What We're Reading: Top State Stories 8/16
TX: Texas Supreme Court blocks local mask mandates
The all-Republican Texas Supreme Court temporarily revived Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates in Dallas and Bexar counties, though local officials said they planned to keep their rules in place as coronavirus patients strain hospitals.
WA: Washington promotes third vaccine dose for ‘vulnerable’
The Washington Department of Health recommended that people with weakened immune systems get a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines as the delta variant surges in the U.S. The state’s recommendation comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that immunocompromised Americans can get an extra dose of the vaccines for better protection.
MN: University of Minnesota regents approve COVID vaccination requirement for students
University of Minnesota regents approved a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for the 60,000 students attending the system's five campuses. The mandate will take effect once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives final approval to a COVID vaccine, which is expected in the coming weeks.
FL: Florida county elections supervisor imposes vaccine mandate for poll workers
The supervisor of elections in Broward County, Florida, has told poll workers that they must be vaccinated for COVID-19 if they wish to work during the upcoming special primary and general elections to fill a congressional vacancy.
IL: Illinois schools won’t be able to ban hairstyles associated with race or ethnicity under new law
Illinois schools won’t be allowed to ban braids, locks, twists or other hairstyles associated with race or ethnicity beginning next year under a measure Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law. The law was inspired by a 4-year-old whose private school forced him to take out his braids last school year.
CO: School bus drivers in short supply across Colorado as in-person instruction begins
If the shortage of bus drivers for public schools across Colorado was a problem before the pandemic, it’s at a critical level now. And it’s not one that can be solved with cash, said Albert Samora, Denver Public School’s executive director of transportation.
AR: Arkansas AG to challenge mask-law ruling
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said she will appeal to the state Supreme Court a Pulaski County circuit judge's ruling that temporarily bars authorities from enforcing a state law banning mask mandates by most state and governmental entities, including the public schools.
ME: Maine hospitals brace for small number of staff to quit over new vaccine mandate
Maine hospitals are bracing for at least a small number of workers to quit over Democratic Gov. Janet Mills’ announcement that health care workers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.
OR: Oregon to distribute thousands of masks for outdoor workers as wildfire smoke rule takes effect
Oregon’s workplace safety agency is distributing hundreds of thousands of masks intended for workers laboring outside in smoky conditions. The effort comes as emergency rules intended to protect workers from wildfire smoke took effect this week.
AZ: Mask mandates, election changes don't belong in Arizona budget bill, lawsuit claims
A coalition of education and civic groups is asking a court to declare the practice of adding policy to Arizona budget bills unconstitutional and is seeking immediate relief to keep the policies contained in four of the 11 budget bills from becoming law. Mask mandates, changes to how elections are run and limits on how racial issues can be discussed in Arizona classrooms all were stuffed into the state budget in June.
WV: West Virginia nonprofit gets funds to promote COVID vaccines
A nonprofit group was awarded $3.5 million in funding to boost COVID-19 testing and vaccine efforts in West Virginia, in addition to addressing HIV and substance abuse prevention. The grant given to the Community Education Group by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes as the coronavirus pandemic gets worse by the day in West Virginia amid the spread of the more contagious delta variant.
AK: Alaska is about to start a special session over the Permanent Fund dividend
The Alaska legislature, asked by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy to consider his plan for a new Permanent Fund dividend formula, is opening a special session in Juneau. There is no 2021 Permanent Fund dividend, and a long-term change to the formula is likely a necessary precondition for a payment this year.
PA: New census data shows more influence for Latinos in Pennsylvania
The new census data shows more influence for Latinos in Pennsylvania and a shrinking White vote. The trends in Pennsylvania mirror national trends showing growth in denser, diverse and generally more liberal areas. But conservative rural regions still retain power due to disproportionate representation.
CT: Audit raises concerns about investigations of elder abuse in Connecticut
From 2016 to 2019, the number of state investigations into complaints of elder abuse in Connecticut increased by 29%—even while higher caseloads have kept state workers from visiting their clients as often as required, according to a new report.
MI: Michigan diversifies as size of White majority shrinks
Michigan has grown modestly and become more racially diverse since the last census, with the size of the state's White majority shrinking by four percentage points, according to 2020 census data. Michigan's population increased by 2% since 2010, to nearly 10.1 million.
KS: Kansas redistricting to focus on Democratic seat, cut rural clout
Ten years of population shifts will boost the clout of the Kansas City and Wichita areas in Kansas politics and fuel a fight over redrawing the district of the only Democrat representing the state in Congress.
GA: Pleas for fairness meet political reality in Georgia redistricting
Georgia’s mapmakers haven’t yet committed to any rules or guidelines. It’s also unknown when they plan to meet at the Capitol for a special redistricting session, which could occur anytime between September and the end of the year.
NY: New York business leaders hopeful about incoming governor
Businesspeople in New York said they look forward to working with Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, who they hope will listen to their longstanding complaints and concerns about what it’s like to do business in what until now has been outgoing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Empire State.
NV: Nevada advocates push to overhaul vast misdemeanor system
In the wake of Nevada lawmakers decriminalizing minor traffic offenses and jaywalking, criminal justice advocates have set their sights on a new goal—downgrading other misdemeanors to civil infractions and addressing consequences associated with the misdemeanor system.
WY: Wyoming leisure, hospitality tax income nearly doubles in July
Sales tax income from Wyoming’s leisure and hospitality sector grew by $5 million in July, an 86.6% increase from July 2020. The industry provided 20.4% more jobs in June than in June 2020.
ND: North Dakota faces record drug deaths
North Dakota reported 118 drug-related deaths in 2020, which was a 49% increase from 2019 and the most in a decade.