What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/16
WI: Unvaccinated 12 times more likely to die from COVID in Wisconsin
Unvaccinated Wisconsin residents were more than 12 times likely to die from COVID-19 in November than their fully vaccinated counterparts, according to data released by the state Department of Health Services. The likelihood of becoming infected with the coronavirus was three times higher for the unvaccinated in November.
MN: Amid staffing shortages, Minnesota schools call on retired teachers to fill vacancies
With recent staffing shortages in schools across Minnesota, districts have taken various measures to adapt, including emailing parents about filling temporary substitute roles, adding days on to winter break and reaching out to retired teachers to fill in for long-term positions.
TX: Texas attorney general cannot unilaterally prosecute election cases, court rules
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, an all-GOP panel, ruled 8-1 to dismiss campaign finance violation charges against a southeast Texas sheriff. The ruling effectively strikes a provision of state election code that gave GOP Attorney General Ken Paxton the authority to directly prosecute voter fraud cases and could hinder his ability to prosecute crimes Republicans added to their rewrite of election law this year.
OH: Ohio Senate passes bill to allow concealed firearms without a permit
The Ohio Senate passed legislation that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. The measure also would end a requirement that people with a concealed handgun notify law enforcement during traffic stops that they’re armed.
MS: Mississippi GOP lawmakers roll out congressional map, including a sprawling majority-Black district
The Mississippi Joint Legislative Redistricting Committee, ignoring the wishes of Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, approved a congressional redistricting plan that extends the length of the 2nd Congressional District, which is majority Black, by about 60 miles.
FL: Florida governor seeks ban of critical race theory in schools, workplaces
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’ll seek legislation next month to ban the teaching of critical race theory, a graduate-school academic framework focused on systemic racism that has become a catch-all term for broader discussions of race. He also wants parents to be able to sue schools suspected of teaching the theory and receive attorney’s fees.
AZ, CA, NV: Arizona, California and Nevada agree to take less water from ailing Colorado River
Trying to stave off dangerously low water levels in Lake Mead, officials in Arizona, California and Nevada have reached an agreement to significantly reduce the amount they take from the Colorado River.
GA: Georgia judges told to grant gun licenses even if background checks incomplete
Probate judges must approve weapons carry licenses even when they have incomplete information about an applicant’s criminal history, the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled unanimously.
CO: Colorado air-quality panel mulls tougher rules on oil, gas operations
The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission is considering new rules that would require more frequent inspections of well sites using special cameras and other methods. The proposed regulations would require yearly inspections of low-producing wells currently subject to just a once-in-a-lifetime mandatory check.
MA: Boston’s Fenway Park to return as mass COVID vaccination site for boosters
A mass vaccination clinic will reopen at Boston’s Fenway Park as soon as January to increase access to coronavirus booster shots as cases surge in Massachusetts.
PA: Pennsylvania asks FEMA for help with COVID surge
Pennsylvania asked the federal government to send health care workers to bolster hospitals and nursing homes that are increasingly under stress from persistent staffing shortages and the latest COVID-19 surge.
NE: Nebraska may end privatized child welfare management
Two legislative reports concluded that Nebraska should return to having state workers oversee the care of abused and neglected children across the state. The state is preparing to end a 2019 contract with an Omaha nonprofit for the service.
SD: South Dakota hospitals strained as holiday gatherings loom
South Dakota’s largest hospital systems warned they are strained and pushing off medical care as the hospitals fill with the highest number of people infected with COVID-19 since the beginning of this year.
MD: Maryland case surge leads to temporary virtual classes, canceled games
Most Maryland public school systems are facing a surge in COVID-19 cases, reporting their highest counts yet for the academic year. Schools are canceling events and temporarily moving classes online in response.
IN: Indiana to give $125 tax refund
Indiana will return $125 to each state taxpayer after they file their taxes in 2022 due to higher than expected state revenue numbers during the 2021 fiscal year.