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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/15

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What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/15

US: West megadrought worsens to driest in at least 1,200 years

apnews.com

The American West’s megadrought is now the driest in at least 1,200 years and is a worst-case climate change scenario playing out live, a new study finds. The drought shows no signs of easing.

WA: Adding pot shops to improve social equity hits snag in Washington legislature
crosscut.com

crosscut.com

A bill in Washington would increase the statewide number of cannabis business licenses and reserve them for members of communities most hurt by the war on drugs. But the proposal has faced stiff opposition from lawmakers who don’t want to add more pot shops, as well as from owners of existing cannabis businesses.

MI: New fund to help Michiganders stay in homes will include those with land contracts

freep.com

Michigan homeowners behind on their mortgages and utilities can now apply to a new statewide program to help them stay in their homes. But unlike other programs and safety nets created to help homeowners and renters hurt economically during the COVID-19 pandemic, this program also will assist those with alternative financing situations known as land contract homes.

DC: DC to drop coronavirus vaccination requirement to enter businesses

washingtonpost.com

The District of Columbia has dropped its requirement that people show proof of vaccination to enter many businesses. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser also said she’s allowing a mandate to wear masks in all indoor public spaces to be lifted starting March 1.

VA: Virginia governor to quickly sign bill to make masks optional in schools

richmond.com

A bill blocking school boards from mandating masks in schools passed the GOP-controlled House on a party-line vote. GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin said he intends to tack on an emergency clause under which the law would take effect upon his signature.

CT: Connecticut Senate extends mask mandate, rejects GOP amendment to allow parents decide 

courant.com

After clashing for five hours, the Connecticut Senate voted to extend Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s mask mandate in schools and other executive orders that had been scheduled to expire. Democrats who control the chamber said the mask mandate will now expire Feb. 28—and local school boards will have the authority going forward on masks. 

FL: Florida’s COVID monitoring system leaves public blind to new variants 

sun-sentinel.com

Florida sends only a tiny fraction of all positive COVID-19 tests to labs for genetic sequencing to learn their strain of coronavirus—only 1% over the entire pandemic. Some states, such as Washington, are sequencing up to 20% of all cases. 

MO: Diapers are expensive. They’d be cheaper in Missouri under this new bill. 

kansascity.com

A Missouri state legislator has filed a bill that would lessen the burden on families by exempting diapers from sales taxes. Diapers aren’t covered by government assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC and Medicaid, and they’re taxed as luxury items in Missouri at 4.2%, the same as beer and jewelry. 

WI: Wisconsin GOP governor candidates want election oversight shifted to partisan offices

jsonline.com

Republican candidates for governor who want to dissolve the bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission are proposing new plans to shift election oversight to partisan elected offices.

NJ: New Jersey lawmakers push bipartisan plan to investigate COVID deaths in nursing homes

nj.com

A pair of state lawmakers—one Democrat, one Republican—want to form a special legislative committee with subpoena power to investigate what led to thousands of COVID-19 deaths at New Jersey’s nursing homes.

MT: As ‘gray wave’ washes over Montana, caregivers become hard to find

billingsgazette.com

With old age comes the need for more care, but Montana is short hundreds of in-home and respite caregivers while simultaneously leading the West in the silver wave. About 20% of Montana’s population is over age 65, higher than any other Western state.

CA: California school mask mandate will remain in place through Feb. 28

latimes.com

California will keep its indoor mask mandate for K-12 schools in place at least through the end of the month, the state’s top health official said, even as it moves this week to relax face covering rules in other settings. The health department will then reassess conditions to try to give an end date for the mandate.

HI: Hawaii legislation would help victims exit sex trade with $2K per month

staradvertiser.com

Victims of sex trafficking in Hawaii would receive $2,000 a month to leave the life in what proponents call the first pilot project of its kind through a bill in the legislature.

ME: Maine bills would lower drug prices, expand contraceptive coverage

apnews.com

A pair of bills in the Maine legislature would require state-regulated health care plans to cover all prescription contraceptives while linking prescription drugs rates to lower costs paid in Canada.

UT: Panel would evaluate transgender student athletes under Utah bill

sltrib.com

Utah transgender students who want to compete in school sports corresponding with their gender identities would first have to secure permission from a commission tasked with evaluating their height, weight and other physical characteristics under a new bill.

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