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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/3

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 6/3

ID: Idaho attorney general says lieutenant governor’s anti-mask order exceeded authority

idahocapitalsun.com

A legal opinion from the Idaho attorney general’s office says Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin likely went beyond her legal authority by ordering a statewide ban on mask mandates while GOP Gov. Brad Little was out of state last week. McGeachin’s order also likely encroached on the legislative branch’s powers, it says.

MN: 38,000 Minnesota state employees get layoff notices as budget work continues

startribune.com

Layoff notices went out to more than 38,000 state employees as Minnesota officials prepare for the possibility of a government shutdown. Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and leaders in Minnesota's divided legislature say the notices are hopefully just a formality as they continue work to finalize the state's $52 billion two-year budget. 

LA: Louisiana lawmakers back medical marijuana expansion

apnews.com

Louisiana’s medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to sell raw, smokable cannabis under a bill passed by lawmakers trying to give patients cheaper marijuana options. Louisiana dispensaries currently sell cannabis liquids, topical applications, inhalers and edible gummies.

CO: Colorado will award $50,000 college scholarships to 25 vaccinated students

denverpost.com

Colorado will reward 25 randomly selected students who have received a COVID-19 vaccine with $50,000 scholarships to postsecondary institutions of their choice. The money can be used for in-state or out-of-state college programs or technical, occupational or credential programs.

MI: Michigan House passes bill banning government-sponsored vaccine passports

freep.com

Any publicly funded entity in Michigan, including local school districts and universities, would be prohibited from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination under a controversial bill passed in the state House. Opponents say the measure is unnecessary and will likely lead to unanticipated negative consequences.

IA: No vaccine incentives in Iowa, governor says

desmoinesregister.com

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said she's pleased with Iowa's current rates of COVID-19 vaccination and won't move to enact incentives. About 63% of Iowa adults have received at least one shot of a vaccine, and 86% of those 65 or older have received at least one shot.

WI: Wisconsin GOP lawmakers decline to put $15M toward unemployment system

jsonline.com

Republicans on the legislature's budget committee declined to put an additional $15 million toward running Wisconsin's unemployment benefits program. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers can find federal funds for that work, said Republican Rep. Mark Born, the co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.

KS: National civic engagement groups sue over Kansas election laws

kansas.com

New Kansas election laws are being challenged in federal court on First Amendment grounds by national civic engagement groups. The laws were approved last month as part of a larger package of state election changes, amid a nationwide push by Republicans to tighten ballot access.

OR: Oregon Senate approves bill that would give businesses until September to repay missed rent

oregonlive.com

Oregon business owners who fell behind on their rent last year as the coronavirus pandemic took hold may soon be given more time to make up their missed payments. The Oregon Senate approved a bill that would give businesses until Sept. 30, 2021, to repay that owed rent.

NJ: New Jersey agency lost $27M in taxpayer money on disastrous construction project, report says

nj.com

The Schools Development Authority, a New Jersey agency already reeling from accusations of cronyism, has repeatedly failed to effectively monitor construction projects for poor school districts, the state’s top corruption watchdog said in a report.

MA: Massachusetts bills take aim at school segregation

bostonglobe.com

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering several bills this session aimed at promoting racially integrated schools, amid the reckoning following the murder of George Floyd. One bill would label each district and school as one of three categories: diverse, segregated or intensely segregated.

WA: Washington's legal system faces severe backlog

crosscut.com

Much of Washington's criminal legal system ground to a halt during the pandemic. As the state readies itself for a full reopening later this month, the effect of the shutdowns on criminal cases will linger and options for finding a path out are limited.

MO: Republican lawmakers are again calling for a special session on crime in Missouri

stltoday.com

Just a year after Missouri lawmakers spent much of the summer in a special session on violent crime, Republican lawmakers are urging another go-around on the topic. The latest call for the legislature to return to the capital city comes just two weeks after the General Assembly adjourned its regular session.

OH: Ohio Senate passes bill that would allow public to possess, discharge consumer-grade fireworks

cleveland.com

The Ohio Senate passed a bill that would allow individuals to possess consumer-grade fireworks in the state, eliminating the requirement that purchasers transport them from Ohio within 48 hours of their purchase.

WY: Wyoming might become home to a nuclear power plant

cowboystatedaily.com

One of Wyoming’s retiring coal-fired power plants could be the home to a nuclear power demonstration plant, Republican Gov. Mark Gordon announced. The “Natrium” plant will use uranium produced by the state.

TX: Virtual learning may not return to Texas schools in fall

dallasnews.com

The fate of Texas’ virtual school programs lies in the hands of the state’s education commissioner after lawmakers failed to act on related legislation this session. Local districts that intend to keep the option next school year are now scrambling to find money to pay for remote learning. 

NM: New Mexico governor puts all counties in least restrictive virus status

apnews.com

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a new public health order that places each of New Mexico’s 33 counties in the least restrictive category when it comes to pandemic-related mandates. The governor has set a goal of ending the color-coded system at the end of June, as long as 60% of residents are fully vaccinated by then.

RI: Rhode Island advocates push for changes to state’s solitary confinement rules

providencejournal.com

Mental health, public health, human rights and religious groups are advocating for legislation that would limit the use of solitary confinement in Rhode Island to only those who pose an imminent safety threat. The measure would restrict isolation to 15 days and set a minimum two-hour limit for daily recreation.

NH: Federal appeals court will revisit challenge to New Hampshire’s in-person legislative sessions

apnews.com

A federal appeals court says it will rehear the case involving a challenge to holding in-person legislative sessions without a remote option in New Hampshire during the pandemic. Earlier this year, seven Democratic lawmakers sued Republican Speaker Sherman Packard, arguing that not allowing a remote option violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state and federal constitutions, and forces them to either risk their lives or abandon their duties as elected officials.

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