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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/14

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/14

MO: Missouri governor scuttles Medicaid expansion

stltoday.com

Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson formally withdrew the state’s application to expand Medicaid to 275,000 low-income adults, citing the lack of funding provided by the GOP-controlled legislature. The move, which he expects to draw a lawsuit, came less than a week after the legislature sent him a spending plan that stripped the $1.9 billion he had sought for the voter-approved expansion.

US: Some states lift mask mandates for vaccinated people while others greet the new guidance with caution

nytimes.com

As Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials cleared the way for Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to drop mask wearing in most situations, some states lifted mask mandates, while others took a more cautious approach.

MN: Minnesota House casts historic vote to legalize marijuana

startribune.com

The Minnesota House voted 72-61 in favor of legalization, with support from nearly all Democrats and six Republicans. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz supports the measure, but it still faces long odds to become law this year, with just days left in the regular 2021 session and opposition from Republicans in control of the state Senate.

AR, TN: Interstate 40 bridge connecting Arkansas and Tennessee has ‘significant’ break

arkansasonline.com

State highway engineers on the Arkansas and Tennessee sides of the Mississippi River say they have summoned national experts in bridge repair to speed up reopening the Interstate 40 bridge over the river at Memphis as quickly and as safely as possible, an effort they concede might require weeks if not months. An annual inspection led to the discovery this week of a significant fracture in one of the four 900-foot beams.

MT: Montana private school scholarship tax credit will rise from $150 to $200K

ktvq.com

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, signed into law a huge increase in the state tax credit that funds scholarships for private-school students. The legislation, which also expands the credit for donations to fund public school innovative educational programs, increases the maximum income-tax credit from $150 a year to $200,000–an increase of more than 13,000%.

MI: Michigan GOP lawmakers take steps to ban vaccine passports

freep.com

Michigan Republican lawmakers took additional steps to ban the government from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, despite having no indication that any state or local agency is pursuing such a requirement. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and leaders of the state health department said last week they are not considering instituting vaccine passports or any form of a vaccine mandate.

ND: North Dakota’s most costly leased building largely unused

apnews.com

North Dakota taxpayers are on the hook for nearly $3 million in rent over the next two years for unused 85,000-square-foot office space for a state agency that intends to allow most of its more than 400 employees to work from home indefinitely.

CA: Governor proposes COVID grants up to $25K for thousands more California businesses

latimes.com

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed adding $1.5 billion to a program providing grants of up to $25,000 to small businesses harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic in California, allowing thousands more to get financial help.

FL: Restaurant alcohol-to-go is now a permanent option in Florida

orlandosentinel.com

Alcohol-to-go, a popular measure put in place in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to help out struggling restaurants, is now permanent in Florida. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law at a restaurant in Ormond Beach.

HI: Hawaii taxpayers on the hook for $2.3M to settle legal claims against the state

civilbeat.org

A Hawaii state settlement over a deadly motorcycle crash on the Likelike Highway accounted for nearly half of taxpayers’ legal bills—totaling about $2.3 million—approved by lawmakers this year. That settlement is one of 15 that puts taxpayers on the hook for legal costs involving state departments and employees.

NJ: New Jersey's next step on voting rights? Allowing 17-year-olds to cast primary ballots

northjersey.com

New Jersey Democrats are pressing ahead with another expansion to voting rights—this time allowing 17-year-olds to cast ballots in primary elections. A panel of lawmakers advanced a bill that would let the teens vote in June primary elections starting in 2022 if they will turn 18 on or before the November general election next year.

CO: Threatening an elected official in Colorado could soon land you in prison

coloradosun.com

A Colorado Senate bill would make it a misdemeanor to harass or retaliate against an elected official or their family, and a felony to make a “credible threat” against them. It’s among a slate of legislation being debated at the Capitol this year to protect public health and safety workers and others who work in high-profile government jobs.

WA: Juneteenth becomes official holiday in Washington

seattletimes.com

Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has officially declared Juneteenth a state holiday in Washington. He signed a slate of bills including one that makes June 19 a paid day off for state workers starting in 2022, marking the day when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 and informed the last enslaved African Americans there that they were free.

TN: Tennessee governor to sign bills that both increase and decrease incarceration

tennessean.com

Shortly after the legislature adjourned, Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee said he was proud of legislation that will divert more nonviolent offenders from prison and support people on parole to help them stay out of trouble. But Lee also will sign into law more than 20 other bills passed in recent weeks that will send more people to prison for longer.

TX: Texas House OKs ‘lie and try’ gun bill prompted by mass shootings

dallasnews.com

Lying to pass a gun-buyer background check would become a state crime in Texas, under a bill the House advanced. The bill, filed in response to mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa, would make it a felony to knowingly make a false statement for the purposes of passing a gun background check. It applies to people who can’t legally possess a firearm.

OK: Oklahoma lawmakers can redraw legislative boundaries

tulsaworld.com

Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed bills that allow the redrawing of legislative boundaries. Lawmakers are expected to return in special session in the fall to hammer out congressional redistricting.

AK: Credit raters say Alaska's financial picture is getting better

adn.com

The firms that evaluate Alaska’s creditworthiness mostly agree that the state’s financial picture is getting better, at least in the short-term. Analysts for Moody’s Investors Service have upgraded the state’s fiscal outlook from negative to stable, according to an opinion that cites stabilizing oil prices and substantial growth in the Permanent Fund as reasons for the improved opinion of Alaska.

UT: Utah won’t require masks for students’ last week of school

apnews.com

Utah will not require masks in K-12 schools for the last week of the academic year, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox has announced. He said schools have the option to keep the mask requirement in place through the end of the school year.

LA: Legislation granting Louisiana inmates convicted by split juries new trials temporarily shelved

theadvocate.com 

The Louisiana House Judiciary Committee halted legislation that would allow about 1,500 people who are incarcerated to apply for parole or undergo a new trial because of split juries. The measure’s author wants the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in before the legislature moves forward.

WY: Wyoming’s 2 remaining public health orders extended through May

trib.com

One of the Wyoming orders requires mask wearing and physical distancing at educational facilities. The other imposes limits on indoor gatherings greater than 500 people. More than half of Wyoming’s 48 K-12 school districts have been exempted from the order regarding educational facilities.

NC: North Carolina considers new state symbols, but that might knock the gray squirrel off its perch

charlotteobserver.com

North Carolina lawmakers spent the past five months mulling whether to honor various animals and even whether to oust the gray squirrel as the state mammal, a position it has held since 1969.

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