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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/3

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/3

UT: Utah has saved $75M on welfare by taking credit for LDS church spending

sltrib.com

Over the past decade, the Utah legislature has been able to get out of spending at least $75 million on fighting poverty that it otherwise would have had to under federal law. That’s because the state counts a percentage of the welfare provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints toward its own welfare spending, a ProPublica investigation has found. 

NJ: Republicans defy COVID vaccine policy at the New Jersey Statehouse, ignoring troopers

nj.com

Some GOP lawmakers openly defied a new COVID-19 vaccine policy at the New Jersey Statehouse and took their seats to cast votes anyway—a scene that at one point included a 15-minute standoff between indignant conservative lawmakers and state police troopers. 

MS: Federal judge finds Mississippi eviction law unconstitutional

mississippitoday.org

A federal judge has struck down the part of Mississippi’s eviction law that allows landlords to immediately seize the property of delinquent tenants, saying it has “unpredictable and absurd results.”

WI: Wisconsin hospital turns away stroke victims as COVID patients fill beds

jsonline.com

Wisconsin officials said 97% of the intensive care beds and 98% of intermediate care beds are currently in use across the state. Twenty-eight patients, including three stroke victims, were turned away at a Green Bay hospital recently due to the hospital being overcrowded with COVID-19 patients.

MT: Montana prairies are on fire amid record December heat wave

nytimes.com

Record-high temperatures and powerful winds have sparked a series of unusual December prairie fires in Montana. The worst of the fires ripped through the small farming town of Denton, burning at least two dozen homes and businesses and sending several grain elevators up in flames.

MI: Sanctions ordered against pro-Trump lawyers for Michigan election suit

freep.com

Sidney Powell and her team of pro-Trump lawyers must pay $175,250 in legal fees for their conspiracy-laden lawsuit that sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Michigan, a federal judge ordered. 

TX: Federal judge blocks Texas social media censorship law

chron.com

A federal judge has blocked a Texas law that prohibits large social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter from censoring users "based on their political viewpoints."

OR: State police searching for suspects who poisoned wolves in Oregon

oregonlive.com

At least eight wolves were fatally poisoned in eastern Oregon earlier this year, and Oregon State Police investigators are hoping the public will help apprehend the culprits. Tension between wolf advocates and ranchers has festered in Oregon since the animals began repopulating the state in the early 2000s.

TN: Tennessee governor grants clemency to 17 people, introduces new review for certain drug offenses

tennessean.com

The clemency decisions are a first for Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who in 2020 loosened criteria to qualify for a governor’s review. Lee also announced a new clemency process for the 335 incarcerated people who were convicted of drug offenses in school zones before September 2020, when the state scaled back mandatory minimum sentences for such crimes.

VT: Vermonters waiting for unemployment hearings sue Department of Labor

burlingtonfreepress.com

Reports of extensively delayed hearings for unemployment benefit appeals have prompted a class action lawsuit against the Vermont Department of Labor. The lawsuit, filed by the nonprofit firm Vermont Legal Aid, claims that there are more than 600 unemployed Vermonters waiting an average of nearly six months for an appeal hearing.

WV: Severance taxes, stimulus funds boost West Virginia revenue

wvgazettemail.com

Bolstered by another month of strong severance tax collections, the ongoing influx of federal pandemic stimulus funds and plain old good timing, West Virginia tax collections for November came in at $435.6 million, more than $88 million higher than projected.

AR: Care group for Arkansans with disabilities under investigation for Medicaid fraud

arkansasonline.com

One of the state’s largest managed care providers for Arkansans with disabilities is under investigation on suspicion of Medicaid fraud. Empower Healthcare Solutions LLC serves some 20,000 people in the state who have behavioral health disorders or developmental disabilities.

ID: Idaho lawmakers wrestle with whether, how to provide full-day kindergarten

idahoednews.org

Most Idaho school districts offer all-day kindergarten to some or all their students, building on the half-day session covered by state funding, but parents often must pay tuition for full days. If Idaho decides to foot the bill for all-day kindergarten, local funding problems could melt away.

NC: North Carolina governor vetoes bill moving up absentee ballot deadline

apnews.com

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed GOP-backed legislation that would bar officials from counting mail-in absentee ballots received after Election Day, even if their envelopes were postmarked on or before that date. 

ND: North Dakota rolls out online driver's permit test

grandforksherald.com

The North Dakota Department of Transportation announced that residents looking to get a driver's permit can take their road knowledge test online at home instead of doing so at one of the department's physical locations around the state.

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