What We're Reading: Top State Stories 5/26
CO: Children’s Hospital Colorado declares mental health state of emergency
Colorado children are attempting suicide and arriving in emergency rooms in psychiatric crisis at levels never seen in the state, while abuse of alcohol and drugs to cope with mental health struggles is also on the rise. The youth mental health crisis has escalated to the point that hospital beds are full and more parents are sending kids out of state for treatment, according to a Children’s Hospital Colorado panel of experts.
WA: Washington regulator says Amazon's relentless pace is injuring warehouse workers
Amazon is violating the law by pressuring warehouse employees to work at speeds that exacerbate injuries without adequate time to recover, Washington safety regulators concluded earlier this month after an inspection of the commerce giant’s DuPont, Pierce County, fulfillment center. Regulators found a “direct connection” between the incidence of injuries at the warehouse and Amazon’s expectation that warehouse employees “maintain a very high pace of work” or else face discipline.
TN: Tennessee governor signs bill restricting how race and bias can be taught in schools
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill into law that will restrict what public school teachers can discuss in Tennessee classrooms about racism, white privilege and unconscious bias. Among the 14 concepts that teachers will not be able to discuss: that one race bears responsibility for past actions against another; the United States is fundamentally racist; and a person is inherently privileged or oppressive due to their race.
DC: Black DC residents now account for more than 8 in 10 COVID cases
The share of new COVID-19 infections involving Black people spiked sharply in Washington, D.C., starting around mid-April, when the coronavirus vaccine became widely available to city residents. The share of cases involving White people, meanwhile, has fallen below 10%, compared with 33% of cases in December. The District’s population is about 45% Black and 42.5% White.
TX: Texas lawmakers pass bill that would punish pro sports teams that skip pregame national anthem
Professional sports teams in Texas would be required to play the national anthem before sporting events or risk losing millions of dollars in state and local tax subsidies, under a bill now headed to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott for his expected approval. The bill is a direct reaction to the Dallas Mavericks, who decided not to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of the season for 13 days, in what team owner Mark Cuban called an experiment.
NY: New York insurance regulator will toughen rules on mental health, substance use coverage
New York’s top insurance regulator is beefing up rules that require health insurers to cover mental health and substance use disorders at the same level they cover physical health conditions.
WI: Wisconsin Republicans quickly end governor's special session to expand Medicaid
In a matter of seconds, Republican lawmakers shut down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' special session that sought to expand BadgerCare Plus and draw $1.6 billion in federal aid to Wisconsin. Evers had wanted to make about 100,000 more Wisconsinites eligible for the program by raising the income threshold from 100% of the federal poverty level to 138%.
OH: House Republicans introduce bill that would ban teaching of critical race theory in Ohio
A growing group of Ohio's Republican lawmakers say they're troubled by how some schools are allegedly teaching history and they want to put a stop to it.
NJ: Expect masks in New Jersey schools this fall, governor says
Parents of children up to preteen ages can expect masks in schools this fall despite the state lifting mask requirements for adults, New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said.
LA: Louisiana lifts mask mandate for students
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, announced schools in the state can lift the mask mandate at the end of the current semester.
WV: West Virginia lottery revenues rise after collapse during pandemic
A year after COVID-19 shutdowns ended an 18-year streak of state lottery gross revenue topping the $1 billion mark, the West Virginia Lottery has again topped $1 billion for the 2020-21 budget year, director John Myers told the Lottery Commission. Record levels of Limited Video Lottery play in bars, clubs and fraternal organizations around the state helped push the gross revenue up.
FL: Florida’s coronavirus data sharing receives ‘slap on the wrist’
A national accreditation program says the Florida Department of Health should improve the way it provides COVID-19 data to the public.
IL: Illinois legislators approve bill that would decriminalize HIV transmission
A bill that would eliminate the possibility of criminal penalties for transmitting the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, was passed by the Illinois Senate and is headed to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.
GA: Georgia governor bans state government from requiring vaccine passports
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order that bans the Georgia state government from requiring proof of vaccination against the coronavirus, joining other Republican-led states in restricting the use of vaccine passports.
MN: Minnesota courts again turn back push to restore voting rights for people convicted of felonies
The Minnesota Court of Appeals became the second court in two years to reject a lawsuit seeking to restore voting rights to Minnesotans who are on felony probation sentences. The suit was first filed against Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon in 2019 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota on behalf of four Minnesotans.
AZ: Provisions in Arizona budget bill would make it easier to deny body-cam footage requests
On the eve of the anniversary of the deaths of George Floyd and Dion Johnson, new language was added to a budget bill, potentially giving the Department of Public Safety more leverage to deny public records requests for body-camera footage from state troopers.
CO: Colorado puts up $5M in cash prizes to boost COVID vaccination rate
Colorado will hand out $5 million—$1 million each to five lucky winners—in an effort to encourage residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as the number of shots given to ward off the deadly disease has dropped off in the past few weeks. The $1 million awards will be handed out starting June 4 and will continue weekly through June 25.
DE: Delaware unveils vaccination incentive program
Delawareans vaccinated in the next month will be entered to win prizes including $5,000 cash, a four-day vacation, a full scholarship to a public Delaware university and tickets to the Firefly Music Festival.
AR: Arkansas will start offering lottery tickets, gift certificates for vaccinated
Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson said $20 scratch-off lottery tickets or $20 Game and Fish gift certificates would be offered to Arkansas residents who get a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. About 39% of the state's population has gotten at least one dose of a vaccine, one of the lowest rates in the country.