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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/26

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/26

DE, NJ, NY, PA: Fracking banned in Delaware River Basin

thehill.com

A resolution passed by the Delaware River Basin Commission, made up of the governors of Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania as well as the North Atlantic division engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers, banned hydraulic fracking throughout the Basin, which includes land across the four states.

AK: Remote Alaskan villages have zero COVID-19 cases and are nearing herd immunity

alaskapublic.org

A year into the pandemic, Pelican, Alaska—reachable only by bush plane or boat—has zero recorded cases of COVID-19 and has vaccinated more than half its adults. Interviews and social media posts indicate Pelican is not alone. Alaska’s unique geography and isolation have helped some of its villages thwart the pandemic with astonishing success.

TX: Rural Texas lost out on winter storm help

texastribune.org

Rural Texas counties endured the same storm as big cities, but many haven't fallen under a major disaster declaration. Officials say it's because those counties lack data on damages.

 VT: Vermont considers ban on flavored e-cigarettes, menthol

vtdigger.org

The Vermont Senate has revived legislation that would ban the sale of flavored vaping and tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. The ban was floated last year to prevent youth usage of nicotine products, but the proposal was sidelined after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

AZ: Arizona Republicans advance election bills

apnews.com

Republicans who control the Arizona House advanced a series of election-related proposals that they contend are needed to tighten the state’s election security, but Democrats call the effort part of an ongoing voter suppression effort by GOP lawmakers.

SC: South Carolina bill would allow Trump to be buried on State House grounds

thestate.com

A Republican South Carolina legislator wants to give former President Donald Trump the option of being buried on the state House grounds. The bill would require the South Carolina Department of Administration to offer any president acquitted of impeachment twice to be buried there. The bill is a rebuttal to one introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would bar any president impeached twice from being buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

OK: Power providers to seek billions from Oklahomans in wake of storm

oklahoman.com

More regulated utilities kicked off cases seeking to recover billions of dollars of storm-related costs from customers at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission this week. While it isn’t yet clear what the total costs will be, Oklahoma Gas & Electric alone aims to recover $1 billion in costs—more than what it spent in all of 2020 to keep power flowing into the grid.

NY:  New York governor quiet as bipartisan pressure increases for sexual harassment probe

timesunion.com

The bipartisan chorus for a probe into New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo grew louder after a former aide published an essay alleging the governor kissed her in his office without her consent and had engaged in a pattern of harassment—allegations the governor's office has denied.

MO: School choice proposal wins final approval in Missouri House

stltoday.com

Proponents of a measure allowing students in the St. Louis area to draw scholarship funds to attend the school of their choice won a narrow victory in the Missouri House, sending the proposal to the Senate for debate. Because major efforts to expand school choice have run aground for several years in Missouri, the vote was a historic one.

NE: Nebraska pushes back on objections to Medicaid work requirements

journalstar.com

Officials overseeing expanded Medicaid in Nebraska said enhanced benefits, including dental, vision and over-the-counter drug coverage, won't be available as planned April 1. In a news release, the state Department of Health and Human Services blamed the delay on federal officials who have balked at approving the state’s two-tiered system of benefits for Medicaid expansion patients.

NH: Anti-abortion bills pass during chaotic New Hampshire House session

apnews.com

The Republican-led New Hampshire House passed two anti-abortion rights bills during a chaotic session held at an indoor sports complex where Democrats walked off the field and the speaker struggled to play referee.

MT: Montana Senate gives initial OK to bills restricting access to abortion

billingsgazette.com

The Montana Senate in party-line votes gave initial approval to four Republican-backed bills that would restrict access to abortions or put in place additional processes a woman must go through before receiving an abortion.

ME: Maine governor presses for $30M for more rural broadband

pressherald.com

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, has proposed borrowing another $30 million to help expand broadband in rural parts of Maine, where COVID-19 restrictions have exposed how the limited internet connectivity compounded the pandemic’s negative impacts on learning and the economy.

VA: Virginia budget includes 5% raise for teachers, state employees

richmond.com

Virginia teachers, state employees and state-supported local employees would receive raises of 5% in the next fiscal year, with additional money for state police salaries, under a budget agreement House and Senate leaders reached. The deal also includes more than $66 million to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates for home health care providers.

CO: Colorado lawmakers want to give child sex assault survivors unlimited time to sue abusers

coloradosun.com

Colorado lawmakers are once again debating whether to give recent and future victims of child sexual assault unlimited time to sue their abusers after a similar effort failed last year because of infighting among proponents of the policy change. 

UT: Utah lawmakers unveil $2.26B transportation and construction package

sltrib.com

Another big piece of Utah’s budget came into focus as lawmakers took the wraps off a $2.26 billion transportation and construction funding package. That includes $1.4 billion in bonds for transit and construction projects. Leaders in the House think this could be the largest transportation spending plan in the state’s history. 

WI: Wisconsin governor signs bill to begin overhaul of unemployment system

jsonline.com

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers bound himself and legislators by law to an upgrade of the state's unemployment system that has failed to deliver an income to tens of thousands of Wisconsinites who lost work during the coronavirus pandemic. The overhaul will likely cost nearly $100 million to pull off, but the legislation includes no funding.

WA: Washington sees jump in new jobless claims

seattletimes.com

New unemployment claims in Washington state rose slightly last week even as most other states saw declines. Washingtonians filed 14,043 new claims last week, a 3.2% increase from the week before.

OR: Stimulus payments will increase tax bill for 900,000 Oregonians

oregonlive.com

Oregon allows taxpayers to deduct a portion of their federal tax payments from their state income taxes, but when the feds are handing out free money it reduces the size of that break. Nearly 900,000 state taxpayers will owe an average of about $130 apiece from just the first stimulus payments last spring, though lawmakers are examining a fix that would eliminate the tax bill.

ID: Prescribed burns can't get traction in Idaho

idahostatesman.com

Wildfire scientists say prescribed burning is one of the most effective tools available to tame the West’s worsening wildfire crisis in states such as Idaho. But regulators worry about air pollution and accidentally causing an out-of-control burn, and critics say the U.S. Forest Service is resistant to changing its suppression-focused model.

MS: Mississippi House kills proposal for gas tax election

apnews.com

The Mississippi House is backing away from a proposal for a statewide election on increasing gasoline and diesel fuel taxes to pay for improvements to state highways and local roads. The bill died when the House did not vote on it before a deadline.

AR: Arkansas Senate votes to refund virus fines to businesses

apnews.com

The Arkansas Senate voted to refund the fines the state has collected from some businesses for violating coronavirus restrictions. The measure, which now heads to the House for a vote, was sponsored by a Republican lawmaker who has sued challenging the state’s coronavirus restrictions. 

OH: Ohio will soon relax COVID-19 restrictions on sports, banquet halls and more

dispatch.com

Ohio officials are moving to relax COVID-19 safety restrictions to permit school proms, graduations, weddings, sports and other spring events to accommodate more people as hospitalizations decline and vaccinations increase.

MA: Massachusetts set to enter final phase of reopening in March

bostonglobe.com

Massachusetts sports venues, concert spaces, and theaters will be able to reopen in coming weeks, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker announced, laying out for the first time a concrete timeline to bring back segments of the economy that have remained shuttered since the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic nearly a year ago.

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