What We're Reading: Top State Stories 2/22
SC: South Carolina governor says National Guard won’t punish those refusing COVID vaccine mandate
Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced the decision in a letter to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in response to a mandate that personnel in the U.S. armed forces, including the National Guard, would be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
KS: Kansas AG asks state Supreme Court to dismiss redistricting lawsuits
Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to toss out recent lawsuits filed over the state’s newly approved congressional map, saying state courts do not have the legal authority to weigh in on such matters.
OK: Oklahoma Republican lawmakers advance Texas-style anti-abortion bill
An Oklahoma Senate panel passed a slate of anti-abortion bills, including legislation that would copy key parts of a restrictive abortion law recently implemented in Texas. One bill would prohibit physicians from performing an abortion after a "fetal heartbeat" is detected and another would allow private citizens to sue doctors who perform an abortion after that cutoff point.
TN: Tennessee Republicans target universities in renewed push against critical race theory
Tennessee Republican leaders support a bill that would allow college students and staff to sue universities for discriminating against them for not accepting "divisive concepts,” such as the idea that a person is inherently privileged, racist, sexist or oppressive. GOP lawmakers link such ideas to critical race theory, an academic framework for studying systemic racism that they have embraced as a catchall term for certain lessons on race and racism.
AZ: Motorcycle lane-splitting bill passes Arizona Senate as riders argue safety and police predict chaos
A bill that would allow motorcyclists in Arizona to ride slowly between stopped vehicles, also known as lane-splitting, passed the Senate and is headed to the House. Arizona and 47 other states prohibit lane splitting.
WY: Wyoming Senate committee approves ‘Second Amendment Protection Act’
A bill aimed at preventing Wyoming law enforcement officers from enforcing federal gun regulations that infringe on the Second Amendment was approved by a Senate committee. A spokesperson for Wyoming Gun Owners said the bill does not go far enough.
DC: New legislation could bring mobile voting to DC
The measure would allow residents of Washington, D.C., to cast votes on their smartphones, laptops or tablets. But some experts warn that the type of technology needed to support mobile voting on such a large scale isn’t ready and could further erode the public’s trust in elections.
MN: Minnesota Democrats unveil plan to recruit police officers with 'strong moral character'
Minnesota House and Senate Democrats unveiled legislation that would create a new program they say would recruit and retain police officers "with strong moral character" to help address a statewide staffing shortage and build law enforcement agencies that look more like the communities they serve.
LA: Louisiana GOP lawmaker reintroduces vetoed transgender bill
Louisiana Republican Sen. Beth Mizell filed a bill that would prohibit transgender athletes from competing on women’s and girls sports teams. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed similar legislation last year.
OH: Why a bill to educate kids about sex abuse prevention has stalled in Ohio legislature
Last summer, the Ohio House approved a bill that would require school districts to teach child sexual abuse prevention in kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms and sexual violence prevention in grades 7-12. However, a conservative lobbying group has been working for months to derail the measure over concerns that it leaves parents in the dark and flies in the face of abstinence-only sex education.
IA: Transgender athlete restrictions pass Iowa House
Iowa House Republicans passed a bill to ban transgender girls from women’s sports, the most expansive proposal yet in an ongoing effort to regulate transgender student athletes. The bill would prohibit transgender girls from participating in girls sports in Iowa K-12 schools and colleges.
NM: New Mexico to fund free college for more students this fall
New Mexico lawmakers approved one-time funding of $75 million for a yearlong program intended to help residents return to college if they couldn’t finish in the past, start even if they’ve been out of high school for a while, and have more help covering costs of school like fees and living expenses in addition to tuition.
NY: New York subsidizes horse racing with billions
At a time when horse racing is under increased scrutiny, a Times Union investigation found horse racing in New York has been propped up by more than $2.9 billion in state taxpayer dollars since 2008. That’s more than twice the money the state budgeted for the state Department of Agriculture in the same time period, and 13 times what it spent on veterans’ services.
NE: Nebraska to address nurse burnout
The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing has received a three-year, $2.2 million federal grant to work with partners across Nebraska to address burnout in the state’s nursing workforce.
TX: Texas tops the nation in teens who give birth multiple times
More than 1 in 6 teenagers who gave birth in Texas in 2020 already had a child. Texas does not require sex education and has the strictest abortion law in the nation.
PA: Some Pennsylvania medical marijuana companies mislead in ads
Spotlight PA examined more than 60 websites offering services in Pennsylvania and found a wide range of misleading tactics: cherry-picking and misrepresenting parts of studies, making broad claims without citing any specific research, and providing incomplete information about what it takes to qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program.
MA: Debate on Massachusetts civil asset forfeiture bills heats up
House and Senate bills that would require keeping better track of civil asset forfeiture and call for a public database of such property seizures are gaining traction in the Massachusetts legislature. The legislation, on which the deadline for consideration has been extended into April, also calls for other information such as estimated value of the property and if the suspect ever faced criminal charges.
WI: Census changes help correct historic undercount of Wisconsin's Indigenous population
A push to encourage participation in the 2020 U.S. census resulted in what tribes are hailing as the most accurate picture to date of the size and diversity of people with Indigenous ancestry in Wisconsin. Combined with improvements to the census itself, that effort helped push the percentage of people reporting they were Indigenous combined with another race up 165% in Wisconsin from 2010 to 2020.
CO: Denver to expand program that provides alternative to police response
Since June 2020, the mental health clinicians and paramedics working for Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response program have covered hundreds of miles responding to 911 calls instead of police officers. The Denver City Council last week voted unanimously to approve a $1.4 million contract with the Mental Health Center of Denver for the program’s continuation and expansion.
ID: Drought, low snowpack may foretell Idaho’s climate future
As the amount of snowfall declines, major problems arise for Idaho’s ecosystems, residents and agriculture industry. By the turn of the century, Idaho could see reductions of 35% to 65% of its snowpack.
MS: Mississippi governor announces programs to help military families, expand installations
Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed two executive orders aimed at aiding children of military families and helping protect and expand the state’s military installations and supporting industries.
AL: Alabama House to vote on allowing concealed handguns without permit
The Alabama House could vote soon on legislation to do away with the requirement for a person to get a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public. The bill also would do away with the current requirement for people without concealed carry permits to keep handguns unloaded and secured when driving.