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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/22

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/22

NY: FBI investigates New York governor, aides on nursing home data

nytimes.com

A federal investigation into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes during the pandemic has focused in recent weeks on whether the Democrat and his senior aides provided false data on resident deaths to the Justice Department. The state initially publicized only the number of residents who died of COVID-19 inside nursing homes, even after it became aware that thousands more residents had died after being transferred to hospitals.

FL: Florida extends curfews and closures to stem spring break revelry

miamiherald.com

Curfews and causeway closures to control unruly spring break crowds in Florida’s South Beach will be extended through April 12, the Miami Beach City Commission unanimously decided. An 8 p.m. curfew in South Beach’s entertainment district and a 10 p.m. shutdown of the eastbound lanes of three causeways will remain in effect for the remainder of spring break.

US: Fast vaccine rollout backfired in some states

apnews.com

A surprising new analysis found that some states that raced ahead of others to offer COVID-19 vaccines to ever-larger groups of people have vaccinated smaller shares of their population than those that moved more slowly and methodically. The explanation, as experts see it, is that the rapid expansion of eligibility caused a surge in demand too big for some states to handle and led to serious disarray.

ND: North Dakota House rescinds ratification of Equal Rights Amendment

bismarcktribune.com

The North Dakota House has voted to rescind the state’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, declaring that it expired in 1979.

ME: Inaccurate maps are making parts of Maine that lack broadband hard to locate

pressherald.com

There’s an old joke in Maine involving a lost tourist, of which the punchline is: “You can’t get there from here.” When it comes to installing broadband in very rural parts of the state, the punchline could be “you can’t find it from here.” Bad maps are making it harder to get broadband installed in rural areas of Maine.

IL: Illinois governor gives his campaign fund $35M, the surest sign yet of an reelection bid 

chicagotribune.com

Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the nation’s wealthiest officeholder, gave his campaign fund $35 million as he has dodged questions about whether he officially plans to seek election to a second term in 2022.

VT: Vermont governor refuses call to prioritize inmate vaccinations

vtdigger.org

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, is standing by his position against the widespread vaccination of Vermont’s incarcerated individuals “as soon as possible,” despite calls to do so from an advisory panel responsible for making recommendations to his administration. “They will be vaccinated like anybody else, with the age banding,” Scott said.

GA: Georgia bill would end long runoffs and free-for-all special elections

ajc.com

Republican Georgia legislators are pursuing an overhaul of primary and runoff election rules—changes that could have prevented Democrats from winning U.S. Senate races if they had been in effect last year.

AK: More babies are being born too early in Alaska

alaskapublic.org

In 2019, almost 1 in 10 births in Alaska was preterm. That’s as high as the rate has been in the past two decades. It’s hard to nail down a single cause for an early birth, or why numbers are going up—but it can be an indicator of other health problems at play. 

PA: Ban on meal, lodging payments for Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced

spotlightpa.org

Declaring it was time to eliminate perks in the legislature, a Pennsylvania Democratic state senator introduced a bill to prevent lawmakers from cashing in on per diems: the generous reimbursement for lodging and meals during voting days in the Capitol that they can receive without even having to provide receipts.

AZ: Arizona governor vows to cancel voter-approved education tax

apnews.com

A new voter-approved tax on high-earning Arizonans that would boost education spending is in Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s crosshairs. The Republican vowed to see Proposition 208′s new tax canceled either through the courts or the GOP-controlled legislature.

WI: Wisconsin regulators let ban on utility disconnections expire

startribune.com

Tens of thousands of households in Wisconsin could lose utility service after state regulators voted against extending a moratorium on disconnections. It would be the first time in nearly 18 months that utilities could disconnect service to customers who are behind on their bills.

NJ: New Jersey's unequal rules put some families at greater risk of drinking lead

northjersey.com

No amount of lead is safe for children or pregnant women, yet New Jersey has two different standards. For the roughly 1 million people the state says rely on private well water, the limit is 5 parts per billion. The water that flows to the taps in schools and most homes can have three times the amount, 15 parts per billion. 

AR: Arkansas homeless numbers fall, says 2020 report

arkansasonline.com

Arkansas recorded a 13% decrease in homelessness in 2020 compared with the previous year, though it ranks among a few states where more than half the homeless population lives outdoors, according to a recent federal report. But Arkansas homeless service providers said they've seen more people experiencing homelessness over the past year and expressed concern about an undercount. 

OK: Oklahoma City Muslim imam invited to pray at Statehouse

oklahoman.com

A local Muslim leader is poised to participate in an Oklahoma Senate chaplaincy program four years after he was denied entry into a similar program in the state House of Representatives. 

MT: Montana tribal voting bill clears committee after substantial revisions

billingsgazette.com

A heavily amended bill that would expand Native American voting access in Montana advanced from a House committee, although at least one tribe involved in the legislation expressed disappointment with the changes. 

AL: Report cites loitering police, ‘Blue Lives Matter’ sign at Alabama polls

al.com

A report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says there was election intimidation at Alabama polls, including a police officer loitering outside an Alabama polling site in the tiny Wiregress community of Gordon during the Nov. 3, general election. In at least two of the cited cases—Gordon and Pike County—officials deny they were aware of inappropriate activities.

NH: Republican-led New Hampshire Senate kills minimum wage bill

nhpr.org

The latest effort to increase the minimum wage in New Hampshire has died in the state Senate. New Hampshire doesn't set its own minimum wage, instead following the federal minimum, which is $7.25 per hour.

RI: Rhode Island governor says he’ll veto charter school moratorium

providencejournal.com

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee will veto a moratorium on new charter schools and charter school expansions if the General Assembly passes one, his office said. A longtime charter school proponent, McKee has previously said he is opposed to the legislation that would create a three-year moratorium, which passed the state Senate last month. 

VA: Virginia Latinos face disproportionately high COVID-19 infection rates

richmond.com

Latinos in Virginia are infected, hospitalized and dying from the coronavirus faster than every group and at more than double the rate of whites, according to a report this month from the Virginia Department of Health that adjusted COVID-19 rates by age and population. 

MD: Maryland’s new cases top 1,000 for fourth day in a row

baltimoresun.com

Maryland health officials reported more than 1,000 new cases of the coronavirus for the fourth consecutive day Sunday as the state’s average testing positivity rate climbed for the 11th straight day. The state has averaged about 907 cases per day over the past two weeks, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health.

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