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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/23

What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/23

IL: Illinois city approves spending for first Black reparations program

chicagotribune.com

Aldermen in the city of Evanston, Illinois, approved the first expenditures in the city’s landmark municipal reparations program, designed to compensate Black residents for codified discrimination. The $10 million program—the first of its kind in the nation when approved in 2019—will be funded through marijuana sales tax revenue.

NY: New York City mayor will end remote work for 80,000 city employees in May

nytimes.com

With COVID-19 cases more stable and more vaccinations every day, city officials intend to send a message that New York is close to returning to normal: On May 3, the city will compel its municipal office employees to begin to report to work in person, according to internal planning documents shared with The New York Times.

CA: California tax revenue surges $14.3B above expectations, freeing money for COVID relief

sacbee.com

California has collected $14.3 billion more in taxes than it expected to in January, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced, painting an even rosier state budget picture than he outlined at the start of the year.

AR: Arkansas House sends transgender-athlete restriction bill to governor

arkansasonline.com

A bill that would deter schools from allowing transgender girls and women to play on the sports team that aligns with their gender identity is headed to Arkansas’ governor. GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson said through a spokesperson that he is "supportive of the objective of the bill but will continue to review the specific language before announcing his position."

KS: After Kansas Senate leader’s arrest, lawmakers weigh tougher penalties for fleeing police

kansas.com

The Kansas Senate is preparing to consider bills changing DUI policy and increasing penalties for people who flee police and for driving on the wrong side of the road—one week after one of its top leaders was arrested and accused of taking those same actions.

MD: Maryland House approves bill that would end county jail contracts to house ICE detainees

baltimoresun.com

Maryland lawmakers took a step toward banning local jails from being paid by the federal government to house people detained on immigration matters. The program, in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement pays jails to house the detainees, has come under fire in the handful of Maryland counties that participate in it.

GA: Georgia panel passes bill that would limit drop boxes, expand weekend voting

ajc.com

A bill that would restrict election drop boxes and increase weekend voting hours in Georgia cleared its committee, setting up final votes within days in the General Assembly.

OR: Oregon won't say how much it has lost to unemployment fraud

apnews.com

Oregon officials continue to refuse to publicly disclose how much money the state has lost to unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic, despite the fact that neighboring states have reported huge sums of money wrongly paid after their systems were targeted by sophisticated hackers. The Oregon Employment Department says it is not “comfortable” disclosing the information because it could provide criminals an opening to further exploit the unemployment systems.

ID: Idaho bill would prohibit schools from teaching about racism and sexism

idahopress.com

The Idaho House Education Committee voted unanimously to introduce a bill that would prohibit schools from teaching students about “racist or sexist concepts" after committee Democrats walked out of the hearing in a show of opposition. Any school violating this could be subject to a withholding of up to 10% of funding from the State Board of Education.

HI: Hawaii vaccine passport could open door to weddings, concerts and more tourism

civilbeat.org

Unofficially, there are signs that a Hawaii vaccine passport could be coming in time for summer. Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat, said he thinks a vaccine passport for travelers to Hawaii could be in place by May 15.

DC: District of Columbia mayor makes case to Congress for statehood

washingtonpost.com

Advocates and Democratic lawmakers painted District of Columbia statehood as a matter of moral urgency and racial justice in a House hearing, pushing back against Republican arguments that the cause is purely partisan and unconstitutional.

OH: More Ohio prisons reopen for in-person visits as coronavirus infection rates drop

dispatch.com

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction plans to reopen more state prison facilities to visitors during the next few weeks. 

TN: Tennessee governor calls permitless handgun carry part of public safety agenda

tennessean.com

Republican Gov. Bill Lee thanked members of the National Rifle Association, the country's leading gun rights group, for helping push a Tennessee bill to remove the state's permit requirement to carry a handgun. 

NJ: New Jersey unemployment agents would work directly with legislative offices under new bill

nj.com

After a year of residents fighting to get their unemployment benefits, New Jersey lawmakers could get extra help under a bill that would require the Department of Labor to assign at least one unemployment claims handler to each legislative district and partisan office during the coronavirus pandemic. It advanced out of the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee with unanimous support. 

MO: Missouri will direct more than half of its unspent federal aid to an unemployment fund

kansascity.com

As Missouri officials prepare to receive $2.8 billion from the latest federal aid package, more than half a billion dollars from the last one has remained unspent in state coffers. GOP Gov. Mike Parson said he will put $300 million, over half of what’s left, into the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund.

OK: Special counsel will investigate complaints about Oklahoma's parole board

oklahoman.com

A special counsel is promising to bring answers to questions surrounding the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board in an effort to restore public confidence in its operations. The appointment comes as an investigation is already underway into why two inmates were released after the parole board rejected their commutation requests.

PA: Child sex abuse survivors in Pennsylvania are denied legal relief for now 

spotlightpa.org

Survivors of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania will have to wait until at least 2023 for the public to consider whether to grant them a special window to sue their perpetrators over conduct that happened many years ago and was in many cases systematically covered up.

NH: New Hampshire police overhaul advocates protest ‘gutted’ Senate bill

nhpr.org

The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill based on recommendations from Republican Gov. Christopher Sununu's commission on police accountability and transparency. But Senate members voted in favor of an amendment that eliminated key parts of the bill, and advocates for a police overhaul say the changes effectively gut the bill. 

IA: Iowa is close to allowing no-permit handgun purchases, carry as bill moves to governor

desmoinesregister.com

Iowans would be able to purchase and carry handguns without permits if Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a bill that the Iowa legislature sent to her desk.

WY: Wyoming House gives initial approval to Medicaid expansion

trib.com

A Wyoming House bill that would expand Medicaid in and give an estimated 25,000 additional residents health insurance passed an initial vote after lawmakers in the Senate killed a similar proposal a few hours earlier. Lawmakers have attempted to expand Medicaid for nearly a decade, and each attempt has been defeated, often early in the legislative process. The bill next requires two additional readings before heading to the Senate.

VT: Vermont legislature considers permanently adopting livestreaming

vtdigger.org

Vermont lawmakers have grown accustomed to conducting floor votes, committee debates and caucus discussions by Zoom—and members of the public, the press and lobbyists have grown accustomed to accessing video of those proceedings on YouTube. Now, the Senate is considering legislation that could make Statehouse business available to the public even after the pandemic is over.

VA: Virginia governor signs future ban on Styrofoam takeout containers

richmond.com

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, has signed legislation to bar expanded polystyrene food service containers, often used for takeout food orders. The ban will take effect in July 2023 for larger chain restaurants and in 2025 for nonprofits and small businesses. Environmental activists point out that the lightweight containers are a key source of pollution in oceans and other waterways.

WI: Dentists can administer COVID-19 vaccines in Wisconsin

wpr.org

A Wisconsin bill signed into law requires dentists to go through training in administration, storage and record-keeping before they can administer COVID-19 and flu vaccines, among other conditions. The bill passed with broad bipartisan support and comes as Wisconsin is opening vaccine eligibility to residents with preexisting conditions. 

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