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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/1

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/1

WA: Diversity training on Washington college campuses will soon be mandatory

crosscut.com

A new law mandates that Washington state’s 40 public colleges and universities conduct training sessions and assessments for both faculty and staff around diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism starting in the 2022-23 academic year. The bill does not prescribe a specific curriculum or programs.

MI: Michigan may nix local laws banning short-term rentals

freep.com

Bills in the Michigan legislature with bipartisan support would effectively nix any local laws that ban or limit short-term rentals through zoning. Supporters—including Airbnb—say the proposed changes to state law are about personal property rights and do not prevent cities from regulating short-term rentals.

TX: Texas governor threatens veto of pay for lawmakers after House Democrats kill elections bill

dallasnews.com

After a dramatic walkout by Texas House Democrats upended the GOP’s divisive elections bill, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott threatened to call an additional special session and said he’d veto a section of the state budget that funds the legislature and its associated agencies. That would mean pay for lawmakers and their staff members would cut off by September.

IL: Illinois legislators vote to dramatically limit use of seclusion, facedown restraints in schools 

chicagotribune.com

Illinois lawmakers took action to limit the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, following a 2019 Tribune-ProPublica investigation that revealed that school workers had regularly misused the practices to punish students. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he plans to sign the bill. 

KS: Kansas swimming pools face lifeguard shortage

kansaspublicradio.org

Lifeguarding took a hit in Kansas last summer, when the COVID-19 pandemic closed most gyms, water parks and community pools. High school and college students who would normally work as guards took the summer off or found other jobs. Training classes were cancelled.

MO: Jobless Missourians could see benefits clawed back after lawmakers failed to act 

kansascity.com

Since the Missouri legislature adjourned without forcing Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration to waive unemployment debts, state officials have been mum about whether they will now restart clawbacks. Roughly 46,000 Missourians were told that they had mistakenly been overpaid in unemployment benefits. 

IA: Iowa flap raises fears of politicized local elections offices

kcci.com

In an Iowa county, the top elections official’s abrupt resignation last month came after months of tension, personal attacks and threats of violence. Her departure is a sign that an office long viewed as nonpartisan is now fair game in the political fight about trust in the nation’s elections.

MT: Judge temporarily halts Montana’s campus carry bill

montanafreepress.org

A Montana district court judge temporarily enjoined the enforcement date of a new law that would expand permissions for concealed carry firearms on campus. The order came in response to a suit filed by the Montana University System Board of Regents.

PA: Pennsylvania begins massive overhaul of unemployment computer system

spotlightpa.org

This week, Pennsylvania’s 60-year-old unemployment benefits computer system will temporarily go dark as officials roll out a massive upgrade to a new, cloud-based program. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has hailed the move as a fix to problems that have stymied benefit claimants for years.

MA: Massachusetts governor criticized over handling of soldiers’ home outbreak

bostonherald.com

Massachusetts Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is facing escalating criticism from a workers’ union and veterans’ groups over his handling of a deadly coronavirus outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home last spring, while dodging questions about a third term.

MN: Minnesota bars, restaurants and other businesses have no more COVID restrictions

duluthnewstribune.com

All statewide coronavirus restrictions for Minnesota bars, restaurants, event centers—and all other businesses—are lifted, in accordance with a plan announced by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who instituted the first restrictions some 14 months ago.

VT: Vermonters could have curbside alcohol pickup for at least 2 more years

vtdigger.org

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed restaurants and bars, Vermonters developed a taste for takeout booze. Now legislation on its way to Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s desk would allow to-go alcohol sales for two more years.

CO: Fatal drug overdoses surged in Colorado last year

denverpost.com

Fatal drug overdoses in Colorado surged 59% in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic ushered another public health crisis into the state, which largely avoided the grim scenes of the opioid epidemic several years ago.

AK: Alaska legislators say new taxes are likely needed before governor’s new dividend plan can advance

adn.com

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s plan to constitutionally guarantee a Permanent Fund dividend is dead in the Alaska legislature for the time being. Leading lawmakers say the governor’s proposal needs to be accompanied by new taxes because it creates large deficits for at least a few years.

DE: Annual Delaware homelessness count shows big increase, but advocates say it's complicated

delawarepublic.org

The Delaware count captured 1,579 people experiencing homelessness Jan. 27, a 35% increase compared with 2020. Housing Alliance Delaware, which conducts the count, says the true number is likely higher.

NY: Pandemic highlights broadband gaps in New York’s Adirondacks

timesunion.com

In 2015, New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a $500 million initiative, pledging that 99.9% of New Yorkers would be connected to broadband by 2018. Even with state help, however, the Adirondack Park is filled with hills and hollows that the big carriers still won’t touch.

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