What We're Reading: Top State Stories 11/4
NJ: New Jersey governor narrowly wins reelection
New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy narrowly won his race, eking out a victory that spared Democrats the loss of a second gubernatorial seat after Virginia. He is the state’s first Democratic governor to get a second straight term in 44 years, defeating Republican former Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli.
US: In mayoral elections nationwide, voters opt for pragmatism over ideology
In big-city elections from coast to coast, voters had the option to elect candidates advocating the sort of revolutionary change promoted in recent years by protesters on the streets and left-wing lawmakers in Congress. Instead, they largely opted for more consensus-minded candidates who may back progressive values and policies, but who have emphasized less divisive and dramatic tactics to get there.
WY: Wyoming Senate kills anti-vaccine mandate bill, citing business concerns
A bill that would prohibit some employers from requiring their workers to get a coronavirus vaccination to keep their jobs died in the Wyoming Senate, leaving just one bill as the product of the legislature’s special session. The remaining bill would prohibit state and local government entities from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate.
TN: Tennessee to resume executions in 2022 after state Supreme Court order
The Tennessee Supreme Court lifted its stay on executions, paving the way for at least two to take place next year. In 2020, the court delayed the capital punishments of two death row inmates, citing COVID-19 concerns, but with the latest order, both are set to be executed in 2022.
FL: Florida governor asks for another round of election law reforms
Six months after signing what he called the strongest election security bill in the nation, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wanted to beef up the state’s voting laws and create a new office to investigate and prosecute election-related fraud.
GA: Election officials struggled with new Georgia turnout disclosure
Election officials across Georgia were supposed to report publicly on election night the total number of ballots cast, a new requirement of the state’s voting law designed to increase transparency. County election offices in metro Atlanta didn’t always fully comply.
IA: Iowa to disperse $200M in child care grants from federal aid package
Iowa will allocate $200 million of federal funding toward “stabilization grants” to child care providers that suffered financial losses due to COVID-19. The state also will launch a program to help child care providers manage their business.
MT: Montana governor nixed a kids’ vaccine public service campaign
Montana GOP Gov. Greg Gianforte’s administration quashed plans for a public service campaign to promote COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible teenagers over the summer, a former state health official said. That has led public health and medical experts to plan their own ad campaigns, in anticipation of the administration not publicly backing shots for kids 5 and up as doses for those children roll out.
CO: Colorado hospitals move to highest level of statewide transfer plan
The Colorado Hospital Association announced that it was moving to the highest level of its plan to ease transfers between hospitals—a point not reached even during the worst of the COVID-19 surge in the fall and winter of 2020. The people in charge of transfers for the hospital systems will meet virtually twice each day to figure out where beds are available and which patients can move into them safely.
WV: West Virginia hoping for strong rollout of children’s COVID vaccines
West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice said he plans to announce a COVID-19 vaccination incentive program geared to 5- to 11-year-olds. West Virginia continues to have the lowest vaccination rate in the nation, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
MN: Drop in youth tobacco use seen in Minnesota cities that raised purchase age, study finds
Minnesota communities that set 21 as the minimum age to buy tobacco products saw lower rates of tobacco use among eighth- and ninth-graders, according to a study done by University of Minnesota and Minnesota Department of Health researchers.
WI: Debate over mandating cursive lessons in Wisconsin falls along party lines
A bill that would mandate cursive handwriting lessons in Wisconsin schools has become an unlikely partisan debate at the state Capitol. State lawmakers across the country, the majority of them Republicans, have backed similar proposals in recent years.
CA: California looks to natural gas to keep lights on this winter
After years of restricting the growth of fossil fuel infrastructure, California is looking to natural gas for power generation this coming winter after drought and wildfires left the state with few other options to keep the lights on.
AL: Alabama seeks to purge racist language from constitution
The Alabama Committee on the Recompilation of the Constitution approved a plan to strip racist language from the state’s constitution. The document still has language stating that schools should be segregated by race and people must pay poll taxes to vote. The committee’s proposal will be considered by lawmakers in the 2022 legislative session. If approved, it would go before voters in November of 2022.
MD: Judge dismisses lawsuit by Maryland jobless over benefits 'purgatory'
A Maryland judge dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of unemployed workers who claim they are being denied the benefits they’re entitled to after being falsely flagged for fraud or other issues. The judge found the plaintiffs couldn’t use the courts to circumvent the claims and appeal process.
MS: Mississippi hospitals lose more nurses after federal contract expires
Mississippi health care providers say they may have to close floors and reduce patient beds after losing hundreds of nurses due to the recent expiration of a federal contract put in place to help the state battle the coronavirus pandemic. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said in August that the state had lost at least 2,000 nurses over the course of the pandemic.
DE: African American Task Force looks at environmental justice in Delaware
Delaware state lawmakers plan to continue their focus on environmental justice in the coming year, with the African American Task Force weighing proposals to create better outcomes in disadvantaged communities.
AK: Higher oil price could affect debate on Alaska’s long-term budget plan
A new report forecasts that higher oil prices will add $1.2 billion to Alaska's budget this year. That could be enough money to pay for Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s permanent fund dividend proposal, without a new tax or substantial state budget cuts, but lawmakers have noted that the price of oil is unpredictable.