawaii lawmakers consider clamping down on governor's emergency powers
One bill in the Hawaii House would limit emergency proclamations to 60 days and require two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate to approve any extensions. Some lawmakers and Hawaii residents believe such measures could lead to better checks and balances on state government.
NM: New Mexico could pass civil rights bill
New Mexico would establish its own Civil Rights Act under a bill adopted by the state House. The legislation, which grew out of protests again racial injustice, has drawn fierce opposition from city and county governments.
CO: Colorado lawmakers consider economic stimulus package
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis wants lawmakers to quickly allocate at least $1 billion to the pandemic recovery in a way that “builds Colorado back stronger” through “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects. That includes repairs to tunnels, building new wildlife migration corridors and expanding rural broadband access.
UT: Utah lawmakers move to limit governor’s emergency powers
Utah legislative leaders have unveiled a new proposal to rein in the emergency powers of the governor and state and local health departments, saying the state’s current laws are not designed to grapple with long-term events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
IN: Indiana lawmakers weigh bills aimed at prosecutors and police
Indiana legislators advanced a bill that would allow the state’s attorney general to appoint special prosecutors to take over criminal cases local authorities decide they won’t pursue. The measure would ensure prosecutors can’t create lists of crimes they won’t prosecute, its sponsor said.
FL: Florida GOP moves to hamper mail-in voting
Florida Senate Republicans agreed that the vote-by-mail process worked smoothly but needed a change. They want to erase all standing requests for mail-in ballots in 2022 and require voters to start the process over.
NY: New York City vaccine disparities revealed in ZIP code data
Officials in New York City released new data by ZIP codes showing that the share of residents who are fully vaccinated in some wealthier Upper West and East Side ZIP codes, which have high proportions of White residents, is up to eight times the share in parts of predominantly Black neighborhoods like East New York.
OK: Oklahoma regulators open flows on wells to help address natural gas shortage
Members of Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission voted to remove a cap on natural gas production from wells inside the state, at least temporarily. The removal marks the first time the commission has allowed a well operator to produce natural gas from a well at 100% of its open flow potential without a cap since at least 1999.
NJ: New Jersey will bankroll $100M in electric buses, trucks
The move aims to reduce diesel bus and truck fumes in some of the state’s largest cities to ease the burden of respiratory illnesses. The program will use the remaining $44.8 million from a settlement over charges Volkswagen tampered with emission control devices on its vehicles and a share of $94 million in proceeds expected from the state’s reentry into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
MT: Montana bill would designate antifa as domestic terrorism
Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would designate antifa as a domestic terrorism group, despite no evidence of antifa activities in the state. The bill’s sponsor said at a hearing the intent of the measure was to send a message that the state won’t tolerate such a group coming into Montana.
ME: Maine buys rapid COVID-19 tests for schools
Maine has purchased an additional 250,000 rapid COVID-19 tests for distribution to schools as a way to continue in-person learning while teachers and staff await vaccination. The nasal swab tests yield results in about 15 minutes and will be available to teachers and students.
NC: North Carolina bill would create summer school program
A bill filed in the North Carolina House would provide a summer school program to help the state’s K-12 public school students catch up after a year of remote learning during the pandemic.
WY: Wyoming lawmakers again consider tax relief for oil, gas
When it was conceived, the draft bill to temporarily cut by half the 6% production severance tax on oil and natural gas was intended to help spur drilling and production in Wyoming as the industry slowly recovers from the oil-price crash of 2020. Now, proponents—including GOP Gov. Mark Gordon—say the bill is also necessary to help bolster an industry bracing for more restrictive policies under the Biden administration.