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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/29

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 3/29

NY: New York leaders strike final deal on marijuana legalization 

timesunion.com

Under the finalized agreement, a New York state Office of Cannabis Management would oversee a regulatory system for medical and adult-use marijuana as well as cannabinoid hemp. Lawmakers said the bill could be voted on as soon as this week.

MD: Maryland bill would limit use of DNA databases to investigate crimes

baltimoresun.com

The Maryland House unanimously approved a first-in-the-nation bill that would limit when law enforcement can search consumer genealogical databases in connection with a crime.

WA: Washington Supreme Court's legalization of drug possession flusters lawmakers

crosscut.com

Lawmakers in Olympia are scrambling to respond to a Washington Supreme Court decision that declared the state’s law criminalizing drug possession unconstitutional because it did not require prosecutors to prove intent.

CO: Colorado receives permission to scale back standardized testing

cpr.org

In a school year burdened by unprecedented challenges, the federal government has approved a Colorado waiver that will allow students to take only one state standardized test this year in either math or English.

MN, WI: Wisconsin and Minnesota will collaborate on an Asian carp removal effort on the Mississippi River

jsonline.com

Fishery crews from multiple Wisconsin and Minnesota agencies will gather next month on the Mississippi River and employ a new technique in an attempt to remove invasive carp. The effort will focus on taking out bighead, grass and silver carp, nonnative species that have wreaked ecological havoc in the Illinois, Missouri and Ohio river systems and are spreading north in the Mississippi.

NV: Nevada school support staff may become eligible for unemployment benefits this summer

thenevadaindependent.com

School support professionals who work fewer than 12 months a year and are generally ineligible for unemployment would qualify for benefits in Nevada, this summer only, if emergency regulations signed by the governor get final approval.

OK: Oklahoma health officials defend switch to weekly COVID-19 data

oklahoman.com

Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Health defended reducing how often the agency provides some COVID-19 data, including county-level case counts. Health experts and local officials have expressed concern over the changes, saying only receiving the data on a weekly basis would mean less insight into local hotspots and outbreaks.

UT: Utah leaders take minimal action on school earthquake safety

sltrib.com

Many Utah schools were constructed more than 60 years ago, before there were any building codes for earthquake safety. Seismologists predict the classrooms in them could be crushed if the ground starts shaking.

KS, MO: As all adults approach vaccine eligibility, Kansas and Missouri confront hesitancy

kansas.com

COVID-19 vaccines have gone unused at Missouri mass vaccination sites, with nearly 8,000 doses alone failing to get into arms during a one-week stretch last month. In Kansas, officials decided earlier this month to expand eligibility for the vaccine and collapse two phases into one—in part because demand was slowing.

PA: Being sick could worsen penalties for spitting on Pennsylvania police

spotlightpa.org

A bill moving through the Pennsylvania legislature that would criminalize spitting on a police officer is partially predicated on junk science, and public health experts warn it could harshly punish people who are sick with as little as a common cold.

ME: Maine moves to address immigrant reluctance, access to vaccines

pressherald.com

A small grassroots army of truth-tellers, trendsetters and leaders are working to make sure Maine’s newest arrivals have factual information about the vaccine and ready access to area clinics.

VT: Vermont reaches out to communities of color for vaccines

vtdigger.org

The Vermont Department of Health has partnered with organizations across the state to administer vaccination clinics to communities of color, citing low COVID-19 vaccine uptake rates and the disproportionate impact of the virus.

NC: North Carolina groups oppose bills that would allow guns in churches on school campuses

newsobserver.com

Advocates against gun violence in North Carolina called on state lawmakers to vote against a bill that would allow people attending religious services on school campuses to carry concealed firearms. The bill has passed the House. A similar bill has passed the Senate.

MA: Massachusetts’ $130M outsourced contact tracing effort draws criticism

bostonglobe.com

Some say the decision to hire an outside nonprofit group to run the project deprived Massachusetts towns of the chance to bolster local health departments to tackle COVID-19 and future crises.

WV: Vaccination rates lag for Black people in West Virginia

wvgazettemail.com

While Black people make up 3.6% of West Virginia’s population, they compose just 2.1% of those vaccinated, according to state Department of Health and Human Resources statistics. Black people are more likely than White people to contract COVID-19 and be hospitalized and die from the virus, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MT: Montana House endorses boost for 'school choice' tax credit

billingsgazette.com

The Montana House endorsed a bill that would boost the state's tax credit program for contributing to private school scholarships from $150 to $200,000.

NJ: Parents will be notified of child's first marijuana offense under New Jersey law

northjersey.com

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that requires parents be notified the first time their children are caught with marijuana or alcohol.

MO: Missouri House Republicans approve voter ID bill

stltoday.com

The Missouri House approved a bill that would impose photo ID requirements for voting, which voting rights advocates say could pose an undue hardship.

AR: Demand for shots is spotty in Arkansas

arkansasonline.com

Ten days after GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson extended eligibility for the coronavirus vaccines to almost 1 million Arkansans, providers continued to report varying levels of demand for the shots.

OR: Oregon frontline workers become eligible for vaccines 2 weeks early

oregonlive.com

Oregon frontline workers, people 16 and older with underlying medical conditions, and those who live in multigenerational households will be eligible to get coronavirus vaccines starting April 5, two weeks earlier than officials had planned in an already accelerated timeline.

ID: Idaho taxpayers will pay for legislature's COVID-19-caused recess

idahostatesman.com

The Idaho legislature’s recess last week, prompted by a COVID-19 outbreak in the Capitol, will cost taxpayers. The session’s delay will last more than two weeks—and cost a total of about $318,000.

MS: Mississippi state, higher ed employees will receive pay raises as lawmakers finalize budget

mississippitoday.org

Many of Mississippi’s more than 25,000 state employees will get a 3% pay raise under an agreement reached between House and Senate leaders as they work to finalize a budget this week and conclude the 2021 legislative session.

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