What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/6
FL: Lawmakers have questions after Florida hospitals earned billions despite pandemic
Florida legislators from both parties grilled top health care executives over hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded services at their facilities. According to the Agency for Health Care Administration, hospitals in the state made nearly $6.3 billion in 2020—amid the coronavirus pandemic.
UT: Utah disbursed 39% of federal rental assistance by fall deadline: report
Utah put just one-fifth of the $150 million in federal emergency rental assistance it received into the hands of eligible renters by a fall deadline. On Nov. 15 the state was forced to send a plan to the U.S. Treasury Department to show how it intends to do a better job disbursing aid.
CA: Overdose epidemic plagues California: Fentanyl is driving uptick in deaths
A jaw-dropping report found that nearly 1,500 people, the vast majority thought to be homeless, died on the streets of Los Angeles, California, during the pandemic—40% because of a drug or alcohol overdose. The staggering number is almost certainly an undercount, experts say.
WI: Wisconsin governor vetoes five GOP abortion bills
Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a slate of bills aimed at limiting abortion access as the nation awaits a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade. Such a decision would put back into effect a 172-year-old state law making it a felony to provide an abortion.
TX: Texas still has gaps in preparing for another winter disaster
Officials in major Texas cities say they are in a better position to handle a severe crisis like February’s winter storm than they were before—but big gaps in their preparation remain and won’t be closed until after the upcoming winter.
NE: Racial disparities found in Nebraska enhanced sentencing
Although people with a habitual criminal conviction represent less than 1% of those incarcerated in Nebraska’s state prisons, their demographics reveal stark racial disparities. Inmates of color account for more than half of those convicted.
MA: Boston wastewater shows COVID skyrocketing
The Boston-area coronavirus wastewater tracker is showing record levels as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surge across Massachusetts. The virus wastewater levels were climbing quickly in the days after Thanksgiving, and now the wastewater viral levels are through the roof—at about the same record-high average levels as in January during the height of the winter surge.
MD: Maryland congressional maps could allow Democrats to take all seats
Maryland lawmakers will have dueling congressional maps before them when they convene for a special session on redistricting. Democrats have the votes to push through a map that could eliminate the state's lone Republican seat.
AR: Arkansas lawmakers eye chance to push their agendas in special session
The Arkansas General Assembly will consider a bill that potentially represents the largest tax cut in the state's history. Several lawmakers said they also plan to push their bills, which include a measure that would couple a Texas-style civil cause of action with Arkansas' ban on abortion except to save the life of the patient and one that would ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools.
MN: National investors are snapping up Minnesota houses to rent
Data shows that some neighborhoods in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs in Minnesota are being transformed by corporate ownership, a phenomenon that shows no signs of letting up. The effects include higher prices throughout the market, greater competition at time of sale, out-of-state landlords showing less care for properties and renters and fewer opportunities for people trying to get their first house.
NV, CA: Nevada, California promise ‘immediate relief’ for I-15 traffic at state border
In a joint announcement with fellow Democrat Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that his state is putting roughly $12 million into a project to temporarily expand a 5-mile southbound stretch of Interstate 15 in hopes of reducing the bottleneck.
DE: Delaware COVID infections reach nearly 1-year high
There were 776 new positive cases in Delaware recently, reaching rates not seen since the beginning of the year. The number represents a sharp uptick from the 285 new positive cases that were reported four days earlier, according to state data.
LA: Governor plans to add COVID vaccine to Louisiana's required school shots list
Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to add the COVID-19 vaccine to the required immunization schedule for K-12 schools. The plan is opposed by mostly Republican state lawmakers, who are gathering in Baton Rouge for an oversight hearing in an attempt to thwart the proposal.
MS: Mississippi governor vows to enforce abortion ban
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said that he'd enforce a ban on abortion in his state if the long-standing Roe v. Wade decision is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
CO: Teen shootings renew focus on gun violence in Colorado
Several shootings involving teenagers within a two-week span have placed renewed attention on a long-running problem of gun violence and gangs in Aurora, Colorado’s third largest city, where the police department has been under scrutiny for its treatment of Black residents. Activists and officials say easy access to guns is contributing to the problem.