Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/22

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/22

TX: Texas blocks electricity bills, cutoffs

texastribune.org

Texas officials ordered utilities to stop sending invoices to customers and stop disconnections. Some Texans are receiving exorbitant bills, more than $16,000 in one case, despite not having power during the storm.

NJ: New Jersey parents sue school districts to reopen

northjersey.com

As debate mounts over how to reopen schools during the pandemic, some New Jersey parents are arguing in federal court that their children's struggles with remote learning violate constitutional rights.

MO: Missouri researchers detect fast-spreading UK variant in wastewater 

stltoday.com

Since June, researchers have been testing up to 59 community wastewater facilities across Missouri to detect the presence of COVID-19. Earlier this month, the team began sequencing the genomes of the virus samples to identify emerging variants and found the presence of the faster-spreading UK variant.

AR: Arkansas struggles with vaccine equity 

arkansasonline.com

For reasons ranging from lack of information in languages other than English to a lack of health care providers near where they live, Arkansas communities of color struggle to access COVID-19 vaccines. The Arkansas Department of Health doesn't yet have a complete picture of the vaccine inroads made among minorities because it has not collected enough data on race or ethnicity.

NV: Pandemic shutters Nevada’s legal brothels

apnews.com

Nevada’s legal brothels have been closed for nearly a year, leaving sex workers to offer less-lucrative alternatives like online dates or nonsexual escort services. Those in the industry say many of the licensed prostitutes, who work as independent contractors, have struggled to qualify for unemployment benefits since closures began last March, and some have turned to illegal forms of sex work.

MI: Michigan faces an energy emergency over propane

mlive.com

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order declaring a state of energy emergency in Michigan to ensure adequate propane distribution over the coming days. The executive order suspends restrictions on commercial driver hours to allow the immediate delivery of energy to homes and businesses.

IL: Illinois nursing homes see far fewer COVID-19 deaths

chicagotribune.com

In another promising sign Illinois is beating back the COVID-19 pandemic, cases and deaths at long-term care facilities have dropped to levels not seen since late summer, according to state data. 

VT: Vermont legislators ‘fast track’ COVID-19 relief bill

vtdigger.org

The Vermont House and Senate are preparing to pass a COVID-19 relief bill in the coming weeks that could include aid for low-income families, grants for businesses strained by the pandemic and money to build out affordable housing.

VA: Virginia governor says schools must offer in-person instruction by March 15

richmond.com

Push has come to shove for Virginia’s school districts that remain fully virtual, as Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced that they must begin to offer in-person learning by March 15.

NC: North Carolina lawmakers draft bill to reinstate ‘seeking work’ rules for unemployment

newsobserver.com

North Carolina Republican legislators have drafted a bill that would reinstate the requirement that jobless people actively seek work to receive unemployment benefits. People out of work due to COVID-19 would be exempt. Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, authorized the Department of Commerce last March to waive these requirements.

CO: COVID-19 hotspots reemerge in Colorado mountain communities

denverpost.com

Counties in Colorado’s high country have staved off a significant rise in hospitalizations, but public health officials say there is concern as increasing infections in one region of the state could spark a spike in cases in another—especially given the new, more contagious variants.

WI: Wisconsin governor’s budget proposal prioritizes the homeless

madison.com

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, is proposing to spend $15.7 million annually on initiatives to directly support the homeless in the 2021-23 biennium, by far the largest investment in state history.

OR: Oregonians 70 and older now eligible for vaccine

oregonlive.com

The third wave of Oregon older adults—those who are 70 and older—will get their first chance to try to schedule coveted COVID-19 vaccination appointments. The fourth and final group of older adults—those 65 and older—will get their first opportunity to book appointments statewide starting March 1.

PA: Pennsylvania’s new auditor general says his election was fair, but he won’t discuss others

spotlightpa.org

Republican Timothy DeFoor, Pennsylvania’s new auditor general—charged with serving as an independent and impartial fiscal watchdog on behalf of taxpayers—has refused to affirm that the 2020 election was fair and accurate, despite his own victory.

CA: New vaccine delivery system starts in parts of California

apnews.com

California’s new system of delivering, tracking and scheduling coronavirus vaccines is being rolled out in select counties, a first step in Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to smooth out what has been a confusing and disjointed rollout hampered by a limited national supply.

OK: Teacher vaccinations begin across Oklahoma

tulsaworld.com

The official rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for teachers and other school employees begins this week across Oklahoma, but most teachers in the Tulsa area will apparently have to wait for vaccine shipments, due to delays caused by last week’s blast of winter weather.

MD: State, federal courts in Maryland aim for March reopen to the public

baltimoresun.com

State and federal courts in Maryland will reopen to the public next month and resume some trials, after most regular activities were suspended amid rising COVID-19 cases in the fall. While federal hearings still will be held virtually on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the presiding judge, some in-person jury trials may resume March 15.

TN: Tennessee transgender athlete bill echoes nationwide push

tennessean.com

The current push by some Tennessee lawmakers' to limit transgender athletes' participation in school sports mirrors a nationwide legislative effort that spans across at least 21 states—the latest episode of an intensifying battle over LGBTQ rights in America.

DE: Delaware governor says legal issues won’t allow vaccines to be set aside for certain groups

wdel.com

Latinos make up 10% of residents in Delaware, but so far have received only 2% of the COVID-19 vaccinations, and advocates have called on the state to set aside vaccines for the group. Democratic Gov. John Carney, in response, said, "There are legal constraints as to whether or not you can set things aside for particular populations.”

AK: Diligence and last-minute calls fuel Alaska’s nearly wasteless vaccine campaign 

adn.com

Officials say fewer than 100 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been reported lost as more than 130,000 have been administered in Alaska. But how extra vaccine that would otherwise be wasted is distributed isn’t always organized or fair.

IN: Indiana lawmakers support allowing virtual board meetings 

apnews.com

Indiana legislators are supporting proposals that would permanently allow members of local government boards to participate virtually in public meetings. Similar bills approved by the House and Senate would permit boards to adopt policies allowing members to vote virtually if they can be seen and heard. 

CT: Connecticut lawmakers won’t require towns to charge residents for pay-as-you-throw trash

courant.com

The Connecticut legislature will not require towns to adopt measures that charge residents based on how much trash they throw away—rather than a flat fee—to address the state’s growing waste crisis. 

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