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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/12

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/12

FL: Bills banning abortion after 15 weeks filed by Florida Republican lawmakers

tampabay.com

On the first day of Florida’s legislative session, two Republican lawmakers filed bills banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The measures would ban a physician from performing an abortion after that time unless the health of the mother is at risk, or if there is a “fatal fetal abnormality.”

NJ: New Jersey governor declares new public health emergency to battle ‘omicron tsunami’

nj.com

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy declared another public-health emergency in New Jersey to keep measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus—including requiring masks in schools and health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or regularly tested.

WI: Wisconsin Republicans advance bill to allow past COVID infections as proof of immunity

jsonline.com

Republican lawmakers want Wisconsin employers to accept a past COVID-19 infection to meet vaccine and testing requirements aimed at protecting their workforces and to allow workers who don't comply with such mandates to qualify for unemployment benefits if they are fired. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has signaled he would veto such legislation.

MN: Minnesota legislature weighs COVID restrictions ahead of session

startribune.com

Clashes over COVID-19-related restrictions at the Minnesota Capitol have already begun, weeks before the start of the legislative session. A new standard took effect that requires employees to be fully vaccinated or get tested weekly, but the requirement does not apply to senators and representatives.

NE: Nebraska wants a new lake

omaha.com

Nebraska lawmakers discussed dredging a new lake between the state's largest cities, Omaha and Lincoln, to attract tourists and remote workers with recreational opportunities. The 4,000-acre lake would span seven miles along Interstate 80 in an area around the Platte River.

NC: In win for GOP, court rules North Carolina can go ahead with political maps ahead of midterms

newsobserver.com

North Carolina’s new political districts do not violate the state constitution, a panel of three judges ruled unanimously. The GOP-drawn maps would give Republicans a built-in advantage in future elections—but none of the reasons why challengers said the maps are unconstitutional stand up to legal scrutiny, the judges ruled.

NV: Nevada off track to meet ‘aggressive’ net-zero carbon emission goals

thenevadaindependent.com

Without changes, Nevada will not meet its ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets over the coming decade and will fall far from the goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

WA: 10% of Washington's senators have COVID as session begins

seattletimes.com

State lawmakers opened the year’s legislative session in a low-key fashion amid the omicron variant, with five of Washington’s 49 senators having tested positive in recent days. The infected lawmakers underscore the latest pandemic surge as lawmakers gather and attempt to confront a range of issues.

NY: New York governor holds firm on making state employees return to offices

timesunion.com

New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul is standing firm on her decision to continue pushing for most state workers to return to the office, even as the state has experienced a surge in coronavirus cases attributed to the omicron variant. She said the state workforce will not go back to widespread telecommuting because of the potential economic damage.

TN: Tennessee releases draft of new school funding plan

tennessean.com

Tennessee’s proposed new school funding formula would provide additional funding for low-income students, rural students, English language learners, students with disabilities and charter schools. The state will accept public comments on the framework through Jan. 18.

CA: California governor on homelessness: ‘We’ve gotta clean up those encampments’

calmatters.org

In his budget proposal, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom highlighted his support for California cities to remove homeless encampments but conceded it’s only a bridge to permanent housing.

HI: Hawaii’s legislature will take on climate change

civilbeat.org

Hawaii became the first state to declare a climate emergency last year. This year, the legislature will be called on to come up with concrete initiatives to tackle the problem.

VA: Outgoing attorney general says new GOP governor can’t take Virginia out of regional greenhouse gas initiative

richmond.com

Departing Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, released an opinion asserting that Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin does not have the authority to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative through executive action

OR: Oregon lawmakers revive proposal for stimulus payments to essential workers

oregonlive.com

Oregon Democrats are reviving a proposal to provide essential workers who stayed on the job through the pandemic with a one-time stimulus payment of up to $1,000. Workers in what the Occupational Safety and Health Administration classifies as medium- to very high-risk occupations would be eligible for the bonus if they met certain criteria.

MA: Dogs are visiting some Massachusetts schools to help sniff out virus

bostonglobe.com

The sheriff’s office in Bristol County, Massachusetts, has launched a program that enlists two young dogs—Huntah, a black Labrador, and her counterpart, Duke, a yellow lab—to scour nooks and crannies in 15 Bristol County schools where the odor of the virus may have been left behind.

MO: Missouri governor will seek harsher sentences to fight violent crime, document says

kansascity.com

Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson wants harsher prison sentences for violent crime, including a reversal of limits he approved less than two years ago, according to an internal governor’s office document.

UT: Utah governor exempts state capitol, facilities from mask mandate

apnews.com

GOP Gov. Spencer Cox exempted from a mask mandate the Utah Capitol and other state facilities as conservative lawmakers prepared to begin meeting for the year, but the Salt Lake County mayor is pushing back.

KS: Despite COVID surge, Kansas governor to hold in-person state-of-the-state address

kansas.com

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s in-person speech would seem to go against the advice of at least some of the very health professionals who sought a new emergency declaration in Kansas. A spokesperson for the governor said her guests will be socially distanced and required to wear masks. Lawmakers will not be under the same injunction.

MI: Michigan's top doctor: 'We have a choice to make'

freep.com

The coronavirus continues to rip through Michigan, breaking records for hospitalizations and newly confirmed cases as the extremely contagious omicron variant creates the state's worst yet surge. "We have a choice to make: Do we want to work on bringing that peak down or do we just want to let this omicron surge explode?" said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state's chief medical executive.

CO: Colorado struggles to keep hospital beds staffed amid omicron surge

coloradosun.com

As the number of new infections reported per day in Colorado soars, multiple hospital systems in the state say they are seeing an increase in the number of workers testing positive for COVID-19 and needing to step away from work. That puts a strain on the number of patients a hospital can treat.

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