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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/2

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/2

TX: Texas sues power retailer over exorbitant bills

texastribune.org

Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the retailer, Griddy, claiming it misled customers using deceptive business practices. Griddy claims it billed some customers tens of thousands of dollars due to skyrocketing wholesale prices.

GA: Voting restrictions bill passes Georgia House over strong opposition

ajc.com

A bill to restrict ballot drop boxes, require more ID for absentee voting and limit weekend early voting days passed the Georgia House amid protests that the proposals would make it harder for voters to participate in democracy.

CA: California governor, legislators strike deal to offer schools $2B in incentives to reopen campuses

latimes.com

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders announced an agreement to give school districts $2 billion to open schools for students in transitional kindergarten through second grade by April 1, focusing on California’s youngest children after almost a year of distance learning.

NJ: New Jersey legislature approves bill to curb mandatory minimum prison sentences

northjersey.com

A controversial bill that would eliminate mandatory minimum prison sentences for nearly three dozen crimes is headed to Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk, after the New Jersey Assembly approved the bill. It’s not clear whether Murphy will sign the bill; he previously said he does not support including official misconduct in its list of crimes.

KS: A return to the past may be the answer to a cleaner, more affordable burial process in Kansas

kansas.com

While more and more Kansas cemeteries offer the green burial option, interest has stagnated among Kansans. Cemetery directors note that it’s difficult for people to choose green burial when so many of their family members have been buried in the more traditional way.

WA: Washington state has seen no flu deaths in 2021

spokesman.com

No one has died from influenza yet in Washington this year and during the current flu season. Public health officials point to precautions such as masking, social distancing and better hand hygiene during the coronavirus pandemic as key reasons that flu rates are so low.

IA: Tyson Foods says it will vaccinate ‘thousands’ of its Iowa meatpacking workers this week

desmoinesregister.com

Tyson Foods announced that it will vaccinate “thousands” of its employees at Iowa plants this week. Many of those plants, where a combined 13,000 employees work, were sites of early coronavirus outbreaks. 

PA: Pennsylvania governor announces lighter gathering restrictions

spotlightpa.org

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, announced that he is lifting some statewide COVID-19 restrictions effective immediately, upping occupancy limits for both indoor and outdoor events and eliminating out-of-state travel restrictions in place since November. Mask mandates and social distancing rules remain in effect. 

NY: New York governor is accused of unwanted advances at a wedding

nytimes.com

The latest account follows two separate accusations that New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed two female state employees.The initial stages of a pending investigation into Cuomo’s actions are underway inside the offices of New York state Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat.

FL: Florida opens vaccines to some 50-and-over workers

miamiherald.com

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced three new vaccine-eligible categories of Floridians over the age of 50: law enforcement officers, firefighters and teachers.

OK: Oklahoma lawmakers push to curb governor’s power amid pandemic

oklahoman.com

Less than a year after Oklahoma lawmakers temporarily granted GOP Gov. Kevin Stitt unprecedented emergency powers, legislators are looking to curb the governor’s authority. Several Republican legislators have introduced bills aimed at telling Oklahoma’s governor what he can, and more specifically, what he cannot do in emergency situations.

MO: Missouri House gives preliminary approval to bill forgiving most unemployment overpayments

stltoday.com

Missourians who received overpayments of unemployment benefits are a step closer to getting to keep some of the money after the House gave preliminary approval to a bipartisan measure. The bill would allow the state to waive repayment of the federal—but not the state—portion of unemployment benefits if the payment was the state’s fault.

AR: Arkansas governor, lawmakers unveil proposed overhaul of Medicaid expansion

apnews.com

GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Republican lawmakers proposed overhauling Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion to encourage recipients to work after the state’s work requirement was halted by the courts and President Joe Biden’s administration. The proposed legislation would continue using Medicaid funds to place recipients on private health insurance, but those who don’t work or go to school could be moved to the traditional fee-for-service Medicaid program. 

CO: More than 800 Coloradoans may have contracted COVID-19 twice

denverpost.com

As many as 822 people in Colorado have been reinfected by the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, according to new data provided by the Colorado health department. The state’s lab has been able to confirm only five cases of reinfection because of limited test specimens.

MA: Massachusetts officials, community leaders try to dissuade residents from vaccine ‘shopping’

bostonglobe.com

With a third COVID-19 vaccine soon to be available in Massachusetts, state officials and community leaders sought to discourage residents from “shopping” for one brand over another, stressing that all are highly protective against serious disease from the coronavirus.

WI: Those with chronic health conditions criticize Wisconsin vaccine effort

wpr.org

Wisconsin has opened vaccine eligibility to a broad group of essential workers that includes all of the state's educators as well as bus drivers, grocery workers and others. But Wisconsinites with chronic health conditions are not prioritized—despite the fact that some of them would be at especially high risk of serious health complications or death if they were to get sick.

AZ: Arizona opens vaccinations at 2 of its state-run sites to people 55 and older

azcentral.com

Arizona announced two of its state-run vaccination sites are now open to anyone 55 years of age and older as the first step in moving to an age-based model of distributing the COVID-19 vaccine. The state also will be prioritizing a specific group of front-line essential workers.

OR: Oregon could become the 2nd state to permit human composting

koin.com

A bill in Oregon would allow bodies to be disposed of by alternative processes, including natural organic reduction—colloquially known as human composting. It also would clarify rules surrounding alkaline hydrolysis, known as aqua cremation, and would extend other funeral industry privileges and responsibilities to include reduction.

ID: Idaho Senate OKs bill to make ballot initiatives tougher

apnews.com

The Idaho Senate approved legislation to make it more difficult to get initiatives or referendums on ballots in a measure with urban vs. rural overtones. Senators voted 26-9 to send to the House the measure that backers say is needed to give rural voters more say in the process, noting the state is growing rapidly especially in urban areas.

HI: Hawaii's summer tourism season looks promising

civilbeat.org

Hawaii’s economy is poised for a significant recovery over the next six months, as pent-up demand for travel coincides with vaccinations on the mainland and an expected new wave of federal stimulus money.

AK: Alaska tribal health care provider opens vaccines to those ages 40 and up

alaskapublic.org

Anchorage’s main tribal health care provider is opening up COVID-19 vaccines to all Alaskans age 40 and older, plus K-12 teachers and child care workers. Southcentral Foundation said it will continue to provide vaccine appointments to its Alaska Native customer-owners. The vaccine for others will be offered as supply allows. 

WY: Wyoming voter ID law passes initial House approval

trib.com

The bill would require Wyoming voters to show specific forms of photo ID before being able to vote in person.

MN: Minnesota prepares to offer vaccines to at-risk patients

startribune.com

More than 1.3 million Minnesotans will become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in April due to underlying health conditions.

CT: Connecticut Senate gives final approval to bill avoiding double taxation for 100,000-plus commuters

courant.com

The Connecticut Senate granted final approval for a bipartisan measure that would give tax breaks to commuters who have been working at home during the pandemic. Senators said they wanted to prevent double taxation for more than 80,000 Connecticut residents with pre-pandemic daily commutes to New York and another 30,000 with jobs in Massachusetts.

SD: Marijuana shops will be able to bank in South Dakota, pending governor’s approval

argusleader.com

Marijuana and hemp-related businesses will gain access to South Dakota banks, pending a signature from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.

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