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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 10/6

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 10/6

AR: Arkansas Senate passes 3 bills to limit effect of employer shot mandates

arkansasonline.com

The Arkansas Senate passed a measure that would require employers who mandate vaccinations to provide an exemption process for workers. It also approved a bill that would make people who leave their jobs because they refuse to be vaccinated eligible for unemployment benefits, and a bill that would prohibit a business from coercing someone to get vaccinated.

WA: Thousands of Washington home-care workers remain exempt from state vaccine mandate

seattletimes.com

Washington Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee's vaccine mandate for state employees included a big carve-out—exempting tens of thousands of unionized home-care workers who care for older adults and people with disabilities. Washington has about 45,000 such providers, who contract with the state to provide in-home services to clients who are eligible for care through Medicaid.

TX: Almost all of $54M Texas has raised for border wall came from one billionaire

texastribune.com

A member of one of America’s richest family dynasties, Timothy Mellon, contributed nearly 98% of donations to build a Texas border wall when he donated $53.1 million in stock to the state in August, according to public records. Mellon is the 79-year-old Wyoming-based grandson of banking tycoon and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon.

ID: Idaho lieutenant governor issues another mandate in governor’s absence

idahostatesman.com

With Idaho’s governor out of the state, GOP Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin issued a new executive order prohibiting vaccine passports, continuing a pattern of issuing pandemic-related orders. Gov. Brad Little, also a Republican, has already said he will reverse it.

AK: Alaska’s fourth special session begins with legislators unable to agree on when to meet

alaskapublic.org

As the Alaska legislature begins its fourth special session of the year, there are big disagreements between lawmakers on major policies. But it’s also not clear if they can even agree on how frequently to meet over the 30-day session.

IA: Iowa GOP rejects first set of redistricting maps

desmoinesregister.com

Iowa Republicans have rejected a set of proposed political boundaries, prolonging an already delayed process in drawing new congressional maps. The rebuffed proposal would have drawn dozens of incumbent legislators into districts together and imperiled a rising GOP star.

CO: Colorado officials may weaken coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers

coloradosun.com

Colorado health officials have proposed weakening the state’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers, meaning some employees at hospitals and nursing homes might be able to remain on the job while unvaccinated even if they don’t have a valid exemption.

AZ: Feds tell Arizona governor he can't use COVID money for anti-mask grants

tucson.com

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, has been distributing the state’s share of federal COVID-19 aid to schools that don’t have mask mandates. U.S. Treasury Deputy Secretary Adewale Adeyemo told Ducey in a letter if he doesn’t stop the government might take the money back.

OR: Most Oregon renters still waiting for aid

oregonlive.com

Oregon has made significant strides in tackling a massive rent assistance backlog over the last month—seemingly enough to persuade the federal government that the state should keep its funding for the program, and perhaps receive more. But some counties that received rent assistance directly from the federal government still lag expectations.

MN: Minnesota governor calls for vaccine, testing requirements for teachers

apnews.com

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz called on Minnesota lawmakers to approve a series of new measures to respond to the fourth wave of the pandemic, including vaccine and testing requirements for teachers and school staff, and for long-term care workers.

MT: Scientists say Montana health agency used ‘misleading and false’ data to justify school mask rule

montanafreepress.org

In an internal letter, scientific staff at the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services criticized the evidence used by health department Director Adam Meier and GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte to justify an August emergency rule discouraging school mask mandates, saying some claims made by the rule were “misleading and false.”

WI: Number of Wisconsin districts with a majority of Black and Latino voters could shrink

jsonline.com

Wisconsin draft election maps created by a redistricting commission set up by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would substantially reduce the number of state legislative districts with a majority of Black and Hispanic voters. Under the proposals, the state Assembly would have four districts with a majority of Black voters, compared with six today.

MI: Michigan retailers use perks, increased wages to lure staff for holiday season

freep.com

There were 19,000 fewer workers employed in Michigan's retail industry in August than in February 2020, before the pandemic. While businesses look to staff up for the holiday season, they're offering increased wages, bonuses and flexible shifts to attract workers.

CA: Governor signs California education budget with universal pre-K, college savings accounts

sacbee.com

Speaking to teachers and students at Fresno’s Sunset Elementary School, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of bills as part of a $123.9 billion legislative package that delivers record-level investments in public schools.

FL: Florida may strip school district of Biden grant over masks 

sun-sentinel.com 

A week after the Biden administration awarded Broward County Schools $421,000 for defying a state ban on mask mandates, Florida’s education commissioner has threatened to take that money away. 

MA: Encouraging COVID trends emerge in Massachusetts; experts still urge caution

bostonglobe.com

Encouraging trends have emerged in Massachusetts coronavirus data, including a decrease in cases and a downward trend in hospitalizations. But experts say it’s too soon to pop open the champagne, noting that troughs have been followed by rises.

WV: West Virginia’s tax collections up in September, but year-to-date lags

wvgazettemail.com

West Virginia state revenue collections came in hot in September, with $505.52 million of tax collections topping estimates by $84.64 million and exceeding September 2020 collections by $80.9 million. However, year-to-date revenue collections for the first three months of the 2021-22 budget year are down 3.6% from the same point in 2020.

MO: Lawmakers blast Missouri’s child welfare office after report on missing foster kids 

stltoday.com 

Top child welfare officials were on the hot seat as members of a Missouri House panel grilled them about the results of an “alarming” federal report that revealed a pattern of mishandling missing foster children who run away. 

ME: Maine lawmakers eye aggressive slate of child welfare overhauls in 2022

bangordailynews.com

Maine lawmakers are looking to improve oversight of the state’s child welfare system after four child deaths in recent months brought renewed attention to problems that watchdogs have flagged as persistent.

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