What We're Reading: Top State Stories 12/17
TN: New data reveals Tennessee’s lopsided pandemic
More than 85% of all COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths in Tennessee have occurred among the state’s unvaccinated population, according to data made public by the Tennessee Department of Health.
CA: California counties reject state’s new mask mandate
California officials say the new month-long statewide indoor mask mandate is critical to preventing another surge of COVID-19. But local government officials say the state hasn’t given any guidance on enforcement, and some local authorities say they won’t enforce the state’s order at all.
VT: Vermont legislature to consider ending qualified immunity for police officers
Vermont lawmakers and advocates for policing changes are proposing an end to qualified immunity for police officers, a widespread legal doctrine that protects public servants from facing litigation for violating citizens’ civil rights while on the job.
CT: Connecticut governor aims to succeed on climate where legislature failed
Facing an election year with an environmental track record far skimpier than he may have wanted, Connecticut Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont unveiled a massive climate change-focused executive order that could make up for some legislative shortcomings. It also could help reverse the state’s current trajectory that falls short of its 2030 greenhouse gas emission targets.
FL: Florida’s nursing home residents are trailing most of the US in getting booster shots
Florida’s vulnerable nursing home residents lag all but two other states in booster shots, putting them at risk as the omicron variant spreads. AARP released a dashboard that shows Florida has only 24% of nursing home residents receiving boosters—well behind the national average of 39%, as of Nov. 21.
CO: Colorado enacts new rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The Colorado Transportation Commission approved new rules that aim to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases spewed into the air from vehicle traffic in a move that faced opposition from rural areas and criticism from environmentalists who say the rules don’t go far enough.
UT: Utah, the 2nd-driest state, rejects water conservation
Steered by the state’s largest water districts, with the help of their legislative allies, Utah has prioritized the pursuit of new pipelines over large-scale conservation programs. Other states that have taken sometimes painful steps to cut back on what they draw from the over-allocated Colorado River have criticized Utah for failing to do the same.
MN: Minnesota's largest school district drops mask mandate for K-6 students
Minnesota’s largest school district will no longer require elementary students to wear face masks beginning mid-January, its superintendent said, since the students now are eligible for vaccinations. Masks still will be recommended.
DE: University of Delaware to require booster shots for students in the spring
All University of Delaware students will be required to get a COVID-19 booster shot for the spring semester. Over 90% were fully vaccinated over six months ago, making them eligible for a booster shot before the semester starts.
SD: Defense bill takes aim at South Dakota National Guard maneuver
The defense bill Congress sent to President Joe Biden prohibits using private funds for interstate National Guard deployments like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, did this year. Noem accepted $1 million from a Tennessee billionaire to send troops to the U.S. border with Mexico.
IN: Indiana rising jail population reveals policy failures
Since 2000, Indiana's jail population has grown by 60%, more than five times the state’s overall population increase. The jails are largely filled with people arrested on relatively minor charges.
MA: Massachusetts COVID tracing program ending after $160M spent
The Massachusetts program that tracks down people who were exposed to COVID-19, one of the most ambitious state initiatives in the country, is wrapping up as health leaders shift priorities and precious dollars to vaccinating and testing residents amid another surge of cases and rising hospitalizations.
PA: Pennsylvania election reviews persist despite no evidence of fraud
A Pennsylvania courtroom became the latest battleground over claims the 2020 presidential election was rigged, as Republicans pressed ahead with efforts to investigate the voting despite a lack of evidence of widespread fraud.
WV: West Virginia governor proposes pay raises, bonuses for state and public school employees
West Virginia Republican Gov. Jim Justice proposed 5% pay raises for state employees, public school teachers and service personnel, along with a one-time 2.5% pay supplemental he dubbed as an “inflation vaccine.” Justice indicated he wants the legislature to take up both proposals early in the 2022 regular session, which begins Jan. 12.
TX: Texas’ renewed voter citizenship review is still flagging citizens as ‘possible non-U.S. citizens’
The Texas Secretary of State’s Office says it is following the legal settlement agreement it entered in 2019 after botching its first review effort. But scores of citizens are still being marked for citizenship verification—and possible removal from the rolls.