What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/2
TX: Texas secretary of state sued over secrecy of noncitizen voter purge program
The office of Texas Secretary of State John B. Scott, a Republican, has identified more than 11,000 voters who might be noncitizens in a so-called voter purge program. A group of civil rights organizations has sued the office for refusing to turn over documents related to the program that already has canceled the voter registrations of nearly 1,200 Dallas County residents.
DC: DC government will send $10K checks to the city’s day care workers
Thousands of day care workers in Washington, D.C., will get personal checks from the D.C. government for at least $10,000, after the D.C. Council voted unanimously to redirect tax dollars from the city’s richest residents to child care workers, who legislators say are underpaid.
HI: Hawaii says it shouldn’t be held liable for pandemic harm, including prison deaths
Democratic Gov. David Ige’s administration wants a law passed to shield Hawaii from liability for actions it took or failed to take in connection with the pandemic, a proposal that is being blasted as “immoral” by a lawyer who represents people incarcerated in the state prisons and jails.
SD: South Dakota lawmakers vote to restrict transgender students’ access
One South Dakota bill would limit participation in sports to one’s sex as assigned at birth; another would limit bathroom and locker room access. The bills now head to the desk of Republican Gov. Kristi Noem.
MO: Missouri Senate torpedoes governor’s health director nominee
The Missouri Senate balked at Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s choice to run the state health department after anti-vaccine critics claimed that the nominee would force all residents to get vaccinated, even though he has repeatedly said he does not favor that approach. Parson called the events “disgraceful, unquestionably wrong, and an embarrassment to this state.”
TN: Tennessee governor outlines $1B more for education
Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee is seeking $1 billion for his education plan, including $750 million toward a new funding formula, the details of which have not yet been revealed to lawmakers. Overall, Lee is proposing a $52.5 billion state budget, a nearly $10 billion increase driven in part by an infusion of federal funds.
WA: Washington public school enrollment dropped during pandemic
In October 2020, Washington state public schools had lost about 40,000 students, or about 4% of the more than a million children enrolled during the previous school year. That number hadn’t rebounded by October 2021, and recent state headcounts of home school and private schools show some children have remained in the alternatives their parents chose early in the pandemic.
MI: Lawsuit against Michigan redistricting commission alleges state House map unfair to Democrats
A coalition of voting rights advocacy groups filed a lawsuit challenging the new Michigan House voting districts adopted by the state's redistricting commission, alleging that the new map provides an unfair advantage to Republicans. It's the third lawsuit challenging the work of the Michigan Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission.
NV: New proposed election regulations meet staunch pushback from Nevada GOP
Efforts by the Nevada secretary of state’s office to update and adopt new regulations governing largely technical minutiae on election administration ahead of the 2022 midterms have turned into a one-sided political battle, with state Republicans waging a crusade over what they call an “election law power grab.”
KS: ‘The Big Lie’ peddler argues Kansas elections aren’t secure
A high-profile peddler of election conspiracy theories, including baseless claims that President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, was among a gaggle of people who testified before a Kansas Senate committee, arguing with little hard evidence that Kansas elections are in danger.
FL: Florida gets $404M for climate change prep
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced funding for 113 projects that will install new stormwater pumps and drains in flood-prone cities, convert leaky septic tanks to sewer lines and restore wetlands over the next three years. The $404 million comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
CO: Colorado EV sales growth may not be enough to counter the impact of SUVs
Sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles grew fast enough in 2021 to put Colorado on track to meet its climate change goals, according to state analysts. But the growing popularity of relatively gas-hogging SUVs and pickup trucks effectively negates the greenhouse gas gains of more EV sales, according to International Energy Agency bloggers.
MS: Mississippi Senate unveils income tax cut plan, signaling battle among Capitol leaders
The Mississippi Senate unveiled a proposal to cut the state income tax, not eliminate it altogether as the House and governor propose. The measure also would reduce the tax on groceries, provide a tax rebate up to $1,000 for 2022 and reduce the cost of car tags.
AZ: Arizona lawmakers want to curb governor, mayors’ powers during health emergencies
Arizona lawmakers are pressing forward with several measures that would limit the length of an emergency declaration and give themselves authority to sign off should a governor want to extend the decree beyond 120 days. Another measure would ban local authorities from closing businesses during a public health emergency.
IA: Iowa lawmakers advance bill to block school COVID vaccine mandates
Legislation that would prohibit Iowa schools and colleges from requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 cleared its first hurdle in the Iowa House. The bill would prohibit vaccine requirements until July 2029.
MT: Injunction denied for Montana’s vaccine non-discrimination law
A legal request to temporarily block Montana’s vaccine non-discrimination law was shot down by a district court judge in Richland County. A local law firm’s suit alleged the new law prevents the firm from implementing measures to protect its employees and clients from COVID-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
MA: Massachusetts regulators approve expansion of homeowner incentives for leaving fossil fuel
In a move hailed as a sea change in the state’s climate fight, Massachusetts regulators approved a plan that would dramatically expand incentives for homeowners to invest in electric heat pumps as the state races to shift people off fossil fuels.
GA: Major influx of $408M awarded to get rural Georgia online
A giant investment in rural internet service using federal COVID-19 relief money will wire over 132,000 homes and businesses across Georgia that currently lack access, connecting more than a quarter of the state’s locations that aren’t yet online.
VA: Virginia Republicans advance bill to freeze minimum wage increases
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a Republican bill that would freeze the state’s minimum wage at $11 an hour and overturn scheduled incremental raises that would bring the floor to $15 in2026. It’s unlikely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
CT: Connecticut treasurer to make it easier for residents to reclaim unclaimed property
The Connecticut Treasurer’s Office is making it easier for people to find and reclaim millions of dollars in uncashed checks, abandoned security deposits, forgotten insurance policies and other financial assets that are swept up by the state government.