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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/14

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 1/14

US: Student loan giant Navient reaches settlement with 39 states

inquirer.com

Thirty-nine state attorneys general reached a $1.85 billion settlement with student-loan processor Navient over alleged abusive practices that steered borrowers into loans they couldn’t pay off and failed to offer counsel on more affordable repayment plans, officials said. Under the deal, Navient will cancel the balances for 65,000 borrowers.

MN: Minnesota removes race as factor in rationing COVID antibodies

startribune.com

Minnesota has removed race as a preferential factor for determining which COVID-19 patients should receive scarce monoclonal antibodies—outpatient infusions that reduce risk of severe illness and hospitalization. Updated rationing guidance prioritizes people who are immunocompromised, pregnant, older or have underlying conditions, under a scoring system that no longer gives additional weight to racial minorities.

MD: Maryland to give out 20M masks

baltimoresun.com

As the highly contagious omicron variant continues to sweep across Maryland, the state plans to hand out 20 million of the often hard-to-find N95 and KN95 masks.

NJ: Governor signs law protecting abortion rights in New Jersey

nj.com

Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law that preserves the legal right for women and girls to obtain an abortion in New Jersey, a protection many say is necessary because the conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court may overturn the 49-year-old Roe v. Wade decision later this year.

MS: Mississippi Senate overwhelmingly passes medical marijuana program

mississippitoday.org

Mississippi state Sen. Kevin Blackwell, a Republican, recited Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”—“everybody must get stoned”—and passed out various sized hemp samples before the Senate passed a long-debated state medical marijuana program.

NV: Nevada orders half million at-home COVID test kits amid omicron surge

thenevadaindependent.com

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that 588,216 FlowFlex antigen home test kits, covered by federal COVID-19 relief funds, will arrive in Nevada by the end of the month.

OH: Ohio prisons deploying body cameras, will be largest corrections agency in the world to do so

dispatch.com

In the largest deployment of body cameras in any prison system worldwide, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction is putting cameras on all its guards and parole officers.

MO: Missouri considers prison nursery to keep incarcerated mothers with their newborns 

kansascity.com

Two Missouri Republican lawmakers are proposing to create nurseries in state prisons where incarcerated women who give birth would be able to stay with their newborns for up to 18 months. The program, in place in nine states, is intended to reduce recidivism and improve health outcomes for the children. 

WA: Protesters descend on Washington Board of Health after vaccine plan misinformation goes viral

seattletimes.com

Late last week, rumors spread that the Washington Board of Health was about to authorize local health officials and police to round up people for refusing to get coronavirus vaccines and forcibly lock them up in quarantine facilities. By the time the health board convened, the usually obscure panel had been deluged with more than 30,000 emails, hundreds of calls and requests from some 8,000 people to testify at its virtual public meeting.

VT: Committee bolsters Vermont Statehouse mask mandate, delays in-person legislating date

vtdigger.org

If and when Vermont lawmakers return to the statehouse to work in person, a cloth face mask won’t cut it. The legislature’s Joint Rules Committee unanimously voted in favor of bolstering the mask mandate effective in all legislative spaces in the Statehouse. Everyone in the statehouse—lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists, media and members of the public—will be required to wear at least a surgical mask.

WI: Wisconsin governor deploys National Guard to long-term facilities to help hospitals

jsonline.com

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is deploying more than 200 Wisconsin National Guard members to long-term care facilities across the state to free up space in hospitals facing a record number of COVID-19 infections. The goal is to open up at least 200 beds in care facilities by the end of February to allow hospitals to discharge patients who no longer need their care but cannot go home.

TX: Texas attorney general must turn over records related to Jan. 6 Trump rally or face lawsuit, DA says

dallasnews.com

The Travis County district attorney has determined that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, violated the state’s open records law by not turning over his communications from last January, when he appeared at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

FL: Florida poised to approve a 15-week abortion ban 

orlandosentinel.com

After years of trying, Florida lawmakers are on the verge of significantly restricting access to abortion, with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signaling his support and conservatives in control of both state and federal high courts. 

NM: New Mexico lawmaker to introduce child access prevention law

krqe.com

New Mexico Democratic state Rep. Pamelya Herndon plans to introduce legislation would hold parents accountable when their child uses a gun owned by them in a crime. Juan Saucedo Jr. is accused of shooting and killing 13-year-old Bennie Hargrove at Washington Middle School in August. The gun used belonged to his father.

VA: Virginia attorney general overturns 58 historic legal opinions that perpetuated racism

washingtonpost.com

Outgoing Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring, a Democrat, announced that he had overturned 58 historic legal opinions that perpetuated racial discrimination, acknowledging that his office once served as “a key cog in the machinery of oppression.”

CO: Colorado governor seeks to delay new gas fee

denverpost.com

Barely six months after Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis signed a landmark transportation funding bill, the governor seeks to temporarily undo a key provision: initiating a 2 cents-per-gallon fee on gasoline. His proposal has Republicans accusing Polis of cynically copying their messaging in an election year.

UT: Utah leaders allow schools facing COVID outbreaks to briefly move online

sltrib.com

After an explosion of COVID-19 cases among students this week, Utah leaders will now permit K-12 schools facing outbreaks to temporarily shift online. The announcement comes after the legislature had previously banned public schools from going completely remote for more than one day a week this academic year.

AL: Alabama schools report 16K COVID cases

wsfa.com

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported a major increase in COVID-19 cases in the state’s public schools this week. The number of new cases skyrocketed to more than 16,000 cases this week, up more than fivefold from the previous week when systems reported nearly 3,000 cases.

KS: Kansas governor proposes to set aside $600M in rainy day fund

apnews.com

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly proposed that Kansas put $600 million of its surplus revenue in a rainy day fund and spend nearly $1.8 billion of the excess revenue on a long list of projects. Parts of Kelly’s proposed spending blueprint for state government through June 2023 are likely to meet strong resistance from the Republican-controlled legislature.

OR: Ransomware attacks hammer some of Oregon's best-known brands

oregonlive.com

Some of Oregon’s best-known brands—among them McMenamins, Yoshida Foods and Bob’s Red Mill—have been hit by ransomware attacks in the past year. These businesses don’t have deep pockets to pay a huge ransom demand. But they don’t have large technology departments to help guard against online intrusion, either.

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