Stateline

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/17

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/17

US: GOP attorneys general question stimulus-barring tax cuts

apnews.com

Republican attorneys general from 21 states are questioning a provision in the $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue plan that bars states from using the federal funds to offset tax cuts. In a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, they said the prohibition is “unclear, but potentially breathtaking.”

OK: Anyone in Oklahoma can now get COVID vaccines, thanks to several Native tribes

cnn.com

Any resident of Oklahoma can now get a COVID-19 vaccine—but it's not because of the state's health department. Instead, several tribes headquartered in Oklahoma have expanded vaccinations beyond tribal citizens.

NJ: New Jersey made questionable payments to veterans agency officials

wsj.com

The state of New Jersey tapped a fund meant for nurses and others working directly with patients to make unauthorized and questionable payments to upper-level managers at its veterans agency, which oversees the nursing homes with the state’s highest COVID-19 death count.

VA: Virginia governor restores voting rights for 69,000 felons on probation

richmond.com

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, announced he is restoring the voting rights of 69,000 Virginians who completed their prison sentences for a felony but remain under probation—a change in the state’s policy that he said will help people fully reenter society.

SC: South Carolina considers new flag redesigns after feedback from residents

thestate.com

After a flag design was resoundingly rejected by South Carolinians across the state, lawmakers went back to the drawing board and approved two possible designs. Among other complaints, residents said the iconic palmetto tree was too spindly on the first design.

CO: Audit finds Colorado unemployment system kept inadequate records

coloradosun.com

Colorado’s Office of the State Auditor criticized the state Department of Labor and Employment for its lack of proper financial reporting and oversight of billions of dollars in payments to unemployed Coloradans. The report is the latest blow to the agency, which has struggled to pay hundreds of thousands of Colorado workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

WA: Washington is reopening, but many essential workers aren't vaccinated

crosscut.com

Washington's decision to put teachers and the elderly at the front of the vaccine line has led some to question why these predominantly White groups were prioritized over grocery, transit and other frontline workers—who don’t have the option of working from home and are more likely to be from disproportionately impacted communities of color. Grocery workers became eligible this week, along with critical workers in agriculture, corrections, transit, food processing and other select congregate settings.

WI: Wisconsin legislature moves to protect conversion therapy for LGBTQ residents

apnews.com

The Wisconsin legislature moved to allow therapists, counselors and social workers to continue to try to change gay and transgender people’s sexual orientation.

MN: Lower-risk teens fuel a COVID-19 uptick in Minnesota

startribune.com

The Minnesota Department of Health reported that 10% of new cases in the past week involved teenagers 15 to 19 years old, whose risks for viral transmission increased earlier this year with the return to in-person classes and youth sports activities. Seven percent have involved children 10 to 14 years old. State health officials remain concerned about their ability to spread the infectious disease to others at greater risk.

NV: Nevada finds far fewer election complaints than GOP claimed

reviewjournal.com

The Nevada secretary of state’s office announced it had sorted through several boxes allegedly containing about 123,000 unique voter complaints, collected by the Nevada Republican Party after the 2020 general election, but found fewer than 4,000 actual alleged violations. The office said it spent more than 40 hours labeling and evaluating the documents.

NY: New York lawmakers near deal on recreational marijuana legalization

timesunion.com

State legislators are nearing a deal to legalize recreational marijuana use for adult New Yorkers, but there's currently an impasse on how to deal with impaired driving and traffic stops by police, said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat.

MD: Maryland joins push to allow college athletes to profit from their names and likenesses

baltimoresun.com

If the act is signed into law, Maryland would join six states, including California, Colorado and Florida, that have voted to expand college athletes’ name, image and likeness rights. The Maryland version of the legislation would bar state universities and outside governing bodies—including the NCAA and individual conferences—from preventing compensation for athletes’ rights.

MO: Despite NAACP travel advisory, Missouri casts a Black woman as face of tourism effort

stltoday.com

Nearly four years after the Missouri NAACP issued an advisory warning travelers to stay away from the state, which remains in effect, the tourism division’s latest effort to attract visitors leans on a campaign built around a Black woman named Mo.

AR: Arkansas House favors bill curbing governor’s powers in emergency

arkansasonline.com

The Arkansas House voted to curb the governor's emergency powers, sending legislation to GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson that would require lawmakers to review executive orders and would make it easier for them to end a state of emergency.

ME: Maine will vaccinate inmates over 60

pressherald.com

Maine is preparing for an influx of vaccine doses in late March and early April by opening more mass vaccination sites, planning for additional sites and maximizing the capacity of locations already giving vaccinations. The state also announced that the Department of Corrections will begin vaccinating prisoners 60 and older next week, the first plan for inoculating people incarcerated in Maine.

VT: Vermont governor says life could return to normal by the Fourth of July

vtdigger.org

Citing an increasing COVID-19 vaccine supply, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, estimated that life in Vermont could return to normal by the Fourth of July. Scott learned in a national call with the White House that vaccine makers are ramping up their production, and Vermont should get a major boost in its federal allocation by the end of the month.

OR: Multiple Oregon bills would address access to menstrual products

oregonlive.com

Several bills under consideration in the Oregon legislature would help people who menstruate feel less of the financial strain of paying for period products. One bill would provide $10 per month to people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to purchase personal hygiene items, another would exempt businesses from paying commercial activity tax on sales of period products and a third would require all public schools to provide pads and tampons to students at no charge.

ID: Coronavirus liability shield heads to Idaho governor's desk

apnews.com

Legislation intended to shield Idaho businesses, schools and government entities from lawsuits if someone catches COVID-19 headed to Republican Gov. Brad Little's desk. The state Senate voted 32-2 to approve the measure that extends a law passed last summer.

AL: Alabama riot bill moves forward

al.com

Legislation that would strengthen criminal penalties for rioting was passed by the Alabama House Judiciary Committee after much conversation, a vote delay and changes to the bill. Opponents of the bill argue it would threaten free speech and peaceful protest.

AK: Alaska’s new attorney general targets high rate of sex crimes in hearing

alaskapublic.org

Treg Taylor said his first priority as Alaska’s attorney general is to end the state’s high rate of sex crimes. He noted that the Department of Law’s budget request includes 10 new prosecutors and nine new support staff that would focus on sex crimes.

UT: Utah lawmakers propose porn phone filter

apnews.com

Conservative lawmakers in Utah have fired another salvo in their longtime campaign against online porn with a new requirement that all cellphones and tablets sold in the state automatically block pornography. Critics say the plan would be a significant intrusion on free speech.

 

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